Updated on 10.16.09

Ethical Frugality Week: Hotel Visits

Trent Hamm

Over the upcoming week, I’ll be posting a series of articles on the ethics of frugality. How far can you take things without crossing an ethical line or diving into seriously socially unacceptable waters? I’ll be recounting some of my own stories – and some stories from readers – along the way.

“Maddie” writes in:

My husband and I stayed at a hotel for two nights recently. As we left, my husband packed all of the hotel shampoo, conditioner, coffee packs, plastic cups, soap, and so on into his bag. On the way out, he stopped in the pool room and picked up two towels. I didn’t mind the disposable items in our room, since they would likely be tossed, but I thought taking the towels was wrong and I told him so. What do you think? Is it right to take things like this from a hotel when you stay there?

As always, there are two sides to every story. Let’s look at them.

Taking such items is stealing. A stay at a hotel consists of permission to use their room and to use disposable items they offer you. It is not permission to simply take items on the premises that you want. It would be the equivalent of going to a friend’s house and taking the soap and shampoo and toothpaste and towels out of their bathroom and taking them with you.

Such items are part of the service you receive. You’re paying a substantial fee to stay there – and part of that fee is toiletry and other simple convenience products for your use. Not using them is essentially the same as paying for something at a store, then handing the item back to the store owner and saying, “No, thank you!” That’s frugal foolishness!

My opinion is pretty straightforward on this one. I have no problem taking the items that would likely be disposed if I didn’t. The small convenience soaps, shampoos, conditioners, cleansers, coffee, and so forth are fair game for taking. However, the items that the hotel would re-use – like towels and the like – should be left there. Quite often, the hotel’s rules make it clear that if you take such an item from your room, they’ll charge you big. Using other means, like snagging a towel from the pool room or from the maid’s rack, is pretty much just stealing, as those are items that weren’t there for you to even use.

What do you think? Is it appropriate to take such items from the hotel? What items are appropriate to take?

The question continues, too. What should Maddie do with the towels that were taken from the hotel if she believes it was wrong to take them?

Should she return them? This is perhaps the most honest thing to do, since the towels are/were the property of the hotel. Is it okay to return them anonymously, or should she identify herself when returning them? Or should she just keep the towels?

If I were in Maddie’s shoes, I’d return the towels. I don’t think it makes any difference whether they’re returned anonymously or not – if you dropped them off at the front desk and say, “These accidentally wound up in our bags,” I doubt a word would be said. If you mailed them, I suppose they might investigate the return address, but I’d think it was unlikely. Most likely, they’d simply be accepted – and you’d be psychically off the hook.

What do you think? Should Maddie return the towels now that they’re taken?

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  1. BonzoGal says:

    I agree- I would take the disposable items (shampoo, soap, lotion) but would never take towels. The hotel re-uses those, so they are NOT for the guest to take. The fact that he took them from the pool room and not his sleeping room says to me that he knew this was stealing, and that the hotel would charge him if the towels were missing from the room.

    I would also not take the coffee, tea bags, or cups. Not that I think that’s stealing, just because hotel/motel coffee usually stinks! ;)

  2. Meagan says:

    I feel it was very wrong to take (steal) the towels. But I see nothing wrong with taking the other trial size type convenience items. Technically they are paid for.

  3. guinness416 says:

    Freemoneyfinance did a post on this exact same question a while back. The toiletries and the like are likely binned as soon as you check out anyway, so take them. Housekeeping don’t have the time to investigate every shampoo bottle and notebook to see if it was partially used.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that taking towels is over the line. When I worked in hotels I saw staff fired for taking them; a blind eye was turned regarding disappearing toiletries. If taking towels is okay, where do you then draw the line. Lightbulbs? Shower curtains? Ironing boards? Batteries from the remote control?

    If I was her I’d send the husband to bring them back, rathe than do it myself. A certain amount of theft is obviously priced into the room rate but I’d be extremely embarassed and angry if my spouse did the same thing.

    (Not to mention the fact that wanting towels which may have been used by a few dozen strangers or used to mop up the pool deck is more than a bit bizarre!)

  4. Prashanth says:

    Quite frankly I think I agree with Trent’s take on how the “towel stealing” episode can be handled. I am perfectly okay with taking the convenience items, but lines should be left behind. In the past my wife & I have stayed at hotels and she has loved some of the pillows (she has a problem accumulating stress in her neck) and wanted to carry them. In such situations we asked the front desk and they were more than happy to let us purchase a couple of them for $25. Sometimes just asking the right people makes such things legal and gets you a fair deal too.

  5. Kelly says:

    I’m with you Trent. I take the disposable items whenever I stay at a Hotel. I actually take them and put them in my suitcase every morning so the maid leaves new ones when she comes in to clean the room. I stayed at the Downtown Chicago Hilton last year for a work conference and paid a pretty penny for that room(over $200/night for 5 nights) and didn’t feel the least bit guilty for taking the toiletries. I left the coffee though.

    I think taking the towels is stealing. I wouldn’t bother with returning them. I would just make sure that the husband didn’t do that again.

  6. Karen M. says:

    The disposable items are okay to take, although I generally don’t. The packaging is very wasteful, and I travel with my own toiletries in part to eleminate this waste. I also prefer my own particular brands.

    Taking the towels was wrong, and like BonzoGal, I think that the person in question knew it.

  7. Johanna says:

    Yeah, I think that this one is fairly straightforward. But here’s a related question that isn’t quite so easy:

    In most hotels, if you hide the toiletries, coffee, etc. in your bag, the housekeepers will replace them when they make up your room. So if you stay for 7 nights, you can come away with 7 bottles of shampoo, and so forth.

    I freely admit to having done this. (Hey, I was in grad school.) But what do people think: Ethical, or no?

  8. friend says:

    A relative of mine once took a hotel towel by mistake; I don’t know how it ended up in his bag. When he got home, he was embarrassed and put it aside, but he did not forget it. Many, many years later, his conscience still bothered him, and he returned the towel, in person, with an apology. The hotel workers were amazed, but his conscience was clear.

  9. Kelly says:


    I took the toiletries and donated them to a local women’s shelter. They are always looking for soap, shampoo conditioner. When someone has nothing, they don’t care what brand it is.

  10. Raghubilhana says:

    Taking towels and such is wrong and also frugal foolishness. Dont forget that the hotel has your credit card information and will charge you big if they found something is missing from your room after you left.

  11. Andrea W says:

    I would take the disposables if I had used part of them during my stay, or if I could use them in future. If I couldn’t (and hadn’t) use them, I would leave them.

    Taking the towels or any other non-disposable item is just wrong. The pillows, towels and sheets are washed and re-used; they are not part of the courtesy provisions.

    As for Johanna’s question, I am of two minds. Been there in grad school, but I never would have hidden items to get more. Of course, I never could afford to stay anywhere for more than a day or so. Two bottles, yes; seven (yes, that was a made up number, I htink), no. It just seems like too much, even if one is going to use them, but right now I can’t seem to articulate why. *off to think*

  12. marie says:

    I think it’s fine to bring home toiletries & coffee, however, I think hiding them every morning is somewhat questionable. I mean, if you have been using the coffee or something, and it is empty, then by all means it makes sense to get another one, but if you aren’t using them, I don’t know. I guess one can justify it because the hotel probably accounts for one set per night per room. However, when it comes to towels, batteries, light bulbs, hair dryers, and so on, it is over the line.

  13. Deborah says:

    The disposables for sure; but I don’t know about taking them on purpose every day for 7 days, just to get 7 items. That seems a little more underhanded. The towels are a definite wrong, and if the cups were actual coffee cups – more and more hotels have them in the rooms – those should stay too, as they’ll be reused.

    I’ve been in this situation with a former roommate, and when I was in the same town a couple of months later I returned the towels. The roommate wasn’t happy, but my conscience felt better.

  14. jon says:

    “These accidentally wound up in our bags,”

    Had to laugh at this. Covering one ethical violation for another. Kinda defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

  15. Kelly says:

    I guess one can justify it because the hotel probably accounts for one set per night per room.

    Exactly! Just because it’s the SAME person, doesn’t mean it’s wrong to take the toiletries. If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else getting them.

  16. Dale says:

    Get an anonymous email address and send the hotel a message anonymously asking if they’d like their towels back or volunteering to buy a couple towels. I presume it would be a somewhat expensive venture to go back to the hotel, since most people don’t stay in one close to home, and it seems unlikely that the towels would be worth the shipping unless you were staying at a high class establishment.

