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Century Pines Resort in Tanah Rata, Pahang in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia is a bottom of the barrel dump. Think twice or more before staying here and getting your ringgit stolen

Home / Life  /
Hotel Mismanagement Courses in Malaysia:  Part II
Century Pines Resort

So concerned about customer service, Century Pines Resort will guarantee you won't realize you've been robbed

[Read part one first to learn all about the basics of hotel mismanagement or here to see the non-awardwinning video.]

My girlfriend and I walked to the police station around the corner to launch an official complaint.  A Muslim Malay policewoman with a headscarf came with us to the hotel to see the security camera footage and hear out all the stories.  Mgr and his Indian technical staff sidekick, known here as Indosafe, were willing to accept the staff's inconsistent stories because the logs downloaded from our safe showed no entry between 10:06 and 10:11, the five minutes when Enjoymalay was in our room as we were at breakfast.  Indosafe showed me the downloaded logs on a palm pilot.  The night we checked in, there were a series of entries written as so:

18 December 2010           21:30:05               PIN Number set
18 December 2010           21:30:45               Safe closed
18 December 2010           21:31:08               Safe opened
18 December 2010           21:31:45               Safe closed

On the morning we were robbed there was only one entry:

19 December 2010           10:46:05               PIN code reset

I suggested the safe logs prior to 10:46:05 had been erased.  Where were the records of us opening the safe before we went to breakfast?  Indosafe and Mgr insisted that erasing the logs was impossible.   You needed some master PIN, access to some server, blah blah blah.  I went onto the internet as the police lady conducted her 'investigation' to see if I could dig up any solid technical evidence about safe deposit log deletions but came up with nothing.  My girlfriend called her director of engineering in Thailand, but he couldn't understand her request.  Eventually, she brought one relevant matter to everyone's attention, so simple I wondered why I hadn't thought of it.

Where on the logs for December 19 were the three attempts I'd made to get into the safe before the system locked me out, the entire reason we'd requested Enjoymalay to return to our room after fixing the shower? 

The staff couldn't change their story on that one.  my girlfriend had requested to Chybly at 10:40 AM that Enjomalay return to the room to open our safe after we were locked out of it.  There was security camera footage of her making that request as well as security camera footage of Enjoymalay re-entering our room a few minutes later with the safecracking equipment.

Mgr's reaction wasn't one of 'Ah hah. You're right.  Where are those logs?' but rather 'Let's not worry about that.  I'll call the safe manufacturer tomorrow.'  His sidekick Indosafe agreed.  They could worry about those technical matters later (= never), after we checked out of the hotel. 

I didn't let them off the hook.  I recommended all of us go to a hotel room that very second in the presence of the police, try to enter a safe three times with incorrect codes, get locked out of the system, and then download the logs to see if the attempts and lockout were recorded. 

In this very simple experiment, each failed entry did show up in the log and so did the final lockout.   Mgr's, Indosafe's, Indochubby's, Chybly's, and Enjoymalay's last bit of proof that a robbery had never happened crumbled in front of the police.   The logs had unquestionably been tampered with. 

I surmise Enjomalay must not have been able to delete only his unauthorized visit into our safe but been forced to delete every single entry that day to cover his tracks, including my three attempts to get into the safe around 10:35.  My girlfriend and I recalled something odd Enjomalay had asked us when he was opening up the safe later with his safecracking gear.  'What's your combination?'  Almost a year ago in Macau, my girlfriend's son had changed the combination to our room safe and forgotten the number.  We had to call staff in to open it.  At no time did they ever ask or require our combination to open it, for what good would that have done when we'd forgotten the combination?  My guess:  Enjomalay needed our combo to be able to erase the daily log. 

You'd think that now, with the security TV footage, the staff's ever changing stories, and the proof of forged safe logs that Mgr would finally admit that thieving did occur, chew out Enjoymalay and fire him, and hand back our missing 300 ringgit with profuse apologies.  Nope.  We had to go back to the police station, and the policewoman force Mgr to ring the head office in Penang.  As Mgr and his boss were speaking in Malay and I couldn't hear the boss on the other end of the line, I haven't an exact idea what was exchanged, but I can offer you what I think is a pretty damned close simplified translation.

