A character steals items from their hotel room that are meant to be left behind for the next guest, such as towels, robes, ash trays and unused toiletries. This is usually played for comedy, showing that the character is petty, rude, cheap or without class. It often results when a character is staying at a much nicer room than they can usually afford.
This can be exaggerated by taking larger or more valuable items, such as the TV or furniture. In some cases, the character fills their suitcase with the hotel's items, leaving no room for the belongings they came with. If confronted, expect the character to justify the theft using some sort of Loophole Abuse— for example, stating that there's no signage prohibiting the removal of the items.
In Real Life, a lot of these items can't actually be "stolen" because they are meant for the guest to take, like shampoo and bathroom soap. Many locales have laws that require the hotel to throw these out after every guest checks out, so if you don't take them they're just going to wind up in the trash. For the items that you're not supposed to take, most hotels require a credit card be kept on file so the costs will simply be added to your bill after the hotel realizes they're missing. If the work recognizes that hotels now keep a credit card on file, expect part of the story to revolve around them trying to replace the stolen items with a cheap substitute so the hotel won't notice what happened.
- Dylan Moran mentions this trope in one of his acts. He says "hotel rooms are the most corrupting places in the world. Where else do you start stealing everything that's not fixed down within minutes of arriving?"
- British comedian Peter Kay used to dread being out on the road with his comic partner, Paddy McGuinness. Put in a hotel room together, Kay relates that Paddy suffered from hotel room fever - he stole everything, regardless of whether he needed it or not. He would even gain access to empty adjoining rooms to steal things from them, too. Paddy would arrive with one suitcase and leave with four, which had Peter cringing with embarrassment. Both men have since become TV stars, Peter as a comic actor and Paddy as a dating show presenter.
- One Jeff Foxworthy routine has him describe the time he put his entire redneck family up in a swanky hotel; at one point they encounter a housekeeper's cart and clean it out. When one relative is asked what he plans to do with so many shower caps, he replies "Christmas presents".
- Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop loves his hotel's bathrobes.
- In The Cocoanuts, The Marx Brothers' first released film, Chico and Harpo check in with an empty suitcase. "That's all right, we fill it before we leave."
- In Kill List, the hitmen peruse the toiletries in all their hotel rooms to take back home, showing that their lives are pretty unglamorous.
- This is a Running Gag in the film If Its Tuesday This Must Be Belgium where one character starts the tour with an empty suitcase that he proceeds to fill with items he pilfers from hotels (and other places).
- Upstream Color: Jeff is allowed to dine in the kitchen of a hotel due to business connections, but he and Kris also help themselves to some toiletries while giggling.
- Casino: Mr. Ishikawa, a Japanese billionaire who gets free hotel suite stays, nevertheless fills up his suitcases with the hotel's towels and soap when he checks out.
- Mission: Impossible, Jim Phelps took the Gideon bible he used to find the verses needed to communicate with the various villains with him. This allows Ethan Hunt to figure out that he's the mole when he finds the bible. However, technically Gideon bibles are not hotel property and are intended to be taken.
- Ocean's Eleven: Danny makes a wisecrack about stealing the towels from his casino hotel room, when in reality he's planning on ripping off the whole casino chain.
- Faults: After failing to scam the hotel with a reused meal voucher, the protagonist returns to his room and starts packing everything he can get his hands on, including stacks of toilet paper and even the battery from the remote.
- Cyclist/aspiring con artist Mario Trantino is shown to be a petty thief in his Establishing Character Moment in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. He has already shoplifted an issue of Playboy and an assortment of packs of gum and chocolate bars by the time he checks into his hotel room, after which he promptly empties the bathroom of towels and toiletries, then scoops up the tourist brochures and local restaurant menus and anything else that isn't nailed down.
- Freaked: When Ricky tells Elijah that he's not supposed to have Zykron-24, Elijah holds up two towels from the Ramada Inn and replies, "I'm not supposed to have these either!"