  17. MegB says:

    I had a job where I traveled a lot (3 weeks out of every month), and I often spent multiple nights in the same hotel. I traveled with my own toiletries, but I would put the hotel toiletries in my suitcase every day when they were replenished. Like a previous commenter, I would then donate them to a women’s shelter. Occasionally, I would stay at a hotel that had Bath and Body Works products or Neutrogena products (or some other brand I liked), and I would keep at least some of those for myself. If I ever felt that they would simply go to waste, I wouldn’t dream of taking them.

    And no matter how tempted I may have been, I’ve never taken a bathrobe or a towel. That just feels like crossing the line.

  18. Russ says:

    Seems like we’re justifying stealing. Now we know why hotel rooms are so expensive they have to account for theft.

    Stop stealing.

  19. Aleriel says:

    I would take disposable items that I used, but I think taking unopened ones (as well as other, non-disposable items) is stealing — they can also be reused and I highly doubt they are just discarded.

  20. Amy says:

    I used to take all the toiletries home with me (and even admit to hiding them a few times to get more when they were really good ones). However I don’t anymore mostly because I don’t want all these bottles in my linen closet. I never used them all once I got home and they just became clutter. So now I avoid it in the first place by not taking them home. Or I bring them home and immediately donate them to a shelter – my company has a bin to collect them and then someone takes it over once it is full.

    Taking the towels is stealing.

  21. Jenny says:

    I agree with Kelly. Taking toiletries that would be thrown out anyway and donating them to a worthy cause instead (local women’s shelter, sending overseas in care packages to the troops) is perfectly acceptable in my book. Those are things I consider “paid for” in my stay, and should be taken advantage of (especially when I’ve paid so much for the room — they account for these costs in the stay).

    Towels? No. Also, who needs towels that badly? If you can afford to stay in a hotel, you can afford to buy yourself some nice towels. The husband should be sent back to the hotel to return them. He did it; he should do the legwork to make it right.

  22. Lindsay says:

    Don’t you think they will re-use the soap and shampoo, coffee, etc. if they are not opened?

  23. Henry says:

    I say take whatever you can get away with. I’m not going to go to a friend’s house and steal from them, but from a corporation I sure will. That doesn’t mean I go to Wal-Mart to steal either. I’d likely get caught. But a towel from the pool room, or off the maid’s rack? Surely I could get away with that, and if I wanted something from that rack, it’d be walking out the door with me. I also (like a lot of others out there) teach the difference to children between taking from a corporation vs. an individual. I also teach the difference between taking advantage of a national franchise vs. the mom and pop store down the street. Sure, these items being taken by customers may drive up the costs to other consumers, but that will happen no matter if I take the towel or not. Someone else will take that towel and the costs will still go up. So I might as well offset the rising costs to me while I can and get a free towel or the like out of the deal. And no, my conscience doesn’t bother me. These big box stores and franchises are damaging and unethical, and I say strike at them however you can.

  24. Jessie says:

    I worked as a hotel housekeeper in high school and I can tell you that unopened toiletries are not thrown away – since they are still sealed and wrapped they are just put back in place after the room is cleaned.

  25. Michele says:

    I usually bring my own toiletries & coffee and let the hotel know on check in that they can have the other items I won’t use. Most of the time the bell guy or a housekeeper will meet me at the room and take the items so they can be placed in another room. Yes, I get wierd looks sometimes, but so what? If everyone did this, prices would come down. It irritates me when I go to a hotel and they have upscale shampoo/lotion/conditioner/bottled water/coffee. I’d rather have a lower price than Aveda items! I would never take a towel- you are renting the room and linens, not buying them. I think the husband should mail the towels back to the hotel, with a note. What a jerk. If you need the towels for a good reason, most hotels will GIVE them to you if you ask.

  26. Kristen says:

    I would call the hotel and say we realized that we took two towels. I would ask if we could donate them to a local animal shelter (ALWAYS in need of towels) in lieu of shipping them back and, with their permission, I would do just that.

    Seriously, who is so cheap that they have enough money to stay in hotels but steals the towels? There is no two sides to this issue–it is stealing.

  27. Henry says:

    Here’s an example of how you can take advantage of Wal-mart and be frugal: they do price matching with local competitors: you’re supposed to bring in the ad to show the cashier, but you can find cashiers that just don’t care and will give you items for whatever price you say they’re on sale for across the street. I don’t feel bad about that, if the cashier believes me, I take the price I just made up! If you resent me for that, just remember you can do the same thing too to bring down your price.

  28. Sheila says:

    No on the towels; yes on the toiletries, although no more than one unopened. Seldom use the coffee myself and never take it with me. I do wonder if they throw the coffee out even if it’s unopened.

  29. chacha1 says:

    When I was broke enough to be tempted to take stuff from hotel rooms, I was too broke to be staying in hotel rooms! Even now, I always carry my own toiletries because usually the hotel offerings are highly perfumed, which I find irritating. If not too smelly, I’ll use theirs, but only as much as I need.

    We often opt for the privacy hanger if we’re only staying one or two nights … we don’t change sheets/towels daily at home, why should we at a hotel?? And as to coffee … most places only give you enough for a demitasse.

    I even take my own towel sometimes. I color my hair, and when the color is fresh it can “bleed” onto the hotels’ usually-white towels.

    Where we “take advantage” is by moving the furniture around. :-) Need room to stretch!

  30. kim says:

    My fee for the room covers one set of disposables for the night. On a recent trip to Cancun, the $450 per night hotel had wonderful toiletries. I packed them in my bag each night after using them. I figure I paid enough for the room…I was taking what was mine. I have worked in a hotel and they do throw out quite a bit of waste from soiled or wet unused toiletries. FYI…I’m not cheap. I left a $10 tip daily for the maid service at may all inclusive/tips included hotel. I just feel like I am entitled to have the things I’ve paid for. I do not take TP or tissues as those are commonly left for the next guest.

  31. J says:

    Michele is #20 is right. If you ask for them, a lot of hotels, I’ve heard, will give you the towels.

  32. Marlene says:

    Having worked in a hotel in housekeeping, I can tell you that we did not threw out unopened toiletries unless the packaging was damaged. They would be left in the room for the next guest. So if you are taking toiletries with the assumption that they will be thrown out anyway so it is not stealing, then you might want to re-evaluate.

    As far as hiding items to get more the next day, some hotels will replace partially used items daily, some will not. I would suggest that you check this out before hiding items. If the holtel will replace them daily anyway, then it is not stealing. If they don’t, then it is stealing.

    Taking items and dontaing them to a shelter is still stealing if the hotel doesn’t replace items daily.

  33. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for this series Trent! I am really enjoying it. I hope you continue with it past this week.

  34. terri says:

    He obviously knew that he was stealing–he didn’t take the towels from his room, but from the pool. They would have been able to charge his room for towels, so he took the towels that are harder to track.

    Thanks, buddy, for making hotel rooms everywhere more expensive for the rest of us. Thanks too, for the now cheaper quality towels in most hotels.

  35. Stephen says:

    There was an interesting article about this a while back on msnbc:

    in general though, I (like many others commenting) feel fine taking the shampoo, etc that is put out for my use and would just be thrown out, but wouldn’t feel right taking a towel or something that would be reused (hopefully after being washed).

  36. SystemError says:

    Taking towels from the hotel is like taking silverware from a restaurant. Tacky and illegal.

  37. notmensa says:

    I’ve noticed in many 3 star motels here in Australia that the cleaning staff refill the small bottles with shampoo etc during cleaning.

    Some 4 star hotels I’ve stayed in have a price list on the mini bar showing a cost for towels and bathrobes. The slippers are often complimentary!

  38. To me, even asking the question about the towels is unethical.

    It’s stealing and there is no legit excuse. I leave most of the toiletries behind.

  39. Jesse says:

    We don’t take toiletries – mostly because I’ve NEVER stayed anywhere with shampoos and conditioners that do anything more than leave my hair feeling like straw – and usually we bring our own. We also don’t change out the towels unless we’re staying a LONG time (not only do we not change them every day at home, but it wastes water, which can also drive up prices at the hotel). I’d never even CONSIDER taking a towel, though – in my mind, it’s like taking the sheets, and…yeah…if you’re able to stay in the hotel, you can afford to buy your own. Same with toilet paper and the like – not only can I buy better quality, but it costs the hotel more money, which just MIGHT cause them to raise rates…
    I agree, the hubs should take the towels back, but I’m sure we all know that most likely won’t happen (he thought he was in the right), so in that case, I would send the towels back apologizing for my husband’s behavior and assuring them it won’t happen again.

