Trevor Laffan: Why are so many living people it up in the Hotel Kleptomania?

A subject that seems to be cropping up a lot lately concerns guests stealing items from hotels - not just little shampoo sachets, we’re talking about serious theft, says Trevor Laffan
Trevor Laffan: Why are so many living people it up in the Hotel Kleptomania?

BE MY GUEST: But many hotel customers are helping themselves to an array of items, even mattresses

I’VE been renting apartments abroad on and off for a few years now, and whenever I finish up with them, I invariably leave a few bits and pieces behind. Deliberately.

Nothing major, just small stuff like maybe a cereal bowl, a mug, a sweeping brush... and there’s a reason for that.

I like a decent cereal bowl. There’s nothing worse than trying to dig your cereal out of something that would fit in a commode. By the same token, large saucers masquerading as bowls are not acceptable either because I want to cover the cereal with milk.

I also like a decent mug instead of a cup. Everyone knows that the first cup of tea in the morning is the nicest, so you want to make it last. But I don’t like large mugs that spill tea down both sides of your neck so, if these little essentials are not supplied in the apartment, I’ll go and get them myself.

When I leave the apartment, the next person can use them or throw them out, I don’t care.

It might seem like a first world problem, but I’m telling you this by way of introducing a subject that seems to be cropping up a lot lately concerning guests stealing items from hotels. Not just little shampoo sachets, we’re talking about serious theft.

Mattresses, TV sets, coffee makers, pictures off the walls, towels, bathrobes and even bed linen have all been taken, and it seems that everything in the hotel room is fair game for some light-fingered guests.

I thought it would be difficult to walk through the reception area pulling a large mattress behind you without attracting the attention of the receptionist, but some hotel elevators do go to the basement car park, which would solve that problem.

But that doesn’t explain why you’d bother going to all that trouble to steal a mattress in the first place. Especially one that hundreds of other people have already slept on. But then, why would anyone want to steal towels, shower heads or light bulbs either?

This activity is more widespread than I thought, and apparently some of the offenders would surprise you. I shouldn’t be shocked at that though, because I witnessed an incident years ago that left me open-mouthed.

I stayed in a hotel in eastern Europe many years ago that couldn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be confused with the Ritz. It would probably have a one-star rating here if you were feeling generous.

I sat in the foyer after checking out, waiting for a lift to the airport. There weren’t regular flights out of that particular place in those days so there were a few others availing of this flight to London.

I recognised one of the faces from the world of stage and screen. He was well known at the time and he had a hat pulled down over his eyes, trying to remain anonymous. Nobody was rushing over to ask for his autograph, but I could see some others looking at him, trying to figure out if it was him or not.

I was sitting next to him, but I didn’t attempt to start up a conversation because his demeanour wasn’t very inviting. He didn’t talk to anyone and I got the impression that this was a guy who just wanted to be left alone.

After a while, a bus turned up to collect the first group, of which our friend was one, and off they went. They were no sooner out the front door when I heard a bit of a fuss and some raised voices coming from outside. Then, the doors opened and in came our friend again flanked by a couple of security men.

He opened his suitcase in the middle of the foyer as instructed and produced a bunch of towels, which he handed over to the security men. His attempt at keeping a low profile was well and truly blown by now and the whole episode had me totally baffled for a couple of reasons.

In that part of the world, the towels supplied in the hotels were like long, thin, tea towels. They were about half the width of a regular towel and I’m not sure what material they were made of, but they did nothing to dry you. They only spread water around your body. They were terrible things and it made no sense that someone would want to take them.

I’d also be surprised if this guy was short of money, so what is it that turns normal hotel guests into kleptomaniacs? Is it the thrill, or do they feel entitled to take stuff because they have paid for the room?

It’s a big problem and one hotel chain has even suggested that it is best to ask at reception if you are unsure whether something is complimentary or not.

It’s hard to believe that there are people who need to be reminded that the mattress or TV can’t be treated in the same way as the chocolate left on the pillow, but it’s the truth, and it’s not only hotel guests who need reminding.

There was a story circulating many years ago about Nicolae Ceausescu, the infamous Romanian dictator.

Apparently, he and his wife were touring Europe and they stayed in Paris as guests of the President of France before going on to London to meet the Queen.

It’s said that President d’Estang contacted the staff in Buckingham Palace and warned them to lock up their valuables because the Ceausescus had rifled the Elysee Palace and walked off with anything that would move.

That does it. You obviously can’t trust anyone these days, so from now on, if you call to my place, you’ll be frisked on the way out. You have been warned.

More in this section

Sponsored Content