Hotel luggage theft: “He looked like a professional”

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.

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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.

Related: In today’s edition of The smarter consumer, look out for these holiday scams.

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.”

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.

139 thoughts on “Hotel luggage theft: “He looked like a professional”

    1. I wonder if that is a realistic option in this case.  Since the incident occurred at the Hotel, wouldn’t you have to file the small claims case at the courthouse local to the hotel?  Presumably Mrs.  Foley doesn’t live near the hotel otherwise she would have been sleeping at home. 

      1. Actually Washington State small claims limit is $5000.  See here

      2. If you read the law Chris quoted, it states that the limit is $200 UNLESS a higher amount is agreed upon. I’d be willing to bet that somewhere in the fine print of the hotel’s paperwork that there is language spelling out what the hotel is liable for, and how to go about filing a claim. there may even be language in there about limits of liability, which would then make that $200 VOID.

        Also, there may be other laws on the books in Seattle which may help. Considering the law talks about rooms for a quarter, i’d say we are talking well over a hundred year old law.

  1. It hurts my heart because I feel sorry for the OP, but the hotel did all it should.  The OP should have exercised some vigilance in keeping the expensive items on her person or within view at all times.

    If there were valuables in the luggage she should have informed someone so that special accomodations could have been made for her.

    1. You have to put your expensive items SOMEWHERE.  And lets say they arrived early and were going to go eat lunch before checking in… are they supposed to haul their suitcase all around town while they eat a nice lunch or go for a walk in the park?  Keeping it in view at all times simply isn’t always practical.

      Sure, if this was a suitcase with thousands upon thousands of dollars in jewelery or electronics, maybe they should have told somebody.  But in this case the “valuables” were eyeglasses and medicine.  Important, yes.  Expensive, yes.  But they are normal traveling items; I personally would not have expected such a suitcase to require special treatment other than checking it in with the bellhop.

      1. “You have to put your expensive items SOMEWHERE.  And lets say they arrived early and were going to go eat lunch before checking in… are they supposed to haul their suitcase all around town while they eat a nice lunch or go for a walk in the park?  Keeping it in view at all times simply isn’t always practical.”

        In which case you go to the front desk and asked to have your luggage checked.  We aren’t talking rocket science here. 

        1. They handed their luggage to the bellhop, which is exactly what you are supposed to do at a hotel when you need your luggage checked.  Nobody takes their luggage all the way to the the front desk if the hotel has bellhop service; this is precisely what the bellhop is for!  If you lug it to the front desk, unless it’s going to fit in the safe (for really valuable stuff), all they are going to do is summon the bellhop to take it off their hands.

      2. I have to agree, with Carver. On my travel days I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS put my expensive stuff (electronics and hard to replace items) in my carry-on bag and it never leaves my side. Even if I’m in the back of a taxi cab, it goes with me not in the trunk. If I get to the hotel and the bellhop takes my bags, I still hold onto my carry-on. It may be inconvenient but I’ll be damned if I let someone pilfer it. 

        1. It’s all well and good that you exercise what you feel to be the proper amount of paranoia, but that doesn’t make leaving an average suitcase with the bellhop an unreasonable act that the hotel shouldn’t be liable for.

          1. You sir are lucky to live in an ideal world where nobody steals, and hotels take 100% responsibility for lost/stolen items but unfortunately I don’t live on the same imaginary planet that you do. The fact is there’s weaknesses in the system. I suppose you also pack your valuables in your checked luggage at the airport because you believe an airline will take reasonable action to protect your contents. I didn’t think so.

          2. I did not say theft never happens.  I simply said that checking your luggage with the bellhop, where it isn’t supposed to leave the locked room, is a reasonable thing to do and that it is NOT reasonable to assume any traveler will haul anything worth more than a couple hundred bucks around town all day long.  If you have a $500 suit, are you supposed to schlep your garment bag to the museum you planned on visiting?  To the show you wanted to catch?  To the restaurant you wanted to eat dinner at?

            With an airline, there is far more room for error; bags can be lost (or rifled) by the TSA, baggage sorters, baggage loaders, baggage unloaders, maybe another round of sorting, loading, and unloading.  Yep, that’s risky.  Handing bags to a bellhop, and then picking them back up, is less risky, although the risk certainly isn’t zero, and I never claimed it was.

          3. In hotels there are equal numbers of opportunities for theft. There are literally dozens of employees that could have access to a luggage closet or luggage cart between my room and reception. I don’t see why you have an higher expectation of security at a hotel staff than you do of an airline. In fact, with the terror threat constantly touted by the TSA you should have a higher estimation of security for airline baggage than you would in just handing your bag over to some bozo with a name tag. We both know that isn’t true either.

            If you read my other replies I don’t have a problem sending a suitcase with clothes in it with a bellhop because there’s literally zero value in selling used clothes (even your $500 suit) for a thief. My point was clear, valuables stays in my carry-on which is attached to me throughout the travel process. 

            If you’re happy handing over everything to a bellhop, by all means continue. 

      3. Why wouldn’t she carry eyeglasses and medicine in her handbag or some bag that she can carry.  If I have $1,000 worth the stuff in a suitcase I keep a close eye on it.  Heck, I keep an eye on my suitcase even when it contains considerably less valuable items simply b/c I don’t want the hassle of having to replace anything.

        1. Whenever you leave your hotel room to go do whatever it is you are in town to accomplish, do you take all your luggage with you?  To the theater?  To a nice dinner?  I know I certainly don’t lug my SLR to the table at a fancy restaurant to eat dinner.  You have to let your luggage out of your sight SOMETIME.  Checking it with a bellhop so they keep it prior to checkin is a reasonable thing to do.

          If the glasses were a spare pair, and the meds extras, why would you carry them everywhere?

    2. Carver, I typically agree with you but I have to say that the hotel did *not* do all it should, as evidenced by the fact that they left the guest’s bags out in the open and were so lax in their security that a thief was caught on videotape and they were unable to stop him.

