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ONLY ON 3: Prank call costs Leland hotel thousands of dollars in damage, lost business

LELAND, NC (WWAY) — It’s not your everyday prank. A string of phone calls across the nation where pranksters pretend to be working the front desk of a hotel and talk a guest into doing something drastic.

It happened this weekend at a hotel in Leland. A guest set off the sprinkler system, triggering two hours of flooding.

“It’s changed my outlook on everything,” Douglas Bartalone. “Like I said, I’m just speechless right now.”

Bartalone was in Leland over the weekend visiting his son and granddaughter. About 1:30 a.m. Saturday he got a call in his room at the Best Western.

“‘We’ve got an emergency situation. This is Stan from the front desk,'” Bartalone said the caller told him. “Emergency situation? I said, ‘It’s 1:30 in the morning.’ He said, ‘Well we’ve got a gas leak. We need you to disengage the water sprinkler system in your room. This is a very serious matter. It’s a gas leak.'”

Bartalone says the prankster gave him very specific directions on how to pull the pins on a sprinkler. As soon as this was done the sprinklers came on, flooding the first two floors of the Best Western for about two hours, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“Here we are getting ready to go into our busy time in the area that’s driven by tourism with Easter weekend, Azalea Festival, and we’ve gone from a 100-room hotel to 63,” Best Western Director of Sales and Marketing Haven Holsinger said.

Bartalone says he’s learned a valuable lesson through all this: to not trust anybody just because they say they are in authority. He also says that everyone can learn from this accident.

“My advice would be to hang up the damn phone and go downstairs or go wherever it is and find out what the heck the deal is,” he said.

It’s a prank that Best Western management says the hotel business nationwide needs to be wary of.

Although police on scene told Bartalone that he would not be charged, he is still worried he might face some kind of civil suit from the hotel. A hotel representative said they are not sure if they’ll sue.

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