Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Crimes & Misdemeanors.

It's not something I'm particularly proud of, although in my hopes to encourage others to come forward I choose not to conceal it completely. There are some who consider it illegal, others wisely choose to turn a blind eye. Either way, if I were standing in front of all of you in a room today, I would pleadingly ask, "Who among you is not guilty of the same crime?"

I am talking of course, about stealing hotel toiletries.

At issue here is not the occasional bottle of 2-oz. shampoo you tuck away in your purse on a business trip, or the compact sewing kit you brought home for Grandma when you forgot to buy her that Lollapalooza t-shirt she asked for. I'm talking about the kind of ugly behavior when, upon entering a hotel room you push the bellhop aside and make a beeline for the bathroom counter to see what kind of bounty awaits, while your daughters and husband are drawn to the window to take in the view. Their oohing and ahhing over the majesty that is the San Francisco bay is drowned out by the cries coming from the bathroom, "Come look! They've got Aveda in here, and their soap is shaped like a starfish!"

And by the end of your stay, that same counter will lay bare, its entire contents packed neatly beside your skirts and tennis shoes.

The hotels in Japan take the toiletry concept to a whole new level. Along with the usual bottles of shampoo and bars of scented soap you'll find a collection of amenities that makes someone like me feel like they've won the lottery. Standard in every room are four toothbrushes (each with a miniature tube of toothpaste), folding hairbrushes, packs of Q-tips, cotton balls and makeup applicators, and shaving kits. One hotel supplied a facial-care line complete with foaming wash, toner and moisturizer and a kit for men that contained a can of shaving cream and small bottles of aftershave and hair gel. Another supplied ponytail holders along with bobby pins and a makeup mirror.

And none of it excaped my greedy hands. By the end of our trip my suitcase resembled a Rite-Aid kiosk. When Rigel sarcastically mentioned that all I was missing was the bathroom sink, I spent a few seconds mentally calculating its size in comparison to my carry-on bag before I realized he was joking.

I've come to find that my pilfering habit is genetic. In Kyoto, while waiting in a hotel lobby for my sister my niece told me, rolling her eyes upward in the direction of the room, "My mom's up there stuffing the last of the bathroom loot into her bag." I, too, rolled my eyes in disgust but in reality I was wondering if I had time to make a last pass at my room to do some further pillaging. Perhaps I could slip in as the maids were re-stocking and get my hands on just one more bottle of lavender body lotion or shoe buffing pad. When my sister finally came down we had the following conversation:

Me: Did you get everything?

E: Oh yeah. Can you believe the stuff they give you? I've got enough toothbrushes and shampoo to last me the next fifty years.

Me: Me too! I took it all. Everything except the shower cap.

E: Oh no. I never take the shower caps. I mean, that would be tacky.

In our hotel in Tokyo every room had a beautiful lacquer bowl filled with several varieties of green tea. As we were preparing to check out on our last day the phone rang and a whispering voice on the other end said, "Don't forget to take the tea." It was my mom, sounding like Don Corleone ordering his underlings to put the body in the trunk. I took the tea but left the lacquer bowl, knowing that taking it would have put me on a whole other criminal level, up there with habitual nose-pickers and people who open packages and eat while they're walking around the supermarket.

Although I fear passing this gene onto my children, I know at least one of them is safe. Kira would wince and avert her eyes as I shuffled entire trays of product from the bathroom counter into my bag. Both her and Rigel let their disapproval be known when, back in L.A. I modeled my terry cloth slippers from the Tokyo Hyatt. "Omigod. You took those?" (In my defense, they're not very good ones, and the bag they were shrink-wrapped in said "For You.") Kiyomi however, hasn't fared so well. Spurred on by my bathroom ransacking she took to inquiring about other items in the room. "Can I take this?" she asked, pointing to the bedside lamp, and when I caught her trying to shove the plasma TV into her Hello Kitty backpack, well, I have to say I felt so ashamed.

So there's my story. I feel better now, although I can see you all shaking your heads in disapproval. But those of you quick to judge me, just remember this: If there's ever an emergency and you find yourself in my neighborhood late at night, wandering and desperately searching for an all-night drugstore, just stop by my place. I've got a toothbrush waiting for you.

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  1. Hahaha. I used to take everything. Now I only take the good stuff.

    My husband? Totally takes it all. Except bars of soap.

  2. You will be happy to know, you are not alone. My whole family does it. My brothers used to make a game out of borrowing the soaps they used to give on airplanes. They also use to steal the toilet paper rolls. I remember the first time we got on a plane and Justin came back to his seat all pissed cause they had no soaps. In hotels, they know that stuff is going to be gone. Including towels in most nicer places.

  3. OMG!! YOU ARE SOOO FUNNY!! I'm laughing and shaking my head in agreeing with everything you wrote, down to your Mom whispering reminding to take the teas. That is too classic.