      As for “valuables” in the luggage, I would argue that the guest didn’t really have anything special packed in her suitcase…$1000 isn’t that much money. It’s not like she was traveling with thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics or a $10k piece of jewelry.

      1. Steve – I’m with you on this one.  The hotel may have done all it was legally liable for, but not all that it should.  And, you are correct in saying that $1000 in personal items isn’t that much.  If she had a pair of glasses ($200), some meds (depending on the meds, could be $1000 just for those), and some clothes and shoes, could easliy have come up to $1000.  That is not to say that $1000 isn’t a lot of money, it is just saying that it isn’t hard to get $1000 worth of everyday items into a suitcase.

        1. MarlaM, you are right on the money (no pun intended). You can get to $1000 VERY
          quickly with a suitcase packed with only travel basics. For example, say
          I packed for a work trip wearing only things purchased at J Crew. The
          tally would look something like this:

          Suit jacket – $230

          Pants – $118

          Dress – $188

          Blouse – $98

          Shoes – $198

          Nightshirt – $59

          That gets you to $891 and it doesn’t include undergarments, glasses, meds, toiletries or anything else.

    3. Re: “The hotel did all is *should*”.
      So I ask what exactly is the responsibility of a bellhop/porter hired by a hotel?
      Wasn’t it reasonable for the OP to expect that if she handed her luggage to the bellhop, that the bellhop shall do whatever is necessary to make sure it’s delivered safely up to her room?
      Are there a lot of ifs and buts in that expectations?

        1. The usual and customary expectation is for the bellhop to take my luggage up my room. I guess he wants a tip, correct? Whether he stands, sit, or jump up and down while I check in and get my keys doesn’t matter. Usually the bags follow later anyway. That’s why good hotels have secure holding areas and use bag tags.

          1. In three different countries where check-in and check-out times did not coincide, my luggage was stored for me temporarily in a locked room located either behind or in front of the front desk.  I took it for granted that all hotels provided such a service. 

            Also, after my hard-learned lesson in 2007, I will NEVER ever transport medicine in anything other than my purse or carry-on bag.  The other lesson I have learned is never to travel from home with any item that I cannot afford to kiss goodbye if it goes missing.

            Another consideration, my home insurance covers me up to $2,000 (deductible $300) for items lost away from home.  I have never made a claim but would hope that there would be no quibbling if I did. 

          2. Great advice Sadie Cee. I have to say “me, too” on your experiences.
            I have never experienced a bellhop simply leaving my luggage in a place where it will be easily stolen. Someone posted here the possibility of an inside job. Maybe.

    4. All contents of a persons luggage are valuable. Clearly the Hotel is skirting it’s responsability. I assure you this will cost them much more than a $1000.00 in negative publicity. I for one who travel regularly to Seattle and try new hotels to find the one I feel most at home in have scratched this one off my list of future trips to Seattle.There’s well over a grand of future revenue they have lost out on by poor management decisions.
      Your comment btw sounds as though that you are somehow connected to the Hotel perhaps in the Damage control Dept ?

    1. I always keep everything with me but I am a very light traveller. If I can’t afford to lose it, it doesn’t leave my sight and they don’t call me ‘one-bag Annie’ for nothing!!

  2. This is insane.  The insurance company won’t reimburse because the hotel did something stupid with the luggage, namely not put it away like they were supposed to.  This means it’s now the hotel’s job to step up to the plate.

    But yes, the law has their butt covered. The innkeeper liability limits are a joke; they were almost all written in the 20’s and they make no adjustments for inflation.

  3. I’m usually on the wary side when it comes to the customers’ claims on this site, but this one is obvious – provided, of course, that the OP can prove the value of the items in the bag is actually $1000 or whatever the claim is. 

    Yes, it is a lot of stuff.  But this is not a situation of, say, checking your Rolex watch at the airport.  It’s giving your bags to hotel staff to transfer to your room.  The insurance company sounds like a den of weasels, and the fabricated story about offering to “move [the] luggage to a more secure location” is nonsense that the hotel should be ashamed of.

    1. My eyeglasses would cost over $400 to replace.  My pain meds – um, probably around $700.  One call to her pharmacist and her eye doctor and she could certainly prove the stolen items were $1000…

  4. I have to agree with deemery. If the hotle will not make good on what was lost they be taken to small claims court. This appears to me to be a clear cut case of negligence on the part of the employee. Even if the suitcase had not contained anything of value the hotel shoudl have ensured that it was secure. 

    1. Washington state law, however, disagrees.  She would need to prove gross negligence, which seems like a stretch, and even if she is able to do that, the hotel’s liability is capped at $200.  This isn’t a viable option.

  5. So the hotel offered to refund two nights? What does that equate to?

    Beyond that, I say take ’em to small claims court. Do it on one of those court programs (People’s Court or something) so the hotel is publically shamed. If they know they have “professional thieves” wandering about they owe a bit more attention to peoples’ belongings.

    That said…$1000? Really? Hard time believing that one if we’re just talking clothes, glasses and meds. 

    1. I can believe it. My progressive lenses were $500+. I am not sure what the medications were but a months supply of some prescriptions can easily run into 00’s of dollars. 

    2. The problem with going on a court show is that both parties have to agree. And I can almost guarantee the hotel wouldn’t agree. I often wonder why most of the idiots on those shows agree to be made fools of. Then I learned that the show basically pays the judgement or a big chunk of it if you lose. So I guess sometimes it is worth it.

      I also agree we need to know what the 2 nights are worth. As I suggested, I think if they can get that PLUS the $200, they would be whole. And I am guessing that the $1000 is replacement value, which I do think they are entitled to in a case like this, where the hotel was clearly negligent.

      1. The reason those “idiots” go on those shows is because they have nothing to lose so to speak.  I know at one time, when People’s Court was just starting, each side was paid $10,000.  Any judgement would come out of that money.  Since at the time, the max you could sue for was $5000 that means that even if you were dead wrong and lost the maximum amount, you still walk away with $5000.  And who remembers who those idiots are 5 minutes after they leave the court?

