Writing for the Daily Mail, Sophia Money-Coutts reveals a selection of items you can — and can't — take from your hotel.
Checking into a fancy hotel is just heaven, right? Big bed, spongy carpet, bath you could fit a rugby team into, sometimes a Japanese loo with all sorts of exciting buttons.
There's generally a smart pair of slippers beside your bed and a fluffy dressing gown in the bathroom. Plus a minibar to attack. But should you? Are the macadamia nuts free or aren't they?
Hmmm! That's the trouble with hotels. What you can and can't take home is often unclear. There may be a passive aggressive note on an umbrella ("If you would like to take me home, please talk to the front desk," read a card hooked over a brolly in a Belfast hotel I stayed in recently), but there may be no indication at all. And you don't want to "accidentally" pack a dressing gown, only to find you're stung with a hefty bill for it later (duh! they have your credit card details).
According to a recent survey, one in every ten hotel guests steals at least one item from their room. So, as the holiday season approaches, I've consulted a few hotel insiders about what you can or can't nick to avoid any awkwardness on your way out.
Although you have to hand it to the drunk guest who once tried to leave Birmingham's Hotel du Vin with a boar's head he'd removed from the wall. Staff caught him just before he escaped (and friends of the guest later returned to the hotel to buy the head for his wedding present as a joke) — but, still, points for trying…
Items you CAN pilfer …
. All right, this is an obvious one. You've always been able to take the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser and so on, which are not only perfect for travelling with, but feel much more luxurious than the thin sliver of Imperial Leather at home.
It's less acceptable, however, to clear your bathroom every day and hide these miniatures in your luggage so housekeeping has to replace them again and again. Ditto breezing past an unattended trolley in the corridor outside and cramming your pockets with bottles.
Beware the hotels that leave big bottles of products in your bathroom, as in the Soho House hotels. It's a growing trend because it's more environmentally friendly than giving away hundreds of little plastic bottles, but should you slip a big bottle into your luggage on the way out, you'll have to pay for it.
. "Absolutely fine," says Sean Davoren, head butler at The Savoy. "We never re-use slippers so they're yours to take home."
If you happen to have a spare £8,500 (NZ$16,500) knocking about, you might want to consider staying in the Royal Suite at The Goring, the hotel just behind Buckingham Palace where Kate Middleton spent the night before her wedding to Prince William in 2011.
As part of the package, they chuck in a personalised dressing gown and slippers for you to take home, embroidered with your initials. I like to think that Kate's still wearing hers at home in Kensington Palace.
Umbrellas. With these, you should think twice. Certain hotels don't mind, but not all. David Young, head concierge at Brown's Hotel in Mayfair, says they won't charge for brollies because it feels penny-pinching. "And they're quite good marketing," he says, since Brown's umbrellas are branded.
As with many top hotels, David says they apply the same policy towards various items in their rooms, including dressing gowns and towels. 'We'd look at it on a case by case basis. If it's a long-term guest, we're not going to email them about a missing towel.' If in doubt, ask.
Fruit. If you've checked in somewhere fancy and been given a fruit bowl, there are only so many apples you can eat in a day. You're not an ape so tip the rest into your luggage. You won't be judged.
. Go for it. According to David Young at Brown's, taking branded pads of paper and pens helps promote the hotel's name elsewhere.
In super-posh hotels, such as The Savoy, when you check in you'll find headed hotel notepaper at a desk with your name printed on it, saying that you are 'in residence' at that hotel.
Use it. Write letters to everyone you know. Make sure anyone you've ever met realises you're a very grand person staying in an exceptionally grand hotel.
And some you shouldn't
. In recent years, smart hotels have upped the ante with their bathroom linen and bedding. You're now often given a pillow menu to choose from. Memory foam? Goose feather? The underbelly fluff from a rare breed of yak?
As a result, in one particular London hotel, there's been such a spate of pillow theft that they've started sending out notes to guests saying "We're glad you liked our pillows so much, please find enclosed an invoice".
If you like the bedding, ask the hotel where they source it from, says David Young. They'll be delighted to help. Quite apart from the fact it makes you a thief, it's grim to steal something that lots of other heads have slept on.
. "The bowler hats in our Charlie Chaplin suite kept going missing for a while," says Sean Davoren at The Savoy. And at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, the doorman's top hat once went walkabout for a week.
"He was always losing it," says a source. "He'd leave it in cars when he drove them to the front of the hotel for guests, and have to chase after them as they drove off.
"But then one day it vanished, only to return in the post a week later." It seems an inebriated guest had taken it from the front desk, then felt guilty when he got home and sent it back.
The Bible. The tradition of Bibles being left in hotel rooms dates from the Victorian era when a group called the Commercial Travellers' Christian Association said it would provide comfort to travellers. It's rarer to find the Bible in a room these days, but occasionally you'll still find a copy in your bedside table. It's incredibly bad karma to steal a copy, however, so make sure you put it back.
Batteries from the TV remote. A problem so widespread that some hotels now screw their remote control panel down so the batteries can't be snatched. Tragic.
Worse still is accidentally "packing" a remote control when you leave. It's beyond the pale.
Loo roll. If you return home, your bag erupting with loo rolls like some sort of deviant kleptomaniac, then I'm sorry but you need professional help. Purex is widely available. Don't stoop so low.
But do pinch the travel-size pouches of cotton wool pads and ear buds and stash them in your make-up bag for future eyeliner/eyeshadow-related emergencies.
PS. When on a plane…
Never be tempted by the amenity bag from someone else's business class seat as you trudge from economy through business class at the end of a long flight and spot an abandoned free bag of toiletries. It's undignified to make a grab and you may get a nasty surprise.
I did it once, only to find a pair of used earplugs tucked inside the bag.