    Uh, I'm one of those people who would open a bag at the grocery store before paying for it, b/c um...I have kids. And that's the only way to keep them still in the cart.

    I'm still chuckling!

  4. In high school I got in trouble with a friend once for trying to take the entire tampon dispensing machine. Like take it off the wall and out of the building. Detention. I am so filled with shame. :)

  5. Can I have the lavendar lotion and a cup of tea instead? ;)

    I'm all about taking every toiletry available. My guest bath is stocked with shampoos, soaps and lotions from all my travels. I have no shame.

  6. *LOL*

    I feel sure the hotel expects the guests to take those products when their stay is complete.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

    p.s. I soooooo wanted to take the bed linens from a Marriott Courtyard I stayed at in Gulf Shores, Alabama this summer.

    But that would have been wrong.....

    .....and I had traveled there with a friend in her two-seater Mercedes.

    no room for the bedding.

  7. I was laughing so hard reading this because, if you noticed, I had posted a picture of the toiletries that my son had taken from our hotels the entire 3 weeks we were gone.

    And much to my horror, after I took the picture, we discovered MORE.


  8. Whenever I come home from a trip, I always have something that needs to be cushioned in the suitcase, so I wrap it in a hotel hand towel. Or two.

  9. Not only do I steal, but I have been known to help myself to goodies right off the maid's cart in the halls... shameful.

  10. its included in the price of the stay isnt it? mind you thats why hotels are so expensive!

  11. It's definitely not stealing to take the toiletries. They're there for you to use! They don't want you leaving half-used lotion and stuff for them! They'd just have to throw it away. But towels? Now THAT is stealing.

  12. There must be a business plan in all of this somewhere. Maybe gift baskets of trial size toiletries.

    I applaud your brazeness.

  13. HHAA!! Oh yeah, I'm guilty - so is Will. We've practically had to add extra bags when coming back from vacations; especially from Japan and China - you're SO right.

    And Kira better watch it...that gene may just be dormant right now. I used to be mortified when I was her age at what my Father would take. I was like, "MORE PENS AND NOTEPADS??? GOOD LORD, MAN."
    Now? It's on, baby...and if it's not nailed down, it's goin' bye-bye.

  14. Toothbrush waiting for me, yes!
    But will you pick me up at the airport???

  15. OMG I'm laughing so hard...i used to work in a hotel, and yep, everything is expected to be taken.
    People used to take them off the cart and blush if I saw them but I would offer them more and hand them like five soaps and three shampoos. I didn't pay for it, what did I care.
    Every time my mother goes on a business trip she comes laden with the toiletries. I always expect the seashell soaps and vanilla lotions now.

  16. When we were in Lake Tahoe a few months ago, the resort had a serve-yourself coffee station in the lobby. I went to get some coffee and about killed myself trying not to laugh when a lady came up to the huge basket of creamers and started shovelling them into giant purse.

    I rarely take hotel toiletries unless it's something really fabulous. Of course, I'm a freak about packing and bring along so much travel size stuff, that I don't need the hotel stuff.

  17. You know, they're going to toss it anyway. SOMEONE may as well use it.

    My problem is that now I have a whole stack of it taking up space in my bathroom.

    No one uses it.

  18. If the stuff is high quality, you'd better believe I take it. If I'm spending more than one night, then I put it in my suitcase so that the housekeeper will restock it the next morning.

    I have not stolen directly off the housekeeping cart. That's where I draw the line. But for Aveda products, I might just cross that line.

  19. Great post. If this is a crime, then I'm guilty as sin. I take everything. But I've always wondered about the towels. CAN I TAKE THE TOWELS?

  20. I don't consider taking the toiletries or the pre-measured coffee and hot chocolate pouches a crime! You're paying for them, so who cares? Now, if you are stalking the maids with their carts full sundries, waiting until they've entered a room to replenish, then yeah you're a criminal.

    Funny post!


  21. Well, if taking hotel toilietries is wrong, i just don't wanna be right! :) HEHEHE.

    Sign me up. i am a philifier too and proud of it baby~!

  22. You crack me up, Marsha! Maybe the "stealing toiletries" obsession is an Asian thing. My whole family is afflicted with the disease. However, as a veteran traveller, I have to say that the Hyatt Tokyo is well-known for their toiletries. You chose a good place to pillage. The slippers are above par but the robes are legendary. Other great places to steal toiletries...the Peninsula in Hong Kong, The Wynn in Las Vegas and the Hempel in London. The best? The Tribeca Grand Hotel in NYC has KIEHL'S toiletries! How cool is that? FREE KIEHLS! (Fuck. Did I just "out" myself as a total metrosexual or what? Go Mets!)

