CHENNAI: The Chinese admit to nicking knick-knacks such as lamps and artwork. The Italians prefer to loot linen, while most Indians make off with magazines.
According to a report by online accommodation booking service Hotels.com, released in April, a third of 8,600 travellers surveyed from 29 countries admit to having taken “a little souvenir” from a hotel room (excluding toiletries, which, from what hotel staff say, is inevitable).
The survey results put Danish travellers on top as exceptionally honest, with only 12% admitting to pocketing something from a hotel room. Indian travellers feature at number 27, with 38% admitting to leaving with something, the most preferred item being books and magazines.
Prakash Chandran, GM, Ramada Chennai, who has worked in hotels across the globe, says pilferage from hotels, or ‘hotel kleptomania’ as it is sometimes termed, varies by country. “In Africa, it was the cutlery that usually went missing. When I worked in the Gulf, I found that guests would dismantle lampshades and pack them up. In China and Hong Kong, alarm clocks would go missing,” says Chandran. He’s even had cases of artwork going missing from the corridors and TV sets beings packed up before check-out. “In Chennai, we find mugs usually go missing,” he says.
Hotel staff have found different ways to deal with pilferage. At Raintree Hotel, for instance, the policy is to never question the guest. Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, GM, Raintree Chennai, says pens and hand towels usually disappear but the hotel policy is to not charge the guest for it. “We consider it part of the cost of business,” he says. Ramada has stamped its logo on every item and has begun giving away complimentary mugs with the hotel logo. “We are trying to be proactive. Why wait for the mugs to be taken? We just give it to guests instead,” says Chandran. The Hilton group of hotels allows guests to buy products provided in the rooms, from the trademarked mattresses to toiletries and pillows, from its website.
Hotel kleptomania, say psychologists, comes under the larger spectrum of kleptomania, a medical disorder, which is the irresistible urge to steal things one normally does not need, and which usually has little value. Like millionaire American actor Dustin Hoffman, for instance, who, in a television interview, admitted to stealing towels and bathmats from hotels.
“Kleptomaniacs never need what they have taken but are addicted to the rush that stealing gives them. It is a type of addictive behaviour,” says psychologist Saras Bhaskar. “Someone who takes away little items like toiletries may not be a kleptomaniac. People may justify it by telling themselves that they are paying for it when they rent the room. One needs to see if the urge to steal becomes greater and more frequent in which case counseling may be needed,” she says