New York – Stealing Hotel Amenities: Right or Wrong?


    New York – I stole a laundry bag from the Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires. It was made of thick ivory linen, embroidered with the words “dry cleaning” in cerulean blue, and looked like something that I could have found at an antique textiles show. But that wasn’t the case.

    I’m usually pretty scrupulous about purloined souvenirs. Of course, I help myself to soap and shampoo, sewing kits, even those black sponges meant to spruce up your shoes—oh, and ballpoint pens and darling little notepads. But the laundry bag was my first sojourn into the land of, what shall we call it … outright theft?

    How widespread is this brand of petty larceny? A brief survey of my acquaintances—a glass of wine, or three, helped them remember—reveals that B. (names are omitted for patently obvious reasons) spends an inordinate amount of time at her favorite inn in St. Bart’s hoarding the Hermès soap (using the same one for the sink and tub and then pilfering the other), and K. became so addicted to the slippers at the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg that she now begs peripatetic friends to bring back their extra pairs. Both of these tales were recounted in voices dripping with shame—which, it turns out, was entirely uncalled for.

    The truth is that even the most parsimonious innkeepers want you to take their grooming products and paper goods home, the thinking being that every time you use an item that bears the hotel’s name you’ll remember what a wonderful time you had there and plan another visit (and not just to take more stuff). At the supercool Chic & Basic budget hotels in Amsterdam and Barcelona, the owners even anticipate guests’ illicit impulses: their toiletries read, “This is the cutest soap that you will steal from a hotel. Enjoy it.” and “Amazing quality shower gel rarely found as hotel amenity.”

    François Delahaye, general manager of Paris’s Hôtel Plaza Athénée, confirms that the shampoo, shower gel, slippers, of course, and even ashtrays (remember those?) are good to go. Delahaye says anything with the hotel’s moniker is extra-desirable. “If you want it stolen, put your logo on it,” he tells me. Usually, he says, hotels shrug off minor light-fingeredness—it’s just part of the cost of doing business. But sometimes it gets on even his steady nerves. Lately, he says, there has been such an epidemic of filched silver tea strainers that “it’s become a nuisance.”

    At least he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. He chuckles as he recounts the tale of the absconded umbrellas. Like all good hotels, the Plaza Athénée provides parasols for rainy days. At one time, they were not for sale, but that didn’t prevent them from regularly showing up on eBay. (The hotel, noting this flourishing secondary market, now sells these brollies for $46.) Okay, François, what about my laundry bag? Was my misdeed really so awfully naughty? Silence, then a most surprising confession: turns out that way back in the day, Delahaye once helped himself to a laundry bag at a Rosewood hotel. This mischief, though hardly sanctioned by the property, had the desired effect. “Whenever I use it,” Delahaye says, “I’m thinking about that Rosewood.”

    Lifting laundry bags is nefarious enough, but it’s hardly world-class in the hotel-theft department. For that we must turn to the notorious saga of the bad, bad girl who told me in hushed tones that, while she was staying in a room with two beds at the Setai in Miami, she proceeded to carefully remove the Christian Fischbacher satin sheets from the unused bed, then meticulously remake it so as not to alert housekeeping. Or there’s the story of the Kiton-suited banker who never met a wooden shoe tree he didn’t like enough to take back with him to Park Avenue.

    Now you’d probably think that even the most unscrupulous guest couldn’t walk off with a nailed-in showerhead. Guess again. Andrew Stembridge, managing director of Chewton Glen, a manor hotel nestled in England’s Hampshire countryside, says he’s had visitors unscrew all types of furnishings, including the big bottles of Molton Brown lotion affixed to the spa’s walls. Stembridge cheerfully volunteers harrowing tales of people pocketing silver sugar tongs and helping themselves to the iPod docks available at reception. “Sometimes the culprits are the fanciest people—it’s not the guests on the special Sunday night rate. We just factor it in,” he shrugs philosophically.