  40. Jillian says:

    I can’t see the point. Who wants that stuff anyway? So you already paid for it. Big deal. Do you go down to your local library every week and borrow the maximum number of books possible because you’ve already paid for them? Do you eat the pickles in your Big Mac even though you hate them because, well, they cost you money?

    I admit that I did once steal a kimono/cotton bathrobe from a hotel in Japan when I went there on a school trip. It was more of a souvenir than anything else though, and a good one too – I’m still wearing it 15 years later! Not that that justifies my theft at all though…

  41. ChrisD says:

    This one is not much of a dilemma. Taking towels is theft and they should definitely be returned (even if the cost of returning them somewhat outweighs the value of the towels). I don’t really understand why people want hotel towels/bathrobes when they could buy a much nicer one which would actually have a colour or pattern of your choice. (In fact this page has adds for towels as we speak). However, if you do want an item, why not just pay for it. As it is effectively second hand it would probably be a reasonable price.

    >To me, even asking the question about the towels is unethical.
    I really disagree with this. Even if we can all agree on an ethical question we should still discuss them to understand WHY something is unethical (e.g. raised hotel prices for everyone subsidising towel buying for a minority who ought to spend their own money on their own towels).

  42. Ashley says:

    Stealing towels is just wrong, and sounds pretty juvenile to me.

    Toiletries are fair-game. But towels are in the same camp as the Giddeon bible, bedspread, sheets, pillows, hangers, and television…they should remain in the hotel room. As for stealing towels from the pool area…well, that is clearly theft.

  43. NMPatricia says:

    It would be interesting to have the hotels/motels weigh in on this one.

  44. Elizabeth says:

    When I’m in a hotel, I take the disposible toiletries, but would never take the towels, robes, etc. I’ve seen signs in hotels specifically saying that they charge for any missing towels/linens/etc. so they obviously consider it to be stealing. Many hotels do offer to sell nice new robes and such if you fall in love with what you’re using in the hotel or want a momento.

  45. Jim says:

    I draw the line at disposable items.

    If you take a bar of soap then that is something they intended you to use anyway. So theres really no difference between using it now or taking it home and using it later.

    Taking towels is theft. Seems like the husband in the example knows that he’d be charged if he took towels from the room so he purposefully took them from the pool room where they wouldn’t know it was him that took them. He ought to know better. If you have to do deceptive things to avoid being charged then its obviously not free.

  46. Mo-Town says:

    My wife owns a Holliday Inn Express, and I asked her what she thought about the toiletries (didn’t bother with the towels since just about everyone agrees that taking them would be theft). Here’s what my wife told me:
    Contrary to what several people have implied, the maids at her hotel do not throw away unused toiltries when they clean a room. Rather, once a guest checks out, the cleaning staff simply replaces those toiletries which have been used.
    As far as guests staying multiple nights, my wife said that cleaning staff will provide the guests with replacements for any toiletries that have been used, but would not provide guests with extra shampoo etc. if the guest hadn’t touched the bottle that was provided.
    She also laughed at the thought of people hiding the toiletries to get extras. “Why on earth would they do that?” she said. “The cleaning staff or the front desk clerk will give you extra shampoo or soap if you just ask.”
    Although I don’t personally see any ethical issue with taking one or two sets of hotel toiletries, the hypothetical example of hiding toiletries over a long stay so that you came away with six or seven bottles of shampoo would be an ethical problem for me. My simple rule of thumb is that if you feel the need to hide what you’re doing, it’s probably not on the up and up.

  47. Maria says:

    The toiletries, coffee, and tea are fine to take. For hotels, those things are considered the cost of doing business and are built into the cost of the room.

    As for “hiding” these items so that fresh items get put out each time the room is cleaned, again, those items are built into the cost of the room. The hotel anticipates/expects that they will be taken or used so in no way should anyone consider taking these items stealing. I have this directly from a friend who used to be in hotel management.

    I take these items and get a fresh set each day because I belong to a volunteer organization that takes these travel-sized toiletries and donates them to local homeless and domestic violence shelters.

    As for the towels, I agree with everyone else. Several people astutely pointed out that the husband must have recognized that it was stealing because he took the towels from the pool room instead of their room.

  48. Diane says:

    Totally agree – towels are stealing, pure & simple. They can be reused and are intended to be so. Many hotels will CHARGE you for this if they know you have done it (i.e. – if you take them from your own room). Apparently the guy in this example knew what he was doing wasn’t kosher – or he wouldn’t have snatched them on his way out of Dodge.

    I donate hotel toiletries to my local womn’s shelter. I save them up for 6 months & then drop a bunch off all at once. they are greatl;y appreciated.

  49. Greg says:

    I work for a popular hotel chain. Taking the towels is stealing. Most chains actually have websites and sometimes catalogs in the room where you can pretty much buy everything from towels, bedding and even the showerheads. It costs the hotel money to replace towels and they are more expensive than you might think.
    As far as the shampoo, lotion, soap, etc. These are expected to be used. If they are open, please take them home. It is a good way to live “greener” since there is not yet a good recycle program for these half used item.

  50. Gabriel says:

    I agree with your analysis – the disposable services provided in the hotel room are for your use. You have the choice of either consuming them in the hotel room or taking them with you, either one of which results in the same end for the hotel.

    The towels are there to be reused, therefore making a big difference in the end result.

    It definitely sounds like the husband new better if he made sure to take it from an area where he wouldn’t be identified. He should be ashamed of his behavior.

  51. rhymeswithlibrarian says:

    In general I’d agree with the prevailing sentiment here, but I’d make an exception if the hotel screwed me over in some way – if I could use the item, I’d take it to even out the score.

    For example, I was once in a hostel room that was so cold there was no way I could fall asleep – I got up, put on my coat and mittens and put the bath towel over the blankets. Still too cold to sleep, so I went to the laundry room and found a couple of (unwashed) blankets to add the pile.

    So I took one of the spare blankets with me and didn’t feel guilty about it (it’s on my bed right now, in fact). As far as I’m concerned, they didn’t give me what I paid for – shelter from the elements – and I had a right to compensation. They can put the money they’re saving by not heating or insulating the place adequately into new linens.

  52. stella says:

    Stealing–which is what you’re doing if you take the towels–is never “frugal.”

    And to #33, if you felt that you did not get the service you want / were promised, adults generally complain and ask for some form of compensation. Thievery is NOT the appropriate response, whether you’re in a youth hostel or a five-star hotel.

    I’m appalled by the attitude that someone who is unhappy with service believes they are justified in outright theft, as #33 seems to believe.

    Got a problem? It happens. Speak up (with clarity and respect) and pretty much, there will be a way to “compensate” you.

    By the way, how much were you spending per night in a hostel anyway? And if it was so cold, had they promised you heat at nite? (I live in a very nice NYC apartment. The heat only goes on at certain times, based on temperature. It’s the law. So if I’m cold, that’s my problem. If they don’t give heat, as can happen on occasion, I don’t get to discount my rent and I don’t get a credit. Stuff happens.)

    Because maybe there was no promise, you only expected. And maybe there was a problem that made the heat unavailable during your stay.

    I’ve stayed in five-star hotels where things broke down–air conditioning, water, etc.. I didn’t steal the really expensive robes, any of the really expensive sheets or towels. I told the manager and was given a seriously reduced rate, and that was acceptable to me.

    Grow up, people. Theft is NEVER the answer.

    (FYI: I’m not talking about taking disposables. Unless you are one of those types who waits for the maid to leave her cart and steals from that, too. )

  53. JB says:

    The disposable items are fair game to take, I do it myself. The hotel expects to give each room a shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. Taking the towels is plain stealing and passing on the cost of those towels to other hotel guests, which is not okay.

  54. Katherine says:

    #33 Youth hostels are usually so cheap because they promise you nothing more than a place to sleep and clean up in the morning. The majority, in fact, require that you bring your own sheets and blankets. Once I stayed at a hostel that gave me nothing more than a mattress on the floor. But at $12 a night, what did I have to complain about?

  55. Jennifer says:

    Personally, I’d be more worried about being married to a thief than about what I should do with the towels.

