So, What Are We Stealing from Hotels These Days?

Oh, the slippers are cute!

You’re not seriously taking them home?

The mini flower pot is adorable, too.

You’re already taking home the slippers! Please limit yourself an item to steal from the hotel.


That happened early this year as some friends and I spent New Year’s Eve on a small new hotel downtown. Technically it was a budget business hotel, but the hotel slippers were washable, anti-slip, purple-black, and in flip-flop style. Of course I had to bring them home.

Friendly arguments soon ensued about which of things typically considered as standard amenities were actually embedded in hotel room rate. The general consensus was that toiletries and stationery would be, whereas electronic appliances and reusable items like towels, bathrobe, dressing gown and beddings wouldn’t be.

Although technically, and this is the cost accounting devil speaking, if the liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner are placed in refillable containers, only the contents may well be embedded as variable costs in room rate whereas the containers themselves may go to capital expenditure. Just as slippers are reusable so, yes, I guess I did start the New Year with a petty crime.

Back in my corporate days with multinational companies I traveled quite extensively and sometimes shared room with a colleague. Multinationals tend to book their employees on nice hotels, so I’ve stayed in enough 5-star hotels to appreciate the kind of amenities provided inside. We once got to stay in one of Singapore’s fanciest hotels for a week that provided expensive L’Occitane toiletries, and some of my colleagues actually packed the slightly used mini bottles every night so chambermaids would replenish them with brand new bottles the day after. Bold, I’d say.

Another stay was with a lovely hotel that still engraved your full name on the stationery. Most of the people on the trip pocketed them home, but I used mine to write and mail out letters every day. It felt old school, to pen a letter on paper and envelope that bore your name on gold letterings. Cute, I’d admit.

But those examples were harmless, of course, compared to what I know some people have boldly and shamelessly committed. The top stolen items are silky dressing gowns and plush terry-cloth bathrobes, plug converters, fancy clothes hangers and unhooked hair dryers or irons (although I’m yet to hear iron boards get stolen).

Don’t think that only upscale hotels suffer from kleptomaniac guests. I once stayed in a modest B&B in New England’s countryside known for pretty decorations in which their quilted floral blanket, each was painstakingly stitched by the owner, got stolen from time to time. The owner told me that she’d even caught some of the thieving guests buying an extra luggage just to fit the blanket. The B&B was run only by the couple and very few staff, so they often didn’t get to check the room upon guest checkout. I felt so sorry for them– can you imagine the long hours needed to hand sew each of those fluffy blankets?—that I advised them to hand sew a price tag on each blanket with notes saying that that’d be the amount charged to the guest’s credit card afterwards if the blanket ever get removed.

Yet the cherry on top goes to Ross from the very popular sitcom Friends, who was featured in an episode shuffling all kinds of items from a B&B into his suitcase that the overflowing suitcase burst open on the lobby as he was leaving—exposing toiletries, appliances, stationery, newspapers, bath towels and even lampshade if my memory served me right.

No, I don’t know why people would do such extremes. Perhaps it’s mostly due to the feeling of entitlement that one has paid for the room and its contents. Maybe because mementos from a great trip won’t be enough without some souvenirs from the hotel room. Or, possibly, simply, because some people have green eyes and sticky fingers.

I’m not going to be pointing fingers, though, since this past weekend, and I can’t believe I’m making this confession on a major newspaper, I snatched off another pair of flip-flops. This time it’s all white with clear thong, and from a posh resort at the foot of Menoreh hills near Borobudur temple. This time my travel companions were a bit more nonchalant that they actually reminded me to pack the flip-flops as we were checking out.

My parents read my columns, so I can only imagine the look on Dad’s face the next time I see him, which I guarantee may be somewhere along the line of “After all the education, some of which I paid in hard-earned foreign currencies, you now have a promising career as a hotel slippers thief.”

Now, it’s your turn! Some of you might be spending Valentine’s and Chinese New Year festivities in hotels. Please oh please share back here on what you steal from these establishments. Maybe, if many of you commented back, Dad would see that I wasn’t alone on this slippery path. Help me out? Mwah mwah.

As published:

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