Thursday, April 26, 2007

Unfortunate event.

Yesterday we had a very troubling thing happen on our eco tour that I want to mention. I would love to know what people think about it too. Of course you can leave anonymous comments if you like as well.
First of all I have to tell you that Trevor has gone off to England as planned to play county league cricket. He does this every year and although we are very sad to see him go, we are also happy that he is doing something that he loves so much. We will take him back on board next autumn when the cricket season is over there. We have hired a new staff member and I will introduce him properly on another post. He has been working non stop in this sort of business for 18 years and is generally recognized as being one of the best tour guides and “boat men” in Antigua. We are delighted to have Wan Lovv on board with us.
Anyway, back to the problems from yesterday. I had given Tony a day off and the tour was being run by Francis, Louis and Wan Lovv. As has always been our practice, we invited guests to come on and not worry about paying for the tour until the end…which I have always felt is a nicer way of doing things. Many people store their bags down in the cabin, some keep bags with them on deck, some keep only cameras, some keep waterproof money pouches. For the most part though, people keep their bags down in the cabin. As is usual, the first time the guests come off the boat is at Bird Island when one of the crew takes everyone on a small hike and nature walk. Two of the crew remain on board preparing lunch and getting stuff ready for a snorkeling lesson. The next time its possible for all the guests to be off the boat at the same time is when we are at hells gate. There are 5 choices of things to do and one of them is chilling on the boat. Yesterday all guests left the boat with Francis leaving Wan Lovv and Louie behind to clean up and get the snorkeling gear ready for the next stop off Welch Rock where our final snorkeling stop is. As Francis anchored up at this final stop a gentleman came up to him loudly shouting “I have been robbed…I have been robbed.” At first, Francis thought he was joking, but quickly realized that he wasn’t. All the other guests on board stopped what they were doing to see what was going on. He and his wife had been sitting in the front of the boat on the driver’s side (in front of Francis) the entire day and unlike most of the other passengers, had kept their bag with them. The guest said that his money had been stolen out of the front pocket of his bag which had been left on his seat. It had been folded inside a money clip together with his credit cards. The clip and the cards and all the other things from his bag were there. He said that the only people that could have stolen it were Wan Lovv and Louie. All of this wasn’t being done discreetly and Francis explained that he would call me to find out what I wanted to do. I was so shocked that I couldn’t think of what to do other that to ask how much money was missing. Francis relayed that only the money to pay for the tour $140 US was missing. They didn’t have any other money with them at all, so I told Francis to let them know that we were terribly sorry that this has happened and to let them know that he didn’t have to worry about finding more money to pay us. I told him that it would be the company’s loss and for this event not to take away from the enjoyment of his holiday. I told Francis to take the crew aside and question them and to also let all the guests know that they should check their things as well. He told me that he didn’t have to as everyone had heard him saying that he had been robbed. No other bags had been tampered with either below or above deck. I also told him to ask the guest what he felt should be done, and suggested that we could inform the police about the robbery. Unfortunately the guest was irate and upon getting back to port said that he wasn’t interested in seeing the police (who are always at the port) and told Francis that he needed to do a better job of watching his crew. This of course was again not discreetly said in private and made for an extremely bitter end to what had otherwise been a fantastic day. In fact the boys ended up with US $180 in tips after the tour yesterday.
Maybe they ended up with more………???????? I have never ever had reason to think that any of my staff with me now or any of those who have moved on have stolen anything from me or from my guests. One time over the past 8 years we had a camera stolen on board which ended up being taken by another guest….(long story but camera was returned), but this was the first time that one of my guests had cash taken in a situation where one or more of my staff was implicated.
I met the boat in Jolly Harbour and questioned each crew individually about the situation. From what i could tell Wan Lovv and Louie had always been together throughout the day especially when the guests were off the boat. As Wan Lovv is new on our boat i had asked the other crew to carefully guide him on how things run on our tour. They were never out of eachother's sight.
OK so what do I do? I guess I should now make the change to collect all moneys as people come on the boat like all the other tours do…..
This almost guarantees that I get the correct money at the end of the day, but it wouldn’t guarantee that other moneys or valuables in the guest’s bags were completely safe. It’s a tough one…there are many solutions which all have pros and cons. At the end of the day its something that I would like input from prospective guests and guests who have been with us before. What do you think about this situation and do you have any ideas about ways to make sure that it won’t happen again?