    3. I have no problem believing the dollar amount. When I got new glasses earlier this year, they were over $400 – and that was with a 15% discount. And I bought the cheapest frames I could find; most of that was the lenses.

    4. My glasses cost $700.00 each because my prescription is really strong. If she has a deductible before her insurance pays for meds, she can easily have thousands of dollars worth of meds without really trying.

  6. The OP was definitely not offered enough compensation for her stolen luggage. The hotel basically admitted negligence in stating the cart was left unattended and it was seen being stolen. That being said, unfortunately, the law in Washington state limits the hotel’s liability to $200. I read this and related statutes, which are so outdated it’s really ridiculous. They reference liability in reference to room rates of $.25, $.50 and >$.50, seriously! So those of you saying to take it to small claims, it wouldn’t do any good UNLESS the OP received a default judgement. Let alone the hassle of filing out of state (I assume).

    If they offered a second night, I would write an email accepting this and requesting the $200 maximum liability – in addition. Worded carefully, this could probably get near the $1000. I don’t know what the OP paid, but this isn’t a cheap hotel. The letter could state that the OP appreciates the goodwill gesture of the refund for the second night and accept. Then tactfully request the $200, referencing the relevant statute. It may work and may not, but it’s worth a try.

  7. I fail to see how the hotel leaving her bag unattended in a public space would not constitute gross negligence.  Then again, I am not a lawyer.
    I often see hotels leaving bags sitting in the lobby and honestly, I don’t know why we don’t hear about this more often.  Those bags just look ripe for the picking by thieves.  That is why I personally never, ever, leave my bag with a bell hop.  I have checked a bag at a hotel a few times, but never a bag with anything valuable in it and I don’t leave until I see them physically put the bag in the back room.

    1. Something like leaving the bags on the curb would certainly be gross negligence, imo. The lobby is a bit tougher and I’d think would depend considerably on how long they were left unattended. If they were out there for a couple hours with nobody around, maybe so. But a few minutes? That probably wouldn’t rise to that level.

      I’m always amazed we don’t hear more stories about bags being stolen from airports. Everytime I’m zoning out waiting for the luggage carousel to bring my bags I wind up staring at a pile of obviously unclaimed luggage sitting in some corner completely unattended.

  8. I dunno what to think of this one. Maybe downtown Seattle is like Spain – always keep a hand on your luggage because there are so many professional thieves that don’t look like banksters. But this seems like an isolated case because the hotel has a lot of fantastic reviews. And, the best one I have read (and which you should read, too!) is this one from Yelp…

  9. I’ve always carried my own bags at hotels. So Ms Important relied on the bell staff to take care of her bags, they lose one in their pricy care, and still manage to weasel out of any responsibility for their own negligence?

    Next time, lady, stay at the Best western.

    1. I carry my own bags too, but note the first sentence of the letter: “…the bellhop unloaded our luggage from the car onto a cart, and he whisked it away.”

      Too often, the bellhop is ready to grab the bags and go, wanted or not. Just last week, while I was settling up with the taxi, I heard my wife tell the bellhop (twice) that we would handle our own bags. Happens all the time.

      Probably not at most Best Westerns though, eh?

    2. Good advice to always carry your own bags. Sometimes the bellhops are REALLY insistent that they HAVE to take your bags. They can be very intimidating. Then I sit in the room worrying until everything arrives. And the best part is getting to tip them after!

      1. Peg, you should grow a backbone then. Intimidated by a bellhop, seriously? Practice saying NO in a confident voice in front of the mirror several times before your next hotel stay. 

        1. BC, I can understand your point, but there are cultural differences even inside the USA. Here is NYC, I can stereotype and say you are correct. But I have met a lot of people, especially older people in the South, who will not say no to a bellhop because they like or need help or they believe it is the “right” thing to do. And then there is Asia, when “NO” is not used because it is impolite.

          Why should anyone mistrust a bellhop in UNIFORM? Isn’t that the whole idea of using an upscale hotel – to get service? The reasonable expectation is, if I hand my luggage to a bellhop s/he will guard it until I can check in and retrieve it. That’s what I am paying him/her for.

          1. Call it paranoia but I don’t trust any stranger with my valuables when I travel. I have no problem handing over my suitcase to a bellhop or taxi driver or gate check agent, but I draw the line at my carry-on bag. It simply doesn’t leave my side. It usually contains my money, passport, phone, electronics, medications, cameras and anything else easily stolen and converted to cash. I’ve been very lucky and have never had a problem with missing items as long as I’ve followed these precautions. 

            It’s sad that we must be constantly vigilant against opportunists like the one that took advantage of a lazy bellhop but that’s how it is. If my personal security risks offending someone by saying, “Thanks I can handle my bag” then so be it they have bigger problems than a single NO if it’s that big of an insult.

    3. Why are you being such a jerk about this?  So she stayed at a boutique hotel and utilized a provided valet.  How does that make her a “Ms. Important”?

      You don’t know anything about this woman in the slightest and based on her being a victim of a crime, you paint a swath so wide…

      How do you know she wasn’t in Seattle for an important life-saving operation and the room was donated for this?  What if this were she and her husband’s 50th wedding anniversary and this was the first time she had stayed in a hotel since the kids were born?  What if her daughter were being married in this hotel and they were staying there to attend and send her off to married life?  What if her mother had died and the short-term notice makes this the closest hotel to the funeral home?  What if they have a son who is now a member of the military who is in Seattle for health reasons/medical care after being injured by an IED where several of his friends died?

      While I’m sure none of these scenarios is true, why do you feel a person staying in one of these hotels deserves your contempt?  People should be permitted to stay where ever they wish, your class envy aside.

      You should probably go back to your Occupy whatever rally so the rest of us can focus on the real problem here.

      1. Nancy you absolutely had me until the last sentence.
        Please take your own (very, very good advice) and put yourself in other’s shoes.  The same types of scenrios you describe above could be applied to anyone in any situation – including the various protests going on in the country right now.

        We can never truly understand another’s situation. 