Mgr:  I got a problem.  Some foreigners were robbed at the hotel.  They have a shitload of proof that Enjomalay broke into their room and took 300 ringgit.  They're checking out early tomorrow morning.  What do I do? 

Boss:  Nothing.  Tell them we'll 'investigate' further. 

Mgr:  I tried that.  (whispers)  I'm at the police station now.   They filed an official police report.

Boss:  Calm down.  Say nothing, admit nothing, apologize for nothing.  

Mgr:  Tried that, too.  (croaks) I think the police expect me to . . . to give the foreigners their money back.

Boss:  (shocked) No!

Mgr: The police lady's glaring at me now.  What do I do?

Boss:  (defeated sigh)  All right, fine.  But it's not coming out of our pockets.  Squeeze the 300 ringgit out of Enjomalay and give it to the foreigners.

Mgr:  (in fantasyland)  Even though Enjomalay couldn't possibly have taken the money, despite the security camera footage of him entering their room, the forged safe logs, his stories never being the same twice?

Boss:  Better out of his wallet than ours.  If he doesn't produce the 300 ringgit, we'll dock it out of his next paycheck.  If he complains about that, we'll investigate firing him. 

Mgr:  Great idea, boss.

Even after the police said we were going to get our 300 ringgit returned to us back at the hotel, I didn't trust Mgr would follow through.  His story could change.   I requested that the monies be handed over to us in the presence of the police.  The police assured us that Mgr would make good on his word and at 11 PM, after grabbing dinner at one of the few restaurants still open in town, Mgr did give us back 300 ringgit at the hotel reception without uttering a single word.  I don't think Enjoymalay was given so much as a slap on the wrist, and he continues to be employed at Century Pines as of this writing.    

I hadn't been all that surprised to see Chybly and Indochubby hastily reinvent their stories to cover for Enjoymalay's actions.  I never assumed the perpetrator had gone into the guest rooms without assistance from fellow staff.   But I was surprised to see the lengths Mgr went to defend his staffs' inconsistent stories. 

My girlfriend felt Mgr couldn't accept the staff he managed were dishonest.  I don't agree.  Mgr just didn't care.  He was phoning in his performance as manager, doing the very, very minimum required of his job.  Reprimanding lying and thieving staff takes time and energy Mgr didn't want to put in.  And if he fired employees, he'd have to screen the hiring of new ones to replace them.  Too much bloody work, isn't it?  The Sitting-On-Your-Ass form of management is less stressful and it pays the same.

The hotel's decline would've started out with light bulbs in the hallways not getting replaced, then sheeting not being stringently changed, and Mgr or his predecessor never calling the staff on it.  At some point in the decline, staff realized they could get away with literal robbery and started walking into rooms, the security camera be damned.  We were not the first guests at Century Pines to be robbed by Enjomalay and company, only the first to catch them. 

And we will not be the last.  I expect Enjoymalay and his cronies have been pulling these scams for years and will continue to ply this lucrative side trade for years to come on unsuspecting guests who may never realize they've been robbed.  Enjoymalay made sure to only take a percentage of the most numerous notes found in the wallet.  He left untouched the $100 note in my girlfriend's wallet and the four 1,000 baht (over $130) in mine.  We would've been sure to notice those missing.  The passports, the computer, even the credit cards -- he didn't bother with those.  Had he, his scam would've been uncovered long ago.

Businesses are initially formed in the images of their creators and later, their managers.  It's top down, not bottom up.  Mgr didn't care because those above him didn't care.  And those below Mgr (Chybly, Indochubby, and Enjomalay) didn't care because Mgr didn't care.  Enjomalay had no reason not to thieve.  His continued employment at Century Pines after the presentation of overwhelming proof of guilt shows that there was no downside to his actions.   Their risk of getting caught proved to be absurdly low and the punishment nonexistent. 

