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How I won a dispute with a four-star hotel thanks to what LSAT had taught me

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This year’s law school admissions period is reaching its end. Many successful applicants are immersed in the joys of celebrating a long-awaited offer from their dream school. First of all, congrats to all! I know exactly how it feels because I’m one of you – I just enrolled in a J.D. program and am starting in the fall of 2018!

In this hard-earned and much-deserved time of congratulations, how many of you still want to look back and pay tribute to our “love-hate relationship” with the LSAT test? I, as someone who’s gone through my share of ups and downs with this “partner,” would like to spare a little time to reflect on how this hardcore training shaped me as a pre-qualified aspiring legal practitioner. I hope you will enjoy my story of successfully disputing a charge with a four-star hotel in New York City, and yes, it was thanks to what the LSAT had taught me.

In 2017, I stayed in a hotel in midtown Manhattan for a few nights. I was staying alone and, before I checked out, I realized that I had more stuff than I could carry all by myself. I called the bell desk from my room and asked for help, explaining that I also needed to store my luggage for A FEW hours.

A moment later, a bell guy came to my door with the cart and asked to take my bags. I handed him a total of five bags (technically speaking, a large suitcase, a small suitcase, a wheeled bag, a shopping bag and a plastic bag as shown in the pictures).

  

The guy left without saying anything about the hotel’s storage policy, and the person who had picked up my call earlier had not mentioned a storage policy either. I therefore assumed that the hotel would only expect tips in exchange for storing my bags, as is the case in many other hotels.

I sighed with relief before heading to the checkout line in the reception. The bell guy suddenly showed up after leaving my luggage in storage and handed me a total of five tags with a $4 amount on each as shown in the picture. He told me to pay $20 in total when I went to retrieve my bags later that day. I was stunned.

During my stay in this four-star international hotel, I had noticed some unreasonable charges here and there, but charging guests $4 for each bag – including the plastic bag – without explaining the storage policy in advance was a different story. It crossed my line.

At that moment, I decided to use my very limited legal skills (which were basically the reasoning skills I had trained for through the LSAT) to dispute these charges and to defend my consumer rights as a hotel guest.

I needed to talk to someone from the hotel. Thinking not to cause a scene, I approached one receptionist quietly, telling him that I needed to talk to someone on duty who could hear my complaint. After a short moment, he found the floor manager of the hotel – let’s call him Manager V.

Then the real argument began.

Manager V listened to my side of the story attentively before trying to convince me to accept the charges. In my story, I listed two counts of wrongful behavior committed by the bell desk – first, not disclosing the hotel’s storage policy in advance to the guest; second, not revealing that the hotel does not distinguish between bags of different sizes.

Manager V politely argued with me for several rounds, iterating that $20 is “small money and not worth taking the time to argue for,” and that he does not believe the bell guy “would risk his own job by cheating a guest out of $20.” I soon pointed out his invalid assumptions by stating that “each dollar could mean different things to different person. Moreover, it is not about the amount of money or even about money in general. It is about the customer experience.” Also, “assuming another party’s motive is too subjective. We can only talk about facts.”

After seeing how the argument could go on and on with no resolution, I gave Manager V one more account of the hotel’s wrongdoing – which was something had I learned by surprise only after I took another look at the five tags I had reluctantly received. A different company’s name was shown on the tags. I was then told that the hotel had outsourced their storage operations to an outside company. Hmm, the situation was getting worse.

I made it very clear that this was an infringement of my consumer rights. I, as a guest, had no knowledge about the change in ownership of the hotel’s storage operations. Had I known about the change, I would absolutely have reconsidered my decision to store my luggage in the hotel. Just because I trusted the hotel with my belongings did not mean I would have equally trusted an unknown third party whose information had not been shared with me.

This last count brought the whole argument to an end almost immediately. Manager V asked one of his associates to accompany me to the storage room, retrieving all my bags and waiving the $20 fee completely. Before I left the hotel with the bags, Manager V insisted on getting a hotel vehicle to send me to my next destination, which I politely refused. I was only there to defend my rights, not to ask for privileges that did not belong to me in the first place.

When I said goodbye to Manager V, I acknowledged his professionalism. It is a shame that we were at different ends of the dispute, but Manager V is a likable person in general, trying to do his best with an injury (his leg had been hurt). I wished him a speedy recovery and told him that he had prevented further damage to the hotel’s brand name. I thanked Manager V for listening to my complaint and taking care of it. Always remember: if you win a fight, never take it for granted. Thank people for correcting the wrong.

That same night, lying in bed in a different hotel, I started to browse sites like Expedia and Travelocity to read some of the previous hotel’s reviews. I should not have been surprised to see negative and angry comments about the guests’ storage experience everywhere. But I did not see one comment stating that the guest had fought to get his or her fee back instead of just letting it be. I sighed and closed my laptop – I knew we had a long way to go and I had more work to do. And I will leave that to my upcoming law school days.

Author Name: Cindy Qu (Lovenemy)

 

Author Bio:

Cindy Qu aka Lovenemy is a transpacific philosopher, writer, artist and social advocate. Currently writing two books – Lovenemy and The Self-Made Networker, she also creates philosophical and inspirational quotes to motivate people and bring about social change. As a self-taught photographer, she enjoys traveling to explore and capture the beauty and wonder of life. A former director of corporate culture at a multinational consumer electronics company, she is making a career transition to law by enrolling in a J.D. program at a top U.S. law school in the fall of 2018.