Guests From Hell - How Resorts Deal With Theft and Vandalism

By: Jonathan Mycroft

My wife and I recently spent a week at a family resort on the shores of Lake Huron. Since it's late in the season, most of the guests tend to be older, retired senior citizens. In our mid-forties, my wife and I are often the youngest people there. We like it because it's peaceful and quiet. The old folks tend to be rather sedate; an electrifying game of shuffleboard is about as rowdy as they get.

During the summer months, however, it's a different story. At peak season, the resort is overrun with hundreds of ill-mannered children and their clueless parents who feel their blessed offspring can do no wrong.

But wrong they do.

Incomprehensible acts of stupidity include stunts like playing tag in the games-room without touching the floor, instead jumping from pool table to pool table. Or filling the whirlpool hot tub with beach sand, burning out the motor. Or emptying the hot tub, again burning out the motor. Or pouring soda pop onto the air hockey table so they can watch the bubbles. Or the old favorite, carving their initials, obscenities, and adolescent expressions of love into every available wooden surface.

Of course, it's not just teenagers who display this distinct lack of synaptic activity in the frontal lobe. It's usually the adults who pilfer towels and bed linens, lamps, and even tables and chairs.

Nor is this a local phenomenon.

At the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana, some guests have a hard time even finding the resort since some other mischievous soul saw fit to steal the signs guiding people onto Big Mountain Road.

While most acts of vandalism and theft are simply annoying, some are more sinister; the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa in Arizona is battling graffiti with gang overtones.

To combat this scourge, some resort owners resort to security cameras. Understandably, guests are often uncomfortable being watched as they go about their leisure activities. Who, other than exhibitionists, want to be on camera while they're soaking in the hot tub or playing in the games room?

But what alternative does management have? The resort my wife and I visited have told some guests they're no longer welcome. Sure, they'll save money by not having to replace damaged and stolen property, but those guests are not likely to recommend a resort they themselves are not allowed to visit.

What usually happens is that resort owners simply raise prices. However, this too may be counterproductive. Income from guests who continue to visit will offset losses due to theft and vandalism, but some guests may no longer be able to afford the resort. And really, do you want to pay more because a few cretins can't control their kids or their own sticky fingers?

The real solution, as always, rests with each of us, and it's ridiculously simple: show respect, for your hosts, for your fellow guests, and for yourself.

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