Souvenir hunting

IT was reported the other week that a US company has invented a washable microchip to track robes, towels and bed linens stolen from hotel rooms.

Theft apparently costs the industry millions each year. A Honolulu hotel, which introduced the technology, claims to have reduced theft of its pool towels from 4000 a month to just 750, two figures I found deliriously far-fetched.
For those who manage to smuggle their towel through the hotel lobby like sweating drug mules, I can see a reality TV show: Hotel Cops. Fugitives are brought to justice in their homes: “Hands up! We have reason to believe you have an illegal hotel towel in your possession!” Then from another room, “Oh my god, Brian, come quick,” as they kick over a garbage bag filled with mini-shampoos. In the background the music score: “Bad boys, bad boys… what ya gonna do when they come for you.”

My own hotel theft story is even better than this. For my wedding we flew my fiancé’s eccentric parents to Melbourne and put them in a luxury hotel for two nights. His late parents, as I have written before, were Holocaust survivors and already had a very strange relationship with the world. Eva, for instance, would keep cupboards full to the brim of canned tomatoes, beans, asparagus, just in case the Nazis invaded Bondi. They had never flown before, having come to Australia by boat.

But they took to hotel life like ducks to water. When it came time to leave, the bill for two nights came to more than $1000. We couldn’t understand, given we’d paid the accommodation in advance and taken them out for meals. The mini-bar tab listed two bottles of Moët, countless bottles of wine and mini-spirits, chocolates, nuts, and four towels. “Mum, Dad, you don’t drink alcohol! What happened here?” We opened the heavy suitcases and there were the items. “What are you doing?” we yelled.

Eva was totally baffled. She said, “Dey were so kind to us. Dey give us all of dis food. We didn’t want to be rude.”


We pay hotels enough to stay in them. Should we be entitled to keep a few souvenirs?



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12 Responses to Souvenir hunting

  1. the sensible Ruth 2 May 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    I am reminded of a story of a friend of my parents who stayed at The Peninsula in Hong Kong many many years ago. He had pinched the towells and the management confronted him in the Rolls Royce that was transferring him and his wife to the airport indicating that they would be charged if they didn’t let hotel management search the suitcases. He agreed to let them charge the account. After they left, his wife asked him, ‘Why didn’t you just give them back the towells?” and he replied “Then, they would have found the tea service I pinched from High Tea this afternoon!”

  2. Helen 30 April 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    As I grow older I even appreciate them more than I ever did. I guess this is quite natural that as we grow we understand so much more than we did when we were young and self absorbed. My love just grows for them and I too marvel at their resilience even today. But I do understand that they were granted life amidst death and they honoured that gift to their dying day. Powerful lessons for all of us in that.

  3. Ruth Ostrow 30 April 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    And of a daughter who treated them with great love, patience and respect.

  4. Helen 30 April 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks for the acknowledgement of two incredible human beings.

  5. Ruth Ostrow 30 April 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Thank you Helen
    And if I may say publicly you and I were good friends when we were growing up and I remember your parents, so full of positive energy, so extraordinarily into life, and joyous. They accepted things with grace. Your Dad’s humour and Mum’s generosity will always stay with me. I wondered then, and wonder now, how people who had gone through what they did, were able to be so courageous and optimistic. I learned a lot from them. Ruth

  6. Helen 30 April 2011 at 11:50 am #

    It’s rather sad that your in laws couldn’t move on from their tragic experiences but as a child of holocaust survivors I hope your readers don’t assume that this is common. My parents and so many other holocaust survivors I grew up with that became my replacement aunties and uncles did move on and made the most of their precious lives with all their heart and soul. They lived a beautiful new life having families, friends, joy, tears and laughter much like any other human. Just wiser, stronger and more resilient than the average human. Not a strange relationship with the world as you say at all. Quite the opposite infact. They had no time for modern day illnesses such as depression because once you know how precious life is, you live it to the full. Just wanted your readers to understand that your experiences do not reflect my own and many, many others.

  7. Ruth Ostrow 30 April 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Rita I think Morris and Sam are defining the point. With low margins can any establishment afford to continually be giving away items it then needs to replace?

  8. Rita 30 April 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I do wonder about those deliciously white fluffy towels. How do they get them so fat and soft? And why do good hotels have to have towels that are so so tempting? Or those gorgeous robes? I bought a robe in a store after a failed attempt at “removal” from a hotel many years ago and it went all scratchy and thin after only a few washes. Meanwhile hotel robes remain fabulous! The only hope hotels have is putting them on a long thin rope that snaps back into the bathroom when the guest has finished. Like the computers at my work. Or to simply stop making them so tempting!

  9. Meredith 30 April 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Oh come on Morris,
    The margins leading hotels make are ridiculous! A standard room $300 a night! In top hotels good rooms go for $1000 plus a night. The story of souvenirs was pertaining to leading hotels clearly. Its no fun or use stealing a thin scraggly towel from a cheap n nasty. I say if hotels are going to charge like wounded bulls then I’m going to take the shampoo, the bubble bath, the shower caps, and anything that’s not bolted down!

  10. Morris 30 April 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I agree with Sam. It’s fun for the person taking that one towel or one ashtray. But when you are trying to survive in business it’s more strain on already small margins. Consumers have no idea nor do they care.

  11. Sam 30 April 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Well Meredith clearly your father wasn’t trying to run a hotel. We run a small restaurant and the amount of money we lose in theft of stupid things like salt shakers or serviette racks is significant. Theft is theft. there is no justification.

  12. Meredith 30 April 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I have to admit I have a rather large collection of memoribilia myself. My father used to love to collect ashtrays in the days when it was still groovy to smoke. He took these from hotels we would stay on family holidays. They are the most awful things i’ve ever seen. But when he died, I just couldn’t give them away. My favourite has a topless Hawaiian dancer in the middle when it was also still cool to be sexist. He stole this from a hotel in America. Yes, give us our memories. Or rather turn an eye while we take them.

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