What You Can — and Absolutely Can't — Take From Your Hotel Room

Shampoo? Yes. Towels? No.

<p>Stefa Nikolic/Getty Images</p>

Stefa Nikolic/Getty Images

For some reason, hotel shampoo just hits different. Perhaps it's the unique scent, the branding, or just the fact that it comes in those teeny, tiny bottles you can't find anywhere else. If you put a bottle or two in your bag when you leave to take home with you, you're not alone. Some 73 percent of American travelers admit to taking hotel toiletries after their stay. You may not feel too badly about nicking those bottles, but what about bigger things like robes or even the hotel room decor? What's the etiquette on what you can and cannot steal from hotels?

Related: 7 Most Annoying Hotel Guests — and How to Avoid Being That Person

"Toiletries, such as bar soap, shampoo, and disposable slippers, are okay to take," Mehmet Erdem, an associate professor of hotel operations and technology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says. "Just remember that some hotels work with charities to re-purpose such items, so find out if the property you are staying at is participating in such programs, and if they are, give consideration to those who really need such items. Also, remember that writing stationery does not have to be stationary (pun intended), so feel free to take pens, pencils, and note papers."

What about the things you shouldn't take from hotel rooms? According to Erdem, essentially everything else falls onto the "do not take" list.

"Linens, such as towels, sheets, and pillowcases, are some of the big no-nos. Also, some guests incorrectly assume that books or magazines available in their rooms are up for grabs; they often are not," Erdem said. "Hairdryers and steam irons are among the items known to get 'accidentally' packed away when checking out."

Related: How Much Should You Tip Room Service?

When in doubt on if you can or should take something, Erdem says to "ask yourself, 'what would my elementary school teacher say?'"

It's not just the toiletries or linens hotels have to worry about going missing. According to Erdem, he's heard of guests removing "shower heads and even Italian marble tiles" from rooms before departure. But please don't get any ideas, as this is considered theft.

"It is a crime," a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told the Telegraph in 2022. "If we were to receive allegations, we would follow them up."

Guests have even served prison time for theft, including a woman who served three months in prison for stealing two towels from the Transcorp Hilton Abuja hotel in Nigeria.

And whether or not you get charged with a crime, you could get banned from your favorite hotel. Many hotels, NBC reported, have "no stay" databases for people they no longer wish to have as guests, which they may even share with other hotels.

Why go to such great lengths for such tiny items? Because it all adds up to huge costs. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, theft, even the petty kind, can cost hotels an estimated $100 million a year.

So next time you feel the urge to take a hotel souvenir home with you, make sure it's actually free to take. If you're still not sure, you can always ask the staff at the front desk.

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