  56. Greg says:

    It is pretty clear, yes to the disposables and no to the linens.

    I spend 150+ nights/year in a hotel. Sometimes the maid misses a slightly used bottle. They don’t replace them if they think they have not been used.

    On the other side of the coin what should you get for your money?

    I believe you should get not only clean sheets but also a clean bedspread. Have you ever seen them laying in the hall to be cleaned? NO, not in 12 years of travel!
    I believe you should get clean glasses. Take a look at their cleaning carts, they rarely have any on them yet they do have a supply of the little paper covers.

  57. E says:

    #33 – remember what we learned when we were five years old? “Two wrongs don’t make a right”?

    We take only disposable items that we’ve opened or used, and leave the rest. Even on vacation, our children are watching us :)

  58. Leah says:

    I worked at a motel for awhile. Definitely return the towels! We counted towels and would charge people if towels, blankets, sheets, etc were missing. However, the soap is completely fine to take. In fact, if any of it is open, the motel/hotel must throw the containers away. I’m not sure about unopen ones; at the place I worked, we left them, but we had little security seals on ours. If the bottles don’t have security seals, definitely take them, as they’ll otherwise be thrown away.

    One nice thing to do with the soaps, if you’re not going to use them: give them to a food bank or homeless shelter. Lots of times, people not only can’t afford toiletries, but they don’t have room to carry around a huge thing of shampoo. Little bottles allow people to wash up with a minimum of fuss.

  59. Paul says:

    Absolutely stealing… and the husband was apparently aware of it, since he took the pool towels. Towels taken from the room would have been accounted for and they would be billed for them, standard practice in the industry.

    If you feel shorted on service, don’t reduce yourself to stealing… take your comments to the desk. Most hotels are willing to make it up to you since their reputation is built on the service they deliver. I stayed in a hotel, where they missed the daily service two days in a row. It really wasn’t that big a deal to me, but I mentioned it when checking out and they reduced the charge for the two days and upgraded my next stay to a suite. That satisfied me enough that I’ve kept going back and, in fact, am staying in the same hotel as I type.

  60. AnnJo says:

    I don’t take unopened disposible items, because I don’t know for a fact that the hotel throws them out. I imagine it varies from hotel to hotel, and if I were tempted to take them, I guess the right thing to do would be to ask.

    It strikes me, though, that “Maddie” has a bigger problem than simply what to do with the stolen towels. She needs to figure out what to do about her husband.

    Who else is he comfortable stealing from – his employer, the grocery store, his neighbors, his family? Is he also OK with lying to the IRS, passing his kids off as younger than they really are for reduced ticket rates, teaching the kids how to steal from their classmates or boost cars? Is he OK with cheating on her?

    She sounds like a person of integrity, married to someone who, at least at this point in his life, lacks it. What a tough situation to be in! I hope it works out.

  61. Leah says:

    I’m also aghast at #33. Theft isn’t the answer. Go talk to the front desk — all motels have someone there 24 hours a day. That person might be sleeping, but you can still wake them up and get the heat taken care of.

  62. Ali says:

    My in-laws were in the hotel business for many years while my husband was growing up. They had a big family. My father-in-law would have the maids put all the used, left-behind soaps & shampoos in a big bin in the back that were free for the taking. Apparently my FIL would bring home boxes of these used toiletries and pour all the shampoo into a big bottle, all the lotions in a big bottle, etc. for his kids to use. It wasn’t a big deal to them, as kids, but EVERYBODY (except Dad) drew the line at using the opened bars of soap!

    My DH also managed a Hampton Inn for a few years and they spent a several hundred (or more) dollars every month replacing worn, stained and missing linens. Most places will sell you a towel or pillow or blanket for a reasonable price– usually their cost– if you ask, but if you steal it they will charge you as much as they can!

  63. Shevy says:

    Wow, I thought this one was going to be 100% on the side of taking towels equalling theft.

    I don’t know if there was anyone on duty at the hostel (which is a bit different than a hotel or motel and tons cheaper) but stealing a dirty blanket wasn’t the answer. For one thing, they now had *less* to give to subsequent people when it was cold.

    And, if you paid $5 or $10 for the night I don’t think you can really complain that you weren’t warm enough. You had a bed and a roof over your head.

    The night I gave birth to my 3rd child the heat was malfunctioning on the maternity floor and I ended up with 3 thermal blankets on my bed but I didn’t take any of them home the next morning!

  64. Tom says:

    Sorry, but the husband and wife in the example aren’t frugal, they are criminals. It’s not a question of frugality, but of the lengths that some will go to justify their actions.

    – I didn’t steal it; I paid for it by renting a room.

    – The hotel budgets for guests to take some percentage of guest items.

    – I used a mini-shampoo bottle and took it home; why would I not take the towel I used too?

    I’m sorry, but the husband is a cheapskate and a thief.

  65. It is nice to donate things to shelters, but the ends don’t justify the means. The question is not “Is it okay to take as many minis as I can because I’m giving them to a good cause?” but rather “Is it okay to take minis that I didn’t actually need during my stay?”

    If people are really this concerned about giving minis to shelters, lots of stores sell them, esp. with the 3 oz. rules on airplanes. Your desire to give to charity doesn’t mean that your hotel should foot the bill. (This would be like taking whatever food you didn’t eat, but could have, when you stay at your in-laws and donating the remnants to charity. True, your in-laws were prepared to feed you more than you actually ate, but that doesn’t mean they have to take the difference between your actual consumption and their generosity’s limits and give it to a charity of your choosing.) Businesses aren’t so different from friends and families. They are owned and run by people who are trying to make a living. Driving up their costs first drives down wages, and then drives up prices.

    Treat the hotel like a friend’s home. Would you clean them out of anything they provided as a convenience but didn’t nail down?

  66. Kelly says:

    “Is it okay to take minis that I didn’t actually need during my stay?”

    If people are really this concerned about giving minis to shelters, lots of stores sell them, esp. with the 3 oz. rules on airplanes. Your desire to give to charity doesn’t mean that your hotel should foot the bill. (This would be like taking whatever food you didn’t eat, but could have, when you stay at your in-laws and donating the remnants to charity. True, your in-laws were prepared to feed you more than you actually ate, but that doesn’t mean they have to take the difference between your actual consumption and their generosity’s limits and give it to a charity of your choosing.) Businesses aren’t so different from friends and families. They are owned and run by people who are trying to make a living. Driving up their costs first drives down wages, and then drives up prices.

    What is the difference if I only stayed at a hotel one night? I would still use the toiletries and take them home when I checked out. The hotel would then have to replace them when they cleaned the room. I stayed at the Hilton for FIVE nights. I took the toiletries and put them in my suitcase each night. One day the maid didn’t replace them. No biggie as I had brought my own stuff anyway.

    As far as the example of food at the in-laws, chances are a person does not PAY to stay at the inlaws house. I PAID over one THOUSAND dollars to stay at the Chicago hotel for 5 nights! BIG difference there. Same thing with staying at a friends home, the friend isn’t CHARGING me to stay there so I don’t see how you can realistically compare the two. Hotels figure the cost of the toiletries into the cost of the room fee.

    Either way, the hotel would expect to have to put out 5 sets of toiletries for each night of use of the room, just because one person stayed for 5 consecutive nights, I’m not entitled to the extra toiletries? I beg to differ. FTR, I didn’t take anything else. Left the coffee and cups. Also left the note pad and pen on the desk. Just took the toiletries.
    This same hotel also charged $69.99 for a week of it’s wireless internet system. Must be a big city thing because I’ve stayed at other hotels(HoJo’s, Motel 6, Super 8) in my small town and have gotten WiFi for free!!

  67. Prashant says:

    Guys, I have one incident to share with you.
    I am a science graduate, when I was in college, while taking admission, College charged every student “Breakage charges” for the items those were broken/stolen from college labs in the previous academic year.
    There are few students like me who never broke or steal anything from the lab and obviously we felt bad for charging us this way so few of us started to purposefully break / steal things.

    My question is like my college did all expensive hotels already charging us for Theft?

  68. greg says:

    I use the minibar in the hotel room to cool my own drinks and food. But I understand that someone has to buy the ridiculously expensive stuff from the minibar – otherwise the minibar would not exist.

