An Open Letter to Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang

Dear E & O Management,

I would like to feedback on my experience of staying at E&O Penang, Malaysia for the first time last week (23 November – 25 November 2013), and hope that you will be able to address some concerns I have.

There are basically 2 things I want to comment on your hotel; both of which stems from our (my family) experience there. Last week, we stayed in E&O Penang from Saturday to Monday, as one of our dearest friend was celebrating his marriage with a dinner at your respected hotel, on Sunday evening. Our stay in your hotel was absolutely wonderful and me, my wife and my 17 month old child certainly enjoyed it there. After dinner and all the celebratory pictures, when my wife returned back to our room, she realised she could not find her mobile phone, a HTC One X, that contained not just private and confidential data in her email, but also much of our family pictures, videos and what we regard as precious information. We immediately went back down to the ballroom to hunt for it in case it dropped. The person in charge also did a quick search amongst the waiters but to no avail. We searched for hours and was told perhaps it’s in our room and we accidentally left it in our bags etc. We already turned the room inside out looking for the phone.

It was a depressing time for us, but I thought it was our own carelessness, so there was nothing much we could do. However, my wife was adamant she did not lose the phone, the last rememberance was that she left it on the dinner table while taking care of our very active son and she was convinced that one of your waiters have taken it. Without proof, it was difficult to pinpoint. Thanks to technology, I was able to track the phone using GPS on my computer and found that it was still in the hotel premise. Again we launched a search in the ballroom and hotel room. However, we still could not find it. After many hours, we gave up due to exhaustion and decided to search it again next morning, with at least the confidence that it is in the hotel premise.

Early next morning, I did a search on the GPS function again and to my shock and horror, found that the phone has travelled across the bridge into mainland Malaysia to a place called Pangsa Sri Bagan, still in Penang. This was clear evidence that  it had been stolen from the table while everyone was not looking. I immediately reported this to the hotel, who called up Captain Kunalan, the head of security. I spoke to him, and to cut the long story short, he managed to track down a few ‘casual workers’ that were hired to be waiters that night for the dinner who lived in Pangsa Sri Bagan. One of them have indeed stolen the phone, and Captain Kunalan managed to retrieve back the phone from the thief and sent it back to us (we have gone back to Kuala Lumpur that day) via the groom, who stayed an additional night in Penang.

Unfortunately, the thief had wiped out our data completely, destroyed my wife’s sim card, and damaged the phone and had even installed his own Digi sim card (and taken out before returning) as evidenced by the software changes on the phone.

My two comments are these:

1)      On the positive side, Captain Kunalan went through a lot of trouble to get back our stolen property. Once I gave him the GPS location, we were 100% certain our item was stolen, and to his credit, he did not delay in doing what needed to be done to get it back. He could have easily delayed, or opted not to follow through, but through his persistence, we finally got back our phone, although everything valuable in it is now destroyed. I want to commend him, and hopefully he can be recognised for his efforts. Its only because of him that our negative perception of E&O has somehow been softened. He has given great credence to your brand.

2)      On the negative side, I cannot fathom how a hotel as upscale as yours can hire casual workers who are so brazen in their crime that they STEAL our properties from our table! Of course, you can argue that we need to be more careful and aware, but this is a wedding dinner, with a perception that it is a safe, trusted environment, a family environment…how is it possible that we would be on our guard against thieves and criminals? Plus, if you ever handled a 17 month old boy running around, you will know that protecting your phone is definitely not number 1 in your agenda. We took our safety for granted because we assumed the environment offered by your hotel was safe. We were wrong. You can ask, was there any way at all this could be avoided? Is it E&O’s responsibility if their casual worker steals our goods? I say yes. It does not matter if it is your staff or casual workers. The moment they work for you, they represent E&O, regardless. You cannot escape that accountability to provide your hotel guest with the assurance of our safety. If a crime occurs in your premise by a casual worker, E&O is responsible for that crime. In fact, the innkeepers act clearly states that where any goods is stolen, lost or injured (damaged) through a wilful act of any person under the hotel’s employment, the hotel is responsible for liability. This could just be a phone. I am sure they have stolen before and will steal again. It starts with a phone, a handbag, car keys, and in the future, even heaven forbid, abduction of a child. You must stop this before it escalates into something far more serious than lost data and phone! This theft, that we never think possible, but has occurred, and in our eyes, has tarnished your good name.

What can you do? I am a business owner, and I make sure my customers are always given the best quality service. If there is anything less, I will forsake all regards to my costs and bottom line to set it right. There is a cheap way to do things, and there is a right way to do things. If you cannot control your casual workers, I recommend you to properly source through proper agencies or have more due diligence done. I cannot imagine that you allow any person to just come in, sign their name and they don E&O apparels and represent your company. You then hire crooks and thieves who in turn prey upon your hotel guests without your knowledge. If costs are needed to get the right people in, even 2 -3 times the cost, then sacrifice your margins and stop hiring any street criminals and properly filter these people! There MUST be a change, for the sake of future guests who WILL fall prey to them again. You cannot expect redemption on their side, these are people who are conditioned for crime. You must not allow them to every step foot into your hotel and destroy your reputation that you have so painstakingly built up. As a board of director for companies, I understand fiduciary duty. You must put in operational controls to address this risk, this is management duty and must be regarded with all seriousness. If it wasn’t for my technology knowledge, we would never have pinpointed these criminals and you would have hired them again for the next wedding dinner, and other people would have been victimised!

I have written a very long email, but one that I think is necessary. If it was any 3 star hotel, I would not have spent so much of my time in feedback. I would have gone through the normal channels of complain through social media, which as you know is extremely powerful in brand creation and dilution. But because I believe E&O is one of the most respectable hotels in this region, with an absolutely commitment to customer experience, that I spend so much time in this email to you. Because I know that you WILL make a change. Because I know you will take to heart here this feedback by your guest on how to improve your services and safety of your hotel. Because I know it makes a difference, and that E&O will learn from this and become even more respected as an organisation in dealing with it.

I am not pursuing monetary repayment, even if we have a case – I am not a lawyer and I am in no mood to discuss if we have any case in the innkeeper’s act to pursue or not. It’s irrelevant. What we have lost, we will never gain it back. We have lost memories of our family and friends, precious confidential data, damaged phone and what is supposed to be a joyous weekend, wrecked due to such a awful experience. And this, because we trusted in the umbrella of safety that the hotel should be providing to the guest. We can only hope that we are the last ones who will fall prey to criminal activities under your roof and that you will do ALL you can in your power to improve what all of us have taken for granted: your guests’ peace of mind.

I do expect an acknowledgement to this email to ascertain that it has reached the right level of management, who can make decisions and at least assure me that if I ever intend to stay in E&O again, this concern would have been fully and completely addressed.

**It took them 1 and a half months to formulate a response back to me**