If someone ransacks your room and steals your ID, electronics and valuables, what does the hotel owe you?
In Texas, where Jason Jacob’s quarters were recently burglarized, the answer is written into state law: practically nothing.
A hotel, apartment hotel, or boardinghouse keeper is not liable for a loss or injury suffered by a guest from the loss of valuables in an amount of more than $50 if:
(1) the valuables could reasonably have been kept in the safe or vault of the hotel, apartment hotel, or boardinghouse;
(2) the loss or injury does not occur through the negligence or wrongdoing of the keeper or an employee of the hotel, apartment hotel, or boardinghouse; and
(3) a printed copy of this section is posted on the door of the guest’s sleeping room.
Texas’ lodging statutes, like those of other sites, are notoriously innkeeper-friendly. Which means that Jacob’s rights are virtually zero and that property where he recently stayed can shoo him away.
But as they say in the Lone Star State, telling a man to get lost and making him do it are two entirely different propositions. Jacob came to us for counsel.
First, let’s hear his story.
“I’m a private pilot and own my own flight school, jet management and private charter company,” he explains. “I have been traveling for over 18 years and log over 100 nights in hotels each year. Last month I was staying at a Marriott property in San Antonio and five minutes after I left to grab dinner someone with a key entered my hotel room and stole my bag with my computer, iPad, iPod, two aviation Bose headsets, cash, my passports, my pilot’s licenses, company credit cards, checks, keys, expensive luggage — the list goes on.”
Jacob phoned the police and filed a report and the hotel manager assured him his case was a “top priority” and that he’d do “whatever he could” to help the police and try and get him reimbursed.
Didn’t happen. Not only did Marriott fail to reimburse him for the lost items — it even charged him for the room.
“Ultimately, the hotel said there is nothing they can do,” he reports. “Their only cameras are at the exits and have extremely grainy footage. The police have no interest in helping. My credit cards were used, checks were written and they even tried to open up an AT&T account in my name.”
Jacob is baffled by the hotel’s non-response. He’s lost “thousands” of dollars. He’s a Marriott Platinum elite, which, you’d assume entitles him to VIP treatment. Instead, he’s been all but ignored by Marriott.
“I do not know what to do,” he adds.
Well, under Texas law, Jacob has little recourse. Marriott owes him $50 for his stolen items, which doesn’t even begin to cover it. He’s also posted his problem to our help forums, which triggered a lively discussion.
I’ve personally contacted Marriott to see if there’s anything it can do to help. So far, nothing.
So why am I writing about it? Because there are one or two important takeaways for the rest of us.
- Never leave valuables in your room. Even at the “safest” hotel where you’re a frequent guest, nothing is really safe. Your valuables will eventually get stolen.
- State lodging laws don’t protect you. You don’t have a leg to stand on in court. The deck is stacked against you.
- Get everything in writing. Managers who promise to do the “right thing” need to commit that pledge to writing. Otherwise, their words are meaningless.
All that said, Marriott should do the right thing and try to make this valuable and frequent guest whole. Telling him to take a hike is not Marriott hospitality at its best. It may be the prudent and legal thing to do, but it’s not the ethical decision. Think it over, Bill.