Waldorf-Astoria gets everything but kitchen sink back in souvenirs amnesty
The hotel has been recovering long-lost property from sticky-fingered guests with no questions asked, writes in JAMES BARRONNew York
A SILVER coffee pot, a couple of knives, a fork, a coaster for a bottle of wine: the goods were spread out on a table the way the police would spread out guns or drugs hauled in from a raid that would make the TV news.
But the well-polished table was made of African maple, fancier than anything in the usual police station. And this was no precinct house; it was the Waldorf-Astoria. The stolen goods had been returned under an amnesty programme.
Bring back our spoons, the Waldorf said. Our forks. Our long-lost teapots that had been “secretly checked out,” as the hotel put it on its Facebook page. “We’re giving you the chance to give it back, no questions asked.”
Some newspaper articles were more pointed after the hotel announced the amnesty in June: “Do you have a souvenir from New York’s legendary Waldorf-Astoria hotel that perhaps you shouldn’t have?” USA Today wondered. “Perhaps Aunt Bessy had sticky fingers?”
The Waldorf does not know how many Aunt Bessies have left with larceny in their luggage. The hotel says it has not kept track of items that have disappeared over its long history, first as side-by-side hotels on Fifth Avenue, then for the past 81 years at 301 Park Avenue.
And hotel officials acknowledged that even a Perry Mason would have a hard time proving that some items had been stolen. “Our towels aren’t branded,” said Meg Towner, the hotel’s social media manager. “The bathrobes are. But bathrobes take up a lot of space in a suitcase.” (A “plush terry robe” sells for $125 on the Waldorf’s website.)
The silver coffee pot sent back by Judy Schreiber, a psychotherapist who lives in San Diego, would have crowded a suitcase – probably her father’s, she said.
“My dad and my mom had a one-night honeymoon in 1938,” she said. “I think going to the Waldorf was a huge deal in those days, huge. There was not a lot of money around. And, the story goes, my dad stole it, basically. Every year on their anniversary, he took it out and served coffee on it.”
Matt Zolbe, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said that Schreiber was one of about 15 people who returned items before the amnesty ended. An additional 15 or so items have been promised.
He said he was pleased by those numbers. After all, the Waldorf did not start the amnesty because it needed used silverware, he said, but because it was looking for attention on social media.
“Social media is ravenous for content,” he said, and that puts pressure on hotel executives to hold their Facebook followers’ interest. The Waldorf had 15,882 of them as of last Friday, and the amnesty programme will give them something to see. The hotel is posting images of the returned items and will eventually display them in the lobby – but not the police photos of the people who handed in the items.