    4. I have had bell hops grab my bags out of my hands so often all the while complaining that if I carry my own bags, they are out of a job, that I tip to get them to leave me alone!  Rude, impertient and often assuming that my white hair and short stature will make me an easier mark, I sometimes wonder which is worse – a thief or an agressive bell hop. 

  10. I am a lawyer and I represent hotels.  Allow me to shed some light on this Washington statute.  Every state in the US has a similar statute, though they all vary in some respects.
    These laws were enacted to protect the lodging industry against claims that collectively would put hotels out of business.  Imagine if many guests claimed that their luggage was stolen, either from the lobby of their rooms. At least until the advent of security cameras and electronic locks there was usually no proof of the theft, and further no proof of what exactly was stolen.  In my experience, guests often claim that they lost thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and cash, and usually the hotel is asked to take their word for it.  If the hotels are not protected by law, they would contantly be in court defending against guests claiming big losses with absolutely no proof. This is similar to the situation that airlines face with lost luggage — no proof of the contents.  That ‘s why the airlines limit their potential payments in the contract of carriage.

    This OP’s situation is different because there is evidence of the theft.  However there is still no proof of the value of the loss.  As others stated, it’s better for guests not to let valuables out of their sight, or at least to use the hotel’s safe.

    1. May I ask at what point do you think a hotel becomes negligent in protecting the belongings of guests? Airlines, to some extent, are help responsible and can be liable for the loss of checked luggage. Do you believe hotels with bell hops should also be held to the same or similar standards?

      1. A hotel may be negligent if it is aware of prior thefts but does not add security, warn guests, or do anything else to minimize guests’ risk of loss.  Similarly, if an employee reports loss of his electronic key allowing access to all rooms but the hotel does not cancel the key and it’s later used to enter a guest room and steal, that may be negligence. However neither situation clearly rises to the level of “gross negligence”, which is similar to willful misconduct or recklessness.  That determination is made by a judge and jury.

        The law is not perfect.  However, at the end of the day each guest should take care to protect his/her valuables.  A busy lobby is certainly not the best place to leave a case with sunglassess and medicine.  Neither is the top of a dresser in a room, when everyone knows that housekeepers, mini bar restockers, and others will be in and out of the room all day.

        1. Yes, but the fact is that the *hotel* chose to leave her suitcase with glasses and medication out in the open – she didn’t. When you give your bags to a hotel employee, you have a reasonable expectation that your bags will be safe.

          I see your point regarding the innkeeper laws and agree that hotels shouldn’t have to be liable for unprovable losses if a guest claims that something was stolen from their room and there’s no evidence one way or the other. While the laws as they are written protect the hotel in this case, I think the law should be changed so that in cases where there is proof of theft, the hotel remains fully liable.

          1. But the question still remains – liable for what?  She can say she lost her expensive glassses and medication when the bag was stolen, when in fact she had already lost it or even forgotten to pack them!  There’s still no way to know exactly what was in her suitcase.  Hence the $200 liability law. 

          2. The $200 liability law was created 80 or 90 years ago when a loaf of bread cost 3 cents and a ride on the New York Subway cost only a nickel. The law needs to be updated to reflect the inflation that has taken place since then so that it is fair to hotel guests. Just replacing a new piece of quality luggage (without contents) can cost $200 or more in 2011. 

          3. I agree. I just bought a 25″ Eagle Creek Tarmac luggage which I hope will outlast me. Cost about $250. Unbelievable. There are cheaper ones but they break so easily.

          4. The liability limits for airlines are MUCH higher than $200, yet they do not complain of being snowed under with extravagant and fraudulent claims.

            And as many posters have pointed out, $200 when the laws were written (without inflation adjustment provisions) would be thousands of dollars today.  The laws were written to prevent “my family’s priceless heirloom jewelery was stolen” claims, not “my perfectly normal and ordinary suitcase of stuff was stolen” claims.

        2. So now we are required to take photos of the inside of our suitcases, with an array of the items in each photo, while inside the hotel to show location, just so a hotel can be made accountable for their actions.  Figures…  

          Using your definition of ‘gross negligence’, the hotel was reckless.  In today’s world, it’s not a great leap of intellect that a suitcase left unattended can be stolen.  Then, for the desk clerk to lie and say she offered to put them somewhere more safe tells me she might actually be in on it?  (I know – there’s no evidence of that but when did evidence actually matter to a business such as this?  There is CLEAR evidence the hotel employee didn’t use proper care for the items of a guest and the hotel, by using antiquated laws from 100 years ago, suffers no consequences for their actions.)  

          I see “willful misconduct and recklessness” by the simple fact this valet didn’t use proper care when taking possession of a guests valise.  What makes this hotel’s lobby so much more safe than the rest of the world that a valet can assume an unattended suitcase is seemingly melded to the floor, thus safe from the possibility of theft?

          1. And, of course, even if we were so anal as to snap picks of the insides of our bags, that still wouldn’t necessarily be enough to prove anything to the satisfaction of a stubborn lawyer or hotel manager. The photo would simply prove that I had items like I claimed were stolen. There’d be no way for me to prove that I hadn’t later put my glasses/meds/etc. in a different bag or even left them at home. I’m sure some would claim my having photos made it MORE likely that I’d concocted the whole thing.

        3. I too am an attorney.  I agree with much of what you said, but I have to disagree with one point.  If a hotel employee loses his electronic master key, and the hotel can cancel it but doesn’t, I would say that’s gross negligence.

    2. On top of what others have said in response, odds are that the law is out of date in terms of compensation. Only $200? That’s a joke.

    3. The fact that there is no “proof” that individual items were in a piece of lost luggage hasn’t waived the airlines from real liability.  Why should hotels be special?  I’d think that the existence of a claim check (and security camera footage) no less, should be enough evidence.  As long as the claims aren’t extravagant (and they certainly aren’t here), I’d say the customer’s word should be good.  Also, airlines have FAR more realistic liability limits.  Heck, my suitcase alone, without ANYTHING in it, is over $200.

