What Do Hotel Guests Leave Behind In Rooms? [w/video]
AOL Travel News put that question to a bunch of hoteliers and we couldn't believe the answers we got -- prosthetic legs, dentures in glasses, blow-up sheep, a monk's outfit, diamond rings. We also were told heartwarming stories of reunions between guests and their lost items.
A valuable necklace, both precious and sentimental, for instance, was found hanging by one link in the drain of a sink.
John Mahan, director of security at the InterContinental Boston, says the gold necklace with two stones belonged to a woman from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The stones represent her two daughters, one of whom had passed away earlier in the year.
"Upon arriving home, she called Security in a panic stating that she could not find this necklace, Security proceeded to the room (with the guest on the cell phone) guiding security through every, I mean every possible place that she could have left the necklace," Mahan recalls.
"After a futile search and much to the dismay of the guest, the necklace was not found," he says. But security went back to the room and checked again and ended up finding the necklace in the bathroom sink.
"Equipped with just an ink pen and with surgeon-like precision," security was able to extract the necklace, Mahan says.
Four security officers had spoken with the guest during the search and all wanted to be on the phone when the find was revealed, Mahan says.
"The guest was told, and after a brief period of silence (everyone thought the call was disconnected) a somber guest who was weeping and gasping was so elated that she had to pause for a moment not expecting such great news."
The security department decided to pay to have the necklace shipped to the guest overnight.
An odder story comes from the New York Marriott Marquis where a housekeeper was shocked to find a leg under a bed – a prosthetic leg.
"She got quite a surprise," says Marriott Marquis spokeswoman Kathleen Duffy. "To lose a leg, how does that even happen?" And perhaps even more weirdly, the leg was never claimed.
Hotels typically keep lost items for three months, after which time they are tossed out – or in some cases taken home by a staff member or donated to charity.
Due to privacy issues, hotels don't contact guests to tell them they've left something behind.
"What if you were calling someone who was at a hotel with someone other than their spouse? We can't do that," Duffy explains.
But if contacted by a guest, hotels will typically do everything they can to recover and return the lost item, hoteliers say.
In cases where a hotel finds something of value – such as a suitcase full of money, weapons or something illegal, police are called, Duffy adds.
Nearly every hotelier we talked to said they had seen at least one gun left behind and knives and other weapons too, as well as large amounts of cash.
Last week in Mobile, Ala., a police officer departed a Hilton Garden Inn property forgetting his department-issued Glock and a .44 Magnum. A police official says he can't remember an officer doing that before, though guns left in hotels are "pretty common."
One hotelier from a different chain said he once had to deal with a gun left behind by a federal agent.
More common items left in hotel rooms include cell phones and cell phone chargers, nightgowns and pajamas, underwear, eyeglasses, teddy bears, luggage, jewelry, electronic devices, video games, pillows, medication, passports and wallets, the hoteliers say.
Duffy says at the Marriott Marquis, guests typically notify the hotel immediately when they realize they have left something behind.
The retail value of items left at the more than 50,000 hotel properties in the U.S., collectively, is likely in the hundreds of millions, although exact numbers are not available.
"U.S. hotels welcome more than 4 million guests each night and many of those guests leave a variety of items behind," says Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
A survey of British Holiday Inn properties in 2009 found items left behind at just 225 properties worth more than $3.9 million. These included 42,000 phone chargers and such odd finds as a fake leg, dentures, a blow-up sheep, a monk outfit, wigs and a Gucci watch. Unclaimed items of value were donated to charities.
Of course, some people leave items behind intentionally because they don't have room in their luggage to bring them home, says Mike Cords, director of hotel security at the Orlando World Center Marriott.
That might explain the 12-foot-long stuffed snake found at the Orlando property, Cord says, but may not explain other items left over the years including $6,000 in cash, a gun, a hunting knife, handcuffs and golf trophies.
Most frequent travelers can probably tell tales of leaving a cell phone charger plugged into a socket or a bottle of medication in a hotel bathroom. There are lots of items lost under beds, or forgotten in room safes.
But another common spot to lose things is tangled in bed linens, says Tony Johnson, general manager of the Holiday Inn Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
Johnson's property keeps lost and found items for 90 days in a sizeable room where racks are filled with labeled plastic bags, sorted by week.
Visiting the room, we saw stuffed animals and other toys, a fan, many charger cords and lots of items of clothing.
Johnson recalls on sentimental occasion where the Holiday Inn reunited a guest with her engagement ring. He says the property is frequently asked to send home forgotten kids' blankets.
"A lot of our success stories have been finding the blankets amongst hundreds of pounds of laundry," Johnson says. "When you reunite a child with their whoobie, their security blanket, it gives me goosebumps thinking of some of the stories we've had."
In a more serious circumstance, a guest at the Hilton Garden Inn in Tallahassee, Fla., left behind an insulin pack.
"By the time the staff noticed it in the room and contacted him, he was about two hours away. The desk clerk at that time was so concerned. The guest was in his late 60's and needed the medication," a hotel spokesperson says. "The desk staff arranged for a local taxi company to drive and meet him 1/2 way to give him his medicine."
In Rockaway, New Jersey, the executive housekeeper at the Hilton Garden Inn recalls reuniting one guest with a favorite pair of jeans and "a sweet little girl" with a much-loved stuffed monkey.
They are still scratching their heads at the Hilton Garden Inn in Secaucus/Meadowlands, New Jersey, over a pair of false teeth, wondering how the guest did not realize they were missing.
At the Hampton Inn Downtown Chicago, which was a popular spot for guests from "The Jerry Springer Show," General Manager Andrew Scarlett says at any given time they have 50 or 60 leftover phone chargers that they keep in a bucket. He says shoes, shirts and makeup are common left behinds.
"I have seen one gun, and we called the Chicago police and they came by and picked it up. That scared the heck out of the housekeeper," Scarlett says.
"We get pot once in awhile, and beer and wine on Sunday mornings leftover from people having a good time the night before. Adult toys too once in awhile. And of course dirty magazines," he adds.
Ron Ruebensaal, Loss Prevention Manager at the Crowne Plaza Hilton Head, says any items of value that go unclaimed at the hotel are donated to the Hospice of the Low Country Thrift Store.
But reuniting guests with items of sentimental value when they report them lost is the first goal.
He recalls one guest from the UK who asked for help finding a small baby blanket left in a guestroom.
"She said that her son was now in his twenties but was very sentimental about this and had slept with this since an infant. I searched the room looking for a 'baby blue' blanket but did not see it," Ruebensaal says.
But he checked the linens one more time and found a 1" by 3" piece of fabric. "After contacting the guest and giving her a description of the item found she said that was it 'exactly," he says.
The hotel shipped the blue fabric patch home.
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Photos, InterContinenal New York Times Square, InterContinental Boston, Crowne Plaza Hilton Head, Fran Golden