Can this trip be saved? A lost sweater — and now, radio silence

When he checked out of the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel last month, Joe Gagnon left a favorite sweater draped over a chair in his room.

Gagnon has booked plenty of Renaissance and Marriott properties in his 17 years as a travel agent, and he knows the chain’s reputation for excellent customer service. So he assumed the hotel would help him find the blue V-neck pullover and send it to him.

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He thought wrong.

“I’m getting nowhere,” he says. “This seems like something that should have been pretty easy to fix.”

Finding a lost sweater isn’t addressed anywhere in Marriott’s terms and conditions or in Florida’s lodging statutes, of course. But it’s something guests assume a hotel would do, as a matter of good customer service.

And Gagnon is right: Marriott has one of the best reputations in the business, when it comes to service.

So let’s look at what he did to find out of his trip — or in this particular case, his sweater — can be saved.

A day after he checked out, he called the front desk to explain his problem. An associate took his information and promised to pass it along to the executive housekeeping department. He never heard back.

The next day he called the front desk again. And again, an associate promised a call back. He never heard from anyone.

He phoned the hotel the following day and asked to speak with an assistant hotel manager. They transferred him to the manager’s voice-mail, and he left a message with his particulars. Again, no response. He tried the general manager, too. No response.

He called the front desk the following day and was put through to the same associate he’d spoken with initially. After a brief back-and-forth, he was transferred to another voice-mail, this time belonging to someone in the sales department.

Gagnon then phoned the Renaissance “800” number and spoke with a call-center worker, who, while sympathetic, couldn’t help.

Needless to say, he’s steamed. He writes,

You know, the sweater is probably already gone. But that’s not frustrating me as much as ignoring my simple request of a return call. This industry is all about customer service, right?

There are plenty of unemployed qualified people that would love to have the opportunity for their jobs. But here, four people in the customer service industry have absolutely no clue what this means, and what it takes to fulfill this. All I would expect is someone — anyone — calling me and telling me they’ve contacted housekeeping.

But to be completely ignored — totally unacceptable!

I agree. Even though it’s just a sweater, Renaissance should have been more pro-active about returning his property.

How could Gagnon have made sure his request wasn’t ignored? I think contacting the hotel earlier to let it know his sweater was missing would have been a good start. If you’ve lost an item, let the property know about it immediately — preferably from the airport. (Better yet, take a second look through your room before you check out to make sure you haven’t left anything.)

Instead of calling the Renaissance every day, Gagnon might have crafted a short, cordial email to one of the following contacts. After that, it’s best to give the process some time, as opposed to calling the hotel every day to ask about the sweater.

Still, he’s right: Renaissance’s radio silence is unacceptable. And while the sweater may be long gone, it would be nice to have some closure on the matter.

We had more than 900 votes, but not enough for me to mediate the case.

(Photo: Go Bucks 2/Flickr Creative Commons)