  69. mee3 says:

    I never understand people who use or take hotel toiletries – do people honestly travel without? They’re a great convenience if you forgot or ran out of something, but in general, using hotel toiletries is bad for the environment (tiny plastic bottles and sachets filling landfills), possibly bad for your health (I choose my toiletries carefully!), and definitely drives up hotel costs which in turn drives up hotel prices for everyone – and really, for what?

    It’s the classic folly of thinking that you’re getting more than your fair share out of a shared resource, when all you’re really doing is hurting everyone involved, including yourself.

    The towel question has been talked about enough – theft is theft.

  70. Diane says:

    #1 BonzoGal – “The fact that he took them from the pool room and not his sleeping room says to me that he knew this was stealing, and that the hotel would charge him if the towels were missing from the room.”
    You really nailed it! I can’t understand why anyone would try to justify this premeditated thievery under any circumstances.

    39 Ali – “My father-in-law would have the maids put all the used, left-behind soaps & shampoos in a big bin in the back that were free for the taking.”
    I love this! I stay in hotels on business 4-6 separate nights a month. I never use their toiletries unless I forget something or run out of my own. I have gotten into the habit of of carrying a small plastic bag for my used soap. It smells good and I hate to waste it, so I take it home and slip it into a mesh soap bag that hangs in my shower. I’m glad that your FIL took such a practical approach.

    P.S. Tip the maids, people! Theirs is an endless, messy, thankless, faceless job. If you can afford to stay in a hotel, you can afford to thank the maid with a couple of dollars each day.

  71. BD says:

    I can’t believe you even need to have a discussion about this one. Taking towels, bedding, lamps or any other furnishing/linen in a hotel room is stealing and thus, illegal.

    Toiletries (soap, shampoo, mouthwash, lotion) are disposable and meant to be used, so taking them out of the room is fine and dandy. They’re there for you to use or take. (swiping them off the maid cart yourself is just plain tacky though.)

    The same applies to the pens/paper pads. They’re also disposable and meant for you to use up, and to ‘make their way into the world as advertising for the hotel’.

    But towels? NO. They’re obviously not “disposable”. They’re washed and reused and taking them is theft. Many hotels even have their towels listed as a ‘catalog item’ for purchase at typically high prices (more proof that they’re not meant to be taken). This woman’s husband needs to return the towels back to the hotel.

  72. reulte says:

    I often take the toiletries – yes, and I hide the used one in my luggage so I can get more, then bring out the used one each night. Heck, I even ask the staff in the hallway (including the maid who just did my room and know I have plenty) if I can have a couple of extras. No problem. They get pulled out along with freebies or department store extras for guests at my home or use them myself if I really like them. My guests get a great, international, choice of toiletries. When I get too many, the extras go to a shelter. Most hotel will also provide other items in case you forget something like your toothbrush, floss or (helpful when traveling overseas) a disposable razor – you just have to ask, although they probably don’t let you stack up on those, but I don’t know about that. The hotel factors in these requests (and theft and damage and wear&tear) in the price of my room and toiletries are a miniscule portion of hotel price.

    However, taking the towels (and anything else like the iron, pillows, sheets, pictures hanging on the wall, the coffee pot, TV, clock radio, hey just toss that little fridge in the car!) was purely theft. Perhaps he was angry at some aspect of the hotel and wanted to ‘get even’. Sheesh! You just have to talk to the desk or the manager – they want to please you the best they can. I’d suggest having the husband return the towels to the local branch of that hotel if it was a chain.

    Speaking about towels, however, has made me wonder what they do with the towels which are no longer good for their business? I like to suggest that people check hotels in their area to find out how they are disposed of and … if they just throw them out, perhaps encourage the hotel to donate to a shelter – either for people if the towels have only a minor aspect or to their local pet shelter if the towels are no longer useful for people. Just a thought.

  73. Taking the towels is most certainly stealing.

    I have to say, though, I’m sitting here wondering why on earth anyone would WANT a hotel towel. They’re usually way too small and not very fluffy to boot.

  74. Also, to answer Johanna’s question, I think that trying to get as many shampoo/conditioner bottles as possible is not wrong, but doesn’t make a lot of sense. It reminds me of people who eat fast food and then swipe ketchup and mustard. If you really were that hard up for money, you shouldn’t be eating fast food in the first place…go buy some groceries (including a $1 bottle of ketchup and mustard) and eat at home.

    Same for hotel stays…if you’re so hard up for cash that you can’t afford to plunk down $2 for a full size bottle of shampoo or conditioner, you probably couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel in the first place.

  75. deRuiter says:

    The husband KNEW it was stealing because he took the towels from the pool room. His action was premeditated, illegal, sneaky and tacky. His wife might consider where else he’s cheating. I don’t take use or take the little cosmetic and toiletry things,the packaging is bad for the environment, and I prefer my own items.

  76. Kate says:

    Towels…NO! Opened soap/shampoo, etc.: yes. Anything disposable that isn’t opened: no. How many people have a bag/box of such things that has been hanging around forever? How many people have cleared out an older relative’s house and thrown away bags of stuff that they accumulated over the years. How many people realize that the price of stays in hotel/motels is driven up because people take ALL the soap/coffee/shampoo, etc. One person taking all the disposables is negligible…multiply it by the number of people who pay for lodging every year and the cost rises significantly.

  77. Ray says:

    The towels should not even be a debate: tacky and wrong. Plus with the kinds of hotels I go to, I already own nicer ones.

  78. Mel says:

    @rhymeswithlibrarian: I grew up in a youth hostel that my parents ran. The proper response to being cold is to ask the person for an extra blanket. My parents were often woken up during the night for things like that, and it wasn’t a problem – it’s part of the job. Having to replace stolen items (like blankets, pots, plates, toilet paper) – sometimes out of their own pocket – was also unfortunately a constant part of the job.

    Disposables from a hotel or fast food place – yes, I’ll take them if I think I’ll use them. Salt or sauce packets can be very useful on picnics! Much easier than taking a big bottle or jar.

    Non-disposables – absolutely not.

  79. Steph says:

    I understand Maddie’s plight. When I was young, I think half of our towels at home were from hotels! I think some people (since my parents were not thieves) just thought it was an entitlement that went along with staying at a hotel.

    But they really aren’t. I accidentally took two really nice wooden hangers from a hotel up north. I just called them and asked them to put it on my credit card. It took all of two minutes, and they were so grateful for my honesty that they didn’t charge me.

  80. Adrian says:

    The only reason I wouldn’t steal the towels is that I don’t like the thought of ten thousand dirty bodies rubbing up against them before mine. Hotels are gross.

  81. Becky says:

    I would be kind of worried about my husband if he started stealing towels from hotels. Does he cheat at cards too? Lie about his whereabouts? No, stealing is not okay!

  82. Kathleen says:

    Taking the towels is theft – they need to be returned. Little shampoos, etc…. Well, yes they are there for the guests’ use, but that small packaging is an environmental nightmare. I used to load up on them, but I don’t anymore. Plus….the cost of the hotel is just raised to cover the cost of those items, and the cost of “shrinkage” when towels, etc. disappear. You aren’t hurting the hotel when you take those things – you’re hurting other people who see their rates go up.

  83. Kevin says:

    @rhymeswithlibrarian (#33):

    “So I took one of the spare blankets with me and didn’t feel guilty about it. As far as I’m concerned, they didn’t give me what I paid for and I had a right to compensation.”

    So two wrongs make a right now. I love it.

    Is this what society has come to? Individuals unilaterally deciding what they’re “fairly” entitled to, regardless of whether or not their ruling conflicts with the law?

    Does anyone remember where Mel Gibson parked his Mad Max truck? Something tells me it’s going to come in handy soon.

  84. Kevin says:

    I find it hard to believe that hotels routinely throw out unopened, unused bars of soap and bottles of shampoo. If that is indeed true, then I need to seriously modify my schedule to find time to go dumpster-diving behind some local hotels. I’ll never have to buy soap or shampoo again!

  85. Kevin says:

    @Dianne (#45):

    “Tip the maids, people! Theirs is an endless, messy, thankless, faceless job.”

    Thankless? Their wages don’t count as “thanks?”

    They’re not volunteers, Dianne. They get paid, you know. If they don’t think they’re paid fairly for the work they do, they’re free to quit and find a better job, just like the rest of us.

  86. Brandi says:

    Disposables aren’t stealing, although I rarely take anything even if I’ve used it, don’t want the mess at home. It’s hard to believe the amount of people with mini shampoo and lotion bottle collections in their homes.
    Towels are stealing, and her husband should mail them back, even if the cost of shipping is more than the towels.

