“The hotel lost my luggage” — and that’s just the beginning of this tale of lost and found

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By | April 2nd, 2017

When you check your luggage and board a plane there’s always at least a moment when you wonder, “Am I ever going to see that bag again?” When Ashli Overton and her family boarded their flight to spend the holidays in Mexico they may have had exactly that thought. What they didn’t expect was that it would be the hotel that lost their luggage, not the airline.

I’d like to say this is simple case of lost and found, but it’s not. This case needed Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, but only Inspector Clouseau was on duty. I’ll let Overton set it up for us:

We arrived at the resort on December 24, around 7:00 p.m. The bellman assisted with unloading our luggage from the van. Once we found out our room number the bellman placed stickers on our luggage with our room number. He told us to go to our room and the luggage would be delivered. We got to our room around 7:30 p.m. and the luggage had not arrived. We then went to supper and returned to the room around 9:00 p.m. and still no luggage. I then went to the lobby and spoke to the front desk and reported our luggage had not made it to our room. The front desk staff reported it to the bellmen and they started looking for it. In the morning I returned to the front lobby and spoke with the head bellman, who happened to be the one who tagged our luggage the previous evening. He assured me it was on the property somewhere and it would be found.

The management of the Ocean Riviera Paradise, an H10 Hotels property, told Overton to buy whatever the family would need until their luggage was located. Wearing the same clothes they were wearing when they started their journey, they ventured into town and selected the clothes and toiletries they would need to allow their family of four to enjoy the next few days of their vacation — until their luggage was found.

When Overton tried to pay for the items they selected at stores in town, the credit card machines weren’t working and they didn’t have enough cash. So they put some necessities back that they knew they could buy at the resort and spent $910.

Once back at the resort they were forced to pay hotel prices for sunscreen ($24 per bottle) and aloe vera ($22 per bottle), which Overton felt was ridiculous but also felt the family needed. The total cost of the additional items was $404.

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The biggest issue with the lost luggage actually wasn’t the family’s clothes and toiletries — it was the insulin pump and insulin needed by Overton’s husband, who is diabetic. He had some insulin in his carry-on, but he packed a pump and additional insulin in his checked luggage. He was forced to revert to self-injections when a local pharmacy didn’t have the supplies he needed.

Instead of enjoying her time lounging on the beach during her vacation, Overton spent much of it trying to determine what had happened with her family’s luggage. Most of her interactions were with the head bellman. When she asked to speak to the manager Overton says the bellman told her, “He wants to speak with you as well, but he’s very busy.”

Too busy to speak to a customer whose luggage had been lost for several days? If this is true, H10 hotels might need to invest in retraining its management.

After six days of washing the few clothes Overton purchased and hanging them on the balcony to dry, she and her family finally boarded their return flight to the U.S., still without their luggage. The hotel claimed it had filed a report with its insurance company. At its request, Overton provided the hotel with a list of the items in her family’s luggage and the value of each item. The rooms manager, who finally met with the family the night before their departure, promised Overton she would have an email from him by the time she got home. She didn’t, and started an email campaign to repeatedly remind the hotel that she was still waiting and expecting updates.

Overton also needed to replace items that the family had done without while in Mexico and spent an additional $354.

Thirteen days after losing the family’s luggage, the hotel notified Overton that the bags had been located in the lost and found of a local transportation company. No one offered any explanation of how the transportation company ended up with the Overton family luggage, but I have to wonder why no one at the transportation company seems to have made any effort to contact hotels that it works with to simply ask if anyone is missing any luggage. Of course most hotels have luggage tags with the hotel name printed on them; and if the bellman tagged the family’s bag after getting their room number, it should have been obvious where the bags belonged.

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You might think this story ends here, with found luggage. But it isn’t over — not by a long shot.

Remember the list that Overton made of the contents of the luggage? Another member of hotel management contacted Overton to ask permission to open the bags and remove a few of those items: The insulin, pump, and cash would not be able to go through U.S. Customs. The manager asked Overton to put the permission in writing, which she did.

What happened next is simply inexcusable. Overton received notification that the luggage shipment had been rejected by Customs because it contained items that are not allowed through Customs: insulin, an insulin pump, and cash.

