As a continuation of last week’s blog, this post is part of a mini series titled #IslandVibes! As I mentioned in Pt. 1 All About Hilton Head Island, I interned for Marriott Vacations Worldwide during the summer of 2016 in Hilton Head Island, SC. The first post in this series talks about the island itself, but this post is going to talk more about Marriott Vacations Worldwide and my internship as a loss prevention officer!
Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MWV)
MVW is a public timeshare company that focuses primarily on vacation ownership. The company started in the mid-1980s and opened it’s first property on Hilton Head Island. Originally, MWV was a division of Marriott International, but separated and became it’s only publicly traded company in 2011. MWV has several brands that include, Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, Grand Residences by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Marriott Vacation Club, which is the brand I worked for. More specifically, I worked at Barony Beach Club, which is one of the eight properties on the island.
Finding the Internship & The Offer
As I mentioned in my first blog post, Meet Alex!, I am a graduate of the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University. One of the benefits of being in a tourism and hospitality-specific program is that the school brings in various companies to talk about their companies, their experiences, as well as internships. I attended an information session for their internship program and was able to sign-up for an on-campus internship appointment later that week with HR rep, Emily Emery. I can’t speak to everyone else’s experience, since there were several Temple students that accepted MVW internships in various cities, but I was made an offer in my interview. I was offered the option of taking a food and beverage (F&B) or loss prevention (LP) position at one of a few resorts in HHI. I specifically chose Hilton Head, not only because I was excited to live by the beach, but because that is the location where you could sublease housing through the company. Since it was such a short time period in a different state, not having to find a sublease on my own sold me on the location.
After my interview I had sometime to do research on the locations and decide which operations area I wanted to focus on. At that point in my life, my experience was primarily F&B so I ultimately decided to go with loss prevention to try something new- even though I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was signing up for… And as I mentioned above, I chose Barony Beach Club. I don’t really remember my thought-process behind choosing Barony, so I can’t speak to that now. I do remember looking at the commute time between where I was going to live and work and trying to find a short one so my internship wasn’t consumed by driving, but I don’t remember what the deciding factors were to be perfectly honest.
The 2016 Interns
Since I decided on Hilton Head, MVW’s headquarters, the largest pool of interns was also located there. In total, there were about 30 interns during the summer session. Everyone that traveled to the area for the internship was housed in the same complex and we were all in the same intern orientation class. The group of us were split among the properties on the island so I did not work with everyone that was interning during the summer. However, since there were so many of us, HR put together several intern outings for us, so it was more of an intern program as opposed to just a job. (The pictures below are of a lot of the interns at dinner together on one of first days on the island (L) and then me and Nikola, who was a co-op from Montenegro (L). P.S. Nikola was not part of the internship program- this was just the only picture I had of the uniform!)
The Ins & Outs of Resort Loss Prevention
As I said, I had little to no idea what loss prevention actually was when I accepted the internship. I knew it had to do with safety, and I knew it would probably not be my calling in life, but I decided to try it out anyway. When people ask me now what loss prevention is, I say you are focused on the areas of safety, security, and emergencies. As a loss prevention officer (LPO), your ultimate job is to safeguard the company, stakeholders, guests, and assets against current and future threats. I realize that this is a very vague definition, but so much of the duties of an LPO require you to be on top of your game because emergency situations and safety or security breaches can’t be 100% predicted. Sure, you can have standard operating procedures for to cover generics, but you can never plan fully for anything that happens while on the job.
As an LPO at Barony some of my duties were as follows: guarding the property and ensuring only verified Owners and Guests entered, patrolling the building and property and performing property checkpoint walks, operating the resort shuttle (my LEAST favorite job), assisting Owners and Guests who have locked themselves out of their condos and/or need new room keys, responding to all emergency situations and communicating with local law enforcement and EMS at those times, and completing and submitting any accompanying incident reports. Though it seems like a lot when you group it all together, everyday was a little different because some days everything was calm. Then there were other days that everything happened all at once; the perfect storm.
Another thing to know about loss prevention is that it isn’t a glamorous job and a lot of places are desperately looking for more people for these departments; and Barony was no exception. We were pretty short-staffed throughout my time in Hilton Head, so I was very much thrown into the mix as soon as I started. There was one day when the manager was out during the day because he had to work the overnight shift (because we were short-staffed) so I was the most seasoned LPO that day… Of course, that was the day we got an alert about an elevator and I had to close it down by myself. Yes, I had previously been trained on the procedure, but it’s not something that sticks with you until you’ve completed the task by yourself once. To this day, I am really proud of myself for being able to handle that situation!
Another specific situation that sticks with me is the day that the fire alarm went off in one of the buildings. We all hopped on the golf cart and drove to the relative area of the building and then got off and ran (P.S. I am NOT a runner by any means…). The first rule of fire drills is that you must use the stairs. So me and one of the other LPOs split the building and I ran up to the fifth floor while he started on the other end so we could meet at the bottom, in the middle. Let me tell you, it was the oddest sensation running into a building that everyone else was running out of- but that is the job of an LPO. In this particular situation, it was our job to open every door on every floor of the building and shout into any remaining guests to get out of the building. This is especially important to do if you have patrons that land on the spectrum of disability. Luckily, there wasn’t a fire and something maintenance was working on had triggered the alarm. After everything was clear, my manager told me that I had a great response and disposition during this event. This was a moment that I proved to myself that I can be the calm and steadfast person that is needed for stressful moments. It was a great moment of self-realization for me.
The Moral of the LP Story
I went into the job thinking it wouldn’t be for me and I was 100% right, however, there a few pieces that I take with me into my career, especially in regards to events. I am now able to pull out my “safety and security” lens from my toolkit and analyze situations in regard to those areas. Now, when I’m setting up for events I am more cautious of not blocking entrances and exits and when creating aisles. I am more aware of situations that could be unsafe. I ask questions about incident reports and the associated paperwork regarding accidents at events. I consider whether or not a venue is ADA accessible and whether or not the set-up will prevent certain people from participating. Without going through this internship experience, I would have never been put in a place where those areas were something I focused on every day at work. Especially with everything going on in today’s society, safety and security are moving to the forefront of event professional discussions, and I now am more aware and considerate of these topics after working as an LPO, which I am very grateful for.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post (the last in this mini series!), which will focus more on other aspects of island life and have more of my social stories! But until then…
All my best,