The irresistible temptation of a hotel souvenir


Photo by Oswaldo Rubio

Call it an irresistible temptation to bring back a hotel souvenir, or blame sudden and uncontrollable bouts of kleptomania, the fact is that the percentage of those who have the habit of taking away a few souvenirs from their hotel room is not to be underestimated, and at least twenty percent of Italians who travel admit to having fallen at least once in these behaviors. With a particular fondness for linen, towels and bathrobes for this nationality.

But we know that the world is beautiful because it is different, so we’re full of nationalities attracted to magazines and books, such as the British, the Germans and the French, but also, as is the case of the Chinese, to the room furniture. One Chinese tourist out of three actually admits to stealing lamps, clocks and works of art in hotel rooms, according to data from a research conducted by, which assigns the award of more respectful and honest tourists to Danish travelers, with only 12% of tourists who admit to having fallen at least once into temptation.

While investigating the reasons of this worldwide craze is far from simple, it can be fun to learn that 35% of travelers globally, admits to not being able to resist from stuffing something forbidden in the suitcase, in some cases actually committing outright theft with great ease.As in the case of the insatiable traveler who at the Parkroyal Hotel of Kuala Lumpur has seen fit, instead of downing the bottles in the mini-bar – maybe filling them with water or tea to ensure that no one would notice – to get rid of the fridge itself, to the general surprise of the attendants of the hotel. Or like those three customers of a Starwood Hotel in the USA who snubbed the packs of mini-soap of their room to instead attempt the grand theft of the piano in the lobby.

Photo by flickr user Tristan Schmurr

Photo by flickr user Tristan Schmurr

Besides the long list of kettles, hairdryers and crockery, international chains report other unusual items among those stolen from their hotels, including a Christmas tree and a model of a Concorde jet.Not to mention the guy who has seen fit to take away the air conditioner from his hotel room, disassembling the unit directly from the wall.

But looking at the phenomenon from hoteliers’ point of view, what are the countermeasures? While the majority of the directors is willing to turn a blind eye to petty theft consumed to take away a souvenir of the stay, such as designer items, on the other hand someone has already thought of running for cover, using technology or listing the potentially more attractive pieces.A very clearly titled menu actually hangs in the rooms of the fanciful Australian chain QT, titled “Desire” and listing the most coveted objects, and their relative price.The 14 items in the list add more than $ 500 to the account of the suite, so you need to think twice before you make any disappear.

Three hotels in New York, Miami and Honolulu are even more aggressive as they rely on technology to tackle the phenomenon.A Miami company, the Linen Technology Tracking, has developed an RFID tag, featuring a chip which can resist to up to 300 washes, allowing to track the location of the hotel linen.This happensa also because, as confirmed by William Serbin, executive vice president of Linen Technology Tracking, “these thefts may be responsible for the missing, every month, of 5 to 20% of the total bedding linen.”

Even the writer must admit that he has fallen into temptation once, during a stay in Alto Adige. My case got heavier with a funny book by an Austrian illustrator, which had kept me company in some of the restive evenings, after the daytime walks. And you, are you ready to confess your worst misdeeds? Share with us in the comments …

The room with a view

Photo by flickr user Kassandra Bay Resort & SPA

Photo by flickr user Kassandra Bay Resort & SPA

A number of years ago I was working part-time with an Irish travel company one of whose destinations was Calabria, where I live. The company had its own reps of course and my job was mainly to assist in translating where needed. One of the hotels in the package was in Soverato, a resort on the Ionian coast where the beaches are well kept, the water is clear and the town has a nice promenade, delightful bars and ice-cream parlours and some very good restaurants. I felt the middle-aged tourists it was marketed to could have no complaints. Was I wrong!

The hotel manager summoned me at about 8 pm as he was having what he called a “crisis situation” with a group of new arrivals. Two couples were sitting in the hotel lounge, suitcases propped beside them and were demanding that if they didn’t get the “sea-view” rooms they’d paid extra for they were going to call the police and they were “definitely” going to sue the travel company. The manager’s level of English didn’t help and he explained that he had tried to tell them through the rep that if they could be patient for two nights he would then give them their sea-view rooms and a few complimentary bottles of wine. Seemingly the rep wasn’t making much headway. As sometimes happens, these couples were seeing a total refund on the horizon.

I went over and asked how they were and if they’d had a glass of wine at the hotel welcome buffet. The stone-faced lady, I estimated her to be in her sixties, looked at me and asked stiffly: “Did you see the rooms?” I immediately saw she was the leader of this little mutiny boss.

I cajoled them into taking me to the room to explain what the problem was. It turned out that the room was facing the sea but it was on the ground floor and a five-foot protection wall had been built as a barrier against the rough seas that occasionally flooded the ground floor. As the lady said without a hint of a smile: “If I want to see the sea I’ll have to stand on a chair.”

Photo by flickr user Kassandra Bay Resort & SPA

Photo by flickr user Kassandra Bay Resort & SPA

I asked her if it was her first time in Italy and she looked at me and said: “This is the only region I haven’t visited and I’m very disappointed in the room. The room is important when you book a holiday you know.” I agreed with her.

My Irish charm stood me good that evening and we enjoyed a few glasses of wine. I promised I’d take her to visit a medieval town the following day and she agreed they would put up with the room for the two nights. I was as good as my word and accompanied the four guests on what turned out to be a very enjoyable outing. We took in Gerace and Stilo and they were totally in awe of these two towns and I found out that they were all quite well read on comparable places in Sicily and Puglia.

A few days later I bumped into the hotel manager who thanked me for sorting out the “crisis” but then he surprised me by telling me that the two couples had refused his offer to move them to the third floor as in daylight they’d discovered just how convenient to the beach their rooms were. They could walk out in their bikinis and they had the added advantage of not having to take lifts or stairs.

They didn’t refuse the complimentary bottles wine though!