Is a hotel safe safe?

By: Miyako Storch
This item appears on page 50 of the September 2017 issue.

For five days in May 2017, my husband and I stayed at a reputable 4½-star hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The morning of the third day, I removed our passports from our room’s safe to carry with us. We were gone most of the day.

When I went to return the passports to the safe, it wouldn’t open. The sign said “E-code,” which meant we were using the wrong code. I tried several times, each time waiting 15 to 20 minutes before trying again, but the safe did not cooperate.

Finally, I called the concierge for help. I wasn’t too worried that we couldn’t get the rest of our stuff out, since we had two more days to figure it out, but I was annoyed. 

When the concierge came, I watched how she opened the safe. To my amazement, she punched in “1-2-3-4” (the safe required a 4-digit pass code) twice, and the safe magically opened!

In one way, I was glad I could use the safe again. On the other hand, I was left feeling confused and insecure. Considering that housekeepers and many employees have pass keys to rooms, if opening a safe is so simple that perhaps anyone can do it, this could be a problem.

Naturally, I took my stuff out of the safe and hid it somewhere else for the rest of our stay.

If anyone else has had a similar experience or can suggest a solution for this or an alternative, please let us know.


Santa Barbara, CA

ITN notes that, usually, only hotel management can open room safes, and having any combination is better than not changing the safe manufacturer’s original override code (which, often, is 0-0-0-0). What was unusual and unwise in Ms. Storch’s case was that the concierge punched in the code while she was watching.

If you are an ITN subscriber and have an experience, suggestion or comment to share regarding hotel safes, email or write to Is a Hotel Safe Safe?, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address where you receive ITN. Responses may be printed in ITN.