Maybe I should have said “no” to the case.
All the warning signs were there. The complaint involved an experienced hotel guest who checked his luggage at the front desk of a chain property in Irving, Texas. One of the bags had gone missing, and the traveler filed a claim for thousands of dollars above the property’s legal limit of liability — one clearly disclosed on his receipt and written into Texas lodging law.
Worse, the emails between the hotel and the guest showed that the customer quickly turned hostile, threatening to sue if he didn’t get more.
But the brightest flashing red light was the first sentence of his email, which boldly declared: “I am a Platinum member.”
Playing that card right up front is usually a sign you’re dealing with a dreaded “entitled” elite.
And yet I’m glad I tried to mediate his complaint. Because even though it led to a heated email exchange on a recent Saturday afternoon, I think it made me a better consumer advocate. And you’ll want to read the details, because they offer a riveting case study for how to not complain to a company, or to anyone else, for that matter.
“Let me check with my attorneys”
But first things first. Although I have written permission to name the hotel and the guest, I’m not going to. I don’t think the property deserves the bad publicity, because it handled this complaint by the book. And I suspect the guest will at some point realize how bizarre and irrational his behavior was, and will regret what he said.
(Let me note that apparently, English isn’t this customer’s first language. I will try to represent what he said in a respectful way.)
Last October, the guest had checked the bags during his stay.
“When I was leaving my luggage at your hotel, front desk didn’t indicate that I am leaving my luggage totally at my own risk and hotel won’t be liable in any case of theft,” he wrote in an email to the property after his belongings went missing. “Had they would have told me I would have made arrangements to secure my belongings at some other place.”
After several exchanges, the hotel’s general manager apologized, issued 50,000 hotel loyalty points, referred the matter to the hotel’s insurance company and offered to help the guest pay his insurance deductible.
But with each subsequent message, the customer appeared to become more aggressive. Finally, the exasperated guest fumed: “I thought your side will be baseless. Let me check with my attorneys what can be done and will get back to you.”
Normally, when someone threatens to litigate, the case gets forwarded to a company’s legal department and it’s more or less outside my ability to mediate. But the guest seemed to back off, instead contacting me for help.
Our first several exchanges were polite. He said he’d seen my website and my offer to help, and wondered if I could push for more compensation. I promised to review his case and asked if I could write something about his complaint.