      And these aren’t “valuables”… eyeglasses?  meds?  This is not stuff anybody is going to be locking in the hotel safe.  If the OP WAS claiming a Rolex or something, you might have a point, but these are not that special…

      1. Everyone has good points about whether the hotel “ought” to be liable, and whether the law is hopelessly out of date.  Virtually every state has a similar law, and many of them were enacted years ago and the compensation threshold — if there is any at all — is way too low.  Why is that?  Because these laws were originally created to protect the home state hotels, and few consumers push their home state legislators to change them.  It’s similar to legislators piling fees on top of rental car rates — they figure that most renters are from out-of-state and can’t object.

        Hotels may settle these cases and pay something out because it’s in their business interest to do so.  But sorry, the laws are almost always upheld to shield the properties from liability, even in small claims court.  It would require the state legislature and governor to amend the law to get a different result.

          1. Sorry for the misunderstanding sirwired — no disrespect intended.  My comment was addressed to the last several responders, not just to you.  Your post was just the last one and therefore the easiest to post to as a reply.

        1. How about creating something like a Universal Act the State Legislatures can agree on regarding Consumer Travel Rights in areas that are not per-empted by the Feds (e.g. Airline Travel). At least the States can enact decent consumer protection laws for hotels and car rental companies.

  11. On a recent visit to NYC, we chatted with a distraught couple who had stored their luggage in a hotel vault after checkout so that they could shop until time to catch a late afternoon flight. When time came to retrieve the luggage, they presented the hotel’s numbered claim check. To their surprise, the luggage was missing. The hotel apologized profusely, suggesting that someone had probably mistakenly loaded the bag int he wrong taxi. The couple insisted the hotel should be held liable for the mistake. Unfortunately, the hotel insisted their liability was limited to $300, as plainly stated on the claim check. It pays to read the fine print AND to stay with your luggage.

  12. If I carry items that are not replaceable, I never let them out of my sight, even in a taxi, they ride up front with me. I think the lady was a little too careless with things that important.

  13. I don’t know if a small claims suit is going to really make an impression on the hotel. I know people will say it’s overkill and frivolous, but I say make into a larger civil suit if at all possible, given Washington state’s laws.

    The OP has already wasted time and effort on trying to get compensation for her stolen property so tack on reimbursement for that, as well. IANAL so I have no idea what the statutes allow for in Washington state but if it’s permissible, she should also ask for her legal expenses to be covered. When the total she’s asking for goes up by a couple of zeroes and they’re facing a civil suit, maybe the hotel’s management might be a bit more willing to work with the OP to reach a satisfactory resolution.

    Hotels, airlines, car rental companies, travel insurers, opaque travel sites…they seem to care about nothing but fleecing their customers these days. They like our money but they don’t like us. What a shame.

    1. It’s not the loss in small-claims court that will make an impression on the hotel; it’s walking into the hotel on a busy check-in night (which you’ll have researched in advance) with a sheriff’s deputy armed with a till tap order and going straight to the front of the line with him or her.

      It may not be practical, though, since she’d have to sue in King County, Washington and may not live close enough to make it worthwhile.

  14. I am a little skeptical of the value placed on the contents of the bag.  I agree that eyeglasses are expensive.  BUT, if I am traveling with expensive eyeglasses then one pair is on my face and the second, spare pair is in my carry-on which stays with me.  If her “expensive” items were in her suitcase, then she gave this same suitcase to an airline?  Ridiculous. If she drove to the boutique hotel, then she left this same suitcase with her $1000 of valuables in the car while she had lunch on the way there?  I am not buying it unless their annual income is greater than $300,00 per year. 
    Is $200 enough for the value of a suitcase and its contents?  No.  The suitcase costs that much.  I would have thought the hotel would have paid the $1000 to make the case go away.  Instead they bought themselves $10,000 of poor publicity. Penny wise and pound foolish.

    1. The value of the contents is perfectly reasonable.  My wife’s glasses cost around $500 if she has to purchase them without the assistance of insurance (most of that is in the lenses.)  $200 for the suitcase, $500 for the glasses, and that leaves you $300 for the meds and whatever else was in there.  None of that is extravagant or unreasonable.

      A jewelry box?  Sure, that should go in the hotel safe and/or be kept on your person.  But this is a suitcase with perfectly normal contents, being left with a bellhop, which is a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to do with your suitcase.

      I wouldn’t have given this suitcase as checked baggage on an airline… but not because of the value, but because being without meds and glasses can be a real pain.  The matter of payment is rather secondary.

    2. Those of you who are questioning how much prescription medications cost can thank your lucky stars that you haven’t encountered the stratospherically high rates of some medications used when being chronically ill. My elderly mother’s meds cost easily $1000 a month, and when I go to pay for them (since mom is disabled and is housebound), the pharmacy technicians actually apologize that we are charged so much, and warn me to not be shocked when I see the bill I am paying.

      I am disgusted that the Hotel Andra apparently allows a thief/thieves to roam their public area unmolested, free to swipe unattended items on bellhop carts. I will make certain to never stay there, and will make certain that my friends and colleagues never step foot in their door. For shame, Hotel Andra.

    3. “If her “expensive” items were in her suitcase, then she gave this same suitcase to an airline?  Ridiculous.”

      Why would you assume that they were in checked baggage as opposed to a carry-on? 

  15. I travel and I do not let bellboys handle my expensive photography equipment.  I use bellboys to handle my luggage, but anything of value I don’t let out of my sight or possession.

  16. I’m with sirwired on this one.  People carry with them medicines and eyeglasses, both of which can be expensive to replace.  They have to go somewhere!

    When the valet took possession of their bags, the hotel became responsible. Whether the thief was a “professional” or an “amateur” is irrelevant and, IMHO, being thrown into the mix by the hotel to make it “seem” there was nothing they could have done for this “professional” is casing their lobby for left behind luggage.