  87. Beth says:

    @Kevin #57 — It’s painful and exhausting work, and many housekeepers end up with chronic problems or injuries or disabilities. However, most hotels screw them over when it comes to pay, especially since it’s “women’s work”. Even in North America, the managers who run housekeeping barely earn $40,000 (perhaps a little more if they work for a large hotel in a large city).

    Your comment overlooks the fact that not everyone has the freedom and mobility in their jobs or have transferable skills and education. For many women, especially in foreign countries, this is a job to support themselves and their families. Many don’t have the freedom or the money to go back to school or to pick up and leave whenever they want.

  88. kim says:

    Kevin (#57):

    Fairly paid is not always the case. Many hotels pay low and expect that a good portion of the housekeeper’s wage will come from tips, just like waitresses. This is especially true if you are staying outside of the USA. We recently stayed in Mexico. Before our trip, we found out that housekeepers made an average wage of two dollars per day. We made sure to leave $10 daily.

    Do you walk away from perfectly good service in a restaurant without leaving a tip. A waitress devotes 20 minutes to you over the course of an hour or two and is rewarded with 15-20% of the bill. A housekeeper spends that 20 minutes picking up after you, making your bed, and cleaning your toilet among other things and you don’t think that it is worth $3 or $4 on the dresser?

    Shame on you!

  89. BD says:

    @#57 – Kevin

    Not sure what country you live in, but if it’s the USA, guess what? It’s customary to tip the hotel maid in the USA, and by not tipping them, you (unfortunately) look like a low-brow, uneducated tightwad.
    You can brush up on your travel etiquette here: http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/tipping/

    Here is another article, “The Gentleman’s Guide To Tipping”.

    Sorry if I come off as harsh, but tipping certain services is already established as status quo here in the USA and to ignore that is only a breach of etiquette. When people hire on as a maid, they do so with the expectation to receive tips. That IS part of their job’s wages.

  90. My opinion is don’t steal from the hotels.

  91. Beth says:

    One thing I’m surprised no one has mentioned is the environmental consequences of taking all these little bottles and soaps home to use. That’s a lot of wasteful packaging. Somehow it’s okay because they’re “free”? It’s like people who load up their plates at the “all you can eat” buffet and then throw out half the food.

    I’m sorry, but waste is still waste.

  92. Shelly says:

    I agree with most others that the disposable toiletries are OK to take, but the towels are definitely not because they are hotel property and reused.

    For those who think it’s wrong to take unopened toiletries, note that most hotels have a policy to throw them away even if they appear unopened. Why? Because sometimes used toiletries can still look unopened. It’s a sanitary procedure.

    And some hotels replace all your toiletries daily. I hate it when they throw out my barely used soap to give me a new one; it seems like such a waste.

    The toiletries cost next to nothing and are included in the cost of your stay; they are being given to you (not being borrowed like towels are). If you’d rather not use them and donate them to charity, or keep them to use another time, that should be your choice.

  93. Kyle says:

    @Beth That’s great that they work hard, that’s sad that they don’t have a lot of mobility, but all in all, that doesn’t make it my job to subsidize them.

    If so, then I’d like to remind everyone who ever has a child playing high-school sports to tip your reporters! We work hard, we get paid horrible wages ($40k/year? Many reporters barely make half that). We give up our nights and weekends to make sure your kids’ name gets in the paper when he scores six points for the JV basketball squad.

    Isn’t that worth $3 or $4 in the mail after each game?

  94. littlepitcher says:

    @Beth–Those who want to tip, will. Those who feel unwillingly forced to tip, will leave their pocket pennies and nothing else.

    Some hotels have laundry help; others subcontract to a linen service. Either way, taking linens is theft. Linen service linens are sold for mechanic’s rags when they are worn out. Ashtrays, too, are “permanent” room fixtures; please do not steal them.

    The toiletry items are yours. Have at ’em.

  95. Rob says:

    Taking the towels is called stealing. If somebody cant understand that, that person sounds like he/she is missing a few DNA strands. That person would never be welcome in my house.

  96. Kevin says:

    @Beth (#58):

    “It’s painful and exhausting work, and many housekeepers end up with chronic problems or injuries or disabilities.”

    I’m a computer programmer. Many computer programmers end up with chronic problems or injuries or disabilities (Repetitive Stress Injuries like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, eye problems caused by staring at monitors all day, overweight conditions caused by the sedentary nature of the work). Yet most programmers I know haven’t had a “tip” since the dot-com bubble burst. Heck, I haven’t even had a *raise* in 3 years, let alone any kind of daily bonus just for doing my job. And I spent $40,000 on getting an education, unlike most hotel housekeeping staff. Pardon me for not feeling too sympathetic. Life is tough all around these days.

    @Kim (#59):

    “Fairly paid is not always the case. Many hotels pay low and expect that a good portion of the housekeeper’s wage will come from tips, just like waitresses.”

    They may pay “low,” but they’re legally required to pay at least the minimum wage, in Canada and the US. Housekeeping jobs, unlike food service workers, are NOT eligible for the minimum-wage exemption, as far as I know. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the societal convention of tipping hotel housekeepers is yet as pervasive as the convention of tipping restaurant servers (though I’m sure housekeepers wish it were). As someone who does NOT benefit from such liberal, charitable practices, I do not believe we should be encouraging the spread of the arbitrary, awkward practice of tipping any further than it already has. I accept that we’re expected to tip waitresses. But now housekeepers, hairdressers, and taxi drivers want tips too? Where do we draw the line? I think it’s time for a little pushback.

    “Do you walk away from perfectly good service in a restaurant without leaving a tip.”

    Of course not. But knowing I’ll be expected to pay 20% more for my meal than is advertised is the reason we dine out so rarely. I resent the expectations, so rather than be rude (and risk the Saliva Special), I simply choose not to participate in the whole socialistic charade.

    “A housekeeper spends that 20 minutes picking up after you, making your bed, and cleaning your toilet among other things and you don’t think that it is worth $3 or $4 on the dresser?”

    Frankly, no! She’s doing her job! At home, I make my own bed, clean my own toilet, and do my own laundry, and nobody tips me. It’s not that bad! It’s just laundry and cleaning. We all do it for free, and we’re talking about people who get paid to do it. And now we’re expected to kick in even more? Why? Because they’re nice people? Well so what. I’m nice too (though this post might suggest otherwise), and as I said, I haven’t been “tipped” in years.

    If they don’t think they’re being fairly compensated, then they should take steps to acquire the skills necessary to advance to a better job. That’s good enough for the rest of us, so it should be good enough for them too.

    And back on topic: Taking towels is outright theft. It’s not just rude: it’s illegal. It’s no better than shoplifting.

    And even those who routinely maximize their take of the perceived “freebies” at hotels. There’s such thing as actuarial math. Hotels assume they will have to replace a certain percentage of disposable products on a daily basis. However, they also assume that not every one of their guests will use the entire bottle of shampoo and an entire bar of soap, EVERY DAY. If we all did that, hotels would be forced to increase their rates. The only reason you are able to get away with what you’re doing, while still enjoying affordable rates, is because of those of us who only take use what we need, rather than bilking the purveyor out of the most possible product.

  97. Sandy says:

    I just read an article on a related subject (soory, no link). In our wealthy society, it’s commen to throw away the leftover soap. One immegrant from somewhere in Africa came to the US and got a job in a hotel, and was absolutely appalled by the fact that American throw away their leftover soap. In his country, soap is a precious commodity, and most people cannot afford soap. So, with the help of a relative and new friends, he started a program at hotels to collect all of the old soap, take it to a central location, sterilize it, and melt it again, then repackage to be shipped back to his home country. Not having soap/clean water is the cause of much disease spreading. If this could be done in all hotel chains, imagine how this could affect health for poor countries.
    We are so spoiled.

  98. prufock says:

    Disposable items are budgeted, so your bill for the room includes use of those items. Since you’re paying for them anyway, it’s fair to take them.

    I’d assume towels are budgeted as laundry, which is a lot cheaper than new ones. Since they aren’t included in the bill, don’t take them.

  99. Ally says:

    @Kevin (#57)

    Your point of view would really benefit from reading this book by Barbara Ehrenreich:


  100. brad says:

    @ #66 Kevin

    7 paragraphs?!?! your code must be compiling.


