Beware smokers. The hospitality industry may start to keep a watch on you. The reason: Hoteliers are grumbling that on several occasions they are left with unpaid bills as patrons opt to walk out for a smoke and don’t return to pay the bills.
“Following the strict no-smoking laws, hoteliers display the no-smoking board and also ensure that patrons are not provided with cigarettes, ashtrays or matches. In spite of these steps taken by us, the customer often walks out of the establishment and smokes saying that they are allowed to smoke outside the hotel. Owing to this reason, there have been several instances when patrons have walked out and then not returned to pay the bill causing us more losses,” said Sudhakar Shetty, president Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR).
Shetty added that even though managers and hoteliers insist that patrons do not smoke even around the premises fearing action from the police or the civic body, the customers most often pay no heed to their advice.
He also outlined that there was a certain double standard when it came to dealing with the patrons and the hotel staff.
According to him, last month, a hotelier in Vakola with the manager was arrested by the Mumbai police and charged under Section 394 and 471 of the MCGM rules and kept in custody till the next day with a fine of Rs 12,500 whereas the patron who caught smoking was let off with a meagre Rs 200 fine.
Restaurant owners agreeing with Shetty said that it was unjust that they were being made to pay such an exorbitant amount for no fault of theirs.
“If people drink and drive, we are responsible. If people smoke, we are yet again responsible. What about the huge losses we incur?” a restaurant owner grumbled.
Echoing the same angst, Navin Shetty, a bar owner said, “Everyday we get at least two patrons who go out for smoking and they do not turn back and we have to bear the losses.”
Raju Polampalli, owner Sitara restaurant and bar at Mulund, has hired extra men to keep an eye on patrons who go out for smoking.
“If they are my old customers, I don’t mind. But, I have hired help to keep an eye on new customers. I have been cheated in the past and hence, I have no choice but to hire guards.”