DEAR ABBY: I work in a hotel where many people pass through our lobby each day. We have great guests, but we also get our share of strange or questionable people, too. It's not uncommon for police to send us information or inquire about criminals of various sorts who stop over at hotels. And, for the record, it doesn't matter how posh the hotel is, either.
My letter concerns parents who allow very young children to come to the front desk alone, or to hang out in the lobby. I have seen scantily clad young teens in swimsuits walk by. These girls have no clue that they're being ogled by 40-plus businessmen in suits who make off-color comments about their bodies.
It's also not unusual to see 4- and 5-year-olds get on and off the elevators alone because their parents don't feel like coming to the desk to pick up items.
Why, then, do we wonder how our kids are snatched up so easily by predators?
Hotel staff are here to serve and be helpful, but we cannot serve as baby sitters. We are often multitasking, so no one should assume we have an eye on your child. How are we to know whether the 50-year-old man pulling your 12-year-old daughter aside and whispering something in her ear is her dad -- or a pervert?
When children go missing, we staff members get screamed at by parents insisting that we should have seen something suspicious about the person the child was last seen with. Well, here's the simple answer: We're employed to conduct hotel business, not monitor children. When the telephone rings, we must answer and take a reservation. Our attention cannot be on your child when there is a lobby bustling with activity, a line of five or more guests checking in and out, someone on the inside line requesting more pillows or questioning a bill, and our outside lines are ringing off the hook. -- FRUSTRATED AT THE FRONT DESK
DEAR FRUSTRATED: I understand and sympathize. Part of the problem may be that the hospitality industry has been so successful in making guests feel at home away from home, that people forget they are NOT at home. An illustration would be a recent item on the television news here in California. An attractive young woman entered her upscale hotel and decided to dash into the powder room off the main lobby. She was unaware that a man followed her into the hotel through the lobby and into the bathroom. The only thing that saved her from his sexual assault was that another woman happened to enter the bathroom.
Signs posted in every hotel room warn guests to verify the identity of strangers before admitting them. In the interest of safety, travelers should never let their guard down, and parents should remain vigilant.