- The Enforcer. The leader of the black supremicist group tells Inspector Callahan that his organisation is not involved in anything illegal. Callahan points out various items labelled with things like Rest Easy at the Holiday Inn to show otherwise.
- A joke: a man back from a trip is talking about his hotel: "Oh, it was incredible! The towels were so soft and fluffy, they barely fit into the suitcase!"
- Jeff Foxworthy mentioned that when he brought his family to Hawaii for vacation, an unguarded services cart became the source of plunder for his relatives. When he asked them what they were going to do with eleven shower-caps, he was told, "Christmas presents."
- This is one of Kit Carson's primary complaints about tourists in Time Scout. That and paperwork.
- Inverted in John Varley's Red Thunder, the narrators family runs a run-down motel: "I (gave) Jubal (...) a set of our best big towels, not the little scratchy ones nobody bothered to steal."
- Abbie Hoffman in Steal This Book gives a practical how-to guide for the aspiring yippie on how to steal as much as possible from a hotel room, including the TV.
- In With One Stone, a short story in the Honorverse, a pair of Manticoran spies realize that they will look very suspicious with several large empty suitcases in their possession after they discretely dispose of the spy equipment that had been in them. So they pretend to be caught stuffing hotel supplies into them instead.
- Dave Barry tells this story:
I was staying at a luxury Hyatt hotel. There was a little plastic sign in the bathroom that said: "Our towels are 100 percent cotton. Should you wish to purchase a set, they are available in the gift store. Should you prefer the set in your bathroom, a $75 charge will automatically be added to your bill." This was Hyatt's polite way of saying, "If you steal our towels, we'll charge you 75 bucks." So I stole the sign. Really. I kept it in my guest bathroom for a couple of years, to amuse guests.
- Since Death in the Discworld novels doesn't understand how human things work, the towels in his bathroom are thick, white, and completely solid. His manservant Albert therefore uses one he's acquired with the logo of the Ankh-Morpork Young Men's Reformed Cultists of the Ichor God Bel-Shamaroth Association.
- A more serious example in Born to Run (the first novel in the SERRAted Edge series by Mercedes Lackey) — one of the teenage runaways has a knack for slipping into hotels and looting the housekeeping carts for soap and shampoo.
- It happens in Petticoat Junction. And how! Very much one of only two episodes with a supernatural theme, "The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth" sees the ghost of Chester W. Farnsworth haunt the Shady Rest. Many years before, Chester Farnsworth was a dashing young salesman, and a daring towel thief. Having stolen the towel in his room, Farnsworth left on a dark and stormy night never to be seen alive again. But his spirit has been forced to return the purloined towels before he'll be admitted into heaven. The Shady Rest Hotel is Farnsworth's last stop . . . .
- In the Law & Order episode "House Counsel", the detectives discover an important lead when they find stolen items from a hotel in the victim's apartment.
- Cheers. Cliff's Girlfriend In Florida turns out to be the hotel he stayed in there, and Cliff took more than just towels. He took the shower curtains, hair dryer, welcome mat, bed sheets, and so on. Needless to say, the hotel was not amused.
- Ross always tries to get his money's worth out of hotels by staying in the room to the very last minute before checkout, taking the batteries from the remotes, and taking the Bibles (despite being Jewish). It was a Running Gag for his character.
- There was an episode where Ross and Chandler were together on a hotel in Vermont and they decided to do this (in this case because the hotel ripped them off by first refusing to refund the reservation Chandler made for him and Monica, then forcing him to pay for their most expensive room when they lost the original reservation). By the time they check out Ross' suitcase is so full of stolen items that it bursts open in the lobby.
Ross: No, Chandler, you have to find the line between stealing and taking what the hotel owes you. For example: hair drier, no, no, no, but shampoo and conditioners, yes, yes, yes. [pause] Now, the salt shaker is off-limits, but the salt... [he opens the salt shaker and pours the salt into his hand] I wish I'd thought this through.
