Have you ever felt a little nagging feeling, gnawing away at your conscience; sort of like a rat desperately trying to dig its way out?
I have. And if ‘research’ is to be believed, I might be a ‘thief’; and you might just be one too.
Okay! Hold off calling the cops or punching me in the face just yet. And no, I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested. Yes, very literally.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may well be familiar about the blackhole that we have at home. As a sort of accompaniment to that, we also have a small chest of drawers. The top shelf of this set is filled with enough toiletries, razors, shaving creams, shoe shine sponges, sewing kits, shower caps, tiny pieces of fancy soap, little bottles of shampoo and conditioners, toothbrushes and toothpaste of every imaginable sizes and shapes. If I’m honest, I think there might be enough items for a family of three to survive for a really long time. Assuming we survive the nuclear holocaust that we seem to be inadvertently prepping for in the first place. And now for the bitter truth – we might have ‘taken’ most of these from various hotels that we have stayed at over the past few decades. And if ‘research’ is to be believed, a lot of you have done so too.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@iwrotethose” display_mode=”box”]Hotel Kleptomania: Check out anytime but never with a lighter bag than what you’d checked in with.[/tweetthis]
See, I’m quite reluctant to call myself a thief. And technically, while the term may not be entirely accurate, if the definitions set by various leading hotels are to be believed, we’re all petty thieves. I am not sure what it is about those tiny shampoo bottles or multi-scented fancy soaps, but something about them brings out another side of me. It is almost as if I feel that along with all these toiletries, Lady Kleptomania has dumped me too into her large suitcase.
The first time I ever ‘did the act’, I confess, there was a certain exhilarating thrill about it. I’ve always been someone who has largely abided by rules. However this little act of rebellion was something that I cherished. In fact, if I remember correctly, the first ever set of items that I took from a hotel room was a shower cap, a fancy looking soap and a dental kit. We were on holiday and were staying at a rather posh hotel for a few nights. I remember picking these up and hiding it in a little bag that I used to carry. And then I spent the rest of the day having mixed feelings; on one hand I was thrilled about the prospect of doing something which, to my naive little mind, reeked of an act of rebellion. On the other, I was terribly afraid of the hotel actually complaining to my parents and labelling them thieves. Of course, the next day, when the housekeeping staff calmly replaced the items without even asking us, I was both confused and happy. Needless to say, I tried to push the boundaries as much as I could and they kept replacing every piece of toiletry that I had
stolen ‘taken’. And suddenly it no longer made sense to me.
I suppose I should have just given into curiosity and asked my parents about it. But the act of confessing a theft rendered me speechless and I didn’t. And this was way before the time of Google and the Internet. Over the course of my life so far, I’ve still continued to accumulate stuff – from soaps and shampoos to dental kits and sometimes, those ridiculously thin but absolutely comfortable bath slippers. I won’t confess more, but needless to say, I’ve not yet been ‘questioned’ about my stash.
But as you grow older, and by those standards, somewhat wiser, you tend to look back on your actions. And it was during one of those phases, that I started to analyse my ‘kleptomaniac’ behaviour. With the power of the Internet at my fingertips, I managed to do plenty of research and discovered that almost everyone has at some point taken stuff from their hotel rooms. Of course, exceptions are there, and since they are few in number, I won’t focus on them.
Now, what I found interesting was the fact that the reasons for many of them ranged from ‘Oh! But these are already included in the hotel rate’ to the more strange ‘I am showing my appreciation by taking some of their stuff – like the bathrobe with the hotel insignia on it. After all, it is free publicity for the hotel.’
To cut a long story short, barring a handful of people, nobody has taken (or rather confessed to taking) stuff from their hotel rooms for monetary gain. Which then makes me wonder, why then do it in the first place.? Of course, the reasons continue to vary – from the thrill to a sense of entitlement. But then again, the question remains to be asked – to the person who believes that they are appreciating the hotel’s taste in things by taking them – shouldn’t you also feel entitled to ‘steal’ or take, say a bedside lamp or say a remote to the TV. Or maybe if you’re staying in my house, say our crockery or pillow cover and sheets? But you hardly see anyone do that.
So it has to be narrowed down to our psychological mentality of staying in a hotel. Or perhaps, I just have bad taste when it comes to pillow covers and crockery :P. Or maybe it’s an insatiable urge that we have to make sure we get our money’s worth. Maybe it’s a condition that is stereotypical of the ‘middle-class’ syndrome – if we feel we’re entitled to it, we take it.
Needless to say, despite an extensive research, I’m sorry to say that I am no closer to discovering why staying in hotels can turn even the most righteous, law-abiding citizens into a bunch of kleptomaniacs. Maybe it’s just a combination of factors. And we will never know the full story. What I did discover though, is a rather amusing list; a list of the strangest things that people have tried to smuggle out of their hotel rooms. While I am not going to bore you with the exhaustive list, I can’t help by share 6 peculiar items that people have tried to ‘take’ in their rather heightened sense of entitlement.
Televisions. Paintings. Mattresses. Lampshades. Bulbs. Telephone units.
Bizarre stuff, don’t you think? Sounds like the days will soon come when anything that isn’t nailed to the floor or screwed to the wall or ceiling is considered as fair game. So, if you think about it, the only thing that is physically stopping us is our sense of morality and not having a suitcase big enough to carry these.
I found a rather interesting piece of literature about ‘Hotel Kleptomania’ which quoted a psychologist as saying :
‘Sometimes, hotel kleptomania is a sign of exhibitionism…..sort of like a tendency to show off. Some of them may just want to equip their home with the furnishings of a hotel, particularly if the hotel is famous, posh or expensive. Some even view it as a status symbol or even a reminder of their stay at a particular place. It is no different to a traveller who leaves luggage tags of the places he or she has visited on the suitcase. Except that the luggage tags are free.”
Then again, it’s not really a middle-class syndrome either. There are celebrities who have confessed about their kleptomania when in hotel rooms too. Like Dustin Hoffman who has confessed to frequently ‘taking’ bathmats/ bathrobe and Margot Robbie who has confessed to taking multiple rolls of toilet paper.
‘But, if I’ve paid for the room, surely I’m entitled to some of its contents’, I hear you scream. Or maybe it was just my inner conscience, trying to play advocate. Apparently, that’s where we are wrong. After consulting a few people who have worked in hotels. I’ve come to the following understanding:
‘Toiletries, towels and the rest of the items are provided for use within the confines of the hotel room and are not usually meant to be taken out. However, the general consensus is that if it can’t be reused, it is okay. Hence why things like toiletries are usually fair game and nobody will judge you for taking them. But the moment you lay hands on things like bathrobe, slippers and the rest, the hotel can stop you. Of course, most hotels choose not to, because it labels them as being picky. Which is why, nowadays, if you’re feeling the urge to own something from the hotel, most hotels will let you buy some of their memorabilia for a cost.’
As for me, well, the story has changed slightly. Mainly because my research has armed with more information about what items are acceptable when taken from the hotel room under the ‘complimentary use’ tag. But yes, during my recent stay at one of the premiere hotels in Mumbai, I’m quite happy to say that I did smuggle out a few toiletries. After all, I was entitled to it. [Plus they were from Hugo Boss!]
So, have you ever treated yourself to a little souvenir (or two) from a hotel room? Go on. Your secret’s safe here. After all, everything’s safe and private on the Internet, isn’t it?