I’m in Vegas, My Bag is Not

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Today I flew to visit two friends who were meeting up in Vegas for the weekend.  They were here for several days before my arrival, but due to toddler care-taking commitments (AKA being a mom), I couldn’t get away for the whole weekend.  However, I was very excited to join them for one night.  We were going to go to the pool, go out to dinner, play some slots, and just have fun.

I did what any reasonable gal would do when going to meet up with girlfriends in Vegas for one night.  I packed a nice swimsuit, swimsuit cover, going out dress, casual clothes, heels, sandals, make-up, extra “just in case we change our minds and do something else clothes”, etc.  Since this was just a one night event, I clearly did not plan on checking my bag.

This morning I woke up right when the alarm went off at (a very early) 5AM.  I successfully got ready and out of the house without waking the sleeping toddler and headed to the airport.  I’m not a morning person, so successfully getting out of the house even roughly on time is a victory.  I was early enough there was no traffic on I-45, and I arrived to the airport ready to rock and roll……..until I reached security.  It was a Monday morning and I expected some sort of security line.  However, they were only operating one of the three security lines, and as a result the very long line was moving at a slug’s pace.  Not good.  Then my gate was about as far as it could be from where I was.  Also not good.

Despite the pretty hefty security delay I make it to the gate without running, and with at last 10-15 minutes to spare.  They had already been through the boarding process, but the plane was by no means 100% full.  However, the bins were apparently already 100% full.  I am blocked at the door and told that I must gate check my carry-on since there is no more space.  I immediately had a bad feeling about this.  We were close to the time of departure, I had a connection with a decent length layover, and something just felt wrong.  I went so far as to write my phone number a second time on an extra bag tag while I stood there because I was worried.  But, regardless of my concern I didn’t want to hold up the line as other folks were now stuck behind me and my ill fated bag, so my only protest to checking my bag was the sad face that I made as I walked away from my bag.  In retrospect, I should have taken a few key items out of the bag since it was no longer a carry-on.

I had brunch with a friend during my layover in San Francisco (thanks Jetsetr!) and then made it to Las Vegas on time.  When I arrived at the luggage carousel and didn’t see my bag circling with the other bags I again had a bad feeling.  You know where this story is heading – my bag didn’t make it.  After waiting in line to talk to the United baggage office I am immediately told that the paper bag tag thing that the flight attendant filled out is “all wrong”.  Honestly I can’t tell what is “all wrong” about it by looking at it, but the bag boss lady insisted it was all wrong and she wasn’t sure where my bag would be.  Attempting to track it in the computer did no good.  There was no estimate of when it might arrive.  There was no guess as to a location where it might be.  There were no emergency flares sent up.  Just, no bag.  No clothes.  No make-up.  No dice.  She was impressed I had a photo of my bag – heck, I have a whole post about my bag!

I try to explain that I have nothing with me and will need clothes, a hair brush, etc.  She gives me a case number and tells me to call a 1-800 number if I need some items immediately.  The only way to get authorized for the reimbursement of some immediate needs items is to call and request approval.  I call that 1-800 number the second I get out of the airport and explain to the woman on the phone the list of items I need right now.  For starters I need a change of clothes, a hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, a bathing suit, etc.  I am on vacation and need those items right now to make the most of my already insanely short trip to visit friends.  If this happened when I was returning home, my needs would be much less.  I try explaining that I don’t have a car and will be purchasing these items at the hotel so they will be quite pricey.  They didn’t particularly care about that and authorized $100.  If I had access to a car and Target that would probably work, but I had already lost about 90 minutes of my already short trip dealing with this, so I was stuck shopping at the Mirage Hotel.  I love Vegas, but the “Vegas Fabulous” look is not my typical style.

