Hospitality Scams -Learn from OPM's (Other People's Mistakes)
Max Hitchins
Sunday, 25th November 2007
"Learn from the mistakes of others. We are not going to live long enough to learn from all the mistakes we will make in the hospitality industry."

In a previous article I told how we had to be forever vigilant against scams, shams, cheats, crooks and thieves who pervade and parade in our industry and then sneak off with either our money or the customers money.

Here are a few more scams it is as well to know about:

Watch your ATM Machine
Do you have an Automatic Teller Machine in you Hotel or Bar? If so you might be vigilant about the people who 'hang around' it. Susana Timeva., my secretary, brought this clever scam to my attention recently. Here's how it works.

ou approach an ATM machine with the intention of withdrawing money. The machine does not respond and you probably become agitated when you realize that the machine has 'swallowed' your credit card.

A well dressed lady, who just happens to be passing by, tells you the same thing happened to her several days ago on the same machine. She tells you that your card will be returned if you key in your pin number (which she notes) and press the cancel button twice. However this solution does not work.

You leave the ATM in disgust to find someone in control (or if it's a Bank you go inside
to complain). In the meantime the lady and her accomplice go to the machine and remove your card. You see, prior to you using the machine they had inserted a plastic sleeve which held your card and stopped the machine recognizing the commands you keyed in. WOW. Pretty clever stuff, eh!

Watch your credit card
A costly scam happening in the upscale restaurants in the United States at this time revolves around credit card fraud. Some waiters have their own pocket-size 'swiper' for credit cards. Between the table and the cashier, he/she swipes the card, then transmits the numbers to others who are 'in on' the scam. Within hours, thousands of dollars of goods have been purchased using the credit card numbers (or cards in multiple locations around the world), usually up to the credit limit.

The Dining Guide Scam
Mary Kathryn Smith from Northern Michigan USA shared this scam with me. "We operate several restaruants in a two county area" she wrote. "Since we have multiple operations, it was easier for us to spot the following scam than it was for single unit operators.

We received a letter from a couple who claimed they had dined at one of our establishments. They complained about the service and the food. They claimed they were there on a busy night during the height of the season and felt that the place was too busy, and they did not receive the level of service that was normal for one of our establishments. They named a couple of menu items in their letter. They did not name any people. Often when we receive such letters we write back to apologize and send gift certificates. This is a fairly common practice with most restaurants.

About three days later we received two more letters very similar to the first, but from two of our other establishments. (The letters were originally sent to the managers of the operations. Our managers forward all complaint letters to our corporate office.) The letters claimed poor service and poor food quality and again named two items from the menu. The names of the authors were the same as the first and so was the address.

It was a local address and an address we did not have recognize as one of our frequent diners. (We have our own charge accounts called the Pineapple Club. Most are local addresses who dine with us on a regular basis. When they pay their bills on time they can earn gift certificates and other bonus items.)

Sure enough, in another day or so, we received two other letters, from the same people, same address, complaining about the other operations. Our president is very involved in our State's Restaurant Association and is well known to other restaurant operators in our area. He called several other properties and discovered that they too had received letters from this couple, complaining about food and service and listing a couple of menu items in these letters.

It was decided that this was a scam and the letters from all the establishments were turned over to our Sheriff's department. It took less than a month for the scam to be uncovered. This couple had picked up a local dining guide where the menus and addresses are listed for the area's restaurants.

They had gone down the list and written complaint letters to all of the higher priced establishments and listed a couple of menu items from that guide in thier letters. They had not been careful in changing the dates or times in these letters. They somehow managed to have dinner in at least four establishments all on the same day and at the same time.

I do not know what punishment or prosecution they received, but needless to say, any gift certificates they may have ill gotten will most likely be null an void."

Max Hitchins is known around the world as The Hospitality Doctor. He is the author of seven book and the above is an extract from his latest book about Hospitality Scams which retails for #US26.00 + postage. It comes with a guarantee to save you at least $1000 otherwise you can send send the book back and have your money refunded! Check out the book and order it from his web site www.HospitalityDoctor.comor contact him byE-mail at: max@hitchins.com.au
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