If you were to ask me where I got one of the two (2!) silver toast stands I own - stands which have graduated from gleamingly holding fresh toast upon a pristine room service tray somewhere fancy to sitting tarnished upon my desk, holding a medley of bills and postcards and pieces of paper I don't want to lose - I might make a run for it, or, failing a good escape route, give you an un-smooth lie like "the flea market!" while looking over your head and fidgeting with the buttons on my coat.

The truth is - here it comes - I stole one of those now tarnished silver toast stands (though the other one is actually from the flea market), straight out of a fancy English hotel, the move so swift and smooth from tray into handbag (when I was only partially sure no one was looking), you might've taken me for a regular, full-time, flagrant thief, had you witnessed it.

 Excellent location for hotel thievery: the Hotel Carlton in the French Riviera.  (Image from  To Catch a Thief ).

Excellent location for hotel thievery: the Hotel Carlton in the French Riviera.  (Image from To Catch a Thief).

Now, I swear I'm NOT a thief except where hotels are concerned, because there, in those roadside havens, the lines are truly blurred. To me and my weakened character, there is really nothing so tempting, so easy, and so fully achievable as taking something from a room you have, at least for a day, sort of half-way already owned.*

Among the long list of things one could (but probably shouldn't) take from a hotel - such as toast stands or very pretty starched white table clothes - there are other things which are more tried and true, and which - we have on good authority - hotels keep stockrooms full of for exactly that reason. Of course, still other things are meant to be taken (and are legitimately for your use, forever) and should be absconded with for your personal collection, always:

  • Do Not Disturb signs - I have a whole collection from one year of working in strange countries with really oddball Do Not Disturb signs. I have no idea what to do with them, though, other than not be disturbed?
  • Spa slippers - bonus points if they have the name of the hotel embroidered on them somewhere.
  • Once, in an old hotel in Rome, there was a small, rectangular, turquoise porcelain ashtray with gold around the edges and the name of the hotel in the center, sitting innocently upon the desk. I have never smoked, and would never have used it for its intended purpose, and yet it still took all the self restraint I could muster (and some shaming from other, more saintly parties) not to take it for eventual placement upon my own desk (next to the toast stand) for coins and paper clips.
  • Hotel Stationery. Single sheets of oddly-sized note paper, thick postcards with line drawings of the hotel, and particularly perfectly sharpened, eraser-less pencils, all pleasantly gilded with the name of your chosen hotel, should absolutely always be taken, and ideally never used, but hoarded in a cabinet for years. If you must use your spoils, then write a love note to someone, or a pointless to-do list.
  • White, fluffy, oversized hotel robes - though you will most definitely get charged north of $75 for taking these suckers (depending on the hotel, the damage can be much, much worse), they are wonderful to have for your own personal spa days at home, when you're broke from staying in hotels and taking the robes.
  • Obviously, hotel toiletries. You can really luck out in this department - Lanvin products are like a wonderful discovery upon the sink counter, as are the Bliss products at W hotels - but even the cheap ones from roadside motels have their charm. In a pinch, the body lotion can be used for taming down static cling or frizzy hair, and the shampoo or body wash is also great for doing things like cleaning your makeup brushes or washing out your tights when you're bored, alone in your room. (I travel alone a lot for work, ok).
  • Continuing along in the beauty department - by the way, I guess this is how a hotel room looks to a born thief, i.e. like Christmas Day (I'm sorry, mom, but you taught me this last one) - very small, very worn washcloths are excellent for exfoliating your face, using as hand towels for guests, and keeping in your bag for when washcloth-related needs arise (there are too many of those to get into here).
  • Finally, the little jams and honeys on a room service tray are perfect for when you're home on a cold Sunday in October, feeling a bit lonely and under the weather, and want to make everything seem just a bit better.

My personal rule is just not to take anything at all if I don't want to pay for it at check out later or confront the bell boy and my shame when caught redhanded. Also, duh, hotels usually charge you one way or another for just about everything you lay your little mitts on, just when you think you've done something clever. 

* It also bears mentioning here that actual stealing of any variety - even of something you think no one will miss - is really a horrible thing. I'm definitely not proud or easy about the toast stand, which is like a silver beating heart haunting me on the daily. 

Rather, pocket these small treasures from your hotel room because they're beautiful, highly useful, and because you've likely already paid for them in your room cost...or for that honestly too-expensive breakfast tray. 

 Before you do anything, however, watch the Hitchcock classic, To Catch a Thief

Before you do anything, however, watch the Hitchcock classic, To Catch a Thief