  23. I will admit to all of that


    I once stayed at a not to be named hotel where the pillow was the best thing I ever laid my head upon. I smuggled it out. I still have it. It was that good.

  24. Ha! I'm with you, sister. I steal hotel toiletries, too. AND I take the shower caps. And I use the snot out of those babies, until there are holes in them and even then I still use them until I can steal a new one because who wants to pay for shower caps?

  25. I am PANTING reading about all this! I am such a toiletries whore. But just the good stuff.

    The only time I recall disagreeing with Randy Cohen, who writes "ask the ethicist" for the NYT magazine, was when he said that you don't have a right to take home the bottles of shampoo, that they're for your use while you're in the hotel.

    Nuh-uh, Randy!

  26. Omigod, this is STEALING?? Anyway, I am no one to judge. I work for the government... at a desk that's really close to the supply closet... where there are an endless supply of PENS and POST-ITS and TOP OF THE LINE MECHANICAL PENCILS...

    There should be a support group.

  27. I take it all. And I don't think it's stealing, either.
    And the shower caps? Those can be used for covering a big salad bowl. I am so tacky.

  28. It's the simple pleasures right? The shampoo in Rome smelled like oregano and I still took them. I'm not capable of leaving them behind.

  29. GREAT post! I don't take those things, only because I do not like clutter ... I am one of those who waits for the current shampoo bottle to be empty before buying the next one.

    BUT - I do believe that you are expected to take them and that the cost of them is built into the cost of your stay. They certainly would not re-use the products after you have used them, so I think you are just saving them from being tossed.

    You are hilarious. If I have an emergency, I might take you up on those Aveda products!

  30. *holds out hands* I await my sentence. I actually hid Bath and Body Works lotion and soap daily in my luggage so they would replenish it when they cleaned the room. Who can blame me? It's Bath and Body Works after all!!

  31. Wow, never been in a hotel that gives away stuff THAT good!

    I have to say that I take some stuff and leave some stuff. It all depends how good it is. HA, i'm a snobby stealer I guess!!

  32. P and I stayed in a swanky London hotel for our anniversary. She always raids the toiletries but that is just the start. She is a demon at breakfast. Out of the corner of my eye I often catch her stuffing little pots of jam into her handbag and palming fruit into her pockets. Anyone would think we were on day release from the orphanage.

  33. I think as long as you're not stealing them straight off the housekeeping cart, you're totally above board. (I know Diana said even taking from the cart's no big deal, but it seems a bit untoward to me.)

    I feel in my heart that Miss Manners would agree.

  34. I usually leave all that alone...but if it says Neutrogena or Aveda on it, it's going in my bag to be hoarded at home.

  35. I admit to being an amateur when it comes to liberating hotel stocks. I only take the shampoo, soap and mouthwash.

    However the wife.imp has a friend who travels incessently for business and when we visit, we noticed he has furnished his bathroom entirely from hotel stocks!!

    I really wonder if he he has to do laundry in order to hang up clean towels..?

  36. You and my husband would get along so well -- he would have taken the sink, no doubt about it.

  37. You are one bad criminal, woman! *LOL*
    I suffer from the same affliction. Maybe we should form a "Toiletrie Stealers Anonymous" group or something. After all, it's a sickness, right? :)

  38. How funny! And here I thought I was weird!

    I used to be really bad before but now I tell myself I'm discerning because I only take the good stuff. And I definitely put the little bottles in my luggage so that the maid restocks every day!

    My husband is just as bad, but with the little notepads, pens and coffee & tea sachets.

    We're going to Thailand and Malaysia in about 4 1/2 weeks and I'm going to think about you when we're in the hotel.

  39. this is truly hilarious! i do this all the time!

  40. What do you mean--you clear the counters when you leave? I clear them EVERY DAY during my stay so they replenish over and over again.

  41. Oh I am so guilty of hotel room assault! The picture in my head of your daughter and her Hello Kitty knapsack...I snort with laughter!

    Thanks for the link to the article, she put it very well. I think we have to give them the right to joy in this world. It is a frightfully anxious time we live in, but there has to be more than sorrow and fear...

  42. your shame melts against my open bag of pretzels as our carts collide in the grocery. only, I swear, really, they're for the baby. he's teething, you see, and these pretzels, well, they're so nice and thick and hearty, and he can gnaw and drool and drool and gnaw and I'm allowed to focus on shopping and don't have to stop every third step and remove his hands, again, from some potentially toxic item. or his mouth from the cart handle.

    and I only helped myself to the pretzels I'm eating right now because I figured, ehhh, they're already open, right?

    yeah. what shame were you mentioning, again?

  43. See? Knowing this makes me like you that much more.

    Is that wierd?

  44. Okay..."don't forget to take the tea"? That just made me laugh.


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