Anonymous said...

From: Michael Breen []
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 10:02 AM
To: Antigua Adventures
Subject: So sorry to hear about the theft

Hi Gang,

I read Eli's blog and it is obvious how upset Eli is about the situation. I tried to post this reply on his blog, but I couldn't get it on there for some reason:


As a frequent visitor to Antigua and frequent guests on your tour boats, I am SHOCKED by what happened on the boat. First off, never ever for even a fraction of a second would I consider that it was "theft by crew". I have never met a more professional bunch of people in my life, not only in Antiuga, but any other Caribbean island we have been to. I hate to say it, I really don't know the person "victim", but it sounds to me like they just had no intention of paying for the trip from the beginning. It's also very suspious to me that they didn't want to file a police report, you guys are TOO nice sometimes. I would have insisted on it as a business owner, but hindsight is 20/20. I just wonder how many other tour operators this "victim" stole from in Antigua. If he had filed a police report, he wouldn't have an oportunity to rip off another tour operator. I guess he doesn't know how small Antigua is and that, I'm sure, you will be hearing that he did this to other operators as well. As a business owner, we have always felt the benefit of doubt goes toward our clients, but times have changed in the last few years. We don't require payment until peoples taxes are done, we have standard rates, and I can't tell you how many people try to tell us that we quoted them a cheaper rate on the phone. This has become a "give me" society and it seems everyone wants something for nothing. It has probably reached the point where you will need to collect from everyone when they get on the boat, as a tourist I EXPECT to pay upfront. Many times I have seen people get on your boat and immediately get their $ out for payment, I really don't think people would be offended if you asked guests to pay when they board the boat.

I'd be curious to know what nationality this guy is? I wonder if he would have the balls to post it on the newgroup? Eli, your family and friends, know the truth and I'm sure there are many out there like Michael and I who will come to your defense if you need it. I think your long term reputation will sustain you just fine. I don't believe it happened, I believe it was a big mouthed bottom feeder who wanted something for nothing.

See you guys next Friday, May 4th...can't wait!!


Marla said...

I agree...I don't think the "victim" had any intention of paying, especially because he made a big scene. When someone makes a scene, the first reaction is to calm them down and move them along and the real issue is lost. I am assuming he is American (as am I), and I am embarassed at the way I have seen Americans act in Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Although I have been to Antigua, I have not been on one of your tours but enjoy your blog and hope to return to Antigua again. You are clearly a good person and care very much. My input is that you should see this as an isolate unfortunate event and just keep doing things as you have been.

Anonymous said...

All smells a bit fishy (sorry) to me. Why did he choose that moment to announce he'd been robbed? Why only the exact amount of money? Did he not take some for emergencies or tips?
If he was that paranoid about his stuff, which seems likely given his apparent need to cling onto it all day, surely he would have taken greater security steps than leaving it up top when he went below? You can explain some of this stuff I suppose but a lot still seems too convenient...

It's a shame but I think in a business like this you're always going to get some wa**ers who negatively exploit the way you treat your customers, but there isn't much you can do.

It was unlucky that Wanluv was so new; with the greatest respect to the guy it seems Frances and perhaps you entertained, if briefly, the suspicion that he might not be entirely beyond reproach.

You could alternatively take valuables, including cash (which you would count in), and store them somewhere secure at the start of the day.

Other than that I'm not sure there's much to be done. Guests having cash on board is good for the crew tipswise, and like you say it's never really happened before.

He must have been American. No Englishman would be so frightfully gauche as to announce anything like that in public. A discreet word to the captain would have been appropriate, had the story been true.

Anonymous said...


My husband and I were on your boat in June, 2006. In fact, our wedding party was 14 out of 16 on your boat that day so I cannot speak of ever feeling uncomfortable with leaving our bags out, nor would I with your staff. As far as a solution to your problem, it would almost seem better to have people mandatorily store their bags underneath and lock it. I dont think it is any of your staff so this would allow the rest of the guests to feel safe if their items are stored away. I know that is what we did, not because of feeling unsafe, but for the sheer space saver of having your things underneath.

