Someone even stole a shark. Hoteliers on light-fingered hotel guests
A recent survey by hotels.com revealed that Singaporean guests came in second globally as the most likely travellers to pilfer things from hotel rooms. CHAI HUNG YIN speaks to hoteliers and tour guides
The cost of individual items pinched from hotels may be small, but they can definitely add up, say hoteliers.
A bath towel costs between $6 and $26, depending on how luxurious the hotel is, says former hotelier, Mr Franck Hardy, who now runs his own cafe, says.
And pilfering is a common occurrence that is challenging to deal with.
He says: “It will always happen. Guests could have packed the items by mistake.
“It is your right to check their luggage but the hotel will rather not lose customers over a towel.”
For Royal Plaza on Scotts, pilfering by hotel guests costs the hotel close to $30,000 per year.
Its chief experience officer, Mr Patrick Fiat, says: “It is part of running a hotel business. Such losses are taken into consideration during budgeting.
“For items of small value, the hotel usually lets it slide.”
Mr Jack Naderkhani, has been in the hospitality industry for 35 years.
The managing director of the The Mithra Group says: “While I was directly managing a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, every single item in the rooms was custom-made and its list price was available for guests to purchase and it would be shipped directly to the guest’s address.
“This list included the bedding, mattress, carpet, TVs, phones, bathrobes, cabinets, shower heads, bathtubs, stones and others.We increased revenue versus losses.”
Mr Naderkhani adds: “I believe most luxury hotels are concerned more about damages in the rooms than guests stealing the products.”
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Private bar items, clothes hangers, bathrobes, makeup mirrors and even TV remote controllers are the top favourites among hotels guests, he says.
For Royal Plaza on Scotts, toothbrushes, key cards, face towels and slippers top the items that it replaces on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, hotels here and abroad have seen some of the most bizarre things disappearing from their premises.
Mr Naderkhani says the hotel he worked for had a live baby shark missing from a 2-m water tank placed by the pool as a kids’ attraction.
He says: “Guests and their children would join our team and under expert supervision, fed him every other day. To make it short, it was kidnapped!”
Television sets and even carpets have gone missing too.
Says Mr Fiat: “In overseas hotels I have worked in, we had guests who checked in with an empty television box. They removed the television from the room and packed it into the box. They have even sought for the bellman’s assistance to carry the television out of the hotel.
“In another property, one of the guests has tactfully cut out and removed a piece of the carpet that was under the bed. It was only discovered when the room attendant rolled the bed away the next day for cleaning.”
Over here, Mr Fiat has had a tour group of 80 persons checked out with all of the hotels’ towels and bathrobes.
“We spoke with the tour operator and sent a few colleagues down to the airport to pick up all the lost items before the group boarded the flight.”
Common items taken by Singaporean hotel guests:
1. Toilet rolls (the whole roll)
2. Tissue paper (the whole box)
3. Stationery like ballpoint pens
4. Bedroom slippers (usually disposable types)
6. Sachets of coffee and tea
7. Room key cards
8. Disposable laundry bags
Yes, Singaporean travellers do take things from hotels — but it is mostly harmless.
Tour leaders who bring groups of Singaporean travellers overseas explain that most of the time, the travellers either want the items as a souvenir or need them for their own convenience.
For instance, one lady took a velvet bag — meant to contain the hairdryer — from a Taiwanese hotel, recalls Mr Simon Lim.
He says: “The hotel told me about it. I found the guest, who took it because it needed the bag for his sundries. The guest ended up returning it.”
A recent survey by hotels.com revealed that Singaporean guests came in second globally as the most likely travellers to pilfer things from hotel rooms.
Tour leaders say that it is unfair to cast aspersions on Singaporeans alone because most people take things like toiletries, no matter their nationality.
Slippers, rolls of toilet paper, newspapers are fair game.
Though sometimes, admit the tour leaders, they have had to deal with situations when bigger items are swiped.
Freelance tour leader, Mr Vincent Ng, says that he has had to tactfully coax tour members to return the items taken.at Lotte Hotel World in Seoul, South Korea. The six-star hotel has several “character floors” where rooms are adorned with cute soft toys.
“Many people are tempted to take the soft toys. We have to tell them they can purchase it from the hotel counter but don’t take those in the rooms. If I don’t tell them, there will be things missing the next morning,” he says.
Once, a guest made off with leather bedroom slippers and leather pad holder in a hotel in Taiwan. Mr Ng had to retrieve them from the tour member when told about the missing items by the hotel.
The practice doesn’t stop at hotels. Some guests made off with small pillows, blankets and shot glasses from the airplane flights.
Mr Ng himself sheepishly admits that he once took a blanket from the flight as he had forgotten to pack a jacket along for the trip to Penguin Island in Australia.
But he noted that these incidences have gone down in recent years, as Singaporean travellers become more well-travelled. Mr Ng says: “They don’t bring rubbish home these days. They will rather shop and maximise their weight limit.”
Plus, if things are taken, it’s mostly harmless things: To prevent misunderstandings, he asks hotels to lock up the mini bar in the room, and disconnect pay television channels and IDD calls.
Singaporean travellers we spoke to think it is okay to take items meant for guests.
Logistics executive, Miss Maudrene Lim, 37, still keeps a Mont Blanc-like ballpoint pen made of metal that she took during a trip to Seoul in 2013.
She says: “The design is very nice and it is very smooth to write with. I think the pen is complimentary and I don’t consider it stealing. It is unlike taking towels or bathrobes, which are chargeable. As long as it is not chargeable, it is not stealing.”
She says that she takes sachets of coffee and tea, toiletries and sewing kits.
Business traveller, Mr Ryan Koh, 47, a managing director of a company here, says he takes the disposable slippers, toiletries and pen.
He says: “I don’t take things that is not supposed to be taken. I take them because I need to use them.”