Mr. Kelly has been a regular visitor to Pattaya for 37 years and used to stay at the same hotel for the past 10 years. He alleges that during his stay there this month he had 2,000 Australian dollars (that’s over 50,000 Thai Baht) stolen from his room safe, presumably by night staff at the hotel.
Mr. Kelly notes this wasn’t first time that money had mysteriously disappeared from his room safe and that a friend also had a mobile friend stolen from his room – let’s assume by a maid. While Mr. Kelly hasn’t filed a formal complaint against the hotel, he’s asked us to reproduce his story as a general warning to other tourists.
For legal reasons (Thailand’s defamation laws are strict and used excessively), we’ve made the decision to stop short of identifying the hotel in question and will only say as much as that it’s a mid-range beachfront hotel somewhere along Pattaya Beach Road.
We’re aware that this omission renders our warning only little effective. Then again, this could certainly happen in any hotel or guesthouse not only in Pattaya (!) and unfortunately there’s hardly anything you can do to protect yourself.
In his first email, Mr. Kelly told us
Just like you to know that I have been visiting Pattaya for 37 years and for the last ten years staying at [name redacted]. The last occasion I thought I had some money stolen from my room safe back in 2014. This time in March 2015 I made sure it was not me that left the safe open which they said I did last time, because I was conscious I locked it. Blatant thieves stealing from customers by the night staff and not being able to do anything about it is frustrating. 2000 Dollars is not small money to anybody. Also my friend had his mobile stolen from his room. (…) This has ruined my expectations of the so called honest friendly Thai.
We asked Mr. Kelly whether he’d reported the theft to Pattaya Police Station, assuming there must have been fingerprints, CCTV footage from the corridor etc., which could have helped identify the culprits. We also wondered how the thieves actually gained access to the room safe (which we assumed was PIN code-protected) and what the reaction of the hotel management had been.
Here’s his reply:
1) No, I didn’t report it as I thought not much could be done after the crime had been done. I did check the camera footage and watched in fast forward but did notice a lot of black cuts in the tape. Later thinking, I should of checked the time frame around the cuts. Also having the police get involved and arrive at the hotel would of made it difficult to continue there with all the staff knowing I was pointing the finger at the late night staff.
2) If you forget your combination of the safe the hotel has a key which overrides the combination to get it open. By doing this they can’t lock it again because they don’t know the customer’s numbers. All they can do is leave it shut but not locked.
So they have the card to get into your room, open the safe all while the CCTV is off. Also taking only half the money is quite sneaky trying not to be noticed. Well, 2000 [Australian dollars] is certainly missed.
Yes, the hotel management just looks at you as though it wouldn’t happen. They say things like, it’s impossible to open the safe and you must of left it open and a visitor has taken it. And finish off with, you must be more careful, it’s Pattaya. Quite frustrating. (…)
P.S. Also my friend had his mobile phone stolen out of his room also at the [name redacted] hotel.
This is certainly not just frustrating because of the money or items stolen from the victims but also because some crooks among the hotel staff, which you have no other choice than to trust as a guest, blatantly rob the ones who pay their salaries. Silly pseudo-apologies by the management certainly don’t help. Mr. Kelly insists he had not received any guests in his room at the time of the theft.
Let’s just add that in our opinion, and despite the victim’s graspable objections, Mr. Kelly should have still reported the case to the (tourist) police and perhaps check into another hotel for the remainder of his vacation. If a formal complaint had been filed, it would have also been considerably easier to explicitly “name and shame” the hotel in question.
Finally, while Mr. Kelly intended to publish his story as a warning for other travelers not to leave too much cash in their room safes, the dilemma won’t go away: If hotel guests can’t even confidently leave their valuables in a “code-protected” (sic) room safe, where should they keep them? Unfortunately there’s not really a better alternative.