Steal These Items From Your Next Hotel

Seems like these days travelers have no qualms about stuffing their luggage with a few souvenirs from their hotel room. And it's not just the towels: If it's not bolted down, it will walk. Scratch that: Even if it is bolted down, it will still walk. Hotel managers report seeing flat screen televisions and even large pieces of art leave the premises, freshly unscrewed from walls by determined guests. Not to mention door hinges, showerheads, and even luggage stands.So what's the big deal? It all adds up to $100 millions worth of items every year. While hotels don't expect you to clean them out, there are plenty of goodies you can take home guilt-free. Here is our list of what to take -- and what to leave behind lest you incur the wrath of a replacement charge.

Hotels Heists

There have been plenty of strange items liberated over the years. Here are some true tales, including confessions from some sticky-fingered travelers.

•Emily McFarlane of San Jose recounts being pursued around The Fairmont in San Francisco after relieving the coat check sign of its initial letter "C." "We ran all over the hotel while being pursued by men in blazers shouting, "Madam, the 'c!' Give us the 'c!'"

•A Geneva lawyer admits being caught by the receptionist of a Hamburg hotel having trouble pressing the elevator buttons while attempting to make off with "an entire display of apples in a rather large fruit bowl from the hotel lobby."

•"I was in a private suite for a party and after a few drinks I decided I couldn't part with the softness of the terrycloth robe," David Wallace of Toronto confesses. "I exited the hotel wearing the robe in full view of my hosts and hotel staff. The doorman merely smiled as he held the front door open for me."

•"Once a ping pong table by the pool went missing for three days," reports Nicola Amos of L.A.'s Chateau Marmont. "They finally found it in the back yard of Bungalow 3."

•"A huge piece of blown glass by Dale Chihuly was once stolen from a table in the lobby," laments Jenne Neptune of The Alexis in Seattle.

•According to Bill Babis of 70 Park Avenue, the most outrageous things stolen from the chic hotel were the thermostats.

•"Somebody actually bothered to tear out Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, and New York from a rather expensive and comprehensive driving atlas we had available for all guests to consult," says Richard Maloney from Rundles-Morris House in Stratford, Ontario.

•"I have seen both a bed from an exterior corridor hotel and a TV go missing!" says Mark Shouger, G.M. of Chicago's The Wit.

•London's May Fair Hotel was once the victim of a catnapping when an ornamental cat went missing from the Amba Bar. "A brief investigation ensued and within 12 hours of leaving the hotel the guest received a telephone call," says Mara Begley. "Twenty-four hours later, the cat was returned by courier."
Stationery? That's all yours -- especially if it is branded with the hotel's name, website, and phone number. It's basically free publicity for the hotel every time you whip out their pen. They also really want you to send those postcards. The Alexis Hotel in Seattle even lets you paint your own as extra incentive to let those at home know that you wish they were there.

Towels are the number one item to make their way into travelers' luggage. Holiday Inn alone estimated that they lost 560,000 towels in one year -- and that's just one chain. Duvets, pillows, sheets, and pillowcases also disappear at an alarming rate. But seriously, how big must your suitcase be to fit an entire bed's worth of linens?

Perfectly sized to meet the 3-ounce rule, these are yours for the taking whether you've opened them or not. Some hotels even go an extra step to make it easy to bring those toiletries home. Rundles Morris House in Stratford, Ontario, provides decorative plastic covers for packing their full-size bars of Roger & Gallet soap.

Who hasn't snagged the plastic laundry bag out of the closet to pack still-wet bathing suits or cushion a duty-free bottle of rum? That's fine, but if the hotel uses cloth or canvas bags, beware the charge. Some hotels now attach tags to them to warn travelers the price in case they go missing. Basically if the hotel can reuse it, they don't want you to take it.

Forget pillow mints. Chicago's Wit Hotel leaves mini Rubik's cubes, light bulb-shaped stress balls, or old school paddle ball games at turndown, and you should feel no guilt taking them to play with on the plane ride home. And a welcome basket of treats is usually fair game if it comes with a note from the staff. Still scared that in-room gift will lead to a surprise on the final bill? When in doubt, call the front desk and check before popping the cork.

It's safe to assume that the room's iHome sounds system should not be checking out with you. "The most outrageous thing to disappear from one of our rooms was a stereo," says Michael Green of Palm Spring's Triangle Inn. "And because it was in a closed cabinet we did not realize it immediately." Linda Chin, G.M. of Boston's Onyx Hotel, takes a Zen approach. "You can take anything you want from the room," she says, "but we'll charge your credit card for replacement."

It can be confusing, but while most hotels automatically bill you if the robe goes missing, some of the most luxurious hotels won't charge for the robe, slippers, or even that laundry bag if you decide to slip them in your suitcase (they prefer keeping your business rather than trifling over a hundred dollars). New York's Hotel Gansevoort even includes items such as monogrammed robes, branded eco-totes, books, and bottles of premium liquor as part of packages. But you better really want that robe, since those "complimentary" extras come at a price: Package rates are often twice as much as regular room rates.

So you're headed out for a day of sightseeing and realize that the AAs in your camera are dying. Which is just the kind in the back of the remote.... Stop right there and find the closest drugstore instead. Sure, they're "disposables," but they're supposed to run out at the hotel, not in your Wii controls. Light bulbs have also become a tempting snag as hotels start to upgrade to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs that cost a little more upfront.

Bibles have long been an expected amenity in hotel bedside tables. Even though they are slowly being edged out, Gideon International still places more than ten million copies of the good book in hotel rooms annually to replace those that have disappeared or are worn out. Needless to say the society is thrilled when you break the eighth commandment and take one home with you.

As awesome as the story would be if you could boast about staging a Bond-esque operation to relieve a hotel of some art, not everyone will be as charmed. But sometimes the story has a happy ending for all involved. The inebriated guest who helped himself to a boar's head at Hotel Du Vin in Birmingham, England, didn't have to pay for the pig, his friends did. After the sheepish former guest returned the item, friends went back and bought the boar as a wedding present.

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