They came, they saw, they pilfered

Who hasn’t done a last-minute sweep of a hotel bathroom, picked up miniature bottles of shampoo or conditioner, or even a towel, and crammed them into their bag?

When it comes to staying in hotels, there’s a little bit of a kleptomaniac in all of us, but some people take it to the extremes.

Take the guest at the Comfort Suites recently who decided that the clock radio on the bedside table would be a nice addition to his or her home.

“The other thing that seems popular is pictures from the bathroom, ones that feature fish,” said Kaye White, director of sales and marketing at the Comfort Suites on West Bay Road.

“People like to have souvenirs so I think they like the cartoon-like angel-fish pictures we have in the bathrooms. They like to take souvenirs home, but I guess they don’t want to go to Guy Harvey’s to purchase one,” she added.

Calls from The Observer on Sunday to hotels in Cayman reveal that guests who come here have not taken their zeal to steal to the heady heights seen in some hotels around the world.

According to one travel magazine, guests at rooms in the swish Shangri-La in Hong Kong took a liking to the crystals in the in-room chandeliers and plucked them clean, leaving chandelier skeletons behind.

And it’s always going to be hard to top the guest who stole an entire marble fireplace from the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel in Los Angeles.

Hotels on the pricier side would never accuse their privileged guests of stealing, of course.

“Steal’s a very strong word,” said Melissa Ladley, communications director at the Ritz-Carlton. “Many hotels sell everything in the guest rooms now. Guests have accepted that if there is something in the room they really love, they can buy it.

“Let’s face it, for $999 a night, if you want to take something, it’s OK with us,” she said.

Ritz-Carlton guests are forgiven for taking the sumptuous Bulgari bathroom items home with them. In fact, they’re expected to, Ladley said. “The costs of items are included in the room rate. When you take all that shampoo and bathroom stuff, you’re not stealing, you’ve already paid for it,” she said.

One item that disappeared very quickly when the Ritz-Carlton first opened its door was a do-not-disturb sign that was unique to the hotel and to Cayman.

“We wanted to do something that really captured Cayman. We have a beautiful picture of a woman lying in a hammock, taken by local photographer David Wolfe. They lasted about three weeks. The guest loved them. It’s like a souvenir or a post card. They moved really fast,” said Ladley, who estimated that about half of the door hangers, supplied in all 365 rooms, had been taken by guests.

A shell soap dish in the Ritz-Carlton bathroom is also proving popular among guests, but a surprising number offer to buy it, rather than just pop it into their suitcase as they walk out the door. “In those instances, we have just given it to them as a gift,” Ladley said.

Most hotels have artwork of some kind on their bedroom walls, from the non-descript landscape scenes used to break up the monotony of beige that is the scourge of so many hotel rooms to expensive one-off pieces of art by local artists in the more exclusive hotels.

All fall victim occasionally to the guest with a sudden appreciation for art and a big enough suitcase.

The Ritz-Carlton opened its own art gallery to ensure guests could peruse local artwork and pay for what they wanted.

“We’ve been asked by guests about the art in the room. They’ve asked to buy it, but we’ve explained that it’s not for sale, it’s part of the décor. We created the art gallery where there are paintings they can buy,” said Ladley.

Turn-down cards on beds at the Ritz-Carlton, containing quotes by people involved in the hotel’s Seven Wonders of the World, like renowned chef Eric Ripert, usually end up in guests’ suitcases. “I wouldn’t call that stealing. We would never say ‘no, you’re not allowed to keep that’,” Ladley said.

At the Reef Resort, they’re equally understanding of the occasional “misplacement” of a towel.

“Mostly, we’re a time share, and the people who stay here are owners, so we don’t see things disappear,” said the general manager Lawrence Haughton.

However, he admits that the occasional Reef Resort towel does get returned by rental car companies that find them left behind in cars.

“There are many beautiful places for people to snorkel all around the island. Sometimes people take towels with them and they might leave them behind in a jeep they’ve rented.

“They’re on vacation, they’re having a good time, sometimes mishaps happen,” he said, adding that he did not believe any guests deliberately stole anything from the resort. “They having fun, they’re concentrating on partying, they forget about things,” he said.

He added that about 90 per cent of people who stay at the Reef Resort return there. “People don’t return to a place if they’ve tried to destroy it,” he said.

So, the message from the hotel industry to would-be vacationing thieves seems to be: take the soap, leave the fireplace.