There’s been a lot of talk about stolen property in hotels — see last week’s story on the safe removed from a Radisson room — and today’s case presents us with a similar problem.
This time, the pilfered items include a watch and an item with sentimental value: a West Point class ring. But unlike last week’s burglary, which was addressed promptly by the hotel, this one has been dragging on for more than a year without a satisfactory response.
Then again, maybe the response is the best the guest can hope for from the Dallas-area Hilton Garden Inn they were staying at.
“Last June, one week before our wedding, my husband and I attended a wedding in the Dallas-Forth Worth area,” explains Thy Ramia. “My husband had just graduated two weeks before from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and as the wedding we were attending was for a classmate, he and a fellow West Point in attendance planned to wear their class rings on the big day to signify their bond to each other.”
On the morning of the wedding they came downstairs for breakfast and then went to the business center to check email. Ramia explains what happened next:
We returned to our room to find that my husband’s class ring and an expensive watch he’d been given by his parents the previous year for his birthday were missing from the TV stand.
He hadn’t intended to leave them there, but he woke up close to the end of the breakfast hour and hurriedly went down.
We were hesitant to accuse someone on the staff of stealing, so we immediately looked through all our belongings and rental car, all of which turned up nothing. After our search, we went to the front desk to report that our items were missing.
The young desk agent told us the property had never had an issue with theft before and went to look through the linens in the hope that the items accidentally got mixed in with the sheets during cleaning. When that turned up nothing, she promised to call the general manager.
Claims process surprises
Neither Ramia nor her husband are newbie travelers. Ramia works for the State Department, and as an Army officer, her husband is a seasoned traveler. They pretty much knew what to expect.
They knew, for example, that state lodging laws limited the hotel’s liability. And then they knew they shouldn’t have left their valuables on the table — that was a tourist mistake. But they didn’t know what the hotel would — or wouldn’t — say. (Related: Hotel luggage theft: “He looked like a professional.”)
And Ramia says she was surprised by the response. The claims process was extraordinarily difficult and slow. Were it not for a hotel server who stepped in and found the correct form, it would have been delayed even more. Then came the general manager’s answer:
He confirmed that the only other person to enter our room was the maid, and that she had indeed entered our room at the time we were downstairs and the items went missing; however, he insisted the maid simply could not have taken our items.
He went on to say he had known the maid for some time and would ‘stake his career’ on the fact that she did not take our items.
While I appreciate and can understand such loyalty — my mother actually started out as a housekeeper — it did not excuse the fact that no other explanation had been offered as to how our items went missing; why the front desk staff was so ill-informed and ill-equipped to deal with the situation, and why he never got in touch with us despite several assurances from his staff that he would.
There was actually never even an apology from him that the theft occurred, regardless of whom was to blame.
The complexities of lodging laws
Ramia doesn’t like that answer, and is considering switching her loyalty to another hotel chain as a result. (Related: How much is your stolen property worth? Who can say?)
I can understand why Hilton would respond the way it did. Under Texas lodging law, it probably owes her nothing — not even an explanation — for what happened. Here are the applicable state statutes.
Under these circumstances, I’ve seen a hotel offer to waive part of the room rate or offer a certificate for a future stay. Hilton could have done that, but it didn’t have to. (Here’s how to get the best hotel at the most affordable rate.)
If nothing else, this serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who is traveling with valuables, sentimental or otherwise. Keep them on you at all times, or leave them at home.