A stolen West Point class ring, and all I get from my hotel is an excuse?

There’s been a lot of talk about stolen property in hotels — see last week’s story on the safe removed from a Radisson room — and today’s case presents us with a similar problem.

This time, the pilfered items include a watch and an item with sentimental value: a West Point class ring. But unlike last week’s burglary, which was addressed promptly by the hotel, this one has been dragging on for more than a year without a satisfactory response.

Then again, maybe the response is the best the guest can hope for from the Dallas-area Hilton Garden Inn they were staying at.

“Last June, one week before our wedding, my husband and I attended a wedding in the Dallas-Forth Worth area,” explains Thy Ramia. “My husband had just graduated two weeks before from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and as the wedding we were attending was for a classmate, he and a fellow West Point in attendance planned to wear their class rings on the big day to signify their bond to each other.”

On the morning of the wedding they came downstairs for breakfast and then went to the business center to check email. Ramia explains what happened next:

We returned to our room to find that my husband’s class ring and an expensive watch he’d been given by his parents the previous year for his birthday were missing from the TV stand.

He hadn’t intended to leave them there, but he woke up close to the end of the breakfast hour and hurriedly went down.

We were hesitant to accuse someone on the staff of stealing, so we immediately looked through all our belongings and rental car, all of which turned up nothing. After our search, we went to the front desk to report that our items were missing.

The young desk agent told us the property had never had an issue with theft before and went to look through the linens in the hope that the items accidentally got mixed in with the sheets during cleaning. When that turned up nothing, she promised to call the general manager.

Neither Ramia nor her husband are newbie travelers. Ramia works for the State Department, and as an Army officer, her husband is a seasoned traveler. They pretty much knew what to expect.

They knew, for example, that state lodging laws limited the hotel’s liability. They knew they shouldn’t have left their valuables on the table — that was a tourist mistake. But they didn’t know what the hotel would — or wouldn’t — say.

And Ramia says she was surprised by the response. The claims process was extraordinarily difficult and slow. Were it not for a hotel server who stepped in and found the correct form, it would have been delayed even more. Then came the general manager’s answer:

He confirmed that the only other person to enter our room was the maid, and that she had indeed entered our room at the time we were downstairs and the items went missing; however, he insisted the maid simply could not have taken our items.

He went on to say he had known the maid for some time and would ‘stake his career’ on the fact that she did not take our items.

While I appreciate and can understand such loyalty — my mother actually started out as a housekeeper — it did not excuse the fact that no other explanation had been offered as to how our items went missing; why the front desk staff was so ill-informed and ill-equipped to deal with the situation, and why he never got in touch with us despite several assurances from his staff that he would.

There was actually never even an apology from him that the theft occurred, regardless of whom was to blame.

Ramia doesn’t like that answer, and is considering switching her loyalty to another hotel chain as a result.

I can understand why Hilton would respond the way it did. Under Texas lodging law, it probably owes her nothing — not even an explanation — for what happened. Here are the applicable state statutes.

Under these circumstances, I’ve seen a hotel offer to waive part of the room rate or offer a certificate for a future stay. Hilton could have done that, but it didn’t have to.

If nothing else, this serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who is traveling with valuables, sentimental or otherwise. Keep them on you at all times, or leave them at home.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     Hardly comparable as a table is not locked or secure.  As has been pointed out, it might not be jewelry but clothing, computer gear,etc.  Should the guest pack up everything every time they leave the room?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     If a hotel did threatened to kick me out because I called the police, I’d be doubly inclined to call them.  Good for your friend

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I disagree.  A polite implicit threat can work wonders, especially if you are someone the hotel wants to retain.

    I rented a three bedroom suite in Vegas at a very nice hotel.  The suite that I got was not what I rented, and the front desk lied to me claiming that what I stated I rented didn’t exist. I proved it false and wrote how disappointed I was with the chain, and how after X number of years and nights at Marriott…blah blah blah. I got a quick response form a higher up, profuse apologies and they comped me the most expensive night without me even asking

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     I don’t’ know.  I’m not comfortable with placing suspicion on the maid merely because she was were she was supposed to be.  In that case the maid is always having to prove her innocence.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    One reason is that if there are any disputes the hotel can hold your passport hostage.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     I too have entered my room to retrieve items while it was being cleaned.  I was challenged exactly once for my name and never for ID

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     How do you get your room cleaned.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     Can the maid find another job that easily.  I would assume that they would check references and as there are probably more maids than positions, one with a sticky past might be in trouble.