    I feel the hotel is responsible for replacing the lost items.  The OP didn’t lose a night’s stay at the hotel nor did she lose a second night.  She didn’t seem as though she had suggested bartering and to offer her these nights will require she actually visit them again.  Is she being given the option of selling these two nights to another person so she can have the money necessary to replace her glasses and medications?  Is the OP in the position of telling the pharmacist and the eyeglass location, “Here – here’s a free night at a boutique hotel in Seattle to cover the cost of this prescription/replacement eyeglasses.”

    Had my glasses and meds been stolen, my health and vision insurance would make me replace them at my own cost, which is what the OP will have to do (actually, when I had a full bottle of pain meds stolen from a suitcase in a closet, underneath another suitcase, hidden in a boot, I had to call my doctor but there was nothing she could do for me since it was a narcotic and, thus, not able to just call it in).

    The OP is suffering tangible financial loss that can’t be replaced with a free night or two at a hotel.

    1. You don’t READ very well do you?  She wasn’t given VOUCHERS, she was given a REFUND.   And a 2 night refund at the hotel would be more that the $200 that they are liable for under the law. 

      1. The hotel website says their rates are from $169.
        Note the article said – The Hotel Ändra refunded her one night’s lodging and offered to refund a second night.
        Umm, did she refuse the 2nd night’s refund?
        Maybe she was on business expense, and the refunds don’t go to her pocket so she can buy new luggage and stuff?

      2. Linda – do you take medication for this personality defect?  Yes, she WAS offered a “voucher” of sorts.  They didn’t hand her any money and whether she got the money or not is also irrelevant.  She lost nearly $1000 worth of personal items, including medication.

        Seems to ME that YOU’RE the one who doesn’t read very well.  But – nice try.

  17. Well, now the next time my wife accuses me of being cheap when I insist on bringing our bags in myself, I can say I’m just keeping us safe.

    Seriously, though, I hope the Hotel Andra finds that the negative publicity from allowing a thief to victimize their guests and then claiming no responsibility costs them far more than the $1,000 this guest was asking for.

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth, Steve R!  When potential guests google “Hotel Andra” I hope they see Chris’s story and think twice about staying there.  I know I would!  Reimbursing their guest $1000 will look like chump-change at that point…

      If the OP lives in the same state as this hotel, she might want to contact her state representative and raise the issue of updating the state law, by raising the cap on claims for losses to a more 21st-century rate?  We know the travel-lobby won’t be the ones agitating for such a change… yet it’s obviously needed here!

  18. It’s a very common classic theft scenario around Europe. My sister had the same thing happens to her at Sofitel in Marseilles, France.
    Fortunately for my sister, she ran after the thief and saw him get into a a getaway car, and took the license plate. The Marseilles police was extremely efficient (on this case) and all the things were recovered by the police 3 hours later and the 2 thieves were arrested. Our Marseillaises friends don’t even believe how the Police was efficient or just the luck.
    Hoteliers know about this common problem and should have security at the entrance of their Hotel. But there is a possibility the thief had the doorman or bellboy as accomplice. If there is more than 1 incident, the hotel and police should make a more attentive investigation.
    The lost usely covered by your home insurance if the travel service providers and insurance don’t cover all the lost.

    1. You know, that was the first thing I thought of – the bellboy or doorman as an accomplice to theft.  Glad to know it wasn’t just me thinking that.

      I agree that the loss should be covered by homeowner’s insurance, but it would be subject to a deductible.  Here in the Midwest, the most common deductible is $1000.  If the OP has a deductible like mine, she’s stuck relying on the hotel to indemnify her.

      1. No wonder the thief was a “professional”. He hang around in the lobby from 9 to 5 as if he had a job to do. I wonder if they can hire another professional to eradicate the professional thief and his accomplices. Of course, this is all a joke. Except that someone lost  $1000, maybe.
        But shouldn’t we all know by now that there are a lot of thieves wherever there are a lot of tourists? She’s just one of many thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of victims. Unfortunately, it happens even on chic boutique hotel lobbies.

  19. My glasses stay in my purse with me when they’re not on my nose. Period. Having said that, these glasses, which are not some sort of special prescription, and are simple wire frames, cost $400. If I had to replace my Victoza medication out of pocket, that’s easily $200, so we’re up to $600 now, and if the person was, say a diabetic who carried insulin and a box of test strips and a glucose meter, well –ever priced strips without insurance? The name brands can cost over $100 for 100 strips. If the person was diabetic and on an insulin pump and had extra insulin or pump supplies in the bag, yeah, there’s $1,000 there, easy. And to the individual who said “$1000 isn’t that much money,” well, I only wish I lived in your world. It’s nearly a month’s salary for me.
    Having said all that, first, that was the bag I’d have kept with me through a terrorist attack, BUT, since the hotel caught it being stolen on camera, and it was their bellhop who left it out in the middle of the lobby, they’re liable. Sorry, but they are. Ante up the $1,000 and take your medicine.

    1. You did actually read the comment about $1000 not being much money, right?  Nope, didn’t think so.  Otherwise you would have realized that the poster meant that it doesn’t take a bunch of extravagent items to add up to $1000–it’s the reasonable cost of very everyday items one might carry when traveling.

      1. uh, nice try, but Steve R did, in fact, say “As for “valuables” in the luggage, I would argue that the guest didn’t really have anything special packed in her suitcase…$1000 isn’t that much money.”

        perhaps YOU should actually read the original comment.

  20. There is a difference about what you are obligated to do and what is the right thing to do. The hotel, in the spirit of good customer service and “doing good,” should compensate her for her losses to the full extent of their value. Throwing in a night’s stay for the inconvenience would be appropriate, too.  The way the hotel handled it was a guarantee that a) they’ll never return, b) that they’ll make sure everyone they know hears about this and c) it ends up on a list like this!

  21. Without checking, I had assumed Washington’s state law’s intention was to cover the hotels losses in case someone broke into the room.  When items are given to the hotel for safekeeping (items to the safety deposit box or to a bellhop) then the rules should not apply.

    I have seen countless times in my travels where huge piles of luggage are left in public spaces unattendted – particularly in the areas of hotels when people are waiting for a bus or cruise or some such thing.