The package was returned to the hotel, the management actually opened the luggage and removed the items this time, reshipped the bags, and promised to wire the $110 cash that was removed from the luggage.

You’re probably thinking this really is the end of the story now, right? Uh, no.

When Overton received the wire at Western Union, it was not the full $110. The wire fees charged by Western Union had been deducted. She contacted the hotel again and asked that they wire her the fees because it wouldn’t have needed to be wired if the hotel hadn’t lost her luggage. The manager agreed and wired her the additional money.

And no, we’re still not done with this story.

The Overtons’ luggage was finally delivered to her office two weeks after the family’s return to the U.S. Unfortunately, several items were missing, and Overton had to spend an additional $474 to replace those items. From the time the luggage was lost to the time Overton was reunited with all of her family’s possessions, she spent $2,142 out of her own pocket.

Through the entire ordeal the hotel never denied that it was at fault nor did it outright refuse to reimburse Overton for her expenses. It said, “Buy whatever you need.” We’ve had a few cases where people took advantage of that, but I don’t think the Overton family did.

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I always advise people to pack medications and cash in their carry-on luggage, not in their checked bags. The Overtons are lucky that the cash was still there after their bags were recovered. According to the page of TSA’s website that addresses the handling of medications and the page of tips for travelers with medical conditions there are provisions for allowing airline passengers to pack insulin in their carry-on bags.

Even if the Overtons had packed all the medical necessities and the cash in their carry-ons, it still wouldn’t have prevented the hotel from losing their luggage, and Overton would still be out $2,142.

The hotel filed a claim with its insurance company. After many unanswered emails to both the hotel and the insurance company, Overton contacted us and asked that we reach out to the hotel on her behalf and request a full refund of what the family paid for their vacation, in addition to the insurance company’s promised reimbursement. While we pondered the request, Overton finally received the insurance company’s reimbursement for the items she purchased in Mexico and here in the U.S.

In response to Overton’s request for additional compensation, the hotel also offered her a choice between a room upgrade on a future stay and a reimbursement of two nights of their six-night stay. She was shocked that the hotel wanted her to spend more money with them in order to receive compensation for the disaster that was their past stay, and I agree with her. I’ve often said that an offer like this one isn’t a real apology, but rather a way for a company to manipulate you into giving it even more of your hard-earned dollars.

Our advocates decided that Overton’s request for a full refund of her family’s stay is no more reasonable than the hotel’s, “We messed up — come spend more money with us.”

Let us know what you think:

Is the reimbursement of the money Overton spent to purchase missing items sufficient, or do you think Ocean Riviera Paradise and H10 Hotels owes her a full refund of the money spent on their vacation?

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  • Hanope

    I guess the moral of this story is schlep your own bags to your room in a resort.

    So what happened to the luggage? Did some transportation company decide to load their van with a bunch of luggage and then instead of returning it to the hotel take it back to their base? It really makes no sense.

  • Attention All Passengers

    FOR THE ABOVE NIGHTMARE — I want my bags the minute I step into the room. I don’t need any fancy-schmancy “service” to have someone do it for me.

  • Bill___A

    Well, the hotel shouldn’t be required to refund the room, but morally they probably should. Their guys messed up a simple task and caused a lot of problems.
    I always take my bags to the room myself. And the possibility of this is why.

  • Bob Davis

    Since the day Disney’s bell service took 45 minutes to drop off luggage I never let them handle it unless they are coming with me.

  • Carchar

    What happened to the choice of reimbursement for two nights of their stay? I would have chosen that and they should have too.

  • PsyGuy

    So this isn’t even a case of the luggage it’s compensation for what was essentially a ruined vacation. They stayed right? It’s hard to give them a windfall in my view.

  • PsyGuy

    I always carry my own bag.

  • PsyGuy

    Agree, and the service isn’t much of a service anyway.

  • PsyGuy

    I think that’s exactly what happened.

  • Alan Gore

    LW saw the luggage when it arrived at the hotel and get stickered as theirs, so somebody would have had to load it back on a van and take it away. My read is that someone posing as a van driver heisted up to perhaps a whole lobbyful of luggage while it was stacked there after arrival, and the hotel is trying to cover it up to save its reputation.

