What can you steal from a hotel without getting into trouble?

Bottled water, stationery, toiletries and slippers are fair game. But leave the lightbulbs


There is a moment many hotel guests experience as they depart the world of goose feather pillows and room service, when they debate how far the definition of “complimentary” stretches?

Whether you rush to the bathroom to snatch up remaining toiletries, upend the tea and coffee station into your bag, or refuse to part ways with that fluffy white bathrobe, you may be trying to get your money’s worth from your hotel bill, but are you actually committing theft?

Hotelier, television personality and managing director of The Park Hotel Kenmare John Brennan offered some colourful insight on the subject. “You can take anything that you use outside of linen and towelling,” he says, quickly adding: “If tea is made in the room you can’t take the cups and saucers.”

While running a hotel in Dublin during the recession, Brennan says, “you’d go into the room, and the room was stripped.” In the depressed economy of 2010, he says, renting a hotel room was almost cheaper than buying new sheets.

The most drastic incident of theft he can recall occurred when a guest removed a prestigious Hotel of the Year award from the Park Hotel Kenmare.

“We knew who took it. They left us and went to stay at another hotel in Ireland who we know well. We rang the hotel, and we said ‘listen we suspect this happened’. They went up to the room when they were at dinner opened the bag, found the plate and sent it back to us”.

The thieves, Brennan explains, “couldn’t say a thing because how could they say ‘the plate for the Park Hotel in Kenmare was stolen out of our bag’?”

The most unusual item he finds always needs replacing are teaspoons. “We could buy 200 teaspoons a month.”

For the most part, however, Brennan says theft is rarely an issue. “We would have very little stuff missing out of rooms. I think it is down to the way you treat people and the service that you offer. If people think they are getting good service, they are not there to pull a fast one.”

When items go astray, Brennan has a positive outlook. “If you lose something with your name on it like umbrellas, for instance, we would buy maybe 500 umbrellas per year, but . . . someone is standing at a funeral in Dublin with a big umbrella with the Park Hotel written on it.”

Mark Browne, general manager at the Monart Spa hotel says theft is not a regular occurrence. If something is remove, he says, the hotel assumes it was done unintentionally. “We would follow up with the guest personally and come to an arrangement.”

For guests craving to hold on to specific hotel products, Monart sells robes, blankets, water bottles, spa products, candles and other items. This common practice among high-end hotels serves as a gentle discouragement to guests to remove items on departure.

Leishe Hurtin, accommodation manager at the Dingle Skellig Hotel, a favourite among families, agrees that disposable objects such as bottled water, pencils, toiletries and slippers are perfectly acceptable for guests to bundle into their travel cases. However, the hotel would rather bed cushions, pillows, bathrobes and towels be left untouched. She adds batteries and light bulbs to the list. “Yes, a few have been taken.”

Hurtin recounts one incident in which a 6ft Santa Claus decoration disappeared during Christmas. “We were all delighted with these stunning decorations until one morning we discovered Santa had gone missing. After a few enquiries, it turned out that one of our managers had been on the way into work and met someone on a motorbike with Santa strapped to the back! Santa never turned up after his great escape!” she says.

However, Hurtin also maintains that theft tends not to be a problem in the hotel.

So wherever the summer sun takes you, keep the above in mind when you find yourself ogling that “complimentary” in-room kettle.