Hotel luggage theft: “He looked like a professional”

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By Christopher Elliott

Athena Foley and her husband wish they’d never stayed at the Hotel Ändra. When they checked into the Seattle boutique hotel this summer, one of their bags was stolen after they surrendered it to the bellhop.

Foley lost $1,000 worth of items, including clothes, eyeglasses and medicine. She wants the property to compensate her for the loss. But today’s “Is this enough compensation?” case is not an open-and-shut case, as you’ll see in a second.

Let’s listen to her side of the story first.

When we pulled up in front of the hotel, the bellhop unloaded our luggage from the car onto a cart, and he whisked it away.

It turns out he just parked it in the lobby. When the bellhop brought our luggage to our room later, my bag (holding approximately $1,000 of stuff, including eyeglasses and medicine) was not there.

At my insistance, the hotel finally reviewed its security tapes and sure enough, a week after we left, the hotel confirmed that a man is seen on the tape stealing my bag. The hotel said he looked like a professional.

Have a look at Washington State’s lodging laws, which essentially let the property off the hook. In order to get compensated, Foley would have to prove “gross negligence” — and even if she could, she’d be limited to $200 in compensation, according to my non-lawyerly reading of the rules.

The Hotel Ändra filed a claim with its insurance company, but — get this — it was denied because “the bag was left in a public space,” according to Foley.

“I say that the bag was in the hotel’s possession and that it failed to use a duty of reasonable care in securing the bag,” she says. “The hotel parked it there without any input from me.”

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After a month of back-and-forth, the hotel came forward with new information about the incident.

We were told that the clerk behind the counter says she offered to move my luggage to a more secure location. That is nonsense. Why would I possibly refuse such an offer if it ever had been made?

I think that the hotel took possession of my bag and handled it negligently. The bellhop parked it in a place where it was vulnerable to theft, and furthermore, it was parked there longer than it needed to be.

I’ve reviewed the correspondence between her husband and the hotel, and I don’t see anything in it to contradict her account. I’m troubled by the insurance company’s refusal to honor the claim — seems like a cop out. If the hotel accepted the luggage, it shouldn’t matter where it stored the bags; it is responsible.

The Hotel Ändra refunded her one night’s lodging and offered to refund a second night. Foley doesn’t think it’s enough, and she wants to be reimbursed for her loss. It looks as if the hotel, its insurance company and Washington State law is standing in the way of that.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Los Angeles.

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