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What you can get away with taking from a hotel room – and what you definitely can’t

hotel items - bible, hairdryer, towel, robe, toiletries, slippers, soaps, teabags
Yes, you can take the slippers (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

It was a gorgeous Kimono-style robe that tempted me.

I had checked into my fancy hotel suite and was busy disembowelling every drawer and cupboard to look for the in-room treats that typically come with most luxury resort accommodation, when I first saw it: a linen, indigo-coloured robe that was both pretty and, undoubtedly, pricey.

I wanted it, but I didn’t want to pay for it. Before I could help myself, I considered how I might be able to pocket it and, more importantly, whether I could actually actually get away with it.

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a plush dressing gown, a pair of slippers, a towel, or a handful of shampoo miniatures, most of us will have quietly slipped something into our luggage during a hotel stay for the trip home.

The two opposing voices in our heads — an angel and a devil on opposite shoulders — each present their case like barristers in a court room drama. Both of them make pretty good points.

On one side there’s the benefits that a fancy hotel robe or snooze-inducing pillow could provide in your real life back home, while on the other, there’s the moral implications of taking something that doesn’t belong to you, on top of the potential consequences.

To steal or not to steal? That is the question.

If you’re torn between wanting to be an upstanding member of society, while also wanting to nab a little souvenir of a your getaway, then read on.

We’ve consulted the experts to find out definitively what is built into the cost of a check in and what definitely is not.

Here’s the low-down on what you can and can’t steal from a hotel room.

Toiletries

Shampoo, conditioner and soap bottles
Nab away (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s pretty unanimous that travel-sized shampoos, soaps, and conditioners are all takable.

‘Hotels generally provide amenities for guest use during their stay, which are built into the room cost,’ explains Four Seasons Resorts Bali general manager, Randy Shimabuku. ‘The variety, quality and quantity of amenities provided, varies from hotel to hotel.’

While it’s fine to take miniatures, given the pressing global issue of plastic waste, you might want to reconsider pilfering too many so that you’re not part of the problem.

‘While it’s fine to take these, from a sustainability perspective we would recommend guests take home just the products which they’ve opened and haven’t fully used,’ continues Randy. ‘We have a soap recycling program at Four Seasons Bali, but not all hotels have this, so most just throw out any soaps and minautres that have been opened and are barely used.’

Accor Northern Europe’s senior vice president of managed hotels, Aiden McAuley, agrees that sustainability with these toiletries is becoming a worldwide consideration.

‘Miniature toiletries are actually becoming a thing of the past,’ he says. ‘At Accor, we have committed to join the UN Global Tourism Plastics Initiative and will remove all single-use plastic items in the guest experience.

‘Instead, our guests will be able to enjoy reusable alternatives replacing disposable miniatures at our hotels. This means no more miniature toiletries in 2023.’

Stationery

Perhaps the lowest-hanging fruit for hotel room thieves, hotel management expect — and sometimes even encourage — guests to take branded stationery as an easy marketing tool.

Plus, these pens and notepads are, generally, cheap and easy to replace.

‘Often guests want to take a small keepsake from their stay and we get it,’ says Aiden. ‘If you choose to take some stationery, such as a pen, headed paper or a postcard home with you, the likelihood is that you won’t be charged.’

Towels

White towels in hotel
We know the super fluffy towels are tempting, but they’re not for the taking (Picture: Getty Images)

The most stolen item from hotel rooms, towels sit very much in a ‘grey’ area in terms of what guests view as acceptable and unacceptable theft.

While you’re not likely to actually get arrested for stealing a towel, you may end up being charged for them upon check out — especially if the ones you’ve snatched have a sneaky electronic tracking device installed. Yes, many hotels now have tiny chips added to their towels so they can track which ones go missing.

‘As towels and linens can be washed and reused by other guests, taking them would be classified as stealing and the cost will likely get added to your bill,’ confirms Aiden. ‘So we ask politely, please don’t! 

‘Instead, why not stash some slippers which will not be used by other guests?’

Bed linen

Another favourite hotel room ‘freebie’ is bed linen. Though firmly on the ‘do not steal’ list, if you end up ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ over your comfy cotton count, then many hotels will actually sell a set to you — or even, in some cases, the actual bed.

‘Nothing beats a hotel bed,’ says Aiden. ‘Lots of our guests love the sleep they have in hotels they want to recreate it at home.

‘Many of our brands have online boutiques selling beds and bedding. For example, Sofitel MyBed linen collections are a wonderful (and guilt-free) way to bring the iconic crisp hotel-white look into your bedroom.’

Robes and slippers

Four of grey and white  bathrobe with wooden hangers in wardrobe in bathroom at luxury hotel.
If you take that plush robe, you’ll likely be charged for it (Picture: Getty Images)

The hotel bathrobe has long ranked high on the hit-list for would-be thieves. But are they okay to steal? The short answer is: probably not.

‘As hotels increasingly up their game with amenities and extras for guests, it’s time to set the record straight,’ says Aiden. ‘The general rule is that anything that can be enjoyed by the next guest shouldn’t be taken, and yes sadly that does include bathrobes! Slippers, however, are a different matter.’

Most hotels will charge you if your in-room gown wanders and many upscale properties actually advertise them for sale. ‘Our robes are available for guests to purchase from the resort boutique,’ says Randy.

Teas

Hotel rooms provide guests with their own kettle to make tea or coffee and travellers will usually find complimentary tea bags and coffee pods, which can indeed be taken.

‘There’s quite a lot that is factored into a room rate,’ explains Aiden. ‘This can vary from hotel to hotel, for a number of reasons, including the hotel’s location, size and more. Usually the single-serve food and drink items are replenished daily and inclusive, unless part of a mini-bar.’

Don’t take the kettle or mug, however.

And the rest…

Other room items that sit in the ‘most nicked’ camp include shoehorns, sewing kits and magazines — all of which are totally fine to pocket. Bizarrely, bibles are also a staple on the ‘most stolen’ lists — clearly these thieves are choosing to ignore the ‘thou shalt not steal’ commandment.

But for some brazen robbers, if it isn’t nailed down, then it’s fair game. Irons, hairdryers, Nespresso machines, chargers, curtains, and even plasma TVs have all been swiped by unscrupulous guests.

‘When in doubt whether something is complimentary — and therefore okay to pack — you can call the front desk to double check,’ says Aiden.

Remember, your credit card details are on file, you can be arrested, and — morally — constant theft can seriously impact a business, especially an independent hotel. So, keep that in mind the next time that you find yourself swayed by that old devil on your shoulder…

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