Carpets, towels, hair dryers: Irish people’s hotel thefts

Vodka tumblers, a ‘fancy bag’ ... Readers and hotel staff share their tales of theft

A couple of years ago, in the Chinese city of Xi’an, I nearly ended up in jail for accidentally stealing a fancy bag from a hotel room. This bag was made of heavy cotton and embossed with the name of the hotel and – as instructed by the sign that sat next to the bag my room – I used it as a place to store laundry.

Then, without thinking too much about it, I chucked the bag into my suitcase on the night before check out and it made its way to the airport ahead of me. I checked out in the darkness before dawn and sat on my airport-bound bus and waited patiently for it to leave. It didn’t leave.

Instead our tour guide started having a heated argument with hotel staff. There was shouting and wild gesticulating and then – troublingly – a lot of finger pointing in my direction. Three uniformed hotel staff marched down the bus and hauled me back to hotel reception.

A suddenly panicked guide-turned-interpreter asked me if I had stolen anything from my room? I vigorously denied doing any such thing. The hotel staff looked agitated and started shouting at the poor unfortunate guide again.


It was explained to me that they wanted to know where their cotton bag was. Mortified, I said I had packed it in my suitcase and it was at the airport.

There was a lot of melodramatic sighing and heated whispering before I was told I would have to pay for the bag. Marvelling at the speed at which they had detected the “theft” – I had vacated my room no more than five minutes earlier – I gave them the credit card and paid the Chinese equivalent of €3 and was sent on my way.

It is not the only time I have made off with some of the contents of a room – just the most terrifying – but I am not alone, and repeated surveys of hotel guests suggest that most of us are happy to steal items from hotel rooms with toiletries and stationery the most frequently removed items. Towels, alcohol and slippers are other commonly stolen items.

Last week we asked readers if they had anything they would like to confess.

“The pen, the writing paper and envelopes,” said Róisín Ni Loirgneáin.

"I dried myself with a towel from a Spanish hotel – that I have five years at this stage – yesterday. Slippers too. Everyone does toiletries," said Alan Griffin

“Seriously, why would anyone take towels from a hotel after hundreds of people have used them,” wondered Bernie Holmes-Kelly in response.

Fiona O'Connor 'fessed up to taking an ashtray from the Hotel Nacional in Cuba. "I don't smoke but sure whatever!" She later clarified that she had thieved two ashtrays and finished her confession with a defiant: "Viva la revolucion!"

Keira Doyle admitted to collecting "a full set of 12 Finlandia vodka tumblers over three stays in one hotel" while PJ Nellbone claimed he had taken "a carpet out of a room in Dingle".

While lifting a carpet from your room seems a bit much, hoteliers accept a degree of pilfering is part of doing business and most we have spoken to are pretty relaxed.

The sales and marketing manager at the House Hotel in Galway, Aislinn O’Driscoll, told us when it comes to items going missing “remote controls are a big offender” as are the cushions from the bedrooms.

“To be honest we tend not to charge for small things, we look at the bigger picture but if it’s a hairdryer or one of our fancy throws we would charge the booker,” she says. “It’s quite common to see price lists in the rooms of contents and a veiled but polite threat of ‘if you decide that you simply can’t leave it behind you here are the price which will be charged to your credit card’.”

While taking stuff from the mini-bar used to be a big thing in the past, she says most hotels have done away with the things or only stock them on request, because it is not worth the cost in labour to maintain them.

“Downstairs in the bar and restaurant, glassware is another one to go in the handbags,” she says. “We have customers that come in for a few cocktails at Christmas time and leave with some our Christmas decorations. It was a running joke with a regular when they were rebooking their Christmas party. We don’t get too excited about it.”