Some guests treat hotels as a home away from home. So much so, they check out with bathrobes and remote controls.
Even so, a recent survey ranking Singaporeans second behind Argentinians on a list of 28 nationalities most likely to pilfer hotel amenities has raised eyebrows. That is because what is considered stealing in some places is seen as an entitlement in others.
The survey by US-based website Hotels.com showed 71 per cent of Singaporeans admitted to pinching items like disposable slippers and stationery from hotels.
However, many hotels in Singapore do not think this is theft. "Taking bathroom amenities, disposable slippers and stationery, that's not classified as stealing," said Accor Singapore's regional general manager Kevin Bossino, who manages six hotels. "That's why a lot of these items are branded with logos, so that if they are taken away it can be considered part of marketing."
But absconding with items like wine glasses, bathrobes and remote controls would be considered theft, said hotels.
That has not stopped guests from helping themselves.
At Santa Grand Hospitality's chain of seven hotels, more than 10 remote controls have been misappropriated so far. Others take the half-used batteries in them, said Mr Derik Poh, the chain's marketing manager.
If something is missing, staff will ask the guests checking out if they have taken something accidentally. "But if they say they didn't take anything, there is no choice," said Mr Poh, adding that it does not seem right to search a guest's luggage.
Occasionally, though, guests try to take larger items.
A guest of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, which has five hotels here, once tried to make away with a brass antelope decoration from the room. But hotel staff noticed an antler sticking out of the guest's bag.
At hotels overseas, hotelier Patrick Fiat has encountered guests who tried to steal a television set, and one who "cut out and removed a piece of the carpet that was under the bed".
At Royal Plaza on Scotts, where Mr Fiat is general manager, guests regularly swipe face towels and key cards. Replacing such small items costs the hotel close to $30,000 a year. In 2000, the hotel removed its logo from its bathrobes, towels and slippers to discourage guests from taking them as souvenirs.
Meanwhile, Unlisted Collection founder Loh Lik Peng puts up a price list of amenities like bath robes and towels at the lobby of his seven hotels so guests are reminded that they can be charged for removing certain items.
Dr Michael Chiam, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic senior lecturer in tourism, is not surprised by the Hotels.com survey, saying Singaporeans are pragmatic and probably used to taking "useful" things.
In a Straits Times online poll of more than 1,400 people, seven in 10 admitted to taking things from hotel rooms, with toiletries, stationery, sewing kits and bedroom slippers topping the list.
Operations manager Jackson Lim, 28, said he takes small shampoo bottles and stationery like pens. The bottles can be refilled and come in handy for showers after a dip in the pool, he said. "I don't consider it as stealing. Providing such items is a service and I can keep them as souvenirs."
This article was first published on June 8, 2015.
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