    On the other hand, Stembridge is not afraid to fight back. Once, when an antique cup and saucer went missing from a room, he confided that he actually riffled through the guests’ luggage, which had been stored as they took a final spin around town. “They had a lovely leather bag falling to bits,” he remembers. As he suspected, the dishes were indeed packed in the crumbling old bag, but any triumph Stembridge felt at their retrieval quickly vanished when he realized “I couldn’t zip the case!” He finally managed to close it, just minutes before Bonnie and Clyde returned.

    That crockery wasn’t for sale, but the good news is that plenty of coveted items offered by hotels can be yours, legitimately, for the swipe of a credit card. Have sweet dreams of the bed at the Four Seasons? Everyone knows you can order it. Develop an unwholesome relationship with the Perspex mini-mannequin lighting at the Soho Hotel in London? The property can arrange a set for you.

    And what about that classic stuff-it-in-your-suitcase item, the terry robe? Plaza Athénée’s Delahaye says that this is actually a much smaller problem than it was a decade ago, since there is frequently no room in today’s carry-ons for these puffy behemoths. Do hotels really charge for swiped robes, making good on the threat implicit on those little signs in the bathroom? Since I have learned the hard way that a diet Coke gulped on the sly the final day of your stay will almost surely show up on your bill, I have always wondered about the robe scenario.

    “We put a charge for the robe on a card if we can be absolutely sure someone took it, and didn’t just pack it by mistake,” says Leslie Lefkowitz, the Four Seasons Hotel New York’s director of public relations. On the other hand, some hotels have bent the stick far in the other direction. At the Raffles L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, they not only gift a bathrobe to VIP guests, they monogram it, too. (But do these swells take their personalized dressing gowns homes? Nope—they often let the hotel keep them for use on subsequent visits.)

    As it turns out, sometimes resisting temptation can be just as haunting as giving in to one’s base instincts. My friend P., who has been traveling longer than many of us have been alive, recalls wistfully, “As you know, hotels of a certain caliber turn down the bed at night and put little linen towels down so your feet should never, heaven forbid, touch the carpeting. Not only did they do that at the Ritz in Paris, but they put down a second one for my dog. It had a bone embroidered on it with the words ‘I Am Ritzy.’ I didn’t take it and, to this day, I regret it.”

    Maybe he should have just folded “Ritzy” into his Goyard duffel. Then he and Fido could have dreamed of the Ritz as they rested their tootsies back home, just as the sight of my ill-gotten Argentinean laundry bag has me fantasizing about dancing the tango at 2 a.m. in the grand ballroom of the Alvear Palace.

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    1. In order to avoid the prohibition of stealing one should be sure that the items they are taking are meant to be taken.

      If they have any question, they should ask.

      • “In order to avoid the prohibition of stealing one should be sure that the items they are taking are meant to be taken.

        If they have any question, they should ask”

        Many people are too embarrased to ask.. Imo the hotels should give you a piece of paper when you check in stating which of the uncertain items you are invited to keep, and which you can’t take(or perhaps you could purchase if you want). Certain items like slippers might be discarded if you don’t take them, so in that case people should be encouaged to take them.

        • This is a very good idea!
          However perhaps, the hotels want to let a person get the feeling he got away with petty stealing. But still, that people should not take it too far, wheras if it was written what they may take with them, they nay ALL take ALL of it, as wellas many might take more things that are takeable.
          It seems to me that hottels like to create the feeling of non-judgemental, feeling comfortable etc
          So for some, the possibility to steal a little of petty things, they want to allow, which makes some people feel they had a better deal.

          • Many years ago I was in some hotels that did print such a sheet of paper telling guests what they are free to take and what they should not take. One even said that the terry cloth robes may be taken(I forgot which hotel that was). When smoking was more popular, many hotels wanted people to take home the ashtrays with the hotel’s name on it. Some people used the ashtrays as candy dishes.

    2. Simple litmus test: Would you carry it out if your luggage was going to go thru a security check before you paid your bill?

      If the answer is no you already know what you are doing is wrong.

        • Very true, but orthodox jews expressly dress to identify themselves as such, so when someone wearing a kippa or a long beard and black hat does something, whether it’s being rude to store clerk, taking items from a hotel or cutting someone off in traffic, it reflects on judaism. If someone wearing jeans and a baseball cap does the same things, it doesn’t reflect on any particular group.