On a side note, we stayed at Sandals for our June trip which was again, our wedding and honeymoon. On the night of our wedding, my husband and I were dancing in the court yard and our guests were invited to join us. Also feeling safe on the resort, my mother in law, left her camera with our wedding pictures sitting on a table in order to dance with us. With a quick turn on the dance floor, the camera was stolen. As far as we know, someone walked into the resort from the beach, sat down at the table (we did notice someone sitting there) and then quickly walked out and caught a cab out of the resort. I dont know if this is something that would be possible when a crew member might be underneath that someone could stop by the docks or whatever, but even in a private resort, we were deprived of our wedding pictures.

I dont know if this helps or not, but my point being that please do not take this too much to heart as we truly enjoyed your hospitality and trip and plan on taking it again in December when we hopefully return to Antigua. I would not blame you though for collecting the money and storing all items underneath for precautionary reasons. As someone who has had things stolen, I would certainly ablige to any protections that the event coordinator requests. Hope to see you soon, Cheers!

365 said...

guys thanks for your time and comments.

Anonymous said...

As a American, I take offense at the posters who suggest that an American did this henious act. That being said, I think whoever did this and if they did is a lowlife even more so if the guy lied. I am not really proud of being an American but to judge us all on a single incident is just as bad as the person committing the alleged crime.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was on the tour last week when that happened, and first of all I have to say I loved the tour-it was the highlight of my entire trip. The crew did a great job. I felt I had to post after reading Eli's account.. Yes the man was American (so am I, yes we can be a bit crude, but that has nothing to do with what happened) but I was standing there most of the time when it happened and from what I saw he was fairly discrete, NEVER yelled, and was not rude at all, if he was rude, it was not in front of any guests. Anyways, I never once thought it was the crew, or anybody on board, but then who? I watched the guy for a bit trying to judge if he was trying to pull one on the staff, but I just couldn’t imagine that he would have the “balls” to come up with that story. He just seemed like a normal guy, so I really don’t know what could have happened. My hope is that he misplaced his money and never brought it to begin with, regardless Francis handled the situation professionally.
Anyways, I just wanted to add my 2 cents, and again I had a fantastic time on the tour, and when I come back to Antigua, I will definitely do it again.

Anonymous said...

As a frequent flier on the tour, I wouldn't be at all bothered if we had to pay up front. In fact in would be good to get the business out of the way so we can all get on with enjoying ourselves.

I guess the truth will never be known. All we can do is learn from the experience.

Darlene said...

Hi Francis, Tony and Wan Lovv!
My family (Darlene,Jody,Chris and Shana) took your tour the 23rd or 24th(not sure,vacation!@#$%^&*()) and we had a wonderful time. It was very educational, beautiful and fun.It was a gorgeous day with great people.We learned alot about fragile ecosystems. My kids thought it was awesome and its something they will never forget. You all are very professional. The food you served for lunch was great, the most I had eaten at one meal, on vacation.It was my first time snorkeling(thank you Tony)and I loved it. I got a great picture of Wan Lovv. Should have got one of Francis, my daughter thought he was very handsome and she wants his job!
The trouble you had that day was very sad.I don't think for a seconed that any of you would steal from anyone! Unfortunately there are good and bad people everywhere, all nationalitys. You should definately have people pay before you leave.People should also be smarter about keeping their money on them or hiding it well and don;t bring an excesive amount as there is no shopping on the tour. I wish I had booked directly, $140US for two was cheaper and I would have had more tip money as I didn't bring enough.I feel bad about that.
Just wanted to tellyou what a great time we had and hope to see you all again someday(coming home to snow was depressing). I'll try your website to purchase two large t-shirts as you were out when we were there. Take Care, Darlene

Anonymous said...

Hi eli,

I never went on your tours yet (but I tryed many times) and I do not know how many people get in the boats, but maybe you can put some small lockers with keys just for valuable things. The key holders could be with the ones to strap in the wrist.
I think it still is a great idea to pay after the tour.



Anonymous said...

Eli, If you think he was trying to pull a fast one keep his name/details on file in case he tries to book again another time.

Anonymous said...

Eli, I know how hard your work to promote and produce a safe and fun product for the consumer. What I would suggest is that your recommend no tourist bring cash or valuables on board and the crew have a no cash policy. Let the guests bring cameras etc..and that you are not responsible for any lost, theft or damage.