A new study shows that guests at 5-star hotels are more likely to steal high-value items like tablet computers, artwork, TVs, and mattresses, reflecting a trend among wealthier guests. There’s been an increase in the theft of more valuable items since 2019, including coffee makers, mattresses, and tablet computers. Mini fridges are now commonly stolen from 4-star hotels.
The survey categorizes theft behavior in hotels by nationality.
- Germans and Brits mainly take towels, bathrobes, and toiletries
- Austrians prefer dishes and coffee machines
- Americans often steal pillows and batteries
- Italians favor wine glasses
- French target TVs and remote controls
Hotels are increasingly defending against these thefts, with many adopting digital “no-stay” lists to ban known thieves. And it’s understandable why.
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 frequently 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?