The following review covers a stay Sunday - Friday at the Eros Hotel, Managed by Hilton, Nehru Place, Delhi during January 2013.
The Eros Hotel leaves 4 bottles of a certain brand of mineral water in the room each day. Someone used an empty one of these bottles as a container for moving a strong acid into my room. That person then left it (presumably unintentionally) in my bathroom, where I might easily have left such a bottle myself. The substance is a colourless and odourless liquid. On returning to my room in the evening, thinking the bottle contained water, as simply appeared to be the case, I took a mouthful. The shock caused an instant reaction and I emitted everything immediately. My throat had completely closed itself and I had the momentary experience of empty lungs and unable to breathe. The liquid was later established probably to have been sulphamic acid, which is used routinely by Eros cleaning staff as a de-scaler. I am told by experts that if someone with respiratory problems had ingested this substance, the result could have been very severe and it could also have caused serious injury if taken by a child or by someone without immediate access to water. Fortunately I was at the sink, so I had water to try to flush the acid out of my throat; then I drank a lot of water to dilute the effect of any acid that had passed through. I reported the incident to the front desk, was having great difficulty speaking, then lost my voice completely. The substance in the bottle vigorously emitted gas when dripped as a test onto the marble floor in Hotel Reception, so it clearly displayed strong acidic characteristics. Otherwise, at that point I did not know what exactly I had ingested, how much damage it had done, whether any of the damage was permanent, nor if my voice would return.
A hotel car was put quickly at my disposal to take me to hospital; the journey through dense Delhi traffic was slow and painful. The acid had also attacked my teeth leaving them very sensitive. At the hospital, chosen by the hotel, the medical staff tried to get me to lie down on a grubby bed with a blood stain and greasy mark on the sheet. Then they tried to issue me with pills where you could not identify what the medication was. In India, the self-administration of toxic substances must be reported to the police, so I later had to undergo a police interview at a time when it was painful for me to even speak.
The hotel management promised me a thorough review. However, their result that not enough of the liquid was available for the analysis to identify the exact chemical was disappointing. I know a lot about chemical analysis and I know that I had provided easily enough of a sample for a competent laboratory to analyse. CCTV images were shown to me, but the picture quality was so poor that the staff members in it could not be distinguished from each other and it could not be identified what they were carrying. No staff member owned up to taking the bottle into my room and the culprit was not found.
In an unrelated prior incident, I returned one lunchtime and was able to enter my room without using my key. My door was left completely open by hotel staff and the room was unattended, as were many neighbouring rooms. I retrieved something from my room, and without hurrying, left again without anyone seeing me. It is true that a room key, valid for one of the rooms on a particular floor, must be used in the lift to access that floor at all or the lift will not stop there, but this in itself is not an adequate security measure, because if a thief, or worse, wished to access the rooms, he or she could use the lift at the same time as a key-carrying hotel guest.
In just a few days at this hotel, I encountered:
- Lax room security
- Very dangerous practices with cleaning materials
- Hospital standards much lower than a Hilton guest might expect
- Very low definition CCTV security cameras
- A poor investigation afterwards that did not establish who was responsible and which wasted the sample that I gave for chemical analysis
Luckily, I was able to take the right action immediately to minimise the damage to my health, but not everyone in that same predicament would have been able to do so. The Eros/Hilton was incredibly fortunate that this incident happened to me, rather than someone more vulnerable who could have been badly injured.
On the plus side, I believe this to be a one-off incident, the Hilton Hotel management and staff all seemed to be genuinely shocked and concerned by the events, which revealed some operational standards much lower than they themselves expected. The management recognises the seriousness of what happened, were open enough to explain to me a number of the measures they are implementing to introduce improved practices and I believe they will do so.
I have travelled widely, stayed in hotels all over the world, including on two occasions previously this one, and have not had any such experiences before that caused me to complain.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Eros Hotel New Delhi Nehru Place is perfectly placed for both the business and leisure traveler, with a prime location at the center of the city's business and commercial districts. With over 100 international business houses located in the immediate vicinity, we offer our corporate guests the convenience of having most of your business needs at our doorstep. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Intercontinental New Delhi
- Intercontinental Hotel New Delhi
- New Delhi Intercontinental
- Hotel Intercontinental
- Nehru Place Intercontinental
- InterContinental Nehru Place