  101. Melanie H says:

    I think taking the towels is stealing. I also think stashing unused shampoo etc each day just to get more seems wrong. I would take left over shampoo etc on check out if I could use them at home.

  102. mare says:

    I’d return the towels. Using them would never make me feel clean.

  103. Rae says:

    To answer some of the questions “I’m sure they keep the disposable toiletries that haven’t been used”:

    I can’t speak for all hotels, but one summer in college I cleaned rooms one day a week for a small resort at the Lake of the Ozarks (paid gas money to visit my family, and my mom worked that day anyhow).

    The policy was that we almost always threw away the toiletries, used or not, unless the guest had set them somewhere away from the sink/tub. Even if you don’t use them, there is a high likelyhood of the wrappers getting water damaged or starting to come apart because of the humidity in the bath (these weren’t high quality). The resort would rather eat the small cost than deal with a guest complaining that they didn’t get fresh toiletries.

    Keeping that in mind, I’ll take the toiletries if I don’t use them. I generally will then take them on my next trip. Unless the toiletries are just crappy. Then I leave them be.

    Also, on the subject of tips: we at least were paid slightly above min. wage at the time (around $7.25 when min was $5.35). Nonetheless, a tip was always appreciated – most of the cleaners were middle aged women where that job was the only source of income. Every little bit extra helps, esp. if they are doing a good job on multiple day stays. I don’t know that it should be required, per se, at least in the US, since you do make real minimum, not waitress minimum, but you should definitely award exceptional service. (And at that resort, the other ladies loved the beers that were left by the partiers as well ;) )

  104. Anna says:

    I agree with the majority here:
    Opened disposables: OK.
    Unopened disposables: Maybe OK, maybe not.
    Towels and other reusables: Definitely not OK.

    But the first question that occurred to me was what about the husband? I had to scroll down and read 36 replies that ignored the husband (except to maybe make him return the towels himself) before getting to #37 AnnJo, who asked about the implications of this seemingly small dishonest act.

    My ex used to steal restaurant ashtrays (back when smoking was allowed in restaurants). The first time I saw him do this, before we were married, I was appalled but too timid to say anything. Over the years I learned that this was symptomatic of a general dishonesty. Maddie needs to wake up and ask herself some serious questions about her husband and the gap between their values.

  105. Sharon says:

    I work for a national upscale hotel chain and at our hotel the pool towels are just old room towels that are no longer as plush or as white as the ones we put in the rooms. I think any hotel would be crazy to put good quality towels in an area where they will be ruined by chlorine. So, while taking the towels was still wrong, I say the joke’s on him.

  106. Susan says:

    I too agree taking the towels was stealing. I say have him mail them back.

    I do believe that honesty IS the best policy. My story is about 18 yrs ago my hubby and I stayed at a Ritz overnight due to his work. I loved the crystal looking soap dish. I tried to buy one in the gift shop before we were to leave but was told they don’t sell them. I then asked at the front desk to see if they would sell me one, but I was told no.
    As we were ready to leave our room, we were greeted by a bellman with a wrapped gift for me. I opened this beautiful box to find a crystal soap dish tucked inside.

    The note from the manager said in all the years he never had someone ask to pay for the soap dish, they would have stolen it instead. He thanked ME again! ha
    I use this beautiful soap dish to this very day. It was marked Waterford!

  107. Diane says:

    #57 Kevin

    The only person who spelled my name wrong more than once was my grandfather. Every birthday, every Christmas, my name was wrong on the check. When can I expect yours?

    @ Beth, @ Kim, Thanks, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  108. Kris says:

    I just love people’s sense of entitlement here. ” I paid for this room so I am entitled to take all the disposable crap i want, whether I would ever use it or not “. Give me a break, hiding disposables in your suitcase so that the maid will leave more for you to take, that’s just pathetic. I have no problem with people taking their opened bottles of disposables, but to resort to sneaking and hiding to get more of it cause ” I paid for the room ” is hardly an ethical attitude to take.
    Do Hotels factor in the loss of these items into the price of the room, if they want to stay in business they do. Just like department stores factor in the loss of clothing do to theft into the price of their clothing… it doesn’t give you the right to steal it “cause you paid for it”. It just amazes me how quickly peoples ethics go out the window when they think they are “entitled” to something.

  109. Kevin says:


    My apologies, I’m usually much more careful with my spelling.

    Nevertheless, I stand behind my point.

  110. Jen says:

    In my personal opinion, if you have to take anything ‘extra’ from a hotel to feel like you’re getting a fair deal for what you paid for the room, you probably paid too much for your room.

    I like tipping. I’ve never been tipped. I like that we tip the people who serve our food and clean our rooms because that’s what mom does and what mom does is special.

    I’ve always assumed that people steal because they are lowlifes, have no morals, or can’t afford what they need. Yet, the Ritz is loosing its soap dishes (which nobody really ‘needs’ even if most people have them) to people I presume (because they are staying at the Ritz) can afford it, know what morals are (because they need to rationalize the theft by claiming they’re entitled to it, that it’s ‘fair’), and I reserve my judgment on the lowlife quality because I haven’t actually met them.

    Don’t steal the towels, that’s just silly.

  111. Beth says:

    Please read my comment more carefully. I said that the MANAGERS earn $40K a year, not the housekeepers! When I worked as a housekeeper, I earned less than $9.00 an hour, and that was above industry standard for my area. We’d maybe see $20-30 a month in tips if we were lucky. (Most people don’t tip housekeepers.)

    @Kevin – I wonder what would happen if the onus was on employers to pay their workers decent wages instead of relying on tips. My guess would be that businesses would have to raise prices in order to pay higher salaries, so customers end up paying one way or another. (So is it better to have the option to pay via a tip or get no choice in the matter?)

    But I’m curious… A friend of mine recently worked as a waiter in a country where tipping isn’t the norm. (He earned twice the hourly rate of a waiter here). I should ask him what food prices were like in comparison.

  112. Claudia says:

    I work in a hotel, and you would not believe the things that people take. We have to hand out items like pool towels, irons and hair driers from the front desk to avoid theft–and it IS theft. We even had someone steal the cushions from the chairs on their balcony one time and a grate off a grill another time!

    We have to take an authorization (hold) on guests’ credit cards at check-in to cover any possible “incidentals,” and they are always baffled as to why we have to do this.

    Taking the towels like this is a perfect example of why. He was sneaky when he took them, so he knew it was wrong.

    Toiletries–have at it. Take them home. Hide them every day if you want. It really doesn’t make a difference. For example, if you had checked out, and someone else checked into that room that night, they would have used another set of toiletries.

  113. Anna says:

    Posts are getting renumbered — why? Do they get reviewed and approved and numbered as they come in, but entered here only later?

    Reason for asking: Earlier I responded to AnnJo’s post, which was #37 at the time and is now #60 (at the moment, but who knows what it will change to). We try to be clear about who we are responding to by including the other person’s post number — but if that changes after we write, it gets confusing.


    End of rant….

  114. Nik says:

    @Kevin Most programmers are highly overpaid and should be charged a “reverse tip” for all of the things that they so carelessly break. Most people in the computer industry capitalized on the ignorance of many who knew nothing about the computer causeing less competent people to make a lot of money doing next to nothing and having very little consequence for not being able to do the job. If you get fired, you can always get a job with some other company working for some other guy who has no concept of what you’re supposed to be doing. Now that more people are becoming more technically astute, those that were mediocre or not able to evolve with the technology and economy are left to do nothing meaningful but sneer at those who do work that they feel is “beneath them” and not very hard at all because, heck, they do that for themselves everyday.
    If you don’t get tips or raises as a programmer, you are terrible at your job or just an even worse advocate for yourself. Don’t try to play the “you don’t know me, man!” card because I know a lot about programmers. I know good programmers, mediocre programmers, terrible programmers, and even programmers that are fantastic BS artists. You may not be doing well economically, but it is no one’s fault but your own. You are not willing to take all of the options available to you to get farther, so don’t rant at others for not feeling sorry for you because you are way too oppressed to participate in the “socialist conspiracy” that you claim to experience. I take that back, rant all you want, just don’t be surprised if people who’ve heard that song and dance don’t offer the sympathy you demand.

    As for the towels, I feel that even the husband knew he was doing something wrong, otherwise he would have taken them from the room if he were somehow entitled to them. The fact that he stole them from a public area where missing towels could not be traced back to him is a pretty good indicator that he wasn’t acting ethically.

