Tuesday 4 July 2017

On the take

It seems many hotel guests are so light-fingered they nick everything they can from their hotel rooms. Only the item size and limited space in suitcases prevents wholesale asset-stripping.

Everything is seen as fair game - bed linen, towels, pillows, even batteries, light bulbs and kettles. And as hotels would never dare to search their customers' suitcases as they leave, it couldn't be easier to smuggle things out.

Some items are seen as legit. Like anything that can't be re-used. Or anything unused that might have been used and gets replaced for the next guest. So most people freely take things like shampoo, soap and shower gel.

And if there isn't enough loot in your hotel room, then there's always the unattended housekeeper's trolley ready for a surreptitious raid.

Personally I can't shake off my engrained moral stance that it's wrong to nick stuff. Even if it's going to be replaced. Even if it's only worth a few pence. Even if the room cost was exorbitant. Even if nobody will ever know.

So I never pinch anything. Not even the fancy pens and stationery with a swanky hotel logo. Or a bar of soap. Or the sachets of coffee. I'm obviously a glaring oddity among a tsunami of casual thieves.

As for light bulbs and batteries - are people really so hard up they need to grab them? It's not as if they're charming souvenirs. Why on earth bother?

I guess if the hotel is part of some vast global chain, people often think systematic hoisting doesn't matter as it's merely a tiny dent in their obscenely enormous income. That's as may be, but I still think Theft Is Wrong. Call me old-fashioned....

Or maybe it's just my secret nightmare that as I check out, my suitcase bursts open and an avalanche of hotel property tumbles out around me. The embarrassment would finish me off.


  1. Funny you should mention a suitcase opening at point of checking out. Happened to a friend of mine. They don't come more sophisticated than her. In a sort of peasant way.

    Yes, so there she was, Five Star, Ms Big in the travel industry enscoced at the higher echelons of "travel as an incentive", earning more money than is easy to spend without abandon, yet what do you know: She couldn't resist the lure of that hotel's bathrobe. Made a marvellous anecdote to share among many a dinner table. No one laughed louder than her.

    By way of mitigating circumstances, Nick, I suppose the "overheads" of nicked hotel goods are offset by the outrageous prices of the minibar.

    Of course you could be more upfront. As I am. A couple of years or so ago the washing machine door wouldn't open. It was full of towels - as yet wet. The Angel demanded a shower. He doesn't compromise on cleanliness even if eschewing godliness. So I went a couple of buildings down, at seven in the morning - a boutique hotel. Two gorgeous bath towels handed to me. No money changed hands.

    When I came back (like five minutes later) with the fluffiest of the fluffy the Angel looked at me, somewhat exasperated: "Only you, Mama, only you".


  2. That 'wholesale asset tripping' line got me chuckling. And don't get me started on the 'tsunami of casual thieves'. Real gems indeed.

    Most people believe that whatever they nick is paid for, not sure about light bulbs and batteries (Really?). Same thing happens on airplanes -if people could leave with their seats they would.

  3. Ursula: The bathrobe must have been quite something for her to try and make off with it. How true about the outlandish minibar prices. Jenny and I never use the minibar, in fact some hotels have removed them. When we first went to Italy, we were so naive we thought everything in the minibar was complimentary. There was quite a to-do when we tried to check out without paying the mini-bar tab. Fortunately the tour operator rep managed to get the bill waived (those were the days!)

    Two bath towels free of charge - amazing!

  4. Blogoratti: Thanks for the compliment! Clearly those guests who nick half the contents of their hotel room have no conscience or moral scruples whatever. I guess they just see what they're doing as "a bit of a laugh". Or as getting even for what they see as rip-off prices.

  5. I have no idea why anyone would steal anything these days. You have to use a credit card to pay at anywhere I have ever stayed and if anything is missing, there are all sorts of signs in the room telling you how much an item is and that the amount will be charged to your card if you decide to take it.

