Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel's new weekly series in which Features Editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Join the debate by leaving a comment below!
Last week I had the good fortune to stay in a luxury hotel, the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland. In my spacious bathroom sat assorted products by Italian luxury brand Bulgari. These aren't the generic mini bottles one finds in a mid-priced chain. A 3.5-ounce Bulgari soap retails on Sephora for $30. And a 3.5-ounce Bulgari soap was sitting on the edge of my soaking tub, neatly wrapped and unused, the morning I checked out of my hotel. So I took it.
I smuggled the soap out of the country and have been using it at home since. It smells great, and I love it. But I doubt that the addition of an expensive Italian soap to my daily bath-care routine at home was the goal of the property that provided the bootlegged Bulgari. We're supposed to use these products during our stay, right? Aren't they more a part of the hotel experience than some freebie for future use?
More importantly, am I a thief?
I asked Jacob Tomsky, author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, if it's OK to pack up unused hotel toiletries and take them home. Tomsky told me, "It is absolutely appropriate! Those toiletries are for YOU! [The hotel] would like nothing more than for you to carry them home. Most of those amenities have the hotel brand on them and, hence, when you find yourself digging them out and using them in the future, the hope is you'll be positively reminded of your past stay."
My Bulgari soap doesn't display the brand of the hotel from where it came, but I know its origin. And for a fleeting moment, I remember my time in the gilded, climate-controlled chamber of a luxury hotel overlooking Lake Geneva when I suds up in my studio apartment. Scent is closely linked with memory, say various experts like these guys. So semi-stolen bath products are, in a way, the ideal souvenir.
Tim Ostrem, General Manager of The Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, backs up Tomsky's claim, and draws a distinction between what's acceptable to take and what's not. "If a guest chooses to bring unused toiletries with them when they check out, we consider it a compliment," said Ostrem. "We painstakingly focus on these details to ensure our products enhance the guest experience and respect the environment. Providing the product is used and enjoyed, we are pleased. We do ask that they leave robes, bedding, furniture, and accessories behind to ensure future guests can enjoy them. That said, these items are often available to purchase as well."
So put down that coffee table. Shampoos and soaps are there for the taking. But if your bathroom towels at home say "Hilton," it's time to repent. You know who you are, Dad.
Do you bring unused hotel toiletries home with you?
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