Hotel SignWhen you’ve stayed at a hotel, have you ever coveted the cushy robe, those 600-thread count sheets, or that vintage vase? Of course you have.

But, have you ever thought of actually stealing a live koi fish?

A heavy statue?

Everything in your room?

Believe it or not, many guests have walked out with these items–and more.

The Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco, California, a rock ‘n roll hotel with the personality of Rolling Stone magazine, has welcomed many rock stars. One particular guest, however, will not be welcomed in the future. About six years ago, a reggae singer and band were staying at the hotel. During their stay, the general manager discovered that one of the koi fish was missing from the courtyard fishpond and not much later noticed a very strong odor…of a cooking fish. A room attendant discovered a hot plate in the reggae singer’s room, and although the general manager did not know for certain that this guest had stolen and cooked the koi fish, where did the missing fish go? And, what exactly was the singer cooking on that hot plate?

At the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon, someone chiseled out and stole a statue built into a suite wall. Guests typically are to blame for thefts, but on this occasion, the former assistant manager was one of the true culprits. Jack Vaughn, who was once the assistant manager at the Benson Hotel, transferred to what was then known as the Weston Hotel’s The Caravan Inn in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jack was a good friend with the new Benson Hotel assistant manager, Joe Guilbault, and in the early ’60s, Jack and Joe decided to play a hoax on the general managers of the Benson Hotel and The Caravan in Phoenix, with whom they were also good buddies.

Jack and Joe spent close to an hour chiseling out a three-foot-tall statue in a guest suite and shipped it to the Caravan Hotel. Once it arrived, Jack used a pedestal and placed the newly stolen statue on top of it in the main lobby.

Norm Conkel, the general manager at the Caravan, got such a big kick out the situation that he even graced the newly displayed statue with a plaque honoring Jack’s and Joe’s hard work. Joe Calahan, the general manager of the Benson, found the whole situation very comical, as well.

Needless to say, the two culprits did not suffer any punishments. The statue eventually found its way back home, and Jack later went on to start the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The Benson Hotel was remodeled in the ’80s, and the statue hasn’t been seen since.

Statues seem to be a popular item stolen from hotels. At the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, two 250-pound iron statues resembling greyhound dogs have been keeping watch in the hotel’s garden since 1918. About two years ago, one of the dogs decided to “take a walk” with an unknown guest. Sometime later, the missing pooch was found in an un-booked guest room. According to Steve Bardeolin, president of the hotel, the thief perhaps “got tuckered out” and couldn’t make it all the way out of the hotel. The dogs are still in the garden today.

MoneySuitcaseAt this same hotel, one guest checked in with a false ID. The guest stripped an entire room, including the bed, television, artwork, and mini bar by using an exit stairwell and hauled away the loot. Oftentimes, the culprit escapes, but fortunately in this case, the guest was caught.

It has become an increasingly popular trend for guests to return long-lost hotel items. Allison Scott, Director of Relations of the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort, is in charge of an entire vault of returned items. The hotel has archived old china, hangers 50 to 70 years old, silverware, and many, many other items. According to Scott, the vault has enough china and silverware to start another hotel! When she goes “junking” at flea markets and garage sales, she occasionally will spot an item that the hotel does not have, and she will add it to the infamous vault.

The Peabody Memphis Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee started receiving items from the hotel dating back as far as the 1920s. Several guests have sent letters to the general manager and have returned items they have taken. In June 2006, the general manager received a letter from “An Anonymous War Bride of 1943.” When she had honeymooned at the Peabody, she took a bathmat “with a badly worn spot in it” as a souvenir. In her letter, she said, “I’m 81 years old with many wonderful memories–but one nagging desire to set things right before I leave this earth.” Enclosed with the letter was an amount she felt the bathmat cost.

If you have, in fact, stolen one or more items from a hotel, you may be given the opportunity to return it. And you should. A growing number of hotels offer amnesty programs, and in some cases, they might even reward you for returning a “borrowed” item.

The Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort, is celebrating its 45th anniversary by searching for pieces of the resort’s past. Past guests who send in hotel items–such as old room keys, menus, golf scorecards, slippers, towels, etc.–will be given 15 percent off the standard room rates for their next stay. The hotel will also showcase some of the stolen items, and those guests whose items are displayed will receive one free night per item. The hotel’s items being returned must be dated before 1970, and guests must also write a brief description of the item and memories of their stay at the hotel. The Pieces of the Past program will be available from now until October 1, 2007.

Whether you avidly collect “Do Not Disturb” signs, desire a single souvenir to commemorate a romantic honeymoon, or just plain suffer from kleptomania, keep in mind that oftentimes the hotel will simply tack on the item’s value to your hotel bill, accordingly. Even though some hotels reward those guests who come clean and return the stolen items, never assume that the hotel won’t report you to the authorities.

And lastly, several hotels nowadays not only sell the items that grace the nightstand, fireplace mantle, or lobby, but they also publish full catalogues of items that are for sale, so be sure to inquire if you can purchase the item that piques your interest.

By Monique-Marie DeJong for

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