    The “bellhop” had no business leaving the bags unattended at any time.  He should have took them directly and immediately to the room.

    If anyone ever wonders why I have wheels on my luggage and why I always refuse the assistance of the bellhop, stories like this are exactly why.  I don’ t think there should be any laws to protect the hotel in this case, and stupid things like leaving luggage unattended should not only be reimbursed but also punished.

    No wonder the insurance company wouldn’t pay, it was an act of stupidity.

    I hope the reader has detailed this story in Tripadvisor so that others can see how this hotel does things. 

  22. “Foley lost $1,000 worth of items, including clothes, eyeglasses and medicine.”

    I thought at first that it was a handbag that had been stolen, but the original description of the contents seems to indicate that maybe it was duffel or tote.  Or maybe one of those ginormous Coach bags that seem to be in vogue right now.  Bag + clothes + eyeglasses + meds easily can total $1000, depending on the type of bag, clothes, etc.

    I read several comments that have me a little concerned.  I hold on very tightly to my one bag with my Netbook, camera, meds and prescription sunglasses while in shuttles, taxis, public transportation etc. to and from the hotel.  Bellhops/valets don’t get to carry it, either.  But the bag is just too big to schlep around when I go on one of my 10K walks or go out to eat before/after I’ve checked in/out.  I often have the hotel hold my bag for me in one of their secure rooms, and hold on to the claim check.  But @Josh is now saying that if something happened to my bag, as per @Rebecca McCormick ‘s story, that it’s tough luck for me.

    Seriously, does that mean that I have to do as @Nancy Dickinson is saying and photo my bag and its contents before handing it over?  That the hotel is essentially lying about holding my bag securely?

    Chris Elliott and others, what do you recommend we travelers do to protect ourselves, besides the obvious (and unworkable) solution of taking everything everywhere?

  23. Nobody touches my bags….skycaps, bellhops, no one……too many hands involved mess things up.
    After reading about this incident, sounds like a very lucatrive and easy way to steal things…..a busy hotel lobby, staff doing other things, many people walking through… easy it to just walk by a piece of luggage on a cart, nonchalantly pick it up and keep walking – right out a side door. 

  24. Maybe 25 years ago, as I was checking in to a hotel in Miami, a conversation nearby between a guest and a manager became audible as voices were raised.  It seems the guest was trying to retrieve his Mercedes 450SL that he had valet parked some three days prior.  As it turned out, the hotel didn’t even have valet parking service.  It seems a person wearing the requisite garb for a valet had greeted the guest on arrival, took his keys, gave him a claim check, and drove off.

    I never learned the outcome, but indeed there are professionals that work hotels, just as there are burglary pros that work airports making careful notes of names and addresses on luggage that is going to be checked that also have cruise line luggage tags on them.  They know the cruise ship and cruise length so they know when they have to visit your home and how rushed they have to be in cleaning you out.

    1. I had a somewhat similar experience back in ’82:  I handed my car to the valet to be parked Sunday, and asked for it back when I checked out the following Saturday.  There was a big diplomatic reception going on that evening, and my guess is the valet temporarily parked my car somewhere outside of the hotel.  With all those high-priced cars, some tasteless thief stole my Plymouth Horizon Miser 🙁

  25. I had something similar occur some years ago at the Lodge at Mount Snow in Vermont. They required guests to leave their skis in a check room and mine were stolen. They denied all responsibility until the police arrived and as the officer heard the manager explaining why the hotel wasn’t liable, the officer interjected that he’d been called every weekend for the same issue and the hotel needed to lock the room. The manager then offered to comp me for the weekend to settle the issue which seemed a fair trade to me.

  26. I’m fairly confident that that lodging law does not apply.  It is not intended for situations when the hotel takes possession of the bag.

    1. Depends on the state.  Some states give the hotel zero liability for bags not in their possession, and then strict (low) limits on stuff that is.  Even the stuff in the safe usually has puny limits.

  27. I really believe that a hotel can do a smarter design of its lobby to minimize luggage theft. The fact is that many hotels have restaurants, bars, conference facilities, etc. that are open to the public. So that creates more traffic (and potential for theft) than one would otherwise get if the hotel was purely for the use of its room guests. The Andra’s lobby looks like it is but a few steps from the busiest street in Seattle. It’s great for ambiance but probably a nightmare for security.

    I feel safest in hotels whose lobbies are as far away as possible from the road. In the Shangrila Hotel (SE Asia) we stayed at the last time, no vehicle was allowed entry into the driveway that led to the lobby without getting a security inspection. As you exited your vehicle, security with guard dogs checked your luggage while bellhops (plural for emphasis) in impeccable uniforms unloaded them and carried them in with you. You cannot enter the hotel unless you have your hand carry checked. The bellhops stay with you until you finish checking in. Then they walk you up to your room.

    When checking out, the front desk alerts the bellhops and they are right outside your door waiting to get your bags. If you succeed to elude them, the staff in the elevator area will ask you if you need one. At the desk when you return your keys, they will ask you again if you need a bellhop. Finally as you exit the hotel door, there will be bellhops that will “automatically” grab the bags from you and load them to your vehicle. No thief will ever get in their or your way (unless he wants to get shot).

    In the lobby, there is a cordoned-off area where only hotel guests can sit. All doors in and out of the hotel and the elevators are staffed with elegantly uniformed small “female” attendants (maximum height near 5 foot). My wife and kids felt very safe and enjoyed every minute of our stay there. Security and Staff made themselves visible to guests so that if you need anything they were there to help. Wonderful hotel!

      1. No, hotel security in name-brand hotels in India is at least as tight.  That includes Renaissance, Hilton and Holiday Inn.  It’s been that way at least since the Mumbai bombings.

  28. When A person is on vacation, they have so many happy emotions going, ENDORPHINS,? that they are almost “punch drunk”. They stop paying attention to the details, details that they would have never missed at home, like leaving the lugguge in their driveway while checking for locked doors. Hotels do have legal protection, they do have insurance companies that don’t pay, and they may seem to care,  but it’s time to get onto charging our resort fees. (sore memories) Why did the Foley’s not take out travel insurance? It’s cheaper than the losses incurred.

