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Theft at conferences November 10, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Business practices, Random musings.

This post deals with several recent experiences I learned about that occurred at the latest ATA conference, but it can apply to conferences in general. When people are at a conference they tend to act as if they are in a bubble and nothing bad can happen. This is not the case. One should behave at a conference in the same way as one would in a foreign country or even at home – with some caution.

One member of the Business Practices listserv was furious when her computer bag was stolen out of the room where the listserv was holding a happy hour. She had placed it on the floor next to the bartender station. After reporting the theft to hotel security, they found it 15 minutes later “on the 3rd floor, in an empty closed room, with all the zippers opened, conference materials left alone but [the] laptop was gone.” She was then upset with the way the hotel handled the situation because they would not give her the incident report because it was “confidential Marriott property,” claimed they did not have security cameras (although they initially told her they would check the cameras) and did not report the incident to the police. She felt the Marriott was covering the incident up and asked people to contact her if they saw any suspicious activity.

OK, first of all, shame on her for leaving her bag unattended. I always remind the first-time conference attendees to be aware of their valuables and to look back when they leave their seat, room, etc. to make sure they have not left anything behind. I never let my laptop or purse out of my sight – or in fact out of my hands or off my shoulder. I would never in a million years leave it unattended next to a bartender station or anywhere else. The fact is that hotels in general are public locations, and anyone can come in off the street and blend into the crowd.  Hotels warn theirs guests to protect valuables from hotel thieves by using the room safe and hiding expensive clothes under casual clothes. Why wouldn’t one think that an open room in a hotel bar would be fair game to thieves? Secondly, the hotel has a right to be skeptical of claims of theft, no matter how indignant the guest is. According to an online article entitled Protecting Valuables From Hotel Thieves, “[i]tems reported stolen from hotel rooms frequently turn up in the guest’s possession. And there is the not-uncommon possibility that the guest’s claim may be fraudulent.” I’m sure this was not the case here, but it helps to put yourself in the hotel’s shoes.

And may I remind my fellow conference attendees once again not to wear their conference name badges outside the hotel?!?! I can’t tell you how many people I saw walking outside or in the adjacent shopping malls wearing their conference name badges. Luckily the neighborhood was safe (unlike the neighborhood in Atlanta in 2002). If you are wearing your conference badge outside the hotel you might as well be carrying a sign saying “Hey, I’m a tourist. Please feel free to rob me.”

Finally, I was very upset to hear that one of our members had all her resumes, business cards and the plastic stand deliberately stolen/removed from the German table in the Job Marketplace. She went to get a copy of her resume for a potential client on Friday late afternoon or early evening, and it was nowhere to be found. How could someone do such a thing to a colleague? No matter how you feel about a person, you don’t do something like this and mess with their ability to work. I find this behavior childish and unprofessional. Whoever did this, shame on you!

I would like to conclude by saying that the ATA staff does a great job organizing these conferences for us, but one should never expect them to police the attendees’ behavior. It is up to us to act professional and be mindful of our surroundings.



1. Craig Morris - November 10, 2011

Let me just say that I also forgot my laptop in my ATA Conference bag when I went directly from my pre-conference seminar to the invitation-only 5 PM reception and then on to the 6 PM reception that was open to everyone. There was finger food at the invitation-only reception, so I put my bag down, and when I left for the second reception, I wasn’t even thinking about my bag.

Marriott found my bag and kept it with security. They were able to return it within about 15 minutes.

After that, I insisted on always bringing my laptop back to my room immediately if I had used it again, such as for my presentation two days later.

Jill (@bonnjill) - November 10, 2011

Craig, the difference here was that you were at an invitation only event, and they had staff standing at the door checking names against a list. And you quickly realized your mistake (learned your lesson) 😉

2. g2lls - November 11, 2011

This post made me laugh because it is so true. My company was very involved in the LULAC conference in Cincinnati a bit ago, there were representatives from all over the U.S……….no offense to the LULAC delegates (i love you guys!) but, after the conference, we compared notes and there were thefts of everything from T-shirts to wallets, it was bad. we don’t know who was responsible, it was likely more than one party. however, you let your guard down around like-minded people and assume that everyone is a friend……….that is not necessarily the case.

Grace Bosworth
President, Global2Local LLC

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