How to stay safe when you work hotel night shifts
On February 28, a front-desk employee working at night at the Home2 Suites Omaha West in Omaha, Nebraska, was assaulted by an intruder, ABC News reports. The employee was able to fight back and remove the attacker’s mask, and police said they identified him and arrested him.
Working the night shift at a hotel's front desk is a vulnerable position for employees, because they may not have any coworkers nearby help them in an emergency and they interact with anyone who enters the hotel.
Tanner St. James, hiring coordinator for Laguna Beach House in Laguna Beach, California and The Scott Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Steve Sanabria, director of operations at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral, Florida, share safety tips for night auditors or other employees working alone at the front desk.
Watch for disturbances outside
St. James says that night auditors should watch for suspicious activity outside, especially for anyone who appears to be intoxicated, and to call security. “You're looking for people who are loitering, specifically at those off hours, like three in the morning. There is really no reason why anybody should be just hovering around the property,” he says. “It's best just to cover your bases and get someone else involved who is able to handle the situation.”
Keep track of expected arrivals
Sanabria says it’s important to pay attention to your rooming list and to watch for cues that someone belongs in the hotel. “Know who is supposed to be in the hotel,” he says. “If you have somebody that you are expecting to come in at three o'clock in the morning, and they show up with bags, and are dropped off by a taxicab, you are likely in a very good place.”
On the other hand, “if somebody shows up at three o'clock in the morning and they have no bags, and there's no car that drove up on the ramp, and if you have a few shuttles, your shuttles didn’t drop them off, you're going to want to make inquiries. And you're also going to want to make sure that you are in a position to call for help in the event that help is necessary.”
Secure hotel entrances
Secure as many hotel entrances as you can so people can’t surprise you by coming in through a door you weren’t watching. “At our hotel we have a policy that at six o'clock, the door to the administration's office, which is the way you access the back of the front desk, is locked on a keypad code,” Sanabria says. “The night auditor makes sure that that door is locked until the morning shift comes in.”
Sanabria also advises night auditors to know the locations of security guards. “Stay in close radio contact with them at all times,” he says, and make sure they know your location too; don’t leave the desk or wander around the hotel.
Don’t try to fight a robber
If someone tries to rob you, comply with his demands and give him the money. Don’t try to argue with him. “Do not trade your life or safety for money ever, ever, ever!” Sanabria says.
Have a good relationship with local police
Night auditors should try to build a good relationship with their local police department so that if there’s an emergency, it isn’t their first contact with the police. Sanabria suggests reaching out to the police and telling them about what’s happening in the hotel. “Let them know you're working tonight,” he says. “If you have a restaurant or a lounge in your hotel, let them know what's going on in the lounge – ‘It’s quiet,’ ‘It's busy,’ ‘It's loud because we have a band.’”
“Folks may say the police department may not want to be bothered with this,” Sanabria continues, but in fact “the police department could not be happier when you call them and let them know what is going on in your hotel.”
Stay in contact with night auditors at nearby hotels
St. James recommends getting in touch with night auditors at nearby hotels because employees of different hotels can alert each other to safety issues in the neighborhood. “Our night auditors actually call each night to see what their going rates are, and so that's a good way to reach out to those people and get to know them a little bit,” he says. Then “in the event of an emergency or something happening, you [are] able to reach out to them and have that kind of a lifeline there.”
De-escalate conflicts with guests
If a guest comes in and becomes upset or angry and there’s no manager around to resolve the conflict, you’ll need to de-escalate the situation. Sanabria says that maintaining appropriate body language is crucial in this scenario. “You want to try to convey with your body language that you're small, that you're listening, and that you don't want to be threatening to this guest,” he explains. “You're not going to get them to calm down by puffing yourself up and being like the bird with the puffed-up feathers. It doesn't work.”
“Keep your hands in a place where everybody can see them,” he continues. “Don't wave them around. And speak calmly, slowly. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a deep breath, pausing – don’t rush.”
“At that time of the day, my advice is pretty much [to] give the guest what they want,” Sanabria says. “In the middle of the night, after a guest has been traveling for hours [and] is tired and upset, it's really not the right time to get into an argument with them or try to fashion some type of resolution that's going to be equitable to the hotel as well as guest-friendly. What you want to do is get them squared away into a room so that they can calm down, relax, begin to gain some more control over their travel experience.”