This is where things get funny.  As expected, prices for any clothing items at a hotel are insanely high.  Just for fun, here was a portion of the shopping list:

Hootchy-mama Kim Kardashian hot pink bathing suit that only covers a small portion of my tail: $135 (and trust me, it was the best of the available  overpriced options)

Fairly Gaudy Beatles Love t-shirt: $35

Semi-Tacky (and super short) Bare pool shorts: $36

Two items of lame-o not even my color make-up: $70

That is $276 for a handful of items I didn’t even want, but I couldn’t go to the pool without a swimsuit, and needed some clothes to change into.  I also needed at least a little make-up since we were eating a nice dinner in Vegas.  Truly, I look like a Hot Vegas Mess.  That $100 barely scratches the surface.  To make things worse, I didn’t pack my inexpensive clothes in that bag.  Since I was going to Vegas many of my favorite (and probably more expensive) articles of clothing and shoes were in that bag.  Had I been going camping or to the beach, the t-shirts and shoes I would have lost would have been much easier to replace, but I wasn’t going camping.  I was doing something pretty rare for me – I was getting dressed up.  I didn’t plan to check that bag in the first place, so hadn’t packed it as a checked bag.  I was at least smart enough not to have electronics, jewelery, cash, etc. in there.  I know it is just stuff, but it is my stuff and I would prefer to not lose it.

So, tomorrow I will be decked out from head to toe in the finest duds the gift shop has to offer.  As to what happens next with my bag – I’m not sure.  I’m supposed to keep calling to check the status with that 1-800 number, and I am also supposed to mail in my $100 worth of “immediate needs” receipts for reimbursement.  I guess the other $186 I spent today on my new wardrobe is just tough luck for me.  What stinks is they just seem to have no clue as to where the bag could have gone.  I’m trying to stay optimistic, but stay on the look-out for a forest green Briggs and Riley bag on the next episode of “Baggage Battles” on the Travel Channel.  I’ll trade you a barely used Kardashian bathing suit for the bag.  Heck, I’ll even throw in a Beatles Love t-shirt free of charge.

Travel enough and a lost or delayed bag is bound to happen.  Truthfully, it is better that it happened on this trip than a longer trip, or one with my daughter.  However, that doesn’t mean it any less annoying, expensive, or time consuming to deal with on this trip.  I hope my bag will magically re-appear tomorrow.  If not, I’m sure it will be a super fun process of trying to recoup at least a good portion of what was actually in the bag.  My take-away fro this so far is that if you are only going somewhere for a night, just bring a bag that will fit under the seat in front of you.  The roller bag is super convenient to pull through the airport, but much less convenient when it fails to arrive at your final destination.  It is easy to look back at this situation and point out all the places I could have done something differently, but in the end that doesn’t get me any closer to being reunited with my clothes and non-hoochy mama bathing suit.  Oh well, maybe I can at least hit the progressive on the Wheel of Fortune slot machines as a consolation prize!  😉

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  1. Sorry to hear about your bag.

    My go-to short trip bag is a leather Coach weekend bag. It doesn’t roll, but it squeezes into the smallest RJ overheads or even under a seat if it has to. I’ve fit it many times into overheads that another roll-aboard would never have made it into and probably avoided just what happened to you.

    Good luck getting it back – look forward to the follow-up post.

  2. Reminds me of the time when I flew in for my wedding and the big suitcase with my custom tailored tuxedo got delayed. Luckily they shipped it to me next day, 4 days ahead of the wedding.

  3. Delta now has a cool bag tag scanner feature on their app. You always know where your bag is.

    If you need to carry-on, I’d skip the roll-aboards and go with the big square bags that fit under the seat.

  4. Umm…Is that $100 from the 1-800 provided by United? How about the travel protection from credit cards? Can it help in this case?

  5. I might be the first to say it. But I know Im not the 1st to think it. 😉 Will we get a picture of this much talked about bathing suit?

  6. A cab to Target (or similar) and back probably would have reduced your cost (incl. cab) by half; maybe even more. Would have cost you an hour but 140.00 for that hour? I’m in.

  7. Check this out: http://upgrd.com/matthew/lost-luggage-benefits-from-chase-sapphire-preferred.html

    I’m sure you’re aware there’s two kinds of gate checking: just checking to SFO (green tag) and checking to your final destination (white tag IME). If you got the green tag and didn’t pick the bag up in SFO, then it’s your fault. However, if they said they’d check the bag through to LAS, then it’s obviously their fault.

    I’m just a little suspicious that they would have offered to check your bag to your final destination because they almost never do that.

  8. @HansGolden – totally agree. If they will check in all the way to LAS, they had to attach standard baggage tag, issue receipt, and the bag would then be traceable through the system.
    Again – the golden rule should be remembered: “never check in ANYTHING you’ll need in next 24 hours”.