    Just last week on our trip, the Inn had reusable mini milk bottles for you to fill with water. The sign in the fridge said that if you enjoyed them, you could take them home for $15 a piece, charged to your card.

  6. My doctor told me that his patients stole a scented candle from the restroom....and all of the feminine hygiene products in the cabinet! 😂

  7. I'm like u I might take a half used handcream if I like the scent (yum lime-ginger) but I find abhorrent the kind of ripoffs mentioned here. The biggest rip off I know of was a graduate degree piano removed from a Toronto hotel by 4 thieves, one of whom I knew. They always said it was the easiest thing in the world to remove huge items from hotels and proved it time and again."Maintenance".

    Those were the days of admiration for gall.


  8. Stealing things from hotels isn't my cup of tea either. Not that we travel much nowadays --- just every two years to visit Kaitlin, Torben and the pups.

  9. Bijoux: Wow, signs warning you that anything missing will be charged. I've never heard of anything that drastic over here. That must be quite a deterrent. I gather some hotels now have gift shops where you can buy any items you take a fancy to, rather than pilfering them.

  10. www: Yes, I'd heard of grand pianos being stolen, and I didn't quite believe it, but as you say that magic word "maintenance" (and a pair of grubby overalls?) is probably enough to reassure any doubting hotel staff.

    Jean: Not much scope for nicking things, then! Unless you take a fancy to the pups....

  11. Jennifer: Whoops, almost missed you there! Stealing a scented candle is pretty petty, but sanitary products I can understand. They're not cheap and there are many women who can barely afford them - what's now known as "period poverty".

  12. You're not the only one, Nick.
    I don't walk off with stuff from a hotel - even the freebies like shower gel, shampoo etc which don't even get touched because I take my own.
    Maybe hotels would be less expensive if they didn't have to add on a bit to compensate for the thieves?

  13. My parents used to own a fairly big hotel in Weymouth and they found that all sorts of stuff was stolen, not just from the rooms. Cutlery, glassware and crockery were pinched from the dining room too. And once, they were called by the police, who'd arrested an employee (a long-term, trusted one) as they'd been to his house for some reason and discovered in their search that all his towels, china etc had the hotel logo on. He'd pilfered for several years.

    I'll take toiletries provided for my use if they're nice and the small bottles are useful - but if I don't need them, I leave them for the chambermaid, who will undoubtedly take them anyway. I'll take slippers if I've used them, as they'll be thrown out otherwise, otherwise I leave them. And I will take the pen if it's a nice hotel as a memento and a reminder to revisit. I take the view that all these are included in the room price, but anything else is stealing. But, as Bijoux says, all hotels take your credit card details and I don't see how one might get away with taking bathrobes etc nowadays in any case.

  14. Dave: Indeed, the cost of replacing all those missing items must be considerable. Bed linen and towels don't come cheap.

    Z: Funny how many long-term trusted employees are secretly on the fiddle! They take a few items and nobody notices, so they get bolder and bolder.

    I agree, I'd count all those items as included in the room charge. Yes, hotels always take credit card details, but they'd still need solid proof that you'd taken something before they could charge you for it. Housekeepers sometimes forget to give you the normal number of towels or shampoo sachets or whatever.

  15. During my working days I had spent more nights in hotel rooms, airplanes and air ports than I did at home. I simply lived off a suitcase and could not be bothered to lug any thing more than what experience had taught me to carry in my suit case. No question of ever stealing something. There were a couple of occasions when with the permission of the hotel management I had taken hand towels out but returned them before checking out.

    Just to lighten up, let me share a story with you.

    A man wrote a letter to a small hotel in a town he planned to visit on his holiday.

    He wrote: I would very much like to bring my dog with me. He is well-groomed and very well behaved. Would you be willing to permit me to keep him in my room with me at night?"

    An immediate reply came from the hotel owner, who wrote:

    "I've been operating this hotel for many years. In all that time, I've never had a dog steal towels, bedclothes, silverware or pictures off the walls.