  • bodega3

    In Cabo, calling the police means nothing.  They are part of the problem.  I had clients have their room ransacked.  It is a hotel right in town, on the harbour, very popular with the younger crowd.  It was their second stay, first one they didn’t have any problems but another room had their safe entered into and robbed of items placed inside.  This last trip the clients didn’t wish to use the safe based on what they heard about on the last trip and hid their stuff in their locked room.  IPods, dark glasses, money, phones, chargers all taken. 

  • maudr

    If they cared so much for the “sentimental” ring they would not have just left it in a room.  If you care about something you don’t leave it vulnerable.  What’s happened to common sense and is this the quality of a West Point grad today?

  • emanon256

    I agree with @yahoo-OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE:disqus  The room is locked and secure.  And you can’t expect people to pack up their entire suitcase, clothing, extra shoes, etc. every single day.

  • y_p_w

    Perhaps I’m getting a little cynical in my old age, but I’m starting to feel that surveillance cameras would be a good idea.  They don’t have to cost a lot and there’s lots of technology out there that could make things practical.

    There are cameras out there that have the capability of transmitting video over a WiFi network or even a mobile network to remote storage. Many of these newer devices have very high quality video with compression technology to keep the bandwidth low.  I could imagine something like a 4 way camera setup that could be variously pointed at a doorway and anything that might make a tempting theft target.  The storage could be subscription based where one could offload the data as a record. Even if the camera is moved or even stolen, there should be a video recording of who entered at least until the point where the camera setup was disturbed.

  • strizis

    “to signify their bond with each other”, “my mom was a housekeeper”, How sweet! And how pertinent! What ever happened to personal responsibility, and from a “west point grad” no less. I don’t want to accuse, I have no proof, but I want/deserve compensation. From whom? The hotel, they did nothin g wrong, you did. The maid, do we know for sure she took them, no we don’t. I left some practically brand new sandals at a hotel once. I was 99% sure, I called the next morning, and. I they didn’t have any knowledge of them. I blamed myself, a d ate the loss.

  • john4868

    The only time my class ring comes out is for events like this. Last time it came out was to bury my mentor. Also its his wife not the officer that wrote the letter.

    These weren’t sandals he left behind. It was a ring he left on the tv stand while he ran downstairs. No reason to expect that anyone would enter the room. Oh and did you miss where they searched their own luggage first? How about the part where an employee entered their room during the time they were gone.

    Oh and did you notice that they only thing they really looked for was an apology? That’s it

  • Nica

    Unfortunately, if the chain has not done anything at this point, they may have to just chalk it up as a loss.  I feel terrible, but there really is no way to prove that the maid took it. Sometimes housekeeping does leave the door open during cleaning and people come in and out unchallenged. 

    Some form of apology is definitely in order, but it seems like they will never get it.

  • Christina Conte

    If the couple was so sure it was on the tv stand, why did they look in the car? As unfortunate as it is, I don’t see how the hotel can give them anything more than an apology (they dropped the ball here) or else every Tom, Dick and Harry will be saying they left some valuable in the room to get compensation.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Exactly! I’m not giving them any leverage.

  • TonyA_says

    In Italy (and other countries), they photocopy your passport. You can get your passport back as soon as they are finished. I often check in and them come back down to get my passport. I haven’t had the need to leave it with them longer than that (and definitely never overnight).

    In some countries, fake immigration officers will steal your US passport. Happened to my nephew. Someone with an official looking ID approached him and asked him if those golf clubs were his and needed to see and stamp his passport. My nephew gave the guy his passport, the guy walked to another room and that’s the last time my nephew saw his passport.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    is this the new Dumber & Dumber 2 movie ?
    @TonyA_says:disqus 
    Any idiot knows you don’t leave jewelry just lying around a hotel room.

    It’s like women & handbags. If you carry one, it’s going to get stolen at some stage.

    An Australian travel agent in Phuket a few weeks ago, lost her life over a silly handbag.

  • TonyA_says

     I read that. Local thugs stabbed her. She was on a familiarization trip. Sad.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Hotel Due Torri wanted the passport “for safe keeping.” They had no intention of copying it. 

