How far would a business go to help a customer in need? This far.

By | March 6th, 2016

Howard Clauser left his laptop and suitcase in the lobby of the Wheeling, W. Va., Econo Lodge after he checked out.

Admitting that takes guts.

Clauser sucked it up to share an outcome that, if he’d kept it to himself, not only would he have deprived others of a lesson in being positive, but also the Good News Guy of a great story.

And if you think you know how this will turn out, keep reading. Both the hotel and Orbitz came through in a big way.

Clauser was on a road trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and by the time he realized what he’d done, he was sightseeing in Washington.

“Your previous Good News Guy stories of out-of-the-ordinary customer service experiences got me wondering how far out of its way a business would go to help a customer in need,” begins Clauser. “I booked my stay through Orbitz and after checking out, inadvertently left a suitcase and a laptop computer in the lobby. Yes, very absentminded!”

I would be fit to be tied.

“Within minutes, the alert and conscientious front desk staff noticed the luggage and immediately asked Orbitz to contact me,” Clauser said. “Indeed, I was beside myself.”

A leading third party travel broker, Orbitz is one of a few popular aggregating sites reselling travel services in bulk for generally (but not always) less than booking directly. But the downside can be more restrictions regarding availability and refunds.

An even bigger downside can be when a snafu requiring human intervention makes a customer a ping pong ball between the paddles of hotel and third party reps, each of whom says it’s the other guy’s responsibility.

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Of course, that never happens.

In Clauser’s case, the plot thickened, since his problem required the well-meaning hotel staff to reach him through Orbitz quickly, before he got too far away — only to find they were up against an unexpected privacy issue. For the uninitiated, Orbitz does their third-party role so well that they book and purchase the room on your behalf with minimal personal information, including no contact data.

In fairness to Orbitz, let’s hold any jeers. Orbitz was appropriately concerned about privacy and delving into matters other than contractual ones regarding potential liability. It is even illegal for some vendors, such as insurance and healthcare companies, to disclose anything about you without your written consent.

Orbitz will relay messages from the hotel to the customer, though, and eventually did, yet no one was under any obligation to do anything.

Econo Lodge went the extra mile. Even though they could not locate Clauser until he was well on his way, they persevered to reunite him with all his belongings for a COD shipping fee at his sister’s residence in Virginia.

But wait. There’s more.

Clauser knew how lucky he was. This could have turned out so much worse. When, out of curiosity, he contacted Orbitz to find out why the message from the hotel was delayed, Shalon Bell from the customer relations department sent him a surprisingly forthright and kind letter explaining exactly what happened and why.

“I was able to listen to the call recording when the representative from the hotel contacted Orbitz regarding your luggage,” wrote Bell. “Upon requesting information from us regarding your reservation so we could find your account, the hotel representative disconnected the call; therefore, we were unable to verify the reservation details so we could contact you.”

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And here is the best part.

The letter concludes, “Nevertheless, we do value you as a customer, and as a gesture of sincerity for your disappointing experience, we have added $200 in Orbucks to your account.”

Wow. Without even asking for anything? Even though they did nothing wrong?

Caring persons in this Econo Lodge/Orbitz tag team, who would never meet, went way above and beyond, cooperating to help Clauser to not only get his stuff back but also make him feel better — and valued as a customer.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Clauser added. “Orbitz has shown that they do care and as a result has earned my loyalty.”

Stuff happens. We are all fallible. At one time in our lives we’ve all had a Clauser moment, whether we admit it or not. He did — and has my respect. Don’t be mad at yourself, or at the business. Anything they do outside of what is contracted needs recognition. And the more they get it, perhaps the more it might happen.

“Because you likely hear a lot of complaints, I thought you might appreciate a happy ending,” he concluded.

We do.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Nice story, but I’m surprised they couldn’t forward an email to him, at least.

  • judyserienagy

    Wow, this is one of the BEST! I too give Howard full marks for admitting that he did such an awful thing. If a woman did this, I’m not sure she’d admit it. Great story, Andrew. I’m not sure why Orbitz didn’t call the hotel back after they got disconnected, but who cares, he got his stuff back. And his sister will be able to give him a bad time for 10 years.

  • MarkKelling

    Great that the hotel went through the trouble to get this items to him, many would not.

    But how many suitcases are you traveling with that you don’t notice one, or two, missing from your vehicle? i would notice right away because if my one suitcase and laptop were left behind, my car would have nothing in it other than me!

  • Pegtoo

    Oh I know. Never thought it would happen to me either. My mantra on checkout: check the room… check the room. The ONE TIME I didn’t, young son left his backpack with DS, iPad, movies, and games. There were 6 of us in two rooms, just didn’t slow down and look. Got 2 hours down the road, son was in the 3rd seat in the back of the car so I didn’t realize he was missing his stuff (cousins kept him well entertained!) Called the hotel in a panic. Asked if they found it, would they ship it to me using my credit card on file. Received everything 3 days later. Awesome! and back to check the room… check the room….

  • Tricia K

    It can be easier than you think to leave something crucial behind, regardless of how careful you are. A few years ago I was flying to Ohio for my daughter’s 21st birthday. Spring Break did not coincide with her birthday. Before I even made the cake, I went out and found a cake carrier that they TSA would allow, yet still protect the cake. I had no problems (other than several employees at the airport who offered to save me from the calories or take it off of my hands so I didn’t have to carry it.) I managed to change planes, get my luggage at the carousel and head to the car rental. It wasn’t until I started to load my luggage in the car that I realized I didn’t have the cake (I was carrying my coat over the arm that had been holding the cake do it didn’t seem like anything was off). In spite of a significant amount of work by a Delta gate agent and the TSA (I know–shocking. They even sent someone back to the plane to look). We never found the cake but did joke about how security would react when they found my “unattended luggage.” we weren’t sure whether they would blow it up or eat it. I have since figured out where and how I lost th cake–it was when I set it on the floor at baggage claim. The seats were at a slant so I put it on the floor and it must have gotten shoved underneath. While we still laugh about it, it did teach me a valuable lesson about labeling everything with contact info, whether it’s just a cell number or your name and address, because without it, you’re out of luck. I could make another cake fairly easily. Can’t say the same about recovering the files on your computer.

  • Tricia K

    Even if you pay in advance, don’t all hotels still take a credit card at check-in to cover incidentals? The credit card companies usually agree to forward a message to their customer. When I worked at customer service at a store in TN, we would get wallets and pocketbooks with no ID –most of the time all we found were the credit cards. I got the usual privacy run around the first time until the rep on the phone understood that I was scamming them. It takes more time than just chucking it in a box for a year, but the customers were very appreciative.

  • gpx21dlr

    He got lucky with the right people(CSRs) at the right time. A different outcome if the CSRs were indifferent, like some we encounter.

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