Confessions of a Hotel Kleptomaniac

Hotel toiletries - Kleptomania

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?


Sincerely yours,

An honest hotel kleptomaniac.

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  1. So you’re telling me, they’re NOT really supposed to be taken! Holy mother of God, this is such a revelation to me, I’ve been a thief all my life!


    Drama aside, those tiny shampoo and moisturizer bottles are cute. And fancy-shaped. And smell good. And did I say cute?
    Those hotel guys should just feel flattered that we collect them like souvenirs, am I right? 😎
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  2. Sid, it’s not stealing but it’s taking. As it is, hotels charge us a bomb and so it’s fair game. Thrilling, na!!! Guilty as charged:)
    Love this post…I identify but I ain’t hotel Kleptomaniac for a Hindi song raging in my head, Jahan haq na mile wahan loot sahi..face palm! face palm!

  3. Thanks for writing this. Next time when I pack in the hotel toothbrush or the pretty soaps I did not use, I’ll experience the thrill of owning stuff that’s legally not mine.

  4. Getting to know your inner self from someone else is like reading your own story. But I have had a different experience altogether that changed my later days forever.

    During my early travel days and only 1st or 2nd hotel stay, while I was checking out I saw a couples’ luggage getting searched by the hotel crew. Spoons, hand towels, drinking glasses were coming out of their American tourister.
    I felt embarrassed for them and was also scared like hell because I was carrying those 2 small soaps and a matchbox from my room. And I was swearing if I come clean out of this shit, I will never take anything again.
    Those 7-8 minutes of pounding heart felt like a thriller scene when attendant went to check the room & I was at the front desk. Attendant came back and hotel thanked me for my stay and wanted me to visit again.
    8 years have passed by and that scene is still afresh – infact makes me limit myself to soaps and matchboxes only. Safe bets. Maybe the gods are looking over me and warned me in time with a theatrical scene at the beginning of the kleptomaniac highway.

    1. Thanks for sharing that personal experience, Sid. Wait, it’s like me replying to my namesake. Okay, Poor joke 🙂

      I suppose most of us continue to do so because we are yet to have a similar experience. And like you said, the gods did flash those warning signs ahead of the kleptomaniac highway.

      Hope to see you here again.

  5. Oh hello Ross! 😛

    You stole Hugo Boss toiletries? THIEF!

    I’m once of those rare few who have not taken a thing from their hotel rooms. I know it is all about getting your money’s worth, but taking something that does not belong to me is not something I like. It is not the fear of getting caught, I just don’t want to do it!

    Sorry for being a spoilsport!
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    1. Well, aren’t you Ms. Goody two-shoes ! 😜
      Fair point; I don’t think it’s about getting the money’s worth always. For me anyway; sometimes the toiletries are just tooooooo nice. Plus the hotels don’t have an issue. But yes, each one to their own.
      *Rapidly cancels plans to give Soumya a package of Hugo Boss toiletries for her bday* 😄

  6. I used to be one, not anymore. Not because of my wonderful moral compass, but I just stopped. It always used to be those tiny soaps and shampoos, but never bathrobes and cutlery. And oh, where did you get Hugo Boss toiletries? I’d definitely take those haha!

    1. Damn! And I was just about to compliment that wonderful moral compass of yours.
      Shush…I’ll tell you in a DM; Hugo Boss toiletries are awesome. Good to see you here, Hema

  7. Ermm..I am probably in the minority here, but nope, I have never taken anything from a hotel room. Do I find it acceptable to take? Of-course yes. I do feel entitled to the toiletries at-least. 😛 But but but – I have a hard time dealing with clutter, and so I refrain from getting things that I will probably not use.
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    1. Well, if only I had a dollar for everyone who said that. So far, I’ve calculated like 7 or 8 minority comments 🙂
      Damn! I almost had you down for a ‘hoarder’ – since we’re very similar on a lot of other fronts. Thanks, Shantala

  8. Everything is safe and private on the internet 😛
    I hadn’t really thought about taking home a TV or a bath robe. I guess it’s only those tiny little soaps, and maybe a notepad or something (I have a few from ITC 🙈)
    I doubt I’d even take home the slippers or coffee mug or even the small fridge in the room. Guess it’s just me trying to be a honest brat 😀