  29. With all the comments made, no one is saying that the BEST thing the hotel can do for it’s own reputation is pay $1000 to settle the claim and they will go away quitely instead of making so much noise.  Now this hotel is marked as the Bellhop lost luggage hotel. 

    I had a problem with a hotel in Cape Cod and they refused to make a refund AAA agreed with me and dropped them from their book, until they were sold and changed names 5 years latter— but how much revenue did they lose because of it? 

    Minimize your losses and keep your reputation BIG.

    1. I like your comment. It makes a lot of sense. One thing I have noticed with a picture of the hotel’s lobby and front entry is how close it is to what appears to be a busy street. The entry is literally on the sidewalk.
      Pic courtesy of TripAdvisor

      So it’s not only that they get bad publicity for not paying for the OP’s lost baggage, they also have to address that fact that their security sucks. Luggage getting stolen while on the watch of a bellhop is not funny.

  30. The bell hop is employed by the hotel.  He/she took control of the bags.  The hotel is on the hook.  $1,000 might cover the cost of prescription eye glasses and medication but probably not anything else.  Two prescriptions I take monthly cost $1,166.30 per month.  Nothing exotic.  My wife spends a minimum of $300 for her prescription glasses.  The frames are probably mid price.  I looked since I use dime store readers and thought about getting a “real” pair of glasses.  Still use my dime store readers.  Start adding on clothing, incidentals and the luggage.  Makes $1,000 seem cheap.

  31. Is it the Hotel Andra or Andre. Both names appear in the text.

    The question isn’t a would-be copy editor snark; we’ll be visiting Seattle this winter and we like small hotels …. but this is one we WON’T be considering. I’d like to know the correct name of the hotel.

      1. But something a lot of people don’t know is: every bad experience a consumer has is shared many, many times over, using the product of 9. This story has now been talked about at the dinner table, been tweeted and passed on…  Chris actually has a larger readership than you give him credit for.  This column is read by travel executives all over the country and it would SHOCK you how far his reach is for the right story.

  32. The bellhop is an employee of the hotel.  Once the bellhop handles the luggage, the hotel had entered into a “bailment” relationship, and has to exercise reasonable care.  Here, the insurance company has determined that the luggage was left in a public place.  Leaving valuable ($1.000) personal property in a public place is negligence.  I think a good case can be made for waiving the $200 limit and recovering the full cost of the lost property.

  33. The problem is that we don’t know what was in the suitcase.. so I think the hotel offered her enough compensation. I do however believe insurance should have covered the theft and paid the max due to the hotels negligence.  Either way this is a good rule of thumb.. don’t let the bell hop take your luggage unless it’s in plain sight at all times.

  34. How can you possibly vote “no” when there is no way in the world to know what was in that bag.  if my bag got stolen, there would have been at least 2K worth of camera equipment…..

  35. Maybe i’m missing something here but isn’t it standard operating procedure that when a bellhop takes your luggage when you arrive at a hotel the assumption is he or she is taking it up to your room while you are checking  in and meeting you up there? What would ever be the justification for just leaving it in the middle of the lobby unattended? Just asking.

  36. How about posting the experience on Trip Advisor? A short paragraph about the theft with the hotel failing to recognize its responsibility and a warning to all visitors to keep their eyes on their luggage when they check in should do the trick….if TA posts it.

  37. I’m impressed with the smart travelers who have commented !

    1. Hotel Andra in Washington…. Thanks for mentioning the name of the hotel.  I wouldn’t stay there even if it meant sleeping at the airport.

    2. Keep valuables with you.

    3. Use the small, digital safes that are found in many rooms for laptops, SLR cameras, jewelry, etc.

    4. I’d go for small claims court… if only for the “pound of flesh.”

    5. I wish this traveler would sue in the state court claiming negligence.  Taking posession of a traveler’s luggage and then leaving it unattended to my mind is negligence.

  38. similar experience in Cancun several years ago. between check-out and our shuttle to the airport, we checked our bags with the hotel. when it was time to leave, we came back to one of my tote bags missing. it was the one where I had thoughtlessly placed my passport, among other travel items. i was freaking out! as it turns out, there was a tour group who’d checked in many of their items, as well.  the bellhop must’ve thought my tote belonged to them. the Tour Leader then assumed it belonged to someone in their group. after they checked the storage room and the bus’ luggage compartments below, and just as their bus was getting ready to pull away — and the bellhop was insisting they never had my bag — i begged to just take a quick peek on the bus and talk to the Leader. lo and behold, there was my tote on the front seat. the Leader was wondering whose it was! sigh of relief, but it made me mad that i had a claim check for the item and yet the hotel insisted they never saw it. 

    lesson learned!

  39. Typical of most service businesses today, penny wise and dollar foolish. The negative publicity generated by this incident must be lost on the hotel’s owners. I bet during the same meeting they screwed the family out of their compensation, they lamented their lower revenue over the past quarter. With the internet how can companies continue to be hard nosed heartless thugs today?

  40. I think the hotel should have given her more compensation.  They are clearly negligent.  However, alot of this could have been avoided.  Who turns over a bag with $1000 worth of anything to a bell hop.  If I lose a suitcase, I could easily replace everything without much difficulty or expense, because I would never turn over my medication or glasses to anyone.

  41. Hotels and other travel companies leave bags unattended and lying around all of the time.
    I am surprised more thefts do not occur.   Valet parking at the JW Marriott in New Orleans left my rental car running and unattended as they went to get another car. Anyone could have stolen it.
    For those reasons, I try not to stay in places that only have valet parking (if I have a car) and I definitely do not leave bags with bellhops.

    As for Washington (and other) law, they should be changed to read that the hotel is liable to the full cost of the lost, travel incovenience, pain and suffering as well as punitive damages when the loss is caused by their negligience (as appears to be so in this case).
    There is no excuse for leaving bags unattended ever.

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