The 2014 ASPiH conference took place at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham. The conference hotel was located a stone's throw away. The free Wi-fi, clean rooms and provision to print out your boarding cards made staying at this award-winning establishment a nice experience. Until the missing suitcase that is…
A timeline of events
Like many hotels, the Orchard Hotel offered a luggage storage facility. I handed in my suitcase and was given a small paper tab, the number on this matched the tag placed on my luggage. For additional security my name was written on the luggage tag. (Fig. 1)
|Fig 1: Ironic luggage tag|
The suitcase was then taken to a storage area, to be collected at the end of the conference. So far, so normal…
At the end of the conference I wandered over to the hotel reception, luggage tab in hand and was slightly dismayed to find that all the suitcases had been placed in the hotel lobby. "Not great security", I thought. My dismay turned into slight panic when I couldn't find my suitcase amongst the twenty or so that were left. Where was my "Very Important Package"? I asked the front of house manager, who was standing at reception, and she went off to look for it. After about ten minutes she returned to tell me that those were all the suitcases from the conference and was I sure it wasn't there? I was sure… At this stage there was only one suitcase left (which bore only fleeting resemblance to mine) and (by looking inside it) the front of house manager was able to identify the owner.
|Fig 2: @TheRealAlMay springs into action|
With the power of social media (Fig 2; thanks for the RTs) and Google, we were able to obtain contact details of the supposed lapse-maker. By the time I touched-down in Scotland there was an apologetic email in my inbox. The other person had a similar suitcase at home and had been distracted looking for their coat. They hadn't realised they had the wrong suitcase until they opened it up to do the washing… (No comment).
After a couple of unreturned phone calls I managed to speak to the general manager (GM) of the hotel the next day, to find out how they would endeavour to return the suitcase to me. To my surprise the GM told me that had this been their "fault" they would've made sure a courier had picked it up and returned it to me, but because it wasn't their responsibility they would be willing to pay 50% of the cost. I did my best to explain that if the suitcase had not been placed in the foyer (and what was the point of the luggage tag system anyway?) then it wouldn't have been taken in error. After a polite discussion the GM asked me to leave it with him.
Thankfully my suitcase (and the laptop inside) arrived the next day and I could get back to writing my MD, blog, etc.
- The luggage tag system I: This is a relatively robust system if the "rules" are followed. You get your tab, you go back with your tab, hand it to the receptionist and tell them your name (as an additional check) and he/she gets your suitcase, having checked the tab and your name with the tag.
- The luggage tag system II: This is a very slow system. Especially when over 200 delegates want to pick up their luggage at the same time, which is why the luggage was placed in the foyer for people to "pick your own".
- The lapse: It's the end of a long (but engaging) day, you want to catch the train and get back to your family. There is a bit of a problem with finding your coat but you've got your suitcase and you're rushing out to the taxi. (Would the error pass Reason's substitution test? It sure would.)
- Blaming the sharp end: The hotel general manager was very keen to point out that this person had walked off with my suitcase and that they (the hotel) was not at fault. Blaming the person at the sharp end is a symptom of poor organisational culture.
My suitcase now has a very distinctive red and white ribbon to make it look more "unique". Unfortunately this probably also makes it stand out more for opportunistic thieves…..