Survey of hotel managers reveals most stolen items from hotels

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  • Mark Caswell

    A new survey of 1,376 hotel managers has revealed the most commonly stolen from hotels.

    The usual towels and bathrobes top the list, alongside hangers, pens, cosmetics, batteries, cutlery and artwork.

    Stranger items also included a grand piano(!), a bathroom sink, and hotel room numbers.

    What’s the oddest item you have heard of being taken from a hotel – or walked into your room and found already missing?

    Also watch out for our opinion piece on the subject of hotel thefts in the forthcoming December /January edition of Business Traveller.


    In March 2020 The Guardian published a piece about hotel thefts.

    The Travel Detective’s Peter Greenberg reported in the piece that “A guest at the Beverly Wilshire [Los Angeles] stole a marble fireplace. He cut it out of the wall with a chisel. A bellboy even helped load the pieces in a truck.”


    My inside experience, albeit from the 1980s, is that branding was the key. If something bore the company logo, it was fine. In fact it was almost encouraged. So things like Ashtrays, toiletries, pens etc. were stocked in much higher quantities on the basis that guests would take them. That changed a bit when hotels started to brand more expensive things like dressing gowns. Then they would offer them for purchase, rather than theft.

    I used to take toiletries all the time, on the basis they would come in handy at some point. But, as we prepare for yet another house move in the new year, I have just filled a large plastic bag with hotel and airline toiletries (BA, Turkish, Lufthansa, Kenya, Qatar, Radisson, Hilton, IHG etc.) to bin. I think I still have a stripey beach towel from an unknown resort, but that’s about it.


    Airline amenity kits used to be a thing for me.

    Never used them on board, and always took them home.

    Then realised that all they did was gather dust at home. Drawers full of EK F notebooks.

    Gave them all away to friends in the end.

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    “Oddest item I have heard of being stolen from a hotel”? One was the North Korean propaganda poster Otto Warmbier stole during his trip there. That struck me as very foolish – hadn’t he heard of security cameras? Anyway remember, he got 15 years jail, but was repatriated, and very unfortunately died soon after returning home.

    And I must say, getting sticky fingers in North Korea is a BAD idea in my opinion.


    Apart from the usual odd cheap pen or notepad I think the only thing I have “removed” deliberately was a couple of very large beach towels from a resort hotel poolside, which I still have! Many years ago I was stopped at reception at a Chinese hotel by angry staff on check out as the laundry bag was missing, one of those cheap cloth disposable types. Very embarrassing but interesting to see several people in the line to check out suddenly start moving back to the room lifts! I also noticed 10 years ago the Grand Hyatt in Taipei used to have an in-room book with the cost of almost every fixture and fitting down to the curtain rings with a comment that these items are available for purchase. Polite way of saying we check everything, and you steal it you pay.

    I also have a very large collection of flight bags, from the days when they actually had good things and the design changed regularly. Even though I have many I still take them off the flight (and pyjamas) and just give them to my assistant to hand out to staff.


    I have taken a couple of pants hangers or two over time.

    I do not understand how a hotel can consider taking toiletries stealing however?

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    Sorry to hijack the thread….. BUT

    A reminder at this time of year especially, if you have any toiletries from hotels or airline amenity kits that are surplus to requirements that many charities will gladly accept these. Refuges, shelters and foodbanks are always happy to receive these.


    It must have been some twenty years ago now that I used to stay very frequently at the Bangkok Shangri-la where I came to know the GM well. It was he who told me about the missing carpet from one of their larger suites.

    After a seeming rich couple had checked-out they found that a huge square of carpet from under the extra large king sized bed was missing -expertly cut-out and carted off along with the bathroom toiletries.
    This must presumably have been a well planned in advance robbery but none- the- less rather odd I thought


    Always use (euphemism for take) hotel laundry bags, whether plastic or material for delivery of travel clothes to home laundry department.

    Esselle, you had no cause to post, as the items you took I believe, are gifts therefore were not stolen – this thread appears to be for those needing to confess… 🙂


    From my thousands of hotel night stays, I regularly took the hotel paper bag – that most brand hotels like Hilton keep in the wardrobe – to carry back by dress shoe, but those are for taking I believe. I take these as carry on so during checkout all can see that, so I presume that cannot be called stolen. Some hotels do not keep those in room and I ask for that at reception and I get that every time.Besides that I took ear buds pack a few times!

    From the airlines, I took sleeping suit and the amenities bag each time (a few times only) travelled first class in SQ and BA, crew happily packed those in bag so I presume those are for taking. SQ quality is very good (Givanchi) and I still use some of those. The amenities bag in EK and Qatar business class are also very good and always take those with me. Regular travellers surely noticed that EK has different design bags at different sectors and I found these very useful.

    On the original question, I found TV remote control, telephone, bulbs from bedside table lamp missing on a few occasions after I checked in the room.


    In the case of many chain hotels, I would have thought that soul was the item most stolen, as they don’t seem to have any.

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    Thank you for advising this. I have a whole box full of amenity kits that I have collected over a decade or two. I will donate them to charity this winter.

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    Surely the cost of the more expensive items can be recovered. After all the hotel knows exactly who was staying in the room. If it is such a big problem, I would have an inventory of every room, and a dedicated member of staff to do an audit as soon as the guest checked out. Housekeeping do not have time to do this job properly.

    Can’t help wondering though if some of the larger items are “re-homed” shall we say, either by or in collusion with hotel staff.

    Chris in Makati

    It’s interesting which items could be considered acceptable to take away without it being stealing and which are not. I suppose technically anything which was in the room when you arrived was there for your personal consumption only while occupying the room and not to be taken away. That would even include things like small half-used bottles of shampoo.

    In practice, I’ve often taken a small bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap if I think they might be needed later in my trip. Someone mentioned laundry bags, and I’ve often used them to take my laundry home in, but only if they’re the cheap plastic variety. If they were cloth or anything else reusable I wouldn’t touch them. I might also take one of those complimentary bottles of water if I thought I could use it later in the day, and I’ve sometimes taken a teabag and a sachet of coffee/creamer if I believe the next hotel on my trip doesn’t supply them.

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