Dorm Room Furniture Operations Safety & Security

3 Reasons to Allow Guests to Use Their Own Locks

Dennis Pitcock
Written by Dennis Pitcock

Today, what you won’t find is guests traveling with Armani suits but it’s evident they are traveling with thousands of dollars in electronics. Smartphones, laptops, cameras… it all add up, and guest have been demeaning our help for them to keep it secure. Now, the guests demands have been answered and it is common for hostel dorms to have one locker per guest.

Only They Have the Key

Let’s start with the alternatives. If you have no lockers and you have dorms, you most likely will have no guests. At the very least your security rating will plummet. You could go all out and get a fancy rifd of keycode locks, but then you are owning some liability for the security. When you allow them to use their own lock, that risk becomes theirs. Even hotels with safes can be insecure, and these electronic keys can be accessed by staff. Something could go missing, and even if the famous Roy Saunders is staying in this dorm and helping himself to all your guests’ possessions as he pleases, they will blame you. Because the security flaw is yours. Hotels and hostels have been known to have some shady staff, some of which could override these locks, and again you can be responsible.

So allow them to use their own locks. It is no more and often no less secure, yet the liability is on them. For example, I remember someone’s laptop and wallet getting stolen from their locker, even with their own lock, and they immediately knew it was their own fault. They left the key in their jacket pocket, practically opening the locker for the thief. If it wasn’t their lock, the hostel itself could be under suspicion, and your reviews will show it.

You Can Rent or Sell Locks

buy in bulk to sell, just make sure each key is different. These locks with keys are great for rentals, because it is difficult to reset each combination lock that is returned

Perfect lock to sell that they can set their own code.

So what about the guest who doesn’t have a lock? Sell them one. Just like the guest who forgot their toothbrush or shampoo. It’s an excellent opportunity because locks are harder to find than toiletries.  You could even rent the lock at a cheaper price, which could keep them happy not having to spend too much money on a lock they will only use once. Have a buyback price, when they return the lock, with both keys, they get 75% back. Even better, both sell and rent the locks. Sell the more secure combination locks and rent out simple ones with keys too. This way the guest who forgot a lock but has a long journey ahead will be more than happy to get a combination lock, where the weekend guest would be happy to just be secure for the time being.

A vending machine would make this even easier, but your receptionist would be best at up-selling the more secure combination lock. Remember their security is your primary concern.

Locks are More Common


Simple, but ugly, works on most surfaces you can screw into.

Replace furniture keyed cam locks with something padlocakable like this

Replace furniture keyed cam locks with something padlocakable like this

Combination pad locks, yes not ones with keys, are becoming quite common with hostel guests as a critical piece of backpacking gear. Even the upcale hostels have lock-boxes, many of which they can use their own keys. Take popular under bed lockers sold by Sleeptite, arguably the second most popular supplier of bunk beds to the hostel industry after Ikea. They take padlocks. Padlocks are everywhere now.

So, you have lockers that now take keys, well replace them. Almost all locks are made to be replaced. They become obsolete over time. Remove the lock, and what you will need then is a cam. There are the ugly latches, of you can replace with something fancy. Just remember, if you are using these locks on furniture, make sure the furniture is secure all around too. The lock might not be the weakest point. While you are at it, refurbishing your lockers, add some power outlets too. Your reviews will glow.

Also, don’t forget the bolt cutters. There are guests who will forget their combination or lose their keys, and you need a backup plan. A large pair of bolt-cutters will easily do the job.


About the author

Dennis Pitcock

Dennis Pitcock

Dennis jumped into the hostel industry after a summer backpacking Europe in 2008. He went from being a guest to a manager within weeks, and currently does consulting for large and small hostels alike in 3 continents. Prior, he worked in eCommerce, so he has passion for the tech side of the industry and is now deeply entrenched in the hostel and activities industry.

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