    I've never had to evict a dog in the middle of the night for being drunk and disorderly. And I've never had a dog run out on a hotel bill. Yes, indeed, your dog is welcome at my hotel.

    And, if your dog will vouch for you, you're welcome to stay here, too."

  16. Ramana: What a wonderful story! Yes, if all the guests were dogs, the pilfering would vanish overnight. Except maybe the odd tasty snack from a dining room table....

  17. I inadvertently left my soap holder and brand new full-size bar of soap at the last place we stayed two weeks ago, Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge www.queenwilhelmina.com/lodge/ . We actually remembered it, though, about half-way home. There was no way we were going to turn around to get it.

    Because of neck problems, I used to take and use my own pillow when we traveled. After staying at the the Lodge at Mount Magazine http://www.mountmagazinestatepark.com/lodge-cabins/ , we remembered the pillow after we were all of the way down the mountain. That time we did turn around and go back and, finding the pillow on a housekeeping cart, grabbed it and left before we found a housekeeper to ask about it.

    The most we've ever taken is toiletries laid out for customer use. These days, we pack a "bathroom bag" with all of the things we normally use, so have no need to use any consumables from the hotel. Taking anything else just never crossed our minds -- nor should it.

  18. On the rare occasions I use a hotel I have never found anything that I would want to take away...but even if I did, I would not. Just seems wrong.

  19. Mike: We very rarely leave anything behind, but Jenny once left a pair of gloves at a holiday cottage. She was prepared to forget them, but a few days later they arrived in the post, promptly returned by the cottage-owner. We were most impressed.

    We also take our own toiletries, but we like to sample what's on offer.

  20. Helen: We've sometimes coveted very luxurious, very high-quality items. But we would never make off with them.

  21. I have, at times, kept toiletries but i eventually decided that i didn't want to bother. Why take the trouble to nick a mini shampoo and take it home and unpack it for the sake of a single wash?
    A while back my daughter was staying in a hotel and told me that the towels were so fluffy, would she be able to keep one? I said that she is an adult and I wont tell her what to do but it would be theft. It's bizarre, I never would have dreamed of taking a towel.

    Final story: I recently heard of some people who stayed in a hotel for 12 nights. They took all of the tea, coffee and sugar sachets every day and ended up with a large bag full. When they were leaving they couldn't fit it in their luggage so they gave it away!

    This kind of thing must cost millions a year, prices might be significantly lower if hotels didnt need to offset these costs

  22. Kylie: I keep the odd mini shampoo bottle to take with me on my next holiday, as there's no point in taking a standard-size bottle. I don't take tea, coffee and sugar sachets because usually there's barely enough for a couple of hot drinks anyway.

    Hotels will have to stop supplying super-fluffy towels and give us nasty coarse ones we won't want to steal....

  23. You are not alone. I would never steal anything from anywhere. Stuff in hotel rooms is usually pretty awful anyway. I must be old-fashioned (like you).

  24. Cro Magnon: True, there are things so tasteless and shoddy nobody in their right mind would contemplate nicking them....

  25. I only take the odd shampoo container.......i once went out with a guy who stole almost everything that wasnt nailed down from a greek 5 star hotel . I finished the relationship 1 day after getting home

  26. John: I think I would have also called it a day in those circumstances. You think, if he's prepared to be so unscrupulous with hotel property, what else would he be unscrupulous about?

  27. If I really like the smell of the shampoo/conditioner, I often take that home to use. That's about it, though. I figure those are set out with the intent for guests to use them and take the remainder if they want to. I can't imagine taking something like towels or lightbulbs.

  28. Agent: I agree. Why on earth would anyone want to take the light bulbs? Do they have a glass fetish? Or do they just want to annoy the housekeeper?

  29. I think people who steal items in this way are trying to deal with a sense of deprivation. That's the case, anyway, with people I know who do this stuff.

  30. Hattie: That's a clever idea, that it's a response to a sense of deprivation. So stealing stuff is just getting something they're entitled to. That makes sense.