By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 1/4/2007 10:33:09 AM ET 2007-01-04T15:33:09
TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Q: Recently, I stayed at the Comfort Inn in Alma, Ark. After I checked out, I noticed that I had left my glasses in my room, so I called the hotel to see if I could get them sent to me.

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A woman who answered the phone confirmed that my glasses had been found, but asked me to call the next morning and talk to someone who could arrange to have them mailed to me.

The next day I called back and gave a representative my address and credit card number. Since then, I’ve spoken with someone at the hotel numerous times, but they haven’t been able to find my glasses.

Finally, after nearly two months of waiting, I decided to contact the corporate office. A Comfort Inn representative called and told my husband that the hotel had lost my glasses. Can you help?
— Kate Lease, Shakopee, Minn.

A:  If your hotel found your glasses and promised to send them to you, but afterward lost them, then it should compensate you for the loss.

Right? Wrong.

Arkansas state law says otherwise. Under its statutes, no hotel proprietor is liable for the loss of property of his or her guest unless it has been “delivered by the guest to the hotel proprietor … for safekeeping.” In other words, even though the Comfort Inn had your glasses, it wasn’t under any obligation to return them.

Practically speaking, that isn’t how it works. If you call a hotel and say that you’ve left something in your room, it will usually make a good-faith effort to return your valuables. But it will do so in the interests of keeping its guests happy, not because it has to — at least not in Arkansas. (State lodging laws vary from state to state.)

By your account, the Comfort Inn tried to find your glasses and send them to you. Maybe it didn’t try hard enough. Maybe it really did lose your property, as it says.

Next time you notice something missing after your hotel stay, don’t phone the property. Return to the hotel, if possible, and retrieve the item in person. I wouldn’t rely on anyone to mail an item back to you, no matter what you are promised.

I contacted the hotel on your behalf and, unfortunately, your property is still nowhere to be found. However, a company representative called you to find out how much it would cost to replace your glasses.

Comfort Inn refunded the money you spent on your night in Alma and sent you $200 in vouchers good for a future stay.

Christopher Elliot is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at chris@elliott.org, or troubleshoot your trip through his Web site, http://www.csr.elliott.org

© 2006 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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