Thieving Guests Cost The Hotel Trade Thousands In Losses

“50% of guests steal something” – Linen thefts top “Most Stolen from Hotels in 2015” charts

Light-fingered guests in hotel rooms will steal everything, even if it is nailed down, it appears.

That’s the finding of the company which has compiled a top ten list of the most stolen items in the hotel business.

According to the Yorkshire-based company, the most stolen items are linen such as towels and sheets, which customers can easily slip into luggage and be well away before the house staff notice, closely followed by light bulbs.

“Thieving light bulbs really show the depths to which some people sink,” says spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe. “These are customers who could be spending upwards of £100 for their stay, stealing things that cost mere pounds.”

A survey of 100 British hotels of varying quality, found that the top ten items stolen by guests were:
1 Linen
2 Light bulbs
3 Food/Drink
4 Towels
5 Picture Frames and artwork
6 Dressing gowns
7 Curtains
8 Kettles and cutlery
9 Books
10 Bible

The level of thefts often depends on the standard of the establishment, meaning that while one hotel grapples with missing light bulbs, others have to deal with high-quality knives and forks disappearing from the restaurant.

“Every business which deals with the public has to accept that some customers are going to steal from them, and that’s something that every boss in the country accepts,” says Ratcliffe. “But the hotel industry seems to suffer more than any other sector, simply because the basics that people need for a comfortable stay are so easily abused.”

Lower-star hotels tend to fall victim to petty thefts like the soap out of the bathroom and the toilet paper. One small guest house in Blackpool stated that 50% of guests steal something. Upscale luxury hotels count the cost of dressing gowns and the contents of the mini bar, and have devised ever more fiendish ways of preventing theft.

But while some theft is intended to profit from the crooks’ ill-gotten gains (for example, fresh bed linen for the home, or a handbag full of mini cereal packets lifted from the breakfast buffet), others seem to be theft just for the sake of it.

“Why do so many people steal Bibles from hotel rooms? Have they not read the eighth commandment?” Ratcliffe asks. “We’ve even heard of somebody stealing ‘The Teachings of Buddha’ from a Japanese hotel, so there’s no limit to this.”

With profit margins being squeezed in an ever-competitive hotel business which is now being driven more by online reviews than ever before, hotels and B&Bs know they have to strike the right balance between maintaining security and not being accused of spying on their guests.

“That means establishments need to work ever harder to build up a relationship between hotel and guest, and make the customer actually feel bad about unhooking the curtains and throwing them out of the window for an accomplice,” Ratcliffe says.

But like most petty thefts, criminals tend to fall victim to their own stupidity. “The thing is that many petty thieves get found out quickly and completely forget that the management has their credit or debit card number,” says Ratcliffe, “and it comes as a nasty surprise to read their statement the following month.

“They’ve only got themselves to blame.”