The Most Extreme Things Guests Take from Hotel Rooms

The UK’s Telegraph carries a piece about which nationalities steal from hotels, when really it’s about who, in their sample, admits to stealing and wouldn’t you think someone predisposed to stealing would also be predisposed to being less forthcoming about it?

Nonetheless, it contains some interesting bits on what’s ok to take and what isn’t, and the most extreme thefts from hotels.

The article relies heavily on Jacob Tomsky’s book, Heads in Beds. I reviewed Tomsky’s book two years ago.

What Are the Most Extreme Thefts?

A former Starwood GM reports the theft of a grand piano from his lobby. Some guests walk out with the TV from their room. Another GM reports a guest unscrewing the room number off their door for a souvenir.

How about,

sections of carpet, light fittings, mirrors and even curtains. …a medieval sword, door hinges and a 4ft wooden bear. .. One gentleman staying at the famous Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel – which featured in the film Pretty Woman – is alleged to have taken the entire marble fireplace. … a couple staying at an American Holiday Inn specifically requested a room near the car park. They then proceeded to empty the entire contents of said room (bed, furniture, the lot) into their handily-parked U-Haul.

Now we know why some chains mount hair dryers to the wall.

What Can You Take from a Hotel?

Hotels actually want you to take the toileteries. They don’t want you to raid the housekeeping cart — many of those now lock down when unattended, whereas in years past they used to be completely open. But the ones in your room? Clean those out, the hotel hopes you will think of them and the brand when you use them.

Hyatt specifically implores you to do it.

Beyond toileteries,

The most common items taken by British travellers were stationary (20 per cent admitted taking such items) and slippers (12 per cent).

What Happens When You Cross the Line?

Some hotels have taken to RFID tags to detect when towels leave the property.

[O]ne hotel that has saved $16,000 per month by reducing its towel thefts each month from 4000 down to 750 by attaching washable RFID tags to its towels. I assume that they aren’t actually tracking down towel thiefs, rather by letting guests know that the towels are tagged this serves as a deterrent. Presumably the deterrent would work just as well by telling guests that the RFID tags are in the towels, without any need to make the actual investment, at least as long as they are able to keep their lack of technology investment a secret.

More than warning you, or even catching you, there can be real consequences to theft in some places:

In Japan a few years ago, one hotel reportedly had a young couple arrested for running off with bathrobes and an ashtray, while a woman in Nigeria was sentenced to three months in prison for stealing two towels from the Transcorp Hilton Abjua Hotel.

Too bad they didn’t take advantage of towel amnesty.

What Do You Take from Hotels?

What do you consider yours, as part of the room rate? What do you feel a little guilty about? And what wouldn’t you ever take?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Toiletries for sure, only what’s in the room. Not from the cart. Sometimes a pen. A pen strikes me as advertising.

  2. If it’s a brand I like, I’ll take my unfinished toiletries and maybe and unopened set if they’ve been provided. Especially if I’m at a Park Hyatt that has the Aesop toiletries. Those are my favorite, but I can’t bring myself to pay $60 for a 500ml shampoo bottle at home! I’ll also take complementary bottles of water, especially if I’m on a road trip. I’ll use laundry bags to partition clean from dirty laundry in my luggage. That’s about it.

    I was recently at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco (which is an excellent property) and had the desire for some reason to move some of the items on the decorative bookshelf, only to find that the vases were firmly glued to the shelf. My husband thinks this is for earthquakes, but I’m quite certain it’s to prevent them from walking. (I say decorative bookshelf because the books are such a random assortment that they must be from book-by-the-pound outfit.)

    (Some, few) people are monsters! If you think these are bad, you should hear about what people steal from bars and restaurants. Eater Boston did an interview with some of our locals last year:

  3. Yes to toiletries, as I would hope that the next guest gets a fresh set. I will usually grab the coffee (leaving the decaf). If the ink pens are retractable, I will often take one along with a notepad. I love Hilton metal pens.

  4. I wondered about the slippers (i.e., if hotels throw them out if the plastic bag is opened, or if they are laundered, repackaged, and reused). I did take a pair once (assuming they were disposable) since they fit me pretty well (usually they are way too large and wide for me) and my slippers from home are too bulky for travel. I now use them as “travel slippers”.

  5. I own a VRBO rental property and I figure in a cost of 3 sets of toiletries per rental (there are 3 bathrooms). I’d rather they were not stolen as I’m too small to brand them, but it’s in the costing. I do however have nice promotional pens with our branding on them and I’m extremely keen for people to take them as a reminder – but I don’t know how to encourage it!!

  6. I take the coffee and put it in my garden.

    Never drank a cup of coffee in my life. It’s great for the garden.

  7. I will feel free to take ittens meant to be consumed during the stay that are not reusable, e.g. water, toiletries, slippers, pens but not on every stay and never towels, hangers, or T.V.s. Although any hotel TV that can be unobtrusively removed by a guest ought to be taken.

  8. Ditto on the coffee – but I drink it, when I’ve either run out of coffee or filters at home. (or when I just want a single cup.

  9. I’ve taken toiletries and pens, of course. There was a brief period in the nineties when luxury hotels often had branded corkscrews and I liberated a few of those. I’ve taken a couple of towels as well, when I’ve used them to wrap muddy boots before flying home.

  10. Consumables only – toiletries, if needed a pen or a laundry bag. Occasionally some coffee or tea sachets.

  11. I only take toiletries, but last year I really liked the pen at the Hyatt Vendome. Instead of just taking it, I asked at the front desk if it was ok to take a pen. They gave me at least ten brand new pens and said they were happy to have me take them because each one had their name on it and it was advertising for them.

  12. Toiletries if they are a decent brand, that are left in the room. Slippers, especially if in sealed packs, as I can use them on flights that the airlines don’t give slippers. Occasionally a washcloth, if I had to use it to wipe off my ski boots. Sometimes a pen, but most hotel pens nowadays are not very good pens.

  13. Slippers, notepads, all toiletries except body lotion, pens all go in my suitcase. Bath gel makes great scented hand soap for the kitchen sink. It’s been years since I’ve spent money on shampoo/conditioner, liquid hand soap, pens or notepads.I also ask at the front desk for travel-size toothpaste and shaving cream for my husband, if its complementary.

    I carry wrapped soap in my purse and leave it behind when I visit a public bathroom that is out of soap.

    I used to travel with a co-worker who’d strip his hotel room of its kleenix boxes and toilet paper rolls. I was scandalized by that! Of course, my husband is scandalized by my hoarding habits.

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