Help! My Jewelry Was Stolen From My Hotel Room

My friend and I recently stayed in a posh hotel in London. Five days after checking out, my friend discovered several pieces of jewelry missing and realized they had been stolen while she was at the hotel. I am horrified that this would happen. I have a journal entry from my grandmother’s trip to Paris in 1936 in which she describes having earrings stolen from her hotel room — I know theft happens, but I don’t know what consumers are supposed to do about it.


I empathize with your friend (and your grandma!) and I especially relate to the feeling of being horrified.

About three years ago, one of my rings disappeared from a Paris hotel where my husband and I were babymooning at the time. I had left all of my jewelry out in plain view — foolish, I know. The hotel had physical room keys (versus key cards), making it impossible to track who had entered. Hotel management insisted that I had misplaced the ring (I didn’t) and denied any fault.

Take it from me: Pregnancy hormones and missing diamonds don’t mix well. But even as I (unsuccessfully) explored the possibility of restitution, I confronted a reality that even most experts agree on: “This is a very convoluted area of the law,” said Stephen Barth, a Houston-based attorney who specializes in the hospitality industry. Who’s to blame, legally, and the action you can take depends on a dizzying list of factors, ranging from where in the world you are to the vicissitudes of decades-old innkeeper statutes.

Mr. Barth stressed the importance of using the hotel-provided safe — either the in-room safe or the front-desk safe deposit box — not only from the obvious practical standpoint, but from a legal one as well. In the United States, he said, a hotel may be liable for the entire value of items stolen from the safe if there is clear complicity or negligence. A hotel’s liability for items left out of the safe varies by state, with generally unfavorable limits: around $300 to $500.

Things get even more complicated when travelers — like your friend who remained unaware of a potential incident until days after checkout — don’t act in the moment.

“The first and most important step is to report the theft or loss — first to hotel management and then to the police. You’ll most likely need to provide a formal police report to file with a travel insurance claim,” said Stan Sandberg, the co-founder of travel insurance comparison website

So although I wouldn’t have luck going to bat for your friend so far after the fact, I’d like to use my remaining column space to lay out other guardrails. Most people do as I did: wait until something bad happens. Having been through it, I wish I had been more proactive up front.

First, take the time to look at what’s covered — or not — by your current insurance, and note that general travel insurance doesn’t always cover the full value of fine jewelry. “While the total coverage limits range from $1,000 to $3,000 on standard and premium plans, they may have per-item limits for jewelry or high-value items of $500,” Mr. Sandberg said.

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