The food may be terrific at Mama’s Fish House in Maui, but on a recent visit to the restaurant, Marie Ochadleus claims she got a lot more than that. Someone stole $2,500 worth of personal items from her cars, and she believes the business is responsible for her loss.
Why blame the Fish House for the petty crime taking place in its parking lot? Ochadleus says there’s no self-parking, only free valet parking. By taking your keys, isn’t the restaurant assuming some liability for your car?
I’m not a lawyer, but a search of Hawaii state laws suggests the Fish House isn’t responsible for her loss. (The business is both a hotel and a restaurant, and only this law seems to directly apply to her situation — but again, folks, I’m not a lawyer. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program.)
Here’s Ochadleus story:
When you arrive at Mama’s Fish House, there really isn’t self-parking available. The free valet service seemed a nice touch to this upscale restaurant. We handed over the keys to our rented convertible (the top was down) and blissfully headed down the stone path to the restaurant entrance.
Our friends were driving a rented mini-van, and they pulled in just behind us. We experienced a very expensive lunch with mediocre service, but the view was gorgeous. We gladly paid the bill, which was well over $300.
When we left the restaurant a few hours later, the valet pulled up with our car (top still down) and we drove off to visit the town of Paia. When we parked in Paia, we put the top up on the convertible and locked the car. Our vehicle was right off the street in plain view. Our friends parked several blocks away on the main street.
It wasn’t until later that night when we arrived back at our Kaanapali resort and went to unpack the car that we discovered our bags were stolen from our trunk. Likewise, our friends discovered their bag was stolen from inside their mini-van. Neither vehicle displayed signs of forced entry. The only time these vehicles were near each other since the bags were loaded that morning was during our visit to Mama’s Fish House. Coincidence? We don’t think so and neither did the police.
Interesting. Had Ochadleus reported the loss while still at the Fish House, she might have had a stronger case. But after a day’s activities, anyone could have been responsible for the disappearance of her luggage, although I certainly agree with the police about coincidences.
What followed was a series of e-mails between the Fish House and Ochadleus, with her asking to be compensated and the restaurant declining.
Eventually, she asked me to help. I contacted the restaurant on her behalf. Here’s what it had to say:
We opened Mama’s Fish House some 36 years ago. It has been my unpleasant responsibility to write the following to the very few people in the last 36 years who have had items stolen from their cars while parked in our parking lot, and who expected us to compensate them for it.
1. There is a lot of petty theft here, as there is in virtually all resort and tourist destinations. Maui’s theft problem is no worse than other resort destinations – which is not good.. Every tourist is warned over and over again in notices by their rental companies and other warnings. But they get ignored, and the theft continues.
It is virtually impossible to prevent because its done mostly by young addicts and juvenile delinquents. The police sympathize and tell our visitors kind words to make them feel better when they have items stolen and we do the same ourselves. That’s about all we can do since preventing the petty auto theft is all but impossible.
Over the years we have worked with local police to minimize theft rate and we have cut the theft rate down considerably. We have security patrolling the grounds but there is a lot of area to cover and the thieves are quick and smart.
2. I know of no Maui hotel, restaurant or business that provides valet parking that will re-imburse customers for items stolen or lost out of their vehicles, and this includes vehicles parked inside a covered hotel parking facility. No business insurance company that I am aware of will write insurance for such theft.
This is standard practice throughout the State and probably nationwide. If you doubt this, call any major hotel chain or a local hotel and find out for yourself.
3. A very few times in the past we have had angry customers write letters to various organizations complaining about items allegedly stolen out of their cars while in our parking lot and they sometimes threaten us with bad publicity. It doesn’t work. The organization will officially expressed sympathy and maybe write us letters requesting more information, but when we talk to their representative in person, they say, “Why was this person so foolish as to leave their valuables in their cars in an outdoor parking lot?”.
I am sorry for your loss and I’m sure you are angry and think somebody else should pay for your stolen items. But it was just your bad luck plus bad judgment, and while we are in sympathy and understand you anger, we are in no way responsible.
Floyd & Doris Christenson
Mama’s Fish House
So there you go. I asked Ochadleus what she thought of the restaurant’s final answer.
While I’m disappointed Mama’s has taken this stance, I’m not really surprised. The issue that bothers me the most is that Mama’s has so little regard for their customers. They aren’t truly sympathetic and their demeanor is almost snobbish about “tourists”.
If they had told me they were investigating the issue with the police, I would have felt better about the entire situation. At least something good might have come out of this unfortunate incident. With the economy as it is today, tourist destinations need to be thoughtful about how they approach anything that can deter people from selecting their location.
What I’ve taken away from all this is that Maui hasn’t made this issue a priority. The police haven’t done a very good job of reducing the theft problem. Why should I want to spend my hard earned money visiting there? There are other warm and sunny locations to visit.
I do take offense at being labeled “foolish”. I travel a good amount in and out of the US. I’m a fairly savvy traveler. It’s not like we left our belongings on the seat of an open convertible! They were locked in the trunk…out of sight. If the valet service had locked the car, there would have been some sign of forced entry to get those belongings. If cars were consistently locked at Mama’s parking lot, thieves would most likely move on to other places.
Paia is a little town in the grand scheme of things…not exactly a tourist destination. This was our second trip to Maui this year, and I don’t recall ever hearing how theft-riddent Paia was. Where are those tourist warnings that I was supposed to see “over and over”? I picked up every visitors guide and magazine while there. I didn’t see any warnings. I don’t actually recall the warnings at the valet service, but I’m sure they were there somewhere.
Was I blinded by the sun and beautiful scenery? It’s possible… At least I’m willing to consider I missed something. That’s more than I can say for Mama’s response.
What do you think? Was Mama’s out of line? Or did it do everything it could to help its guest?