Shortly before midnight at a rural Clarion hotel in West Virginia, a man slips his key card into the door of his room. He enters – and immediately hears a woman scream. Seconds later, a man wearing only his underwear comes running at him from the darkened room. He immediately backpedals into the hallway -- and realizes that he somehow opened the door to the wrong room.
Just in case you haven’t figured it out, I was Underwear Man. And this recently played out at the Clarion Shepherdstown. You can imagine this was a pretty startling experience for everyone involved. You’d also think the the front desk staff would’ve been maybe just a bit apologetic about it when my wife told them about it the next morning.
"That’s been happening to us recently," someone told her.
Wait – what?
I can’t say I expected them to comp our room or anything. But I would expect them to act as if having rooms that are far-less-than-secure would maybe be cause for action and maybe some sort of reassurance.
This particular Clarion loses a lot of points for not seeming to care very much about the security of its rooms. But this can’t be the only hotel with such problems, even though I’ve literally never had this happen anywhere else.
So exactly how safe are these hotel room key cards? When I searched for information, most of the results were about how the most-common magnetic strip cards eventually stop working and need to be re-magnetized. I also found a few results about ID theft via the key cards (which seem entirely the stuff of misunderstandings turned into urban myths). Maybe I’m just searching with the wrong terms.
That means nobody is talking about one key card working for multiple doors. Granted, for criminals this seems like a very low-percentage endeavor. Most likely, when this happens you’ll just have two guests scaring the crap out of each other. It stands to reason that the industry would rather not talk about it – it doesn’t happen very often and it’s potentially embarrassing. But it still deserves more than a shrug and "shit happens" attitude like the Clarion’s front desk staff.
Have you ever heard of this happening? How would you expect the front desk staff to react? How should upper management handle this?