  • DCMarketeer

    I once worked a conference at a hotel in the same town where my office was located. My assistant had a courier take over our pop-up display, clearly labeled for our company at the conference that started first thing Monday morning. When I drove in on Sunday to set up our pop-up, it was nowhere to be found in the room where are all the conference shipments had been stored. I scoured the hotel with one of their managers, and it couldn’t be found. Our mail staff, who arranged all courier deliveries, reached out to the courier service. Nowhere. We had to make do with a tablecloth and a banquet table. I was staffing the booth on Monday afternoon, when the mailroom called me on my cellphone and said that the pop-up had just been delivered to them by FedEx. My assistant had not removed the last FedEx label from when someone had shipped it back to us, and the hotel put it with the outgoing FedEx shipments, whence it flew to Memphis for the weekend and then came back home. It happens.

  • Rebecca

    But then why would they not steal the cash? I think it’s more likely it was accidentally loaded on a shuttle. Maybe even the hotels own shuttle, who knows?

  • Rebecca

    I have a 1 and 2 year old. The last time we traveled – a couple months ago – I used luggage service like this. We have the airplane harnesses, but still have to check their giant carseats for when we get there. Rental car seats are cheap, Walmart models and are not safe, per the googling and asking around I’ve done. We just don’t travel light – I have a no laundry on vacation rule and my husband loves shoes. Let alone all our kids stuff. Sometimes it just isn’t practical.

    As a side note: I’ve noticed the airport baggage guys absolutely swarm to us. I was talking to the guy last time and he said when they see our two $350/400 Recaro car seats, they always fight over that customer because they tend to tip well. We’re not super wealthy, and he said that’s not the case, usually it’s just a regular middle class family with a regular car. People that buy the crazy safe car seats just tend to almost always be good tippers (we are – he was right). Thought that was strange. He said people with logos all over their bags don’t tip. Doesn’t really surprise me either.

  • greg watson

    What a mess. Of course they are entitled to additional compensation for all the screw-ups. I don’t consider holding the hotel accountable, is the same as a windfall. Walk a mile in their shoes. Someone has to answer the bell & the best thing is to make them pay, as money talks & …………………..

  • mmbNaples

    I would have found it difficult to enjoy my vacation without even one tiny bitnof my luggage, even if I had shopped for basic necessities. What’s a vacation with just basic necessities ? Bah.

  • joycexyz

    If that were the case, it would have totally disappeared.

  • joycexyz

    Every time you think you’ve heard a worst case scenario, along comes a worse one! Incredible! Another candidate for the blacklist.

  • Hanope

    Well, apparently there were items missing from the returned luggage, so someone had sticky fingers. Its possible that whoever took the luggage, only took easily seen items of value and the money was better hidden in the luggage.

    I still think that someone made a mistake in the first place and somehow the luggage got back on the transport van (either mistake of the bellman who placed it too near ‘outgoing’ luggage or the van driver who wasn’t paying attention and didn’t check on which luggage to load) and in the process of picking up/dropping off other customers the van driver didn’t know which resort the luggage came from, so he just schlepped it back to the base and then no one bothered trying to figure out where it came from, they just thought, “oh the resort who’s missing luggage will call us.” Interesting that the LW’s resort never thought to check with the transportation company.

    Then sometime during the luggage appearing ‘abandoned’, someone at the transportation company helped themselves to a few items.

  • PsyGuy

    I would agree, an in such case i would have either solved the problem (Hey honey, shopping spree you wanted), or I’d have gone home. My issue is that they still slept in the room, used the bathroom, used the facilities, and still used all the value and benefits of the travel. I look it at it this way. I order a surf and turf, and they can’t serve the potato, but I really don’t see it as being fair to eat the steak and the lobster and then demand they give it to me for free, because that potato wasn’t there.

  • DChamp56

    OK, this place really ruined their vacation, but $900+ for clothes for 6 nights? In Mexico?

  • joycexyz

    We’ll never know. I recall another tale of woe where the luggage was stolen from the hotel lobby. I guess the lesson is to never let it out of your sight–even for a moment.

  • DChamp56

    I’m not sure I’d consider makeup a “necessity”.

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