    It is perfectly common to inadvertently steal things. (Like if you were at the pool and used their towels to dry off after a swim. If you have a chaotic environment where you absentmindedly put the towels in your bag as you are packing up to go back to the room or wherever you came from, it isn’t so bad but you should still return them… Unless you’re like me and later find towels in your bag that you aren’t certain where they came from or where you purple sweater is now.)

  115. Emily says:

    Along the same lines in regards to hotels…is it unethical when you make a reservation to only say that there are 1 or 2 of you when there are really more? Alot of times there’s a $10 per person upcharge on the rate…

  116. Michelle says:

    I agree with the overwhelming majority of the other commenters: send the towels back. The towels were unambiguous theft. And yeah, I think it’s a bad sign about the husband’s character.

    I strongly disagree with the idea that it’s okay to steal if you feel the hotel owes you something. It’s just a bad excuse for pointless vindictiveness and petty theft. How is it fair for you to decide what they “owe” you in hotel property anyway? Bad experiences happen; you can complain to the management and try to get a partial refund, you can tell potential customers about your experience, or you can simply resolve not to go back.

    I think that taking the disposable toiletries at the end of your stay is just fine, but hiding them to get extras doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t think anyone’s a horrible person for doing it; I just think it puts a toe over the line between frugal and cheap. One of the things I consider cheap is expecting other people to foot the bill for your “frugality”. Having the hotel (and therefore the other hotel guests) pay for you to stock up on toiletries to use at home is cheap. Not evil, not immoral… but cheap.

  117. Lindsay says:

    I think these ethical discussions have been so humorous. Trent hasn’t even attempted to intelligibly establish his view of morality (ethics), which is all tied in with whatever his views are on the foundational issues of epistemology (which deals with nature of knowledge) and metaphysics (which deals with the nature of reality).

    That Henry (forgot post #) who thought it was OK to rip off corporations, should just be happy that he hasn’t (so far, apparently) run into someone who thinks it is perfectly OK (based on HIS worldview) to rip off individuals (like Henry). Bet he’s awfully glad to get up each morning and find that his automobile is still there or that no one broke into his house and took his wallet! LOL

  118. Henry says:

    Lindsay, sometimes I’ve wished an automobile I’ve had would be stolen…insurance pays me instead of me dealing with the problems it’s developed. As far as someone breaking into my home, I’ve not made that easy for people, like the stores make it easy. You should be glad many of us draw the line at corporations instead of just declaring society to be a free-for-all. We do have emphathy, since I assume you as an individual has not wronged me, but since the Wal-Mart and other companies such as fast-food and others have so many books written as indictments against them, for crimes they will never pay for, it is time to take what you can. I suppose you think it’s wrong to call the 800 numbers on all the fast food restaurants as often as you can to get freebies because you’ve been wronged. And when they stop coming, call the managers directly to report how there were no napkins in your bag, or pickle on that sandwich, that you wanted with no pickle, but actually full well knew you forgot to mention that, but by the time you call the manager, swear up and down that you know you ordered it that way, and it was the drive thru attendant that wasn’t listening, so you can have your free sandwich.

  119. Sally says:

    Take the sundries – leave everything else. If you have some issue with the room, talk to management. I feel sorry for the wife – the issue with her husband is much bigger than the towels.

  120. stella says:

    Posts are not only being renumbered, some are being deleted after being posted.

    What’s going on Trent?

  121. Bonnie says:

    #7 Johanna – We do that too! I figure the hotel calculates one set of toiletries per night, which we pay for in our per-night room fee. We generally only take the toiletries when we stay in nice hotels, though (which are over-priced to begin with). We now have little bottles of Davies Gate, Bath & Body Works, and other great brands to use at home or in our gym bags. (Of course, we recycle all the little bottles. Otherwise, it’d be a serious waste of packaging.)

  122. Julia says:

    I love your theme of the week.

  123. David says:

    Taking towels crosses the line.

    However, the toiletries are a different story. An interesting noe. I usually struggled with this a little, until one day I saw in my church bulletin a small note actually advocating taking the opened ones and donating them to the church!

    What a great idea! I do it all the time now–but usually only the open ones.

  124. Beth says:

    iT’S Pretty sad when people have to have long debates as to if stealing is ethical. one word: NO. Bonus word: DUH

  125. Beth says:

    RE: ” I usually struggled with this a little, until one day I saw in my church bulletin a small note actually advocating taking the opened ones and donating them to the church!”–yeah, cuz everything every self-labeled ‘christian’ does is 100% ethical all the time, lol. People act unethically or make stupid mistakes, including people who write church newsletters.

  126. reulte says:

    Tipping the housekeeper – my view is if the housekeeper performs a personally requested service (more blankets at midnight!) or you cause extra work (oops, spilled something) then you tip — and well. Otherwise, the housekeeper is paid for the regular duties of keeping the room clean. Half the time, I request no housekeeping services except replacement of used towels and toiletries so I don’t get the services of the cleaning staff.

    OK – even though I take more than ‘my’ share of toiletries and ask for extras, I do take only what I use. I don’t take the coffee or tea, for example, because I don’t drink it. I don’t take the shower cap because I don’t use it. I don’t take – or even use – certain brands because I don’t like them. In my mind, there’s no ethical foul and it all evens up in the end.

  127. SwingCheese says:

    @Henry (currently 118, and others):

    What you are suggesting is deceitful. It doesn’t matter how you spin it – if you do indeed take the actions you’re claiming to in your comments, you are both a liar and a thief.

  128. Patty says:

    And if you are staying more than one night. Do you hid the items so they are re-supplied the next day so you can take home multiple?
    I’ve seen similar frugal-ethical discussions elsewhere talking about taking ketchup or sugar packets from resturants. (Not sure if this fits better with the samples or in this hotel section). Its fair to use a bit but where is the cut off. I don’t think you should re-fill your entire ketchup bottle at home out of samples but I do have a few extra packets to throw in my lunch box. Is it ethical to take one, two, six or seven? Sometimes drive throughs will just hand you a handful(I’d rather use than waste) while other stores will hand you only one after you ask at the counter. I have a feeling stores study this just as they study the benefits of providing samples.

  129. Patty says:

    Some hotels are now ‘going green’ and are donating extras to shelters including but not limited to over-ordered supplies and partial rolls of toilet paper. Sharing is caring!!!

  130. pam munro says:

    We all agree that taking the towels crossed the line. But I like little motel soaps to put in a soap dish (an old plastic ashtray) next to my kitchen sink to wash my hands with! And shampoo in little bottles can be used to put shampoo on dirty clothes as a stain remover before washing them – (on places like a dirty collar, etc.) – or when overnighting elsewhere!

  131. Jean says:

    Many years ago, my daughter went on a weekend trip with a friend’s family and came home with a bath towel from the hotel. I was appalled, and when I asked her to explain why she had brought the towel home, her answer was “Well, everybody in Mary’s family was doing it.” After my explosion, we packaged it up and mailed it back, with a letter of explanation. We actually received a note of thanks from the manager,and I am sure she has never taken anything except the toiletries, notepad and pen ever again!
    I work for a private country club that furnishes pool, tennis, golf and locker room towels, and we spend a ridiculous amount of money replacing these every year. (And these are RICH people who I am sure could afford much higher quality towels!) I wonder if they think about all the towels they’ve taken home when they gripe about their dues going up!

  132. borealis says:

    If you have to hide what you are doing, then you know it is not ethical.

    I have taken the shampoo and soap from hotels. That seems ethical to me, but they are still sitting under my sink. What good are they at home? And when you travel, don’t you want your usual shampoo? If you forget shampoo, it is nice that they provide it, but I would much rather have my own.

  133. CJ says:

    My spouse and I stay at hotels quite frequently for work.

    We now have several BANKER’S BOXES full of toiletries – soap, lotions, shampoo, toothbrushes etc.

    We have NEVER been anything but honest about our dealings with the hotel staff: we ask if we can have more and indicate we’d like to take some with. They’re happy to oblige.

    At anywhere from $75 to $575 per night (Rome or Tokyo anyone?) the hoteliers aren’t going out of business if they give us a few extra soaps per night.

    This is absolutely a frugal strategy. When we have guests, they can help themselves to use whatever toiletries they need and we aren’t paying the “miniaturization tax” on post-9/11 travel-sized toiletries from the drug store.

    We draw the line at towels or other reusables.

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