    Hilarious read, and the research is fab 😛

    1. You do realise that it was sarcasm 😉
      Jokes aside, I don’t think most of us would think about a TV or the fridge.
      Thanks for the compliments, Mithila

  9. hehehe you are an honest man… like everyone else it did remind me of Friends scene. I usually grab all the tea packets and eat all the cookies that are complimentary 😀
    Television and mattresses !! seriously… who can steal a TV and not get caught!!
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  10. I’m fairly utilitarian, I only grab the toiletteries I know I will use. So if a hotel has some generic blah sented soap or shampoo I know I would not want on my skin, I leave it alone. I love the 5 star hotels stuff, the lotion most of all 🙂 So yes, if I stay more than a night, I hide the bottle and they replace it for me to take it too the next morning.

    I love the bathroom slippers too, and if they are the disposable kind, I grab my pair and toss it in the luggage before I check out. I use them home until they break apart.

    1. Oh yes! The luxury hotels usually have some high end stuff. And they seem very customised to suit that particular hotel’s interiors too. Oh yes, bathroom slippers are awesome – not all of them though; some are quite sturdy.

  11. I too have collected stuff like soaps, tooth brush, shoe bags, tea and sugar sachets out of some pleasant temptations but have hardly used them, it keeps on getting piled up and finally lands in the dustbin.

    1. ‘Pleasant Temptations’ – I like that phrase 🙂
      Uff! My heart skipped a beat when you said it finally lands in the dustbin. Use them up…somehow. Thanks, Swati.

  12. Toiletries, yes. Blankets, towels, No! I love the tiny bottles and small soaps that are handy while traveling. Sometimes, those small sewing kits too but not the other stuff. I have also seen people flick blankets from aircraft but these days they have started collecting them in advance. 🙂 Strangely no one does the same on train journeys, right?

    1. Haha! Yes, they’re all getting pretty wise to our tricks. Uff! I hardly use the blankets they give on the train journeys. Somehow I’m not convinced they wash them. Good to see you here, Rachna

  13. Sometimes the toiletries are too fancy to be left behind 😛 I remember stocking up on notepads and pencils when I was a kid. I never knew people could flick lamps and mattresses?! REALLY! :O
    I think toiletries is just fine. But some hotels these days have dispensers! HA!

    1. Finally! I knew you’d get me, Divsi!
      Oh, apparently people flick (or atleast try to!) all kinds of things.
      Yes, the dispensers are a pain, aren’t they? They’ve gotten wise to our little schemes.

  14. Haha! That’s Sheldon’s line! 😉
    Reminded me of the Friends’ episode where Ross overdoses on Maple candy and steals apples! Lol!
    I seem to be in the minority 🙁
    I don’t take the stuff hotels provide. I use the soap and toothpaste… But, never bring it back. I use the fluffy towels too.. 😀
    Everything else – I carry my own stuff.

    1. Haha! It is – and I’m not lying about ‘having me tested’ 😛
      Oh, you’re not. There are plenty of righteous souls in here for your company 🙂
      Good to see you here, Pix

  15. This reminds of an episode of Friends where Ross has this huge bag full of hotel stuff. But no I haven’t picked up anything though I do use their conditioners and moisturisers rather liberally.

    1. You wouldn’t be the first…and you certain won’t be the last, Tulika. A lot of us could probably relate to that scene 🙂

  16. I am such a doofus. I carry my own stuff and always have a toiletry bag at the ready thanks to the frequent trips. Too scared of skin allergies. I love the sewing kits and tiny soaps though – very handy for traveling again.

    But yeah, I remember decades ago, my cousin traveled overseas very often and would bring back those cute kits that they were given on the flight as compliments of the airline and he’d gift them to me. Still have a couple of those- with miniature coat brush, a sewing kit, tiny hairbrush and toothbrush. Threw away the lip balm, toothpaste and other perishables. The kit is very smart and hides inside my dressing table.

    But the pillows/blankets. Weird. I can understand the fascination for the miniature toiletries. Entitlement is a strange thing!
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    1. You do have a valid point, Vidya . I mean, skin allergies are quite rampant these days, and one can never be too careful. But yes, I still take them 😀
      Oh, I remember those – the plane toiletries. But at least they were sort of handed to you; which I suppose makes you feel less guilty than taking something from the the hotel.
      Entitlement is a very strange thing , indeed.

