Hypothetical: If your belongings were incinerated in a hotel fire, would you expect the hotel to compensate you for your loss?
My answer is an unqualified “Yes.” As I suspect would be the response of most travelers. It’s just a basic sense of fairness.
Back in the real world, that sense of fairness apparently doesn’t count for much.
The Back Story
On July 16, lightning struck the Hampton Inn in Tucumcari, New Mexico, igniting a fire that ravaged the structure. All hotel guests and hotel employees were evacuated safely, according to the Quay County Sun. But in many cases, the guests were forced to leave behind their possessions, which were either burned or water-damaged beyond repair.
The Compensation Question
The story was picked up this week by the L.A. Times, which reported on one guest’s unsuccessful efforts to be made whole after his loss.
Bill Dailey and his grandson were en route to Los Angeles from Florida, where the younger Dailey had been discharged from the Marines. They were among those who lost everything they were packing in the fire.
When they arrived home after their road trip, they sent the hotel an itemized list of their lost possessions, fully expecting that they would be fairly compensated.
But the hotel’s insurer argued that the fire was an act of God, and denied Dailey’s claim. That needn’t have been the end of the story. The hotel itself could have compensated Dailey, as a goodwill gesture. And although the hotel itself is independently owned and operated, it is part of the Hilton Hotels network, which raises the possibility of Hilton corporate stepping in to do the right thing, to protect the integrity of the Hampton Inn brand.
Only after being called out by the Times reporter did a spokesperson for Hilton offer Dailey five free nights at any Hampton Inn over the next year.
After being burned once, that was an offer Dailey found laughably inadequate.
Hotel fires are hardly an everyday occurrence. But there are lessons to be learned from Mr. Dailey’s experience. Among them:
- Never underestimate a company’s — in this case, two companies’ — greed and ineptitude when things go wrong.
- Don’t assume that you’ll be treated better by hotels that are part of worldwide networks. Independents may be more motivated to retain customers’ goodwill.
Reader Reality Check
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.