Chandler: I think I know what you mean though...the lamp is the hotel's, but the bulbs... [goes to take the bulb]...oh, you already got that.
Ross: Not my first time in a hotel, my friend.
Chandler: Ok, how about this? [picks up the remote control]
Ross: No, no, no, you can't take the remote control!
Chandler: Yes, but the batteries... [shakes them out]
[Ross claps his hands]
- Rachel has also been shown engaging in this. At one point while the gang are in London she comes running into Ross' room, her arms full of miniature toiletries, and announces there's a housekeeper's cart right outside for them to plunder.
- The Golden Girls
- In one episode, Sophia does this. There's even one thing she tries to take, but it's secured to its table, so it doesn't work. It's some kind of container that looks like a closed clamshell.
- In another episode, she also starts taking first-aid supplies from a hospital room when they visit Rose there, telling Dorothy: "They expect us to take it; it's like hotel soap!"
- In the Rizzoli & Isles episode "Gone Daddy Gone", Angela returns from a trip to Atlantic City with a hotel robe, the contents of the minibar and a hairdryer.
- Red Dwarf: In "Justice", a nervous Lister about to be judged for his sins reveals that he used to steal the furniture from hotel rooms.
- In an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place Teresa and Jerry go away for their anniversary weekend. When they check on the kids at home they see that they're causing havoc and Teresa tells Jerry to "grab the towels, I'll get the bath soap" as they're hurrying out of the hotel.
- Gilmore Girls:
- Lorelai mentions once they have "Holiday Inn" glasses at home.
Lorelai: Mom, Dad, can I get you a drink?Emily: No, thank you.Lorelai: Oh, no, Mom, you're going to need one and I have wine glasses that say "Holiday Inn" on them.
- Michel, an employee at the Independence Inn, spends one episode worrying that a pair of people who had stolen from them a while ago. He insists that Lorelai (the hotel manager) let him check their suitcases.
- Lorelai and her mother Emily stay at a spa resort for a weekend and Emily keeps gushing about their robes. When they start to realize that they aren't having any fun due to their strained relationship, Lorelai convinces Emily to steal the hotel bathrobes as a "souvenir," insisting that this would be a great bonding exercise and something that Lorelai could never do with Rory, who's far too moral. Emily later tries to sneak it back when Lorelai isn't looking.
- Lorelai mentions once they have "Holiday Inn" glasses at home.
- In the fourth season of Arrested Development, Marky Bark takes Lindsay out to a restaurant that only accepts trade. He offers a handful of hotel soap bars, but he's told by the waitress that those are no longer accepted.
- This moment from Family Fortunes (starting at 0:52):
Les Dennis: Name something people take from hotels as a souvenir. (buzz in) Ann!Ann: The lamps!Les Dennis: (incredulously) The lamps. (laughter) This is experience talking, is it, Ann?Ann: (through embarrassed laughter) Yes!
- In an early Monkees episode, the band is running about in a hotel and Peter stops all of a sudden to steal a towel with the picture suddenly freezing with the written text, "Everyone does it!"
- The Colbert Report: After the story of U2 losing their luggage hit the news networks, Colbert claimed to have discovered their suitcases and pored through them on air. He remarks that Bono has stolen a lot of hotel towels.
- In a gag that ran across several episodes on Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Alan (miffed at Roger not turning up for a scheduled appearance) accuses Roger Moore of being a hotel towel thief. Roger's lawyers later force him to issue a public apology.
- In the M*A*S*H episode, "Snappier Judgment," with Klinger facing court martial for theft, Winchester interviews Father Mulcahy about Klinger's character. In the interview, Father Mulcahy praises Klinger for getting a supply of new bibles, specifically Gideon bibles from a certain hotel. Upon hearing that, Winchester notes that he cannot form a defense on Klinger's sticky fingers. To that obvious insinuation, an outraged Mulcahy has one question:
Mulcahy: Klinger, Hot Bibles?!