  17. I know Kleptomania but Hotel Kleptomania is a word? Did not know that. It might sound strange but I haven’t done that and that’s cos my place is so small that I can’t horde stuff 😛 If it was Hugo Boss, I would have surely smuggled 😉 In all honestly, I find stuff to be too boring but if I get something as cool as you found, I wouldn’t hesitate.
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  18. 😀 First I was amused and then the reality strikes. I for one is a cleanliness freak and anything above what I want is considered excess. So happy to leave it as it is but not with my husband and daughter. She loves to pick up the sugar , sugar free, coffee creamers and instant coffee sachets and not leave out hangers. Shampoo, soaps specifically from hill stations always find a place in her handbags.

    As you said, it is more of we pay and so why not? Pick it up and put it in the bag if it is not of use so they replace it. 😀

    1. Hehe….Oops! My wife is quite similar to you, in the sense that she hates to hoard stuff. In fact, when I was away for a couple of weeks with my son, she actually took the trouble to get rid of lots of my ‘hoarded’ stuff.

      But then again, as history shows, I just keep on hoarding. sometimes I wonder why she hasn’t divorced me yet.
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  19. I never thought hotel kleptomania was this common! Of course we all took small shampoo bottles, soaps and shower caps from hotels, and they came in handy during trips later on too. I once clipped one of the ‘taken’ hotel napkins in my diary as a souvenir. To be honest, I never thought about it being a theft at all, and assumed it were all given away to us by the hotel (not the lamps or paintings though!).
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    1. IT’s far more common that we think it is. In fact, I’d say one in two or three of us are so. But no harm, no foul, I suppose. I mean, technically we’re not stealing, though some may argue otherwise.
      Yes, lamps and paintings – and sometimes even mattresses – just imagine 🙂
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  20. If not for your post, I would have never thought we have a word coined for this! 😛
    And yes, I accept that I’m clearly not one of the rare few who do not ‘take’ stuff like these! But why not! Aren’t those cute little designer shampoo bottles so tempting! An everyone likes a free souvenir! 😉
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  21. Yes.. I think.. some soaps, shampoos.. but recently I saw that in a hotel, they are refilling containers with shampoo and liquid soap. That really put me off. I wished I could take some towels too, but alas.. couldn’t hide it. But, cloth napkins in neat rectangles are a favorite. It can be used to wipe the scooty or the laptop.. so useful. Besides, they have so many..

  22. Yeah yeah almost always… I like those little writing pads and sharp pencils they keep… And I have a collection at home now….😉

    1. Oh yes.. I forgot that one. Little writing pads for myself, sonny and then pens, pencils of every training session attended.

  23. You kleptomaniac! Okay, now that’s out of my system 😉

    As for taking shampoos and soaps from hotel rooms, I’ve done it too and religiously re-used them when traveling again, so I suppose it’s mildly justified. Never taken anything else though although there was this perfectly tempting pair of bath slippers at the last place we’d stayed. Sigh.

    Interesting to see what the hotels have to say about this. One of the most bizzare stories I’ve heard is of this chap who flew from Singapore to Chennai and had my cousin as his co-passenger. At the end of the flight, the chap was stuffing the blanket and pillow into his hand baggage. When asked why he said, ‘I’ll sell it and get good money. I do it all the time!!’

    Takes all sorts to make a world 😀
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    1. You couldn’t wait to call me that, could you? I’ve started using my ‘collection’ while travelling too.

      Haha! sounds like some of the people I’ve encountered. I meet a few who try to smuggle out blankets from airplanes 🙂

      Indeed! All sorts to make a world
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  24. Reminds me of Ross from Friends.. The episode where he takes a whole suitcase of stuff and the suitcase plops open as they are leaving..

    I always take toiletries and disposable bags from hotels, but only if it is cute/interesting contsiner/good fragrance.. Loved the stuff at The Westin, Bangkok 😀😀

    Happy travelling and collecting treasures..

  25. To answer your question, nope never taken things from a hotel room. Tough my dad always does. It’s one of those things we always hate about him, simply because there is no more place to keep things he picks up anymore.
    With dad it’s more like, I have already paid to use it so use I shall even if it is a decade later. Actually not even then, I just saw a bottle of shampoo that he had picked up when I was 10.
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    1. Damn you! Must you always be so righteous? 😉
      Well, I’m sure you’ll have a lot more company. And I sort of agree with your dad. I think most of us hotel kleptomaniacs would.

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