        • Its not a simple answer. It depends on whether the hotel is owned by yiddin and the relative value of the items measured against the price of the room and and amenities provided.

    3. “Well I think that people that steal (take) things from hotels steal from other places as well its very wrong and a Chillil Hashem ‘

      So often it is not certain when taking is inappropriate. If there is a kiddush at shul, and someone eats too much(how much is too much?) then it is inappropriate(unless it is announced near the end of the kiddush that all remaining food will be thrown away). Sometimes it is not clear when one does something inappropriate.

    4. I sometimes take away the shampoo or small soap bar, which was meant to use in d shower, and if I skip a shower, or use d same bottle for 2 showers its my benefit.
      But, I always mention it at d reception desk while signing off.
      Only once I had a receptionist that told me to leave any packaged unused items. I opened my luggage and returned the small bottle shampoo..

    5. I travel a lot and I like soaps shampoos etc most hotels let u take the stuff but I always ask the reception to make sure and it makes a huge kiddush hashem the are always impressed at how I ask for something which no one asks for

    6. stealing is stealing. the soaps and shampoos are replnished daily for your usage and is factored into the price of each nights stay. taking towels and robes or ashtrays is outright stealing. those things are to be washed and used by the next guest.

    7. generally I stay in the Choice Hotel chain & I have been told they have no problem with someone taking soap or shampoo or even the plastic laundry bag. I have been to motels of this chain where they have the ‘ pricelist ‘ posted all over detailing costs for towels etc.

    8. Most hotels invite you to ask reception for any toiletries you might need that aren’t out in the rooms. They may not leave everything to be taken if you don’t need it, but it’s all available for the asking. Ask for one (soap, shampoo, sewing kit, shower cap, etc.), and they’ll often give you two or more. It is their advertisement, after all.

    9. There is a crucial difference between expendables and fixtures. Soap and shampoo are expendables; they are built into the cost of the room, so I have paid for them and have no compunction at all about taking them. The same goes for the complimentary coffee that’s replenished every day; it’s part of what you’re paying for, so why not get your money’s worth? Items like pens and notepaper are also expendable, but the hotel doesn’t expect you to take them every day; once per stay seems reasonable to me.

      And towels, sheets, bath robes, etc. are not expendable at all; their cost is spread over the many guests whom they are expected to serve, until they become too worn out to fit the standard of the hotel. If an item looks like it’s near the end of its useful life at the hotel, but still good enough for home use, one can ask housekeeping about it, and maybe get it at a discount. Commenter #15 mentions a plastic laundry bag, which is of course very different from the “thick ivory linen” bag that Ms Yaeger took. I would have no compunction about taking a disposable plastic bag, which is there for my use and is likely to be thrown out after one use; but I wouldn’t think of taking an expensive linen bag that I know is intended to be cleaned and reused multiple times.



      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 deoderant 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.

      Just a small part of our hotel soap stash!
      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 deoderant soap, or French Milled soap or even shower gel… because we have overflowing boxes of the stuff.

      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?

      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.”



      Shower gel.

      Shower cap.

      Sewing kit.


      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.

      My slippers from
      Claridge’s, London
      “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.”

      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.

      • What about tissues?
        I always take a box of tissues to my rental car.
        There are usually two boxes in the room.
        Sometimes, when I clean out the stuff accumulated from motels, I donate them to a homeless shelter. They are really appreciated there.

    11. just a note…u can order the beds (matress and springbox) that is used at the waldorf astoria ….not cheap but a good buy.
      Maybe some guys will recall the story: some guys in desperate need of a couch for their dorm room, rented a hotel room and threw the hotel room couch out the window which was conveniently just above the hotel parking lot…below was the escape-car and off to the dorm…

    12. I went to the Renaissance Hotel and loved their umbrellas, so I asked the Receptionist if I can keep it, so he went to inquire with the manager who said that I can have it for five bucks. I gladly dished out the 5 bucks.


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