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What You Can (and Can't) Take From Hotel Rooms

Jake Rossen
They're not gifts.
They're not gifts. / Gary John Norman/The Image Bank via Getty Images
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Anyone who’s ever stayed in a hotel has had the time to ponder whether or not it would be a good idea to help themselves to some of their room’s amenities. Those luxurious, blanket-like bath towels make the ones back at home look like tattered rags. That nice landscape painting could look great in your master bathroom, too. One guest in Los Angeles even stole a marble fireplace from his premium room, chiseling it out of the wall.

So that’s a bit much. But according to Reader’s Digest, these mini morality plays aren’t that difficult to navigate, and many hotels actually endorse taking some things home as a memento of your stay. Typically, anything emblazoned with the hotel’s name or logo can be freely pilfered: things like pens, stationary, or soap and shampoo. You can probably help yourself to dry cleaning bags and coffee packets, too. Most of these can be replaced at a modest cost and may serve as free advertising for their business.

Once you get into soft goods, however, you’re playing with fire. Hotels discourage guests from taking towels, robes, and sheets because they come with a premium price tag. Will one missing towel put the Hilton out of business? No, but given enough pilfering, hotels can bleed through a sizable portion of their inventory, which can also be lost to mishandling with third-party laundry services. Overall, theft can cost the hotel industry $100 million annually.

What a hotel will actually do about it depends on management. Some chains have taken to buying linens with RFID tracking technology, which allows them to monitor when a towel or sheet leaves the building; others keep a manual inventory. Either way, a guest may be charged for items that come up missing following their stay.

But would they actually prosecute someone for taking off with a bath set? Unlikely. Hotels want a reputation for good customer service, not pressing charges, and it’s exceedingly difficult to prove a guest swiped something when several people are in and out of the rooms.

But if you grab enough coat hangers and duvets, you might wind up on someone’s naughty list. Hotels keep a list of “no-stay” names with a reputation for five-finger discounts. In recent years, hotel chains have been sharing that information with one another, meaning a towel heist at a Holiday Inn could, in theory, get you barred from a Best Western. If you need a thrill, stick with swiping the pens.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

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