Argentinian travellers are the most likely to indulge in hotel misappropriation, a survey has suggested, with 73 per cent admitting to taking items – not including toiletries – from their room.
British guests, in comparison, would appear far more reticent – with less than half of those surveyed owning up to pinching hotel property, putting them 16th out of 28 nationalities to feature.
The global poll of almost 5000 travellers, conducted by Hotels.com, found that Singaporean and Spanish holidaymakers are also rather prone to thievery, with seven in 10 taking items from their hotel. Germany, Ireland and Russia completed the top five.
At the other end of the scale, Colombians were found to be the least likely to take something – just 31 per cent admitting to bagging hotel property. They were followed by travellers from Norway, South Korea, Hong Kong and Denmark.
The most common items taken by British travellers were stationery (20 per cent admitted taking such items) and slippers (12 per cent).
Toiletries were not included, a spokesperson said, as "everyone takes these". Indeed, the vast majority of hotels apparently expect guests to remove all the shampoo and shower gel.
As Jacob Tomsky, author of the best-selling Heads in Beds, a memoir of ten years spent in the hotel industry, explains:
"No respectable hotelier is going to want to pry open your luggage and search for shampoo. We hope you take the amenities. We want you to use them later and think of us."
Tomsky even suggests travellers can get away with stealing items beyond the confines of their rooms.
"Consider the unmanned housekeeper's trolley a smash and grab situation," he said. "Take three of everything and get the hell out of the hallway. Even if you do get caught, just say you were out of shampoo, or, even better, out of toilet paper, and thought you'd save them the trouble by grabbing it for yourself.
"Think of it this way: these amenities are here for you, they are yours. We are in no position to dispute the claim that when you wash your hair you prefer to dump fifteen bottles of lavender and poppy seed shampoo all over your scalp like some gooey shower freak."
Theft of other items is not acceptable, however. In Japan a few years ago, one hotel reportedly had a young couple arrested for running off with bathrobes and an ashtray, while a woman in Nigeria was sentenced to three months in prison for stealing two towels from the Transcorp Hilton Abjua Hotel. In the vast majority of cases you would be unlikely to end up behind bars, but do the same and you can expect to be blacklisted by the hotel, or to find an extra charge on your credit card once when you get home.
The 10 nationalities most likely to steal
Argentina - 73%
Singapore - 71%
Spain - 70%
Germany - 68%
Ireland - 67%
Russia - 59%
Mexico - 59%
Italy - 57%
Japan - 56%
USA - 53%
12 weird items stolen from hotels
Colin Bennett, a former general manager for the Starwood Hotel Group, recalled the most brazen theft he encountered during nearly 20 years in the business: "As soon as I walked into the lobby of one hotel," he said, "I immediately realised something was missing - but I couldn't put my finger on it. It transpired that three people had strolled into reception, dressed in overalls, and had wheeled the grand piano out of the hotel and down the street, never to be seen again."
Other seemingly immovable objects he remembered being taken included overhead projectors and innumerable televisions.
"Looking back over the CCTV footage, we would sometimes see a guest walk through a busy reception struggling under the weight of a television set, yet no one would bat an eyelid," he said.
At the Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, one tired and emotional guest was caught trying to pilfer a mounted boar's head from the hotel's billiard room. Some weeks later, friends of the embarrassed would-be thief purchased the stuffed head from the hotel to present to him as a wedding gift.
At the Franklin Hotel in Knightsbridge, one guest decided to unscrew the number from their room door. "We only noticed it had gone missing when the next guest was found wandering up and down the corridor looking for his room," general manager Karen Marchant was reported to have said.
The glamour-free world of Travelodge - where televisions and hairdryers are often nailed to the wall for safe keeping - is not immune to passing kleptomaniacs. A survey by the no-frills hotel chain found that thousands of Britons have made off with sections of carpet, light fittings, mirrors and even curtains.
Two busts are said to have disappeared from outside the entrance to the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair. They were returned the following morning in the back of a black cab.
At the Sheraton Park Tower, management are said to frequently spend a fortune on fresh flowers each week to replace those that go missing.
According to a survey by Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine, other items to have been relieved from British hotels include a medieval sword, door hinges and a 4ft wooden bear.
One incident even saw a hotel owner's pet dog stolen, according to the survey.
Other thefts reported over the years include chandeliers (taken from Hong Kong's Shangri-La) and a $US300,000 ($A386,338) Andy Warhol artwork (Hong Kong's W Hotel).
Thieves across the Atlantic have really upped the ante when it comes to audacious appropriation. One gentleman staying at the famous Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel - which featured in the film Pretty Woman - is alleged to have taken the entire marble fireplace.
Finally, and perhaps most barefaced of all, a couple staying at an American Holiday Inn specifically requested a room near the car park. They then proceeded to empty the entire contents of said room (bed, furniture, the lot) into their handily-parked U-Haul.
The Telegraph, London