Celebrity write-offs

Gypping hostelries of their due is as old as the lodging industry. The authoritative "Laws of Innkeepers" by John Sherry notes that there is universal legislation "governing hotel fraud (which) classifies the crime of fraud on innkeepers as a type of larceny, which does not, however, in law, amount to larceny, for the reason, among others, that the subject of the theft is not 'property'. It is an offense relating to theft and is now designated as 'theft of services'."

While Joe Sixpack is unlikely to get away without settling the bill for a hotel stay, celebrities seem to do so with unfortunate regularity banking on their name recognition to bamboozle staff and management into extending credit when it is not due.The LA Times reports on the latest luminary who attempted to do so – actor Randy Quaid who was held by the authorities in a small Texas town for not paying his bill at a hotel in Santa Barbara, CA where he initially produced a dud credit card before leaving without making good on his charges. 

Quaid is merely one in a long line that includes somewhat controversial pop-star Lindsay Lohan who apparently ran up a substantial unpaid tab at the swank Chateau Marmont and Naomi Campbell who purportedly stiffed the Moscow Ritz for a relatively small amount when the hotel presented her with charges for damages to the room.  Nor have political personalities shirked from walking away from hotel bills as was the case with this hotel in Memphis, TN.

Most hotels have credit policies in place that would preclude such losses from regular guests. Nevertheless, some brazen non-celebs manage to get past even the vigilant as is the on-going case involving the" catch me if you can" fraudster who is still eluding hotels and authorities across several countries. Britain's Daily Mail reports that a fake "Saudi Arabian prince has been leading police on a merry dance through Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The
cheeky cheat has been running up tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid
bills, living the high life in the best hotels, drinking the finest
champagne – and slipping away without opening his wallet."  It is unlikely he remains at large for long and likely will suffer a fate similar to a Jamaican national in Namibia who failed to pay his hotel bill and ended paying with his freedom.

Clearly, minimizing revenue shrinkage requires being alert to following credit protocols regardless of the "status" of their client. Putting star clients politely but firmly on notice when credit limits are flouted should be part of standard operating procedures in any establishment.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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