Counterfeit fear forces hotel to refuse US notes printed prior to 2012
A guest at a St James resort was left fuming recently after he was denied entry to the facility because they refused to accept the United States notes he presented as payment.
The elderly man told The Sunday Gleaner that on arrival at the all-inclusive hotel, where he intended to spend the weekend, he issued a credit card as part payment and offered to pay the rest in cash. He explained that he tendered several US$100 bills, but the male receptionist declined to accept the notes, stating that the hotel did not accept currency printed prior to 2012.
"I protested and he went to the back office, came back and said the accounts department would not accept the bills because the bank would not take them. I asked which bank, but they would not say. Luckily, I had other US dollars on me that they accepted," related the disgruntled man.
When The Sunday Gleaner made checks, representatives at three of the island's major banks, including the Bank of Jamaica, could not theorise why the notes were rejected on the basis of their age.
After repeated attempts, the hotel's management finally gave an explanation. According to them, the hotel had been a recent victim of counterfeit notes, and that the staff members were just overly sceptical.
"We have received counterfeit money from time to time and because of this, the agents are usually pretty cautious in taking some US dollars. At one point there was some seriously good counterfeit money going around," said the hotel's communication representative.
"We did get some of the counterfeit currency and the pen was not even able to verify it so it makes you a little bit super cautious. They are just cautious. I would want to call it that. Sometimes when you get burnt, you're just super cautious."
Last week, a senior criminal investigator at the Jamaica Constabulary Force explained that the counterfeit pen may not be the best way to test the currency.
"The only way that you can assure the credibility of a note is when you hold it up and you see a line with the written words, denomination of the note in there. That's the only safe way to test the currencies," said the investigator, who declined to speak openly.
"The pen gives a colour feedback. Normally, if it gives you a particular colour you know that the note is good but a lot of things have changed, including the papers they (criminals) are using. So sometimes the pen don't work."
During our investigation, at least two hoteliers told The Sunday Gleaner that they have been victims of counterfeit notes in recent times, and that they have bolstered their efforts to detect them.
Omar Robinson, head of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), said that detecting counterfeit bills continues to be a challenge for the hotels, even though the incidents may not be frequent.
"Does it exist? Yes, but not widespread. But you always have to be on the lookout for counterfeit bills. The banks pay special attention to mostly twenties and hundreds, and occasionally you may find a one-off situation," said Robinson, while urging members of the JHTA to take advantage of the new counterfeit detecting technology as well as routine staff training offered by the banks.
In reference to hotel guests who may be inconvenienced due to the precautions, he said, "We are in an age now where people are more understanding when it comes to these things. So I think a lot more persons are becoming more aware and more tolerant when we have these sort of issues."