HOTEL PILFERAGE - WHEN IS IT THEFT? THINK "S"
When my daughter came home from grocery shopping with a four-pack of bath soap, I was shocked. We hadn't purchased soap in this household for about 14 years and I couldn't understand why she suddenly had the need to buy big bars of a nationally-known brand of "bacteria-fighting deodorant soap."
"I had a coupon," she said. "It only cost 30 cents."
Well, that explained it. My daughter loves a bargain. But soap is one thing we don't need in our house.
It isn't that we don't use bath soap, or that we prefer to be stinky and dirty. We don't need bath soap, or face soap, or glycerine soap, or perfumed soap, or deodorant soap, or French Milled soap or even shower gel... because we have overflowing boxes of the stuff.
|Just a small part of |
our hotel soap stash!
We have hotel soap.
Not only is it perfectly legitimate for us to have the toiletries, it delights the hotels that we've stayed in to know that their "branding" is displayed in our home. The marketing people are thrilled that the little packages with the hotel name are sitting in our bathroom, and that every time we wash our face or step into the shower, we think of our stay at that particular lodging.
They want us to have it. They are happy that we have it. They count on us having it. They would be disappointed if we didn't have it.
So what exactly is it OK to take from your hotel room, and what is considered theft?
THINK ABOUT THE LETTER "S"
Most hotels expect that you will take the soap. They plan on it. But there are other things that they expect you to take too, so except for the shower curtain, think about things that start with the letter "S."
Shoe Shine Kits.
Yes, slippers. Many really upscale hotels put terry-cloth slippers in your room, often with elaborate embroidery with the hotel's name or crest across the instep. It's branding. Every time you look down, you see the name or initials of the hotel; the hope is that it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, makes you remember your wonderful time there, and makes you plan on returning.
"I wish more people would take the slippers," says David Benton, Vice President and General Manager of the tony Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, a member of the Preferred Hotels group. "We hate having to throw them away. We can't use them again; we WANT our guests to take them."
My slippers from
WHEN IS IT "THEFT?"
So now we know what you CAN take without fear of arrest and incarceration. What is it that you can't legitimately spirit away from the hotel? What is considered "theft?"
Almost anything else.
No bathrobes, towels, sheets, pillows, pillowcases, bedspreads, ashtrays, glasses. No washcloths, drapes, desklamps, shower curtains, phone books, headboards or artwork. No throw pillows, bath rugs, room-service dishes, mattress pads or light fixtures. Not the glossy hardcover destination books that sit on the desk, although the weekly magazines are fine. The Gideon Bible is fine too.
"We used to have really nice lightweight cotton bathrobes in the rooms," says Keith Douglas, General Manager of The House of Blues in Chicago. "But people took them. They were easy to pack because they were lightweight, and they had the 'HoB' logo sewn into them. It cost us a fortune on an annual basis, so we changed them to heavy terry-cloth robes without the logo, and the theft dropped by 90%."
Really elegant, upscale hotels tend to have less of a pilferage problem than urban, trendy and hip hotels, where the branding on verboten items makes them more desirable as collectibles.
"We have removed the HoB branding on a lot of our things," says Douglas, "because we found that we were replacing them with alarming frequency. A lot of the people who stay here want to have a souvenir of the House of Blues in their own homes, and we don't mean soaps. Hard goods: Ashtrays, glasses, coffee mugs. We lose a lot of our throw pillows too, which aren't branded but are distinctive. People like them, so they take them."
Mr. Benton of The Rittenhouse notes that pilferage isn't a real problem in his hotel since it caters to a clientele which "certainly doesn't need to take these items." On the other hand, if someone is going to steal from his hotel, they do it on a grand scale.
"Someone took a Mary Cassatt painting several years ago, at the time valued at over $35,000," says Benton. "It was found by the F.B.I. a couple of years later, in a private home in Aspen. We got it back."
"We had a guest once who took home the entire contents of her mini-bar," says Douglas, "and then threw a fit when she received the bill. She said she thought it was part of the amenites package!" (Yeah, right.)
"We finally settled for about half the cost, but that was really something."
Just remember S, and you should be fine.