When you check your luggage and board a plane there’s always at least a moment when you wonder, “Am I ever going to see that bag again?” When Ashli Overton and her family boarded their flight to spend the holidays in Mexico they may have had exactly that thought. What they didn’t expect was that it would be the hotel that lost their luggage, not the airline.
I’d like to say this is simple case of lost and found, but it’s not. This case needed Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, but only Inspector Clouseau was on duty. I’ll let Overton set it up for us:
We arrived at the resort on December 24, around 7:00 p.m. The bellman assisted with unloading our luggage from the van. Once we found out our room number the bellman placed stickers on our luggage with our room number. He told us to go to our room and the luggage would be delivered. We got to our room around 7:30 p.m. and the luggage had not arrived. We then went to supper and returned to the room around 9:00 p.m. and still no luggage. I then went to the lobby and spoke to the front desk and reported our luggage had not made it to our room. The front desk staff reported it to the bellmen and they started looking for it. In the morning I returned to the front lobby and spoke with the head bellman, who happened to be the one who tagged our luggage the previous evening. He assured me it was on the property somewhere and it would be found.
The management of the Ocean Riviera Paradise, an H10 Hotels property, told Overton to buy whatever the family would need until their luggage was located. Wearing the same clothes they were wearing when they started their journey, they ventured into town and selected the clothes and toiletries they would need to allow their family of four to enjoy the next few days of their vacation — until their luggage was found.
When Overton tried to pay for the items they selected at stores in town, the credit card machines weren’t working and they didn’t have enough cash. So they put some necessities back that they knew they could buy at the resort and spent $910.
Once back at the resort they were forced to pay hotel prices for sunscreen ($24 per bottle) and aloe vera ($22 per bottle), which Overton felt was ridiculous but also felt the family needed. The total cost of the additional items was $404.
The biggest issue with the lost luggage actually wasn’t the family’s clothes and toiletries — it was the insulin pump and insulin needed by Overton’s husband, who is diabetic. He had some insulin in his carry-on, but he packed a pump and additional insulin in his checked luggage. He was forced to revert to self-injections when a local pharmacy didn’t have the supplies he needed.
Instead of enjoying her time lounging on the beach during her vacation, Overton spent much of it trying to determine what had happened with her family’s luggage. Most of her interactions were with the head bellman. When she asked to speak to the manager Overton says the bellman told her, “He wants to speak with you as well, but he’s very busy.”
Too busy to speak to a customer whose luggage had been lost for several days? If this is true, H10 hotels might need to invest in retraining its management.
After six days of washing the few clothes Overton purchased and hanging them on the balcony to dry, she and her family finally boarded their return flight to the U.S., still without their luggage. The hotel claimed it had filed a report with its insurance company. At its request, Overton provided the hotel with a list of the items in her family’s luggage and the value of each item. The rooms manager, who finally met with the family the night before their departure, promised Overton she would have an email from him by the time she got home. She didn’t, and started an email campaign to repeatedly remind the hotel that she was still waiting and expecting updates.
Overton also needed to replace items that the family had done without while in Mexico and spent an additional $354.
Thirteen days after losing the family’s luggage, the hotel notified Overton that the bags had been located in the lost and found of a local transportation company. No one offered any explanation of how the transportation company ended up with the Overton family luggage, but I have to wonder why no one at the transportation company seems to have made any effort to contact hotels that it works with to simply ask if anyone is missing any luggage. Of course most hotels have luggage tags with the hotel name printed on them; and if the bellman tagged the family’s bag after getting their room number, it should have been obvious where the bags belonged.
You might think this story ends here, with found luggage. But it isn’t over — not by a long shot.
Remember the list that Overton made of the contents of the luggage? Another member of hotel management contacted Overton to ask permission to open the bags and remove a few of those items: The insulin, pump, and cash would not be able to go through U.S. Customs. The manager asked Overton to put the permission in writing, which she did.
What happened next is simply inexcusable. Overton received notification that the luggage shipment had been rejected by Customs because it contained items that are not allowed through Customs: insulin, an insulin pump, and cash.
The package was returned to the hotel, the management actually opened the luggage and removed the items this time, reshipped the bags, and promised to wire the $110 cash that was removed from the luggage.
You’re probably thinking this really is the end of the story now, right? Uh, no.
When Overton received the wire at Western Union, it was not the full $110. The wire fees charged by Western Union had been deducted. She contacted the hotel again and asked that they wire her the fees because it wouldn’t have needed to be wired if the hotel hadn’t lost her luggage. The manager agreed and wired her the additional money.
And no, we’re still not done with this story.
The Overtons’ luggage was finally delivered to her office two weeks after the family’s return to the U.S. Unfortunately, several items were missing, and Overton had to spend an additional $474 to replace those items. From the time the luggage was lost to the time Overton was reunited with all of her family’s possessions, she spent $2,142 out of her own pocket.
Through the entire ordeal the hotel never denied that it was at fault nor did it outright refuse to reimburse Overton for her expenses. It said, “Buy whatever you need.” We’ve had a few cases where people took advantage of that, but I don’t think the Overton family did.
I always advise people to pack medications and cash in their carry-on luggage, not in their checked bags. The Overtons are lucky that the cash was still there after their bags were recovered. According to the page of TSA’s website that addresses the handling of medications and the page of tips for travelers with medical conditions there are provisions for allowing airline passengers to pack insulin in their carry-on bags.
Even if the Overtons had packed all the medical necessities and the cash in their carry-ons, it still wouldn’t have prevented the hotel from losing their luggage, and Overton would still be out $2,142.
The hotel filed a claim with its insurance company. After many unanswered emails to both the hotel and the insurance company, Overton contacted us and asked that we reach out to the hotel on her behalf and request a full refund of what the family paid for their vacation, in addition to the insurance company’s promised reimbursement. While we pondered the request, Overton finally received the insurance company’s reimbursement for the items she purchased in Mexico and here in the U.S.
In response to Overton’s request for additional compensation, the hotel also offered her a choice between a room upgrade on a future stay and a reimbursement of two nights of their six-night stay. She was shocked that the hotel wanted her to spend more money with them in order to receive compensation for the disaster that was their past stay, and I agree with her. I’ve often said that an offer like this one isn’t a real apology, but rather a way for a company to manipulate you into giving it even more of your hard-earned dollars.
Our advocates decided that Overton’s request for a full refund of her family’s stay is no more reasonable than the hotel’s, “We messed up — come spend more money with us.”
Let us know what you think: