Guests Are Stealing Insane Things From Hotels – Even Mattresses Are Heading Out The Door

Forty nine hotels reported mattresses being stolen in a two year period. Not towels. Actual mattresses, and I imagine many hotels don’t admit the thefts so the real number is higher. How does a guest even do this without getting caught? (Most reports are that it happens in the middle of the night.)

When housekeeping goes into the room to turn it for the next guest, and finds the mattress gone, the hotel knows who stayed there last. Hotels know who did it, and usually don’t report the theft.

This isn’t motels, either, where you’d take the mattress straight out of your room to your car in front – the data is from four- and five-star hotels where the things most requently stolen include TVs, batteries and remote controls. People are taking the batteries out of devices in their room!

In 2018 a family was caught on video in Bali with items stolen from the hotel they stayed at packed in their luggage. The hotel demanded they open their bags for inspection and a big argument ensued. As the bags are searched one stolen item after another gets revealed.

We’ve heard about a grand piano stolen from a Sheraton lobby, and about guests who steal televisions from their room.

And, would you believe: carpet, light fixtures, curtains and mirrors? Even door hinges have been stolen. The Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire (the Pretty Woman hotel) had a fireplace stolen. A couple staying at a Holiday Inn once asked for a room beside the parking lot – to make it easier to clean out the entire room including all of the furniture, even the bed.

The thing is – at least until hotels began replacing miniature bottles with wall-mounted toiletries – hotels actually wanted you to take those mini bottles. They don’t want you to raid the housekeeping cart, but the ones in your room were fair game in hopes you would think of them and the brand when you use them. Hyatt specifically implored you to do it!

But since there are limits to what you can take some hotels took to RFID tags to detect when towels leave the property.

[O]ne hotel that has saved $16,000 per month by reducing its towel thefts each month from 4000 down to 750 by attaching washable RFID tags to its towels. I assume that they aren’t actually tracking down towel thiefs, rather by letting guests know that the towels are tagged this serves as a deterrent. Presumably the deterrent would work just as well by telling guests that the RFID tags are in the towels, without any need to make the actual investment, at least as long as they are able to keep their lack of technology investment a secret.

More than warning you, or even catching you, there can be real consequences to theft in some places:

In Japan a few years ago, one hotel reportedly had a young couple arrested for running off with bathrobes and an ashtray, while a woman in Nigeria was sentenced to three months in prison for stealing two towels from the Transcorp Hilton Abjua Hotel.

Too bad they didn’t take advantage of towel amnesty!

What do you take from hotels, and what seems like crossing the line?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The only things that should be taken are those things which will otherwise be discarded, like food amenities, opened toiletry bottles, and specific gifts (e.g., elite gifts) from the hotel. If it is something that belongs to the hotel and will be re-used (including towels, bedding, and furniture), it stays in the room. And if someone is unsure whether or not they can take something, a simple call to the front desk will provide them with the answer.

  2. This isn’t unusual every time I am unhappy with my elite upgrade at a Marriott I always help myself to a piano though it must be a full size grand piano and a Steinway Baldwin or Yamaha
    Only fair right? If the mattress is brand new maybe.
    Pop it on my motorcycle and go
    Seriously we are far to weak on crime in America.Perhaps caning like they do in Singapore could help.I saw no graffiti while I was there and gorgeous clean streets and foliage landscape
    Our country has gotten sad with crime over the last number of years
    Where do we go from here?

  3. The only reason it’s impossible to take the shampoo or lotion from the wall-mounted dispenser is because most hotels never refill the dispensers. They’re regularly empty. Even if you wanted to take it, you wouldn’t.

    That aside, I generally take pens if the actual property’s name is on the pen or stationary if there is letterhead in the drawer. Makes a nice souvenir. Once I think I took a coffee cup because it had the hotel brand on it. The hotel was a particularly upscale hotel with a fair bit of history and marketing cachet.

    I’d never think about taking towels, robes, etc.

  4. @ Dwondermeant, Far too weak on crime is wrong, Our government these days actually encourage theft by passing laws like no jail time if less than $950 or like many blue state attorneys not wanting to jail anyone who commits small crimes, sometimes even big.

    We seriously lack in moral and ethical discipline these days

  5. @Black Hill of course someone here had to get political and blame the Libs. Never mind there are ample stats showing crime just as bad (if not worse) in Red states. One of the Radical Right’s favorite bogoeymen – allng with migrant caravans and voter fraud.

  6. In the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea), one guest stole some towels. The tour bus was stopped and everyone prevented from going to the airport. Finally, the tour guide negotiated for the security men to stand away from the bus so that everyone on the bus would close their eyes except the thief, who would place the towels in a visible place on the bus. The towels appeared and the bus was allowed to head to the airport.

