Lie, Cheat and....Steal - Hotel Confidential

Welcome to this edition of Hotel Confidential, a monthly series where we take a look behind the front desk of great hotels.

Checking-In. First name: Klepto. Last name: Maniac.


In a classic episode of the sitcom Friends, Ross Geller is humiliated at check-out when his luggage accidentally opens, revealing he has stolen everything from lightbulbs to toilet paper from his hotel room. The scene made for great TV - especially for us hotel geeks - but the reality is the traveling world is filled with Ross Geller's.

Hotel Confidential

There's something about hotels that turns normal law abiding citizens into petty thieves. It starts small...the notepad, pens, or a personal vice, the extra shampoo. After a while, the envelope gets pushed a little further. Maybe the corkscrew is tossed in a purse by accident or the nice wooden coat hanger goes home in a garment bag. When it comes to hotel room amenities, if it isn't bolted down guests will no doubt try to steal it.

The Mini-Bar Heist

One of the most commonly targeted amenities is the mini-bar, and it's easy to understand why. After a raucous dinner at the National Association of Certified Public Accountants conference, the normally straight laced guest is taunted by a $22 can of almonds and cute little bottles of Grey Goose for $18 a pop. It goes against every fiber of his being to pay such exorbitant prices, so he hatches a plan to refill the vodka bottle with water and carefully reseal the nuts with something heavy inside so the can appears untouched. Genius, were it not for one thing...technology.
Hotel Mini Bar
The Great Corrupter
Credit

It's likely you've seen the mini-bars which operate on a sensor, where every time an item is removed from the "refreshment center" your bill is automatically charged. This eliminates the bottle refill scam - and scares the crap out of the guest who thinks he's being watched - but there is a fatal flaw to this system which the clever hotel thief is sure to exploit.

These systems typically have a 5-10 second delay built in before charging the guest, just in case they change their mind and put the item back down. The most cunning of mini-bar crooks have been known to remove the $28 half bottle of wine and replace it with a can of Coke they brought from home. The wine never hits the bill, the guest gets a $.50 bottle of wine, and the hotel probably won't discover they've been taken for days.

The Bath Robe Heist

Bath robes are a great source of incremental revenue for hotels. Guests wrap themselves in this cloud on a hanger and simply must take one home. As luck would have it, they are more than welcome to do so, usually for a charge of $100+. That makes them an enticing target for the hotel thief.

Simply packing the robe in a suitcase won't do the trick, because the hotel will of course notice one missing and politely charge the guest's credit card. A quick call to housekeeping to request an extra robe is the thief's play, but still has its flaws. Executive Housekeepers are very protective of their expensive amenities, and keep a log of every request a guest makes. So the larcenous guest simply waits until late in the evening to call for the robe, when the hopefully lax 3rd shift is on duty. If they're lucky, the extra robe isn't logged, and eventually comes to reside in their closet back home.
Hotel Bath Robe
They're just too comfy to resist...
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The Rob Your Friends Blind Heist

It can almost be guaranteed that pictures of Prince Harry weren't the only thing taken from his hotel room that evening. Guests are often an unwilling accomplice of hotel thieves who take advantage of access to their room and wipe it clean. For example, a guest's hired company for the evening may head home with a bath robe or a couple champagne glasses. More often than not, however, the thieves turn out to be the guest's supposed friends.

The combination of large quantities of alcohol and someone else's credit card on the room make bachelor and bachelorette parties one of the most common settings for hotel theft. Most of the time the registered guest is simply hit with an outrageous mini-bar bill the next morning, but sometimes their "friends" wind up costing them far more. In an extreme case, one bridesmaid somehow went home with a duvet, mattress pillow-top, the sheets, two pillows, and a robe. Needless to say, things were probably a little frosty at the reception, considering the bride was slapped with the $1200 bill.
"Wait...those pool cues were $400 each?"
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The "Really?" Heist

While many hotel thieves employ a grand strategy in pulling off their heist, others are not only unsophisticated in their approach, but also their target. Hotel managers are often left scratching their head at the seemingly useless things guests will choose to steal. A few good examples...
  • Smoke detector
  • Decorative ends on curtain rod
  • Knobs off the dresser
  • Phone cord
  • Plastic feet from the bottom of an ottoman
  • Shower curtain rings
  • Light switch cover plate
The rationale behind stealing things like the peg from of a toilet paper holder will forever be a mystery, but one thing is for certain. These people need professional help...
Hotel Do Not Disturb Signs
A common target for theft with 100% zero useful value at home.

So long as there are hotels and guests in the world, one will always try to steal from the other. Although, some might argue that exorbitant valet parking rates and worthless resort fees make the relationship one of mutual thievery. Some hotels, like the famed Waldorf Astoria, have instituted amnesty programs for returning valuables stolen by guests, but these are really nothing more than thinly veiled publicity stunts. The fact is, theft is a problem hotels will likely never overcome, because there simply is no way to track things like towels, silverware, and champagne flutes.

What it comes down to is an old lesson from Psychology 101: Would you commit a crime if you knew you wouldn't get caught? Each and every day, kleptomaniac guests answer that question in the affirmative, and hatch master plans for their heist that would make Daniel Ocean proud.

Time to come clean... What have you stolen from hotel rooms?

Enjoy Your Stay

The World of Deej in no way condones the stealing of items from hotel rooms....except the shampoo....