I've been robbed at hotels before, years ago, but these were no-star budget establishments.  Why do people pay more to stay in multi-starred hotels?  For luxury (comfort), service, and security, none of which Century Pines possesses. A hotel can have swank grounds and fine buildings, but if they're not maintained, it feels worse than a one-star hotel impeccably managed.  Service doesn't depend upon how many staff there are standing around reception asking, 'How can I help you?'  Great service can rest on a single person who actually provides the help.  Closed circuit TV cameras and room safes only mean as much as the hotel installing them.   Their mere existence on the premises means nothing on its own.  A hotel is only as good as its willingness to back up the implicit promise of taking care of its guests.  Century Pines took care of us all right, but in the same way a typical used car salesman takes care of his customers. 

Century Pines 'Resort' was a lesson in hotel mismanagement, a great case study for those keen on a career in the hotel world, an observational checklist on what not to do.  A weekend here getting robbed could be worth six months at a mega-expensive hotel school in Switzerland. 

Look what I learned, enough for me to apply for a general manager position at another subpar hotel:

Staying in a hotel is all about the total experience.  Good hotels know this.  Getting robbed at a hotel is never pleasant, but crap happens, and hotels have to deal with it.  The best way is to resolve the problem as quickly as possible to the customer's satisfaction so as to not upset his overall hotel experience.  The amount we were robbed was less than $100.  Initially, Mgr may have doubted our story.   Plenty a guest must say they've been robbed when they've misplaced their money.  But after he saw Enjoymalay enter our room unauthorized on the security camera footage and heard his staffs' side of the story not making sense in light of other facts presented, the most sensible thing he could've done was just give us back RM300 as quickly as possible with an apology and assurance that he would deal with the matter on his end.  We would've left the hotel with a good impression, that they honored their promise to their customers.  No one faults an iPod for breaking a month after purchase, but they would fault Apple for not honoring the warranty.

 Keep guests away from the problems.   I asked my girlfriend how her hotel would've handled a similar robbery.   She said the hotel personnel and hotel personnel alone would view the security camera footage and assess whether a wrong had been committed.  With security camera footage proving unequivocally that staff went into a guest's room without permission, the hotel would've refunded the stolen amount to the guest and comped their entire stay, while never admitting to the guest exactly what happened.  The guest doesn't actually care about the technicalities of the robbery.   He just wants the wrong corrected.  Mgr brought us right into the center of the problem.  He made us confront the very thieves who robbed us and, then, to our faces, showed he didn't trust us. 

 Rotten apples spoil the rest of the barrel.  If there's a problem, any problem, it has to be dealt with immediately.  There's a criminological theory known as the broken windows theory.  Leaving broken windows unrepaired sends a message to others that there's no law and order in this neighborhood, leading to further vandalism and crime.  Who knows how many crooks or thieves now roam the halls of Century Pines Resort?  I can name at least two.   The thief count would've started with one.   When s/he got away with it and Mgr looked the other way, refused to deal with it, or was so dense he really didn't know about it, that sent a message to other staff members that anything goes. 

Bad word travels fast.  Mgr was warned in advance that my girlfriend was a hotelier and that I ran one of the most brilliant, trendsetting web sites the world has yet experienced.  Well, I didn't quite put it that way.  Everyone threatens to bad mouth a business when situations don't go their way.   It's become a hollow threat, and I believe that most scathing reviews published on the internet read like baseless claims and do little to alter a business' future prospects.  But when a legitimate claim surfaces, and the word gets out, a business will be harmed.  I don't feel guilty trashing Century Pines.  I gave Mgr fair warning, and that's when he dared me to go to the police to officially complain.  No decent manager would have baited a customer to go to the police to save the hotel less than $100. 

Century Pines Resort offers advanced courses in hotel mismanagement.  Just visit their web site, not listed here to protect readers, and book a smelly deluxe garden room.  Stuff your wallet with tons of ringgit and let the unwitting lessons begin.  Enjoymalay, Indochubby, and Chybly may be retired on a Caribbean island by the time you visit.   Don't worry.   New professors will have filled their positions to teach you how they can take you to the cleaners as they leave unwashed sheets on your beds.

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