  7. The reason that the RFID tags reduced “shrinkage” has little to do with guests and everything to do with the laundry/linen supply companies. Most of the towels disappear while being laundered offsite

  8. A Holiday Inn I stayed at once had mugs that read “This mug was stolen from the _____ Holiday Inn” (I forgot which one it was). Very clever. Wonder if it worked. I would think it had the opposite effect.

  9. @Black Hill: What blue state do you think the people from India in the article are from? My god. Give it a rest.

  10. It would never cross my mind to steal from a hotel, we stayed at the Beverly Hills Hilton decades and decades ago, they had such lovely bathrobes monogramed with Beverly Hills Hilton on them, oh boy they were nice. There was a discrete sign that said they are available for purchase, so that is what we did, we bought one for my husband it was his only bathrobe for like 25 years, he was never a big bathrobe guy.

  11. I’m a teeny shareholder in Marriott. I wouldn’t be…but I made a wise choice decades back because I so loved my favorite hotel, a Sheraton, in Toronto. So I wound up with stock in ITT. Anyhow, I take if there are any the little bottles of toiletries assuming it’s a scent I can tolerate. Otherwise I take nothing. Maybe a pen or notepad…I would be stealing from the company, taking things that don’t belong to me. It’s wrong. One time my pup and I were staying in a lovely Four Points. She picked up the heavy plastic NO SMOKING reminder and put a couple dents in it. I called the desk and offered to replace it/pay for it. They told me not to worry about it. She has a thing for bathmats:-) But we’ve never taken one. As for a bed…People are crazy. I could never lift it or get it in my car….Who ARE these idiots?

  12. Wow, stealing a mattress is going a bit far even in showing the hotel chain reciprocal loyalty for all the Bonvoying the customer gets.

  13. I assume hotels just bill the guest for big items like TVs and such. It’s the main reason I wouldn’t book a room on my card for someone I didn’t know really well. I really don’t know why anyone would steal a mattress from any hotel, gross. It’s like picking up furniture off the street.

  14. I stick with pens and pads when I really need them (though the former have gotten very cheap and the latter very thin). Cheap ear buds in the gym are fair game as they are a one-off use anyway. but cruise ships occasionally have similar problems, particularly cutlery disappearing from the dining room. But in the cabins it’s easy enough to track down who took what. Nothing new with that; when he was 19 FDR was invited onto the Kaiser’s yacht. He swiped a pencil as a souvenir.

  15. Stayed at King George Hotel in Athens. Amazing scented products from Molten Brown

    Stayed for a week… got 2-3 new ones every day. Took a bunch to next destination

  16. PSA of the day.

    The elevators in the Kempinski Dubai are too small to get the King mattress set in.

    Had to settle for the toiletries instead

  17. I don’t take anything from hotels. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

  18. Just thinking about the airplane shaped VA salt and pepper shakers that said “pinch me” on the bottom.

  19. Would you want a used motel mattress in your home?

    I did take a cotton hotel laundry bag 10 years ago. Still use it for my travel laundry.

  20. Hard to imagine how those larger items could even happen. Could it be employee theft when only one person is on duty at the hotel?

    I do consider people fundamentally honest, as I have had thousands of guests at my Hawaii vacation rental, and as far as I can tell nothing has ever been stolen. But I do have the advantage that they would usually have to bring it in a suitcase on an airplane to get it home.

  21. @Black Hill
    Who brought politics into the convo? No one except you. After reading all the comments twice to make sure I didn’t miss what you were commenting on, I confirmed that the only person displaying irrational extremist and paranoid behavior was you.
    P.S. please take you meds.

  22. Terry cloth slippers are the only things I ever take. We are a “shoes off” household, so they’re good for houseguests. Hotels obviously don’t re-use them for later guests (if opened), so I think they are pretty clearly fair game.

  23. The trick is too use a cheap CC
    that has a low balance limit then when they try to add an a “purchase”
    Five fing discount!

  24. Hotels have cut security to such it’s one guy have has to patrol whole building, I worked audit for years lol. We had so many tailgate and 3rd rows stolen it was crazy so was the GM in the daytime stolen, you think he added extra security nope. He had a big sign made saying to lock your things in the lobby the sales people for going crazy running away their business.

  25. These thieves should be aware of the real danger of bedbugs, in some of these items! LOL

  26. @Lee. I saw another comment Yogi Berra made. Nobody goes to Waikiki anymore. It’s too crowded.

  27. Toiletries, when they were individual, have always been fair game. My understanding is that they are all tossed anyway. I used to stretch one set, then collect and donate to a women’s shelter.

    Also, pens are very cheap advertisement for the brand. Meant to go. The small paper pads are now commonly thin. I have a few from cool or historic places – like the Algonquin NYC which I’ve used maybe 12 sheets to supply bookmarks for years.

    The thought of wanting a used hotel mattress is appalling at best.

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