- Home Improvement: Referenced in season 8's "Love's Labor Lost, part 2", when Tim brings home a lot of stuff he swiped from Jill's room in the hospital. He claims it's expected.
Tim: "They expect you to take something. It's like when you go to a hotel, you take the little soaps and the bedroom furniture."
- The short-lived right-wing satirical comedy show The Half Hour News Hour included a crack that a hotel in California replaced its bibles with copies of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth because it's the only thing that guests wouldn't steal.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun. The Solomons are staying in a hotel and overuse room service, so they charge the bill to another hotel guest, who happens to be George Takei. George naturally refuses to pay, but it's Not Helping Your Case when the receptionist finds a towel in his bag.
Takei: OK, I took one towel.
- Crashing: Just before they check out, Pete's small-fry agent emerges from their hotel bathroom with an armful of robes and asks him to tell the front desk that they didn't receive any robes. Pete is annoyed that he's stealing them.
- Married... with Children:
- During a trip to Great Britain, Al gets arrested for stealing a towel from his upscale hotel, and is chained up in a dungeon; his fellow gray-bearded inmate is there for stealing an ashtray.
- In the two-part season two episode where the Bundys go to Dumpwater, Florida, the family runs afoul of an axe murderer. Preparing to pack up their hotel room and flee, Al announces to the family, "Steal everything that's not nailed down!" He even hands Peggy a fork to pack, reasoning, "We can always use a fork!"
- Hotel Babylon: Discussed in the Opening Monologue to one episode.
Charlie: It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, there's one thing that absolutely everyone does when they come to a hotel. They steal.
[montage of people stealing]
Charlie: Soap, shampoo, teaspoons, ashtrays, bathrobes, lamps, phones, towels, remote controls, toilet seats. [someone steals a flatscreen TV]
Charlie: You get people shelling out thousands of pounds a night who will piss in a miniature bottle of whisky if it means getting something for nothing. And the most commonly stolen item from hotel rooms? Yeah, you guessed it. [someone steals a Gideon's Bible]
Charlie: But don't feel bad about it. Hotels add 10% to every room rate to cover theft. So help yourself. Take a towel, some soap, an ashtray. You own these items. Whether you know it or not, you've paid for them.
[Rebecca and Charlie corner the actor Les Dennis, who was trying to leave with a set of shower heads]
Charlie: It's okay to steal from hotels. Take what you want. Just don't take the piss.
- Burn Notice: Played for laughs when Sam and Michael are staying at a hotel as part of a stakeout and Sam starts storing away some of the soap and other similar toiletries. Sam claims that since the hotel restocks them without charging extra, it's a shame not to take advantage.
Sam: At least try the soap, Mikey. It's really good.
- Criminal Minds:
- Referenced in one episode, where the victims are guests unknowingly staying in a voyeuristic serial killer's hotel. The wife tries to move a chair to the table for breakfast, but finds it's bolted to the floor facing the bed. She assumes it's an anti-theft measure and laughs that the hotel thinks they'd really try to steal "this crap."
- Alluded to in "Nelson's Sparrow," which offhandedly mentions that Gideon was in the habit of putting together bags of hotel soaps, toothpaste, and such and handing them out to homeless people. It's used as a sign that he's recently been traveling, but no one describes his behavior as stealing.
- In a MAD Magazine "Lighter Side of" feature by Dave Berg, a husband and wife are traveling abroad, when the wife is suddenly alarmed that one of their suitcases was stolen. She rants about how those foreigners are all crooks. When her husband asks what was in that particular bag, she replies "The ash trays and the towels and the silverware" that they took from the hotel.
- The Jack Benny Program
- In one episode, Rochester and a friend are cleaning in Jack's house when the friend asks Rochester what Benny's name was before he changed it. Rochester says he's forgotten. The friend looks down at the towel he's holding and says, "It wasn't Conrad Hilton, was it?"
