Hotels are a steal

Published: February 8, 2015 12:16 AM

HOTELS ARE a steal, literally, as guests continue to make off with items pilfered from rooms and public areas...

HOTELS ARE a steal, literally, as guests continue to make off with items pilfered from rooms and public areas in hotels across the world at an alarming rate. And they are getting bolder. Last year, managers at the five-star Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield discovered that four irons, six hair dryers and two kettles were missing from rooms that had been booked for a meeting. Similarly, the general manager of the Ramada Powai Hotel and Convention Centre in Mumbai realised that four pillows, an oil painting and a cutlery set had vanished from one of the deluxe rooms. In both cases, it was too late for the hotel officials to do anything. The JW Marriott in Chandigarh says about 10 towels—each costing R1,500-R2,000—are stolen every month. Small items like shampoo or conditioners are bought in bulk, so cost-wise, they are negligible, but towels, especially the decadently fluffy ones available in five-star hotels, are among the most popular items stolen from hotels by guests the world over. The other items that frequently go missing are bathrobes and even bedspreads and duvet covers. So bad has it become, and at a huge loss to hotels, that some chains are now using a tiny tracking device, a chip, embedded in their linens. The device lets them know where their towels, robes and bedsheets are at all times. The service, called Linen Technology Tracking, provides the chips to 2,000 hotels so far. The initial goal was to let hotels track linens from the hotel to the cleaners and back again, but with the rise in linen theft by guests, they are now using it to try and stop people from stealing. One hotel uses the chips to monitor the elevator banks. Any time one of their towels passes through the elevator bay, housekeeping gets an alert. Then it’s up to hotels and their policies; some hotels do not charge guests for lifting towels or robes, others do. What it does do is tell how many items are being stolen every month. In fact, a recent survey found that apart from towels and linen, the items stolen by guests from hotel rooms included: batteries from the TV remote control, light bulbs, rolls of toilet paper, alarm clocks, irons, bathrobes, floor lamps, hangers, ashtrays and even Bibles. Also included is silverware, the kind that comes with room service. Theft of these items costs the industry more than $100 million a year, according to estimates by American Hotel Lodging Association.

Most hotels these days automatically take imprints of credit cards and many even deduct amounts between $50 and $100, depending on the class of hotel, at the time of booking, meant for breakages or use of the mini bar, etc. However, that also creates a tricky situation for the hotel. There is no sure way of knowing if any item stolen is by the guest or a member of the housekeeping staff. The option is to do what many hotels do now, which is to inform guests that most things in the room are for sale, and put a price tag on them. Some commonly-charged items are bathrobes, artworks or iPod docks. Some guests have been known to steal flat panel TV sets, which can fit into a suitcase. Hotels are now installing alarm systems that are activated when a TV set is disconnected from the wall. This can also be used for items like artwork or computers. Hangers were a popular item for departing guests and now most hotels use sliding hangers that are useless for those with sticky fingers. One survey listed the top 10 items stolen from hotels and here they are:

1. Towels
2. Shampoo and conditioners
3. Silverware
4. Cushions and pillows
5. Hangers
6. Mineral water
7. Slippers
8. Hotel artwork
9. Bedspreads
10. Alarm clocks

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