Research has revealed the extraordinary lengths guests can go to relieve hotel rooms of their contents…

One side effect of the lockdown is that I have just about exhausted the supply of toiletries I have stolen from hotels in recent years. All that remains are the dregs at the bottom of the bottles. Still plentiful is my stash of pens and pencils, which are lined up next to the notepads I also pilfered. Perhaps I could write to the hotels in question and ask for some more toiletries. Maybe not.

Before you condemn me too openly, consider that my kleptomaniac ways are nothing when compared with the list of stolen items compiled last year by hotel guide Wellness Heaven. Its survey of 1,157 hoteliers reveals that the list of items taken by guests virtually runs from Artwork to Zither. The inventory includes almost everything that is movable in a guestroom, from towels and coat hangers to remote controls, hairdryers and coffee makers.

Expensive tastes

The survey also strayed into controversial territory by suggesting which nationality was most likely to steal particular kinds of objects, and whether guests behaved differently in four- or five-star establishments. On this latter point, the 634 hoteliers from four-star hotels and 523 from five-star ones indicated that guests in the luxury segment appeared to be attracted to the big-ticket items.

For example, the probability that high-quality TV sets would be stolen from five-star properties was nine times higher than in four-star ones. Similarly, works of art were more sought after by guests in luxury hotels, with a 5.5 times higher theft probability. Tablet computers are frequently swiped and, occasionally, even mattresses. Think of the effort required to heave one of those out under the nose of the reception desk.

This loss of ridiculously large items reminded of the time some years ago when a night manager at Claridge’s was approached at 3am by men wearing white overalls emblazoned with the name of a famous piano manufacturer on the back. They told him they were there to collect the hotel’s performance Steinway. He dutifully helped them move it through the front hall and on to the back of their truck. That was the last the hotel saw of it.

To the more vexed question of national characteristics, it appears that German hotel guests are particularly prone to taking towels, and not just so they might engage in the (probably apocryphal) pastime of placing them on the pool loungers at the crack of dawn. Austrians clearly can’t have enough espresso in the Alps, as coffee machines are among their preferred items. Italians are fond of wine glasses, while in Switzerland the hairdryer is highly desirable. The French, on the other hand, are not solely satisfied with the remote control but are also more likely to take the TV as well.

The survey concludes that the most practical Europeans are the Dutch – they take the lightbulbs and toilet paper. I must confess I was quietly impressed by the skill level of the guest or guests who stole a rainshower head, a hydro-massage shower, a toilet seat, a drainpipe and an entire sink from one Berlin hotel surveyed.

I was reminded of a guest who once wrote me an enthusiastic letter about a hotel I was in charge of that had recently been refurbished. After eulogising about the service and the comfort of the bedroom, he finished his last paragraph thus: “The quality of the bathroom amenities was second to none. The towels were so fluffy we had difficulty packing them into our suitcase.”

Still, I do understand how the subconscious tempts us when attractive items are wheeled out in front of our eyes. I once had the opportunity to serve an elderly Marlene Dietrich her daily breakfast at a well-known hotel on the Strand. After she had finished her scrambled eggs, she sometimes “borrowed” the silver from the trolley. My afternoon job was to search her room until we found it all. I’m sure we both enjoyed the game.

Derek Picot – A veteran hotelier and author of new thriller The Hotel Detective and His Lover (Amazon, Kindle Publishing)