- Another episode had Benny bragging about a place he likes to stay called the "Juniper Breeze", even though it sounds like a dive. Eventually it turns out he only stays there because the initials on the towels and bathrobes match his own.
- In Cabin Pressure, Martin and Douglas have been in an expensive hotel for ten minutes when Martin says they aren't staying there after all. Douglas says in that case he's got things to pack. Martin asks how he can have unpacked already, and he clarifies they aren't his things. Martin tells him not to forget the mixed nuts.
- Your character can do this in The Elder Scrolls games. Prior to Skyrim, no repercussions result; in Skyrim, the innkeeper can send a few hired goons after you if you do so.
- Tomodachi Life has treasure items that can be sold for money and one of these is "Hotel Toiletries." The description states, "Might as well stock up on the essentials while you're on vacation. They're free... right?"
- There's a Not Always Right story where the guy ''complains'' about the towels he stole to hotel management (by phone, a while after he'd stayed there).
- Spongebob Squarepants: In the episode "Kracked Krabs". Mr. Krabs starts "exaggerating" (stealing) from the hotel room, and Spongebob helps him. They steal the toiletries, the furniture, the wall.... They stole the entire room! As a hotel worker inspects their suitcase, the entire room pops out.
- One Looney Tunes travelogue short showed a man who collected hotel silverware and towels. He is shown having several of them in his hands and when the camera pulled back, it's revealed he's in a jail cell.
- The Simpsons:
- In "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", we get this hilarious piece of conversation:
Principal Skinner: You're stealing a table?
Homer: I'm not stealing it. Hotels expect you to take a few things. It's a souvenir!
Principal Skinner: Ah. Is that my necktie you're wearing?
- In "The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star", Homer is confessing his sins to the priest. One of them is that he stole a TV set from a hotel.
- Homer is brought to tears when he attends a hotel that trusts him enough to leave the batteries in the remote.
- In "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", we get this hilarious piece of conversation:
- In an episode of Daria where the Morgendorffer family have been forced to live in a hotel following a Jake-induced kitchen fire, a lowly bellhop falls heavily for the airheaded Quinn. Quinn is therefore showered in complimentary food, drink, and an upgrade to the Presidential Suite, which the bellhop claims he has okayed with his uncle, who runs the hotel. Being an airhead and taking it as her due for being cute and pretty and popular, Quinn does not question this until her family are run into the police station for fraud. It turns out the besotted bellhop has been scamming the hotel computer system to pay for Quinn's luxuries, leading to her exclaiming:
You mean... I nearly went out with a... (shocked pause)...computer geek?
- An unusual case occurs in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in which Rarity is attending a fashion competition in Manehattan only to discover a rival has stolen her designs. Needing to make a new set of dresses as quickly as possible, she and her friends raid their hotel room of everything they can find to make them, including curtains, bedsheets, lampshades and even room keys. Curiously, the fact that they effectively stole all of these things is never brought up.
- In Toy Story of Terror, Mr. Potato-Head leaves the safety of Bonnie's bag to check out the free stuff at the motel, and thinks of taking some for Hamm.
- Actively defied by the Plaza Hotel in New York. After growing tired of a spate of petty thefts, the hotel simply opted to offer towels, bathrobes, ashtrays, toiletries, etc., new and identical to the hotel's, for sale to guests. Also, if any such items are missing from a room after a guest's checkout, the credit card the guest paid for their stay with is simply charged the going rate for that item.
- It's a common misconception that you can "steal" the Gideon Bibles found in most hotels and motels. The Bibles are donated to these establishments by the Gideons International organization, which wants people to take them, as it is their way of spreading the Gospel.
- Edwin Edwards, governor of Louisiana, was once forced to stand trial on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and bribery. After he was acquitted, the hotel where the jury had been sequestered revealed that half of the jurors had stolen towels as they left. This lead Edwards to quip that he had been judged by a "jury of my peers".