  9. My wife always packs a small spare outfit in her bag… I didnt believe in it at first until we missed a connecting flight from LAX to KOA… and had to stay overnight… lets just say she had fresh clothes 🙂

  10. Truly sucks. Agree with – pics! Agree with Jeffrey – why not cab it to Target straight from the airport?

    I have a somewhat related question, maybe you know the answer. On three of 4 trips (non-stop SFO-IAH or back) when we checked our car seats, they were delayed. Meaning, they weren’t lost, just deliberately put on a later flight. What’s up with that?? Is it because they are irregular items it is hard to load them towards the end of the loading process? Was super inconvenient.

    After than we decided to just buy extra car seats for grandparents in Houston. They won’t be used often, but the certainty is worth it.

  11. I’m with Jayson. My carryon is a backpack. It has been used for about eighteen years now, and is showing a little wear, but I have NEVER been asked to gate check it-even when it is stuffed to the maximum and won’t fit in the overhead bin of a regional jet. It always has my shaving kit and spare shirt, shorts, socks, and underwear.

    Did you try telling the gate agent that you would put it on the floor under your sear? Or was it just that the bag was too large to fit there?

  12. ouch, good luck finding the bag…. if not, i hope United compensates you dearly for the items lost and a little extra, maybe 50,000 united miles!

  13. I know my saying so will not fix your problem but your story supports my long held belief that this a serious problem within nearly all US carriers regarding their luggage liability issues in general. Proposed congressional actions to beef up airline baggage responsibilities nearly always result in the proposals going nowhere. European carriers have greater compensation rules than US carriers regarding lost baggage issues. This also holds true for denied boarding situations as well. It was recently reported that that top 17 largest carriers in the world made over 800 million dollars in bag fees in the most recent reporting quarter. Though your situation was a carry-on related issue, those fees should firstly be utilized to more fully compensate for costs incurred by their customers for their failure to deliver on their contract to handle luggage transactions correctly, not beefing up their bottom line.

  14. @Alex, funny enough…when I was at SFO for my layover I was walking around the Coach store and saw that exact bag and though it would be perfect (assuming I could find it on sale or at the Outlet!) for a weekend trip. Good choice!
    @Rasputin, yikes!! I did carry-on my wedding dress. 😉 (to Vegas in fact!)
    @Rob, for short trips like this going back to the “under seat” mentality is a good idea.
    @Rayn, yes, provided by United. I booked this ticket using my Business Gold Rewards Amex, but am not sure it has much of a baggage benefit since it is a business card. I honestly haven’t had time to check yet.
    @Ken in Phx, ha ha. I thought about that, but may have to have a few more drinks than I did to post evidence of that article of clothing!
    @Jeffery C, normally I would agree, but I only had about 90 minutes left to be with my friend in the pool before we had to get ready for dinner. I didn’t want to trade that for saving some money. Price you pay for such a short trip I guess.
    @HansGolden, they refused to gate check via the green tag. The guy in front of me asked and they said no they weren’t doing that. It was the white tag checked to your final destination. I would have preferred to get it off the plane at the gate in SFO, but that wasn’t an option.
    @AX9465, I got the white tag the number, receipt, everything. She told me it wasn’t coming up in the system. Seemed strange to me too. Very true about the 24 hour rule. I just wasn’t planning on checking the bag, so hadn’t packed accordingly.
    @oliver, your wife is a smart woman!
    @maximizer, time was my enemy in going to Target. I already barely had enough time to spend with my friends and couldn’t afford to lose any more time with a detour. As for the car seat question, I’m not sure. I did see lots of car seats in the baggage office. They also were helping a family whose car seat didn’t arrive. They said they had tons of them they could give to them until they could FedEx theirs to their final destination.
    @Jayson, very good strategy.
    @Scott M, I’m not sure if the bag would have fit under the seat. It might have, but it might not have. My packing strategy for short trips will be going back to something that fits under the seat in front of me. I traveled with a duffel bag for years and years and love the convenience of the roller, but there is a price for that convenience for sure…….
    @Jamison, thanks!
    @Chuck, I agree – that seems like a reasonable use of those funds to me. 😉 Let’s just say that the baggage office was hopping yesterday. I was by no means the only person in LAS looking for their bag.

  15. I always travel with one of those drawstring style backpacks you can find in athletic stores (or Target!). They’re cheap and take up almost no space when empty so you can throw it into your regular rollaboard. Usually I use it as a daypack throughout the trip, but it also works well if you end up buying a few souvenirs and need the extra space on the way home. The added benefit is you could quickly throw a few things into it for a last-minute gate check.

