If you’re staying with your relatives and decide to toss their shampoo bottle into your bag, that’s stealing, right? But what if you’re at a hotel and nab those travel-size designer conditioners and lotions from the bathroom counter? Many travelers look for five-finger discounts in hotel rooms, even if they have no plans to use the items in the near future. According to a poll that appeared in The Telegraph, 69 percent of Britons admitted to swiping something from a hotel -- and guests aren’t just taking soap and hand cream. If you’ve ever wondered why the lamp is bolted to the night table, consider this list of the most popular items pilfered from inns, resorts, and motels around the world.
Hotels in this story
Sheets and Towels
The best luxury hotels have super-soft, high-thread-count sheets and plush towels. Who wouldn’t want to wrap themselves in that downy feeling all the time? While some ask the front desk for the brand of sheets and towels used in rooms, others fold up the linens and toss them into their weekend bag. Mokshta Chauhan, a front office manager for Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts in India, estimates that four percent of the hotel’s linen shortage is due to theft. Gail Jackson, owner of Jamaica’s Negril Tree House Resort, also notes that linens are a big area of loss, with washcloths topping the list, closely followed by pool towels.
To stop guests from helping themselves to home furnishings, the Mövenpick hotel management team started placing radio frequency identification tags (often used with store clothing) into their sheets and towels. The hotel’s exit area includes a scanner that makes a beeping sound if it detects one of the tags. “We have many ‘oops moments’ with guests trying to flick hotel linens, leaving them with all sorts of awkwardness,” says Chauhan. The new tags have led to a decrease in the hotel linen shortages.
One of Mövenpick’s Thai hotels also had a problem with pool towels disappearing. To curb the theft, the management team now issues a plastic card to guests during check-in that can later be given to a pool boy in return for a towel. “A little inconvenience for guests to carry the card each time they visit the pool, but this definitely saved the resort from losing all those pool towels,” explains Chauhan, who has also worked for Hyatt hotels.
“Hangers are hot favorites for hotel guests,” says Chauhan. “The elegant wooden hangers and the satin dress hangers are among the most difficult to avoid [losing].” The answer? Anti-theft hangers. If you’ve ever wondered why hotels have hangers with a pin on one side and a latch on the other, it’s so that guests don’t take them home. “These hangers are more like a lock and key; one can’t do without other.”
Batteries and Light Bulbs
Some guests may be able to cover their tracks by saying they borrowed a battery from the remote to use in their personal alarm clock, and then forgot to return it. On the other hand, no one accidentally unscrews a lightbulb and throws it in their bag. Plus, you have to pack it so the glass doesn’t break, which means taking about half a roll of toilet paper just for packing.
Bathrobes and Slippers
According to a survey by the British travel site Sunshine, 12 percent of their respondents took slippers and nine percent helped themselves to a bathrobe. As a way to combat in-room robbery, New York’s Mark hotel plans to open an e-commerce store named LeShop in spring 2018 that will include their most-stolen item: the Mark robes. For $125, anyone can bring home a piece of luxury. Since The Mark hotel guests often ask about buying the linen, these items will also be featured in the online store.
Dishes and Silverware
Apparently room service is also an excellent opportunity for home shopping. Believe it or not, plenty of guests swipe dishes and silverware from their property, too. Those springing for a complete set might even check all the trays left in the hallway either early in the morning or late at night.
Madeline Rawski, operations manager for Chicago’s FieldHouse Jones, notes that since opening in March 2017, over 25 TV remotes have gone missing, making it the boutique spot’s most commonly stolen item. In order to prepare for future pilfering, FieldHouse Jones has stocked up on pre-programmed remote controls. Still, Rawski has no idea why guests are taking the remotes, accidentally or intentionally.
Several polls have shown that over 60 percent of hotel guests have taken the toiletries at one time or another. Though it may be obvious that toiletries are a common item stolen from hotel rooms, the situation may be even worse than you realize. Chauhan says many guests bring an extra bag just to fill with toiletries. One upscale hotel she recently visited in the Maldives had an inventive solution. Instead of offering travel-size shampoo and lotion, the management places artisanal jars filled with the expected amenities and topped with wooden caps that are hygienic enough for regular use, but not suitable for travel. The hotel’s front desk manager told Chauhan the consumption of toiletries decreased by 30 percent after changing to the bespoke bottles.
Minibar Drinks and Food
This may come as no surprise, but many hotel guests steal from the minibar, and this is a big reason the front desk asks for a credit card for room charges. What’s a little stupefying is the length people will go to avoid paying the bar tab. Some folks go out and buy apple juice to refill the minibar bottles; lazier and less hygienic guests use urine.
While these are some of the most commonly stolen items from hotel rooms, other pieces also go out the door. John Bowen, former dean of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, told ABC News that a guest once tried to walk out with a room mirror. He added that the reason some guests are unconcerned about stealing is that they assume if they’re caught, the only recourse will be a credit card charge for the items. However, you may want to think twice. A woman in Nigeria was once sentenced to three months in prison for stealing hotel room towels — or she could just pay a $20 fine. Apparently, she didn’t leave her credit card number at the front desk.
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