Following up on the development of this unfortunate incident first covered here, I talked with Jonathan Halpern, John DeVore and Mike Maloney of T.H.E. Show today. Certain details added to the story paint a picture of unfortunate and unpredictable circumstances.

One security guard on staff of the St. Tropez was informed that his grandmother had died that very morning. He left the premises in tears and with the key that would have locked up the ball room in which the burglary victims had stored their pallet. The remaining guard may or may not have been clear that the urgent reason for promptly locking up the space after Von Schweikert's crew had emptied it had to do with a pallet of valuables remaining inside. As far as that guard might have been concerned, a space had been vacated by its occupants. What was the bloody rush to materialize a second key and lock it shut?

By the same token, neither Halpern nor DeVore were notified that in the absence of the necessary key, they had to personally baby-sit their goods.

As DeVore recounts when he woke a sleeping Mike Maloney in the morning of the incident, Maloney assured him not to worry, that he'd take care of whatever had been stolen and would be right down. Again as recounted by DeVore, by the time Maloney had gotten dressed and arrived at the scene of the crime, the implied responsibility for the burglary had shifted to whatever insurance rider the exhibitors had taken out. The on-line exhibitor contract of T.H.E. Show denies all fiscal liability for loss or damage of goods and advises exhibitors to rely on their own insurance. Perhaps out of naivety or oversight, neither of the two parties impacted purchased a rider to extend their usual coverage to an outside event.

When I asked him whether he carried liability insurance for his own show, Maloney replied that yes, naturally he did. When asked whether he ever had to invoke it since he began hosting T.H.E. Show many years ago, he said no. When asked whether the present incident perhaps warranted the formal filing a claim, he promised he'd certainly try his best. He also offered Jonathan Halpern an exhibit room at his raw cost for next year's event. While a very gracious gesture, the amount saved doesn't begin to approach the amount lost.

Halpern and DeVore have a suspicion as to who might have taken advantage of the very narrow 45-minute window of early-morning opportunity. Von Schweikert had hired two gents off the street to assist with break-down of his monumental exhibit. One of these gents had a business card identifying him as a shipper for hire, the other apparently just happened to show up around 10:30PM on a skate board. When Von Schweikert's crew foreman as the last worker left the ball room -- which housed the pallet of DeVore and Halpern -- he recalls that someone at that point might still have been in the bathroom.

The theft could have been avoided had DeVore broken down the palette (which didn't fit into his own room) as
suggested by the TWI shipper contact who would have returned the next morning to handle things. When DeVore asked her whether finding a temporary storage space inside the hotel wasn't preferable to undoing the shrink-wrapped pallet for which he'd missed that evening's last pickup, she agreed. At that point, Mike Maloney was called who suggested the large ballroom -- which Von Schweikert was clearing out -- as the only lockable space accessible by pallet jack. Maloney now regrets having offered his help since it ended up unwittingly backfiring on him as the show organizer.

The open question remains whether the appropriate response is "tough luck" to the exhibitors who failed to provide their own insurance; or whether hotel and/or T.H.E. Show management are legally or morally liable to assume fiscal responsibility for first identifying a storage area as lockable and thus secure and then failing to lock it up when advised by Von Schweikert's foreman via phone.

It's a tough situation for everyone involved. Let's hope it gets sorted out. If Maloney's liability insurance does step in, perhaps he and Devore/Halpern can share the cost of the deductible to spread out "the pain" equally? One thing is for sure: Participants at such events are well advised to procure comprehensive insurance riders for their goods, especially for an event like T.H.E. Show which contractually disowns any such obligations on their website a priori.