Top items stolen from hotels – from towels to plasma TV’s

During the past 18 months, I’ve been collecting information from every hotel I’ve visited – I’ve made it part of my trip to ask the hotel front desk staff what their experiences have been with theft from their rooms.

With the exception of 2 properties (one almost called the cops on me), 47 of them were more than willing to share their experiences, one even went so far as to set up a meeting with their loss prevention manager to discuss the topic – and as it turns out, theft is a major issue for all hotels.

Of course, a collection of results from 47 hotels is not exactly a scientific survey, but it does give a bit of an idea of the scope of what people help themselves to during their stay.
#1 – Towels

This one wasn’t all that surprising – towels are by far the number 1 item people help themselves to. In fact, one 415 room hotel I chatted with has an annual budget exceeding $140,000 just to replace stolen towels. Pool towels disappear more than in-room towels, and a member of housekeeping told me that guests take those because there is no way for anyone to know how many you use (whereas in-room towels are often counted).

#2 – Bedding

I’m not a fan of hotel beds – but apparently there are plenty of people that love the feel of hotel sheets, pillows, blankets and comforters, because bedding is the second most stolen item.

#3 – Silverware / kitchen items / room service items

Cups, plates, glassware, trays, pots, pans and a microwave. Sticky fingers take advantage of the added amenities found in the hospitality industry to stock their own kitchen. The damage is the largest at extended stay properties, where guests are provided with more than just a coffee maker and ice bucket. And yes – the ice bucket is also a very popular item. Gross.

Room service items are also high on the list. One property started tracking what they delivered to rooms, and what they got back, and realized 10% of the silverware, plates and trays delivered never got returned. Now, I agree that room service is an overpriced scam, and it may feel like the hotel is stealing from you, but to recoup your losses by stealing from the hotel is just plain mean.

#4 – Bathroom products

No – I’m not referring to the complimentary shower gel, but more about the pricier items like hair dryers, make-up mirrors and towel bars. One property with just over 100 rooms goes through 3 hair dryers a week. Even the iron and ironing board are not immune from being taken.

#5 – Electronics

Hotel thieves have no shame – as soon as a hotel adds something nice, thieves will start stealing it. In-room phones (even though they are useless outside the hotel), DVD players, remote controls, Internet connectivity cables and yes – TV’s.

There is apparently a reason the TV is bolted down, because the new LCD and plasma TV’s installed in hotel rooms disappear at a fairly alarming rate. Obviously not daily, but one loss prevention manager told me he has at least one case a month of a vanishing TV. My biggest question is how the hell people are able to get the TV out of the hotel without anyone noticing. Thankfully, hotel technology is improving, and systems are being added to detect theft.

#6 – Furniture and lightbulbs

Trash cans, office chairs and paintings/mirrors are amongst the items stolen from hotel rooms. One property I spoke to was trying to get a $900 Aeron office chair returned, after a guest “accidentally” removed it. The best part of that theft? Hotel video cameras caught the guest rolling it out a side door when they used it as a luggage cart. The guest claims they forgot to return it to their room.

Lightbulbs are another item you’d never expect people to steal – but these items disappear so often, that some hotels have had to add them to the housekeeping cart so they can be replaced as soon as they disappear. I guess people feel it is perfectly acceptable to steal $4 light bulbs instead of just buying them.

#7 – Signs

This one took me by surprise – because I never realized people would actually be bothered to steal signs. According to one front desk manager, hotel signs are stolen mostly by drunk guests, who figure the sign will look good on their front door at home.

#8 – insane items…

A window mounted air conditioning unit (weighing over 300 lb.), a desk, a color copier (from a meeting room) and the sliding doors off a wardrobe – these are just some of the crazier items that have been taken from hotel rooms. Some of these items could be described as “the cost of doing business”, others are just plain crazy.

Sadly, the price of theft impacts us all, because the more people steal, the higher hotel prices will go.