    Of course, hindsight is 20/20 🙂

  16. You obviously got a very clueless agent. The pieces are coming together for me now, however, for what happened. I would bet the agent had no clue how to actually use the white tags–didn’t know you have to enter them manually into each passenger’s reservation in the computer–which is why s/he was doing check-through instead of green tag to start with (it can take anywhere from 45 seconds to 5 minutes per bag to do this, which is why GAs generally hate doing it). And then, of course, s/he didn’t enter them in the computer (at least not properly) and the bags were thoroughly orphaned.

  17. MP – your girlfriends couldn’t help a sister out (at least with some makeup, t-shirt, etc?). Maybe ladies don’t do that. Us fellas improvise!

    My little brother was in town in Denver for a job interview (from Ohio) and dropped me off at work so he could borrow my car. Unfortunatly, I noticed he had totally ripped the ass of his suit pants! Luckily we are similar sizes, so he took my dress clothes and I worked in a pair of workout clothes in my office. Made the day’s meetings a little awkward though 🙂

  18. btw, please check into credit card protection of baggage and whether you’d be eligible. Let us know how that angle works out.

  19. @New Girl, good strategy. You are right, hindsight is 20/20 on this one.
    @HansGolden, thoroughly orphaned doesn’t sound good. 😉 I will look into the credit card piece. I used a business card for this purchase, so that makes me think there will be fewer protections, but I just don’t know yet. It’s actually a good topic to cover in general.
    @Blaine, they did help as much as they could. I wore their shoes and used some of their make-up. However, since I am much lighter than them I had to get some of my own as well. They are also at the end of a trip so don’t have tons of stuff to share, but they were more than willing to help with what they could.

  20. I’m a united 1K and I don’t think I’ve checked a bag this year yet on a domestic trip. One thing I hate is how you are forced to board early to get your overhead space if you’re in economy. I’m a fan of Timbuk2 backpacks which I have found work well for for trips of 2-3 nights or shorter and can fit under the seat if needed, they have laptop protection included.


  21. The good thing is you have a slightly used hot pink bathing suit that will fit your daughter when she turns 10. 🙂

  22. MP, are we going to be seeing you on Housewives of NJ? The friend in the middle looks exactly like Caroline’s daughter.

    Good luck with the bag. It sounds like a complaint is in order regardless of the outcome.

  23. Sorry about that. Hopefully you still had a lot of fun. Another example of the airlines treating customers like a piece of garbage. No, I don’t mean losing your bag. Mistakes happen. I mean charging for luggage. Everyone tries to avoid the fees and carries on the plane instead. Airlines are the ones who are causing security delays because of the extra screenings, passenger fights for overhead space, and lost luggage. You never heard of overhead bins being full 20 years ago. Until the federal goverment steps in and forces airlines to allow at least one free checked bag per customer, this will continue to spiral down even further.

  24. Same thing happened to me last month on Air Canada except I actually checked my luggage. I was told to fill out a form so they could “locate it in the system”. I told they guy I know where it is, it’s in Boston – mystery solved. Oh no, this made too much sense to pick up the phone, call Boston and throw it on the next flight. I walked around like a goat for 24 hours, wasted my time and $ replacing items. They “found” my luggage right before my return flight and charged me $25 for luggage I didn’t even have during my trip. I am STILL waiting to hear back from AC. grrr

  25. I felt so bad for you when I read this post. We were in Vegas this week as well (at the Palazzo). I know it takes a lot of time packing for a trip, especially when it is 114 degrees and you have to change from day clothes to fun night clothes, or just to freshen up after being in the heat. A quick trip to Target would not have been quick. I know you didn’t want to spend your time shopping. Thank goodness we had a Walgreens close by–we always run in to get something we forgot. I hope you had fun and hope you get your luggage back. My husband and I had a great time on our 4 night trip. On the way home, US air closed the door on us in Charlotte though when they decided to leave 20 minutes early and we missed our connecting flight home. We had been delayed several hours on our trip out of Charlotte last week because of “mechanical issues”. I think that USair has issues. Long story, always happy to be home.

    • @Kathy, aw thanks. So glad you had a good trip and sorry you had trouble getting home. Agree that it is always nice to return home!

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