Directed to go on business to Atlanta, GA (Ft McPherson) 7FEB00 - 11FEB00. Packed assigned Dell Latitude CP laptop and it's power supply in my briefcase. Briefcase was either within my control or sight from that point on until arriving at hotel. On 7FEB00 arrived Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, downtown Atlanta, at approx. 5:25 p.m. Checked car for parking garage with bell captain (Charles). Checked luggage with same bell captain. He tagged 3 pieces (large suitcase, briefcase, and coat) and gave me the claim receipts. Went upstairs via escalator to check in at the hotel desk. Took approx. 5 to 10 minutes as there were people ahead of me. Checked in. Went directly to my room via an elevator on the 27th floor. Received call to verify that I was in my room and that my baggage was on it's way up. Within minutes of the call, bellman was at the door with baggage. He used my large suitcase to prop open the door. He laid my coat on the bed and he placed my briefcase on the floor in the wardrobe closet saying "I'll put this here". Afterwards he engaged me in conversation and then asked if I needed some ice. He took the ice bucket and went down the hall. I hung up my coat which the bellman had placed on the bed and I picked up my briefcase in order to set up the computer in the room. As soon as I picked up the suitcase, I realized that it did not weigh as much as it should and looked inside. At that time I realized the computer and it's power supply were not there. Someone had stolen it between downstairs at baggage check-in and delivering to my room. I yelled at the bellman who was returning with ice that someone had stolen my computer. He asked me to check my suitcase to see if anything else was missing. I opened the suitcase, but told him there was nothing but my clothes in the suitcase to steal and therefore nothing worth stealing. He then phoned the hotel security desk and while speaking to the security officer asked me questions about the missing property. He then left at approx. 5:50 p.m. and said that a hotel security officer would be up in a few minutes.
Officer Gobourne, hotel security, came to my room and made queries about the missing property. After the security officer left, I phoned my office to report the theft and was told to make a report with the police. I then phoned the Atlanta police and was told that someone would be there in 3 or 4 hours to "take a report". Officer Gobourne left my room and phoned with more queries every 30 minutes or so for the next few hours. Then, 3 security officers (Officer Gobourne, Officer Ousman, Officer Fowler) and the Head bell captain (can't remember name) came to my room because the bellman had not retrieved any of my baggage claim checks from any of my luggage in his earnest to get out the door after calling security. They asked more questions and left leaving me with the baggage claim for the briefcase which had held the computer. At 10:00 p.m. I remembered that my FORTEZZA card was also inserted in the computer and I needed to report it's theft and loss as well. I then phoned the security officers to report the additional loss and the values and serial numbers of the missing computer and FORTEZZA card. An Atlanta police officer was with the security officers and they asked if I wanted him to take a report to which I said yes. Officer R.S. Johns, Airport Division, escorted by hotel security officer Ousman came and Officer Johns took a report from me of the stolen property. He told me that the police report would be filed, but that "this type of theft happens all of the time" and left with officer Ousman.
The next day I reported the stolen property to Ft McPherson CID, Agent Long. He said that he would gather the information and fax it to Ft Lewis CID and that they would probably be in contact with me. Each day I phoned the hotel security and each day whoever answered the phone gave me the same reply, "we are reviewing the hotel security tapes and I must speak with the hotel security director". At no time during my stay did the hotel "management" security or otherwise ever even attempt to talk with me. While the hotel conducted an investigation on February 7, 2000, I remained in my room to provide information and/or assist in the immediate investigation of the theft. I felt like a prisoner myself and under scrutiny while the hotel security conducted their investigation. It is my belief that the person/bellman who delivered my baggage was the one who removed the laptop from my briefcase. When he delivered the baggage, he laid my coat on the bed and put my briefcase in the wardrobe closet. In my opinion, he hoped that I would not want to access it before he left the room. My reason for being in Atlanta required the use of my computer so that is the first thing that I did was to pickup/open my briefcase. . From the first day arriving at the hotel, the violation that I personally felt was overwhelming and by the Thursday, 10 February, I wanted to move. I changed lodging to the Ft McPherson billeting as they now had a vacancy on 10 February because of the theft and unsafe feeling at the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel. Brenda Nix, hotel security manager, phoned me after checking out to ask more questions and to tell me that "the investigation was ongoing and that they were reviewing hotel security tapes". I asked about the liability/replacement of the stolen property and she said that she had already contacted the hotel insurance company and that I should deal with them directly in that regard. She told me to contact Karen Kelly at 1 800 433-0181 Ext. 257 for hotel insurance questions.
Left Atlanta, GA at 8:20 p.m. on 11FEB00 and arrived Seattle, WA on the same day at approx. 11:30 p.m. local time. No one from Atlanta or local CID has contacted me as yet. I have since received 2 letters from the "hotel insurance" company and in both letters the insurance company states after reviewing all of the information available they find "the hotel has no liability" in my loss. After the first letter, I sought legal advice and assistance from the Atlanta Better Business Bureau. The Atlanta BBB said that this was a civil matter and they could not help me. It seems to me that the community would be better served if they would have at least registered my complaint, but they would not. An Atlanta attorney said that according to Georgia laws, I have "no course for action" which means that because I did not personally own the laptop, I have no loss. Still I sent a second letter to the hotel insurance company and received the same reply with a note saying that the security report which lead them to this conclusion could be released to no one. The loss that I feel however is far greater than the loss of the laptop. I feel violated and stressed by my own responsibility or lack thereof since the security of the laptop was mine and it was stolen while under my responsibility. Not only has my integrity been questioned over and over again in this process, but I may be faced (undecided until officer concludes Report of Survey on the government loss) with having to repay the government nearly $5000 because I was the one that lost the property. Well, I submit to you and who all that will listen that I did not lose the laptop. The laptop was stolen. I packed that laptop in my briefcase the night before and no one had touched my briefcase until my arrival at the hotel (Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, Atlanta, GA). After a very long day of travel and my arrival at the door of a hotel which holds the illusion or "appearance" of a reputable, secure hotel, I gave up my briefcase which contained my laptop to the hotel bellman who greeted me prior to checkin. A Report of Survey is still pending over the loss and if it is decided that I should be held responsible, at that time I can sue the hotel in civil court because the loss would then be mine. If I am made to pay for the loss, then I will in fact sue the hotel. I will have to pursue this in civil court in Atlanta, Georgia however again placing the burden on the traveler. I suppose knowing all of this already is why the hotel insurance company "sees no liability on behalf of their client".
It is appalling that tourists are allowed to be victimized while the companies are "protected". Each time I see a movie or television program which shows downtown Atlanta, I am reminded of this incident. I was lured by the illusion of a professional and safe environment with service personnel to assist customers and I let my guard down thinking that since I was greeted by a bellman this was a hotel of higher class and integrity. It is my opinion that since hotels often times deal with people that are out of state that it is "easier" for them to ignore complaints because the very customers which they house will go home soon. Letting my guard down is the only thing that I am guilty of and I would submit to others that a well-known hotel or chain does not mean that they will be "safe". Also, if giving my luggage up to a hotel person and receiving a claim ticket for it does not make the hotel liable or responsible, then the hotel should clearly state that rather than present the illusion that they are. Beware is all that I have to say. Do not let go of any personal belongings even to a bellman as it would seem that they are not responsible and according to the hotel are not "liable" either. While this hotel presents the illusion or "appearance" of a reputable, secure hotel, it is merely a facade for the backstreet thieves to hide behide. Appearances can be deceiving and use Caution, Caution, Caution is what I would tell others travelling and staying in hotels!!!