    It felt skeevy to me.

  • TardyBoyy

    You leave an expensive watch and perhaps invaluable ring in a hotel in Texas, where most of the help are illegals?

    Sounds like a waste of tuition.  I would expect more sense out of a college grad.  But I guess stupid is as stupid does.  The penalty for falling off the turnip truck is a watch and a ring.

    Dumbass.

  • lost_in_travel

    Really not a fair comment – after spending four years with a group of people who have been chosen for their own leadership qualitities, they might be a little naive to believe that others can be trusted.  And its not like they left it in the lobby, it was a locked hotel room.

  • Lindabator

    But the hotels would be!

  • bolide

    This was, I think, needlessly insulting.  The OP acknowledged it was an error and was not trying to claim otherwise. 

    While I would like to think I generally have common sense, this doesn’t prevent me from occasionally erring, as I am human and not perfect.  I think if you spend a few minutes, you could probably find a few occasions where you have erred, too, even if you are normally full of common sense. 

    As to the topic at hand, I do think that the OP should have called the police.  A theft should be reported, even if nothing comes of it.  Yes, it might be considered a petty crime, and yes, the police might not jump on this one case.  But if there are multiple similar cases that establish a pattern at the same property, it’s more likely to get attention and at least there’s a chance that the thief or thieves will eventually be caught.

  • BMG4ME

    Leaving a valuable item like that in a hotel room on a TV stand is the issue.   If they had left it in the safe then the hotel would have been completely responsible.

  • Bill___A

    Call the police immediately and file a report when something like that happens.  An  investigation will show whether there was forced entry or not.  If there is not forced entry, they will need to investigate who got in that room with a cardkey.

    They will need to talk to each and every person who had a cardkey and enter that room.  The police cars will be at the hotel along with police in uniform.  The hotel management will want those police cars gone and will cooperate.

    Managers are not policemen.  The police’s job is to find out who committed the crime and prosecute them.
    The hotel manager’s job is to try get  you to be quiet and go away.

    If I had a theft in my room, I don’t even think I would call the manager before I called the police.

    Then again, I don’t carry expensive jewellery with me.  And there is tracking software on my laptop (which is on the bios) and will work even if someone changes the hard drive.

  • http://www.bestwesterncharlottetown.ca/ Daniel Visickery

    I read a similar story last week about a guy that had his hotel safe, with 40k worth of valuables, stolen right out of his room. The hotel offered him a 1 night comp…that’s crazy…I’d be contacting lawyers.

  • http://www.bestwesterncharlottetown.ca/ Daniel Visickery

    ha..didn’t see the link right at the top of the article!

  • JenniferFinger

    If the maid was the only person to have been in the room at the time the thefts happened, then yes, she should have to prove her innocence, because nobody else could be the thief. It’s a process of elimination, and the fact that the manager refused to consider that, suggests that he doesn’t care about helping the customer even if the maid is not innocent.

  • Nich T

    According to that Texas Code,specifically Subsection (b), number (2),

    A hotel keeper is not liable for a loss or injury…if: (2) the loss or injury does not occur through the negligence or wrongdoing of the keeper or an employee of the hotel.

    Seems that because the employee was responsible, the hotel is liable.

  • col.rock g

    From col.rock, with past experience in hotel stayings, I now keep a well documented property log with me in the event of an internal or external theft in hotels. Thefts exist much from the inside and amongst them they cover thefts so the hotel don’t get a black eye or bad reputation. A lesson to learn but quite frankly it is a place we call temporary domain unfortunately they are those who I call parasytes of opportunity. As always police your room daily and before departure and if i may suggest get an unexpensive clock mini surveillance camera and record

    the action this will capture all and will benefit when puting in a claim or calling the police. I do this all the time during my stays at hotels to ensure I don’t become a victim of lodging injustice. Good luck! Col.rock security specialist

  • col.rock g

    Several years ago a special ring was stolen me. It took about 20 years to be tecognized as one of the highest professional skilled delta force operator in america. As a former soldier of fortune I miss my ring which means a lot to me but I know in my heart that I have earned the previlege to be awarded this priceless gift, but I have moved on. My advise move on and get a replacement keep in mind that you have earned that priviledge not the one who stole it from you. Good luck and don’t look back soldier.

  • Jeremy

    Hilton is known to have thieves working at their properties!