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?