Should Marriott apologize for this purse-snatching incident?

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By Christopher Elliott

All Jim Gissy ever wanted from Marriott was an apology.

An apology for allowing thieves into the hotel his wife and daughter were staying in, he says. And an apology for the way the hotel staff treated them after their purse was stolen.

Seeking a genuine apology

Gissy wants it to mean something, too — not one of those “I’m sorry for the way you felt” mea culpas.

His wife and daughter recently checked into a Marriott property in Little Rock, Ark. His daughter, Katie, was participating in a soccer tournament. On a busy Saturday night, someone pilfered his wife’s valuables from their room under regrettable and completely avoidable circumstances.

This feature is called “Should I Take The Case?” In it, I ask you, dear readers, if I should get involved in a completely unvetted reader problem. I have to make hundreds of similar decisions a week as I triage consumer queries, so your comments and votes are very helpful.

Let me hand the mike to Gissy’s wife.

This is what happened

Katie left the room about 10:10 p.m. to get something quick from the vending machine and left the door slightly ajar.

I was lying on the bed against the bathroom wall so I didn’t have a view of the door and thought Katie was coming back in when I heard the door open.

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Then I heard a man’s voice say, “We got it!” and turned to see a man’s back as he raced out of the room with my purse. I think he had someone holding the door open for a quick getaway.

By the time I got up, the door had closed and when I opened it I heard the door to the nearby stairs slam. I opened it and yelled, but they were gone and I wasn’t going to confront two thieves in an isolated stairwell.

By then I was locked out of my room because the door had slammed shut behind me and I had to go down 14 floors in the elevator to alert the front desk.

Gissy’s wife contacted the hotel’s management and filed a police report. But according to her husband, the hotel “didn’t seem concerned” about what had happened.

“No one from the hotel asked how she was or if they could help her in any way,” says Jim Gissy. “The security officer was nice but in over his head. The local police were very good.”

Marriott didn’t really need to be worried. A review of Arkansas lodging law, suggests it isn’t responsible for thefts that occur on the property. (Here’s a related story a guest who lost the wheels on his car at a Marriott.)

The only thing to fall back on is Marriott’s commitment to exceptional guest service, which, Gissy might argue, it didn’t meet.

Eventually, they found Gissy’s purse four flights down in the stairwell with her wallet, checkbook, and prescription sunglasses removed. There were no cameras in the hall or stairs.

Valuable lessons in hotel security and guest expectations

Gissy thinks there’s a valuable lesson for all of us.

“I think you should warn travelers who are staying at a hotel,” he says. “I think most of us think that when we are in the room no one will just burst in and grab our belongings and run out.”

Definitely true. I travel with a family of five and it’s often impractical to close and lock the door when a child leaves to run down to the ice machine. Now I’m going to think twice. (Check out my guide to travel safety for more security advice.)

Should I ask Marriott to review this case? Technically, I think the hotel is right. I don’t believe it has any liability beyond the Arkansas lodging laws.

“They stole my money,” says Gissy. “They could have offered breakfast or even a free night.”

But they didn’t. Should they? I don’t know, but I can find out.

Should I take Jim Gissy's case?

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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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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