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About that Item You Left in Your Hotel Room …

By Daniel Edward Craig, June 25, 2010
A recent story about a hotel housekeeper in Miami who found in $6,000 in cash in a guestroom got me to thinking about items guests leave behind. As travelers, we’ve all experienced that sensation upon arriving at the airport that our luggage feels pleasantly lighter – only to realize we left half our belongings in the closet.
Curious, I decided to pay a visit to OPUS hotel’s housekeeping department to see what was kicking around Lost and Found. There I found boxes and boxes of guest belongings. Most of it looked like junk abandoned by guests, but hotels undertake too many frantic dumpster dives to make assumptions about what guests may or may not deem as valuable.
While I was perusing the log book, a group of housekeeping staff filed in after their shift, and one of them deposited an item on the desk before me.
“A bra?” I asked, staring. That was one big bra.
“Happens all the time,” said Alejandro, one of the housemen.
“Usually it’s men’s underwear,” said Mila, making a face.
I asked what other things guests leave behind, and they listed off everything from the trivial – toiletries, toothbrushes, CDs, adapters – to the treasured – jewelry, laptops, iPods, passports, USB sticks, clothing and prescriptions. One guest left behind an $800 bottle of Crystal champagne. It might have made for a fun staff party had he not picked it up – two years later.
“Socks,” said Alejandro. “Lots of socks.” Next time you can’t find a sock, don’t blame the washing machine. You probably left it in your hotel room.
“Cell phone chargers!” Mila exclaimed, leading me to a box teeming with every imaginable type of charger.
“Everything but money,” Maria said, with a sigh.
Sex toys are another popular leave-behind, probably because they’re hidden out of sight, in a drawer or under the bed. “Do guests ever call looking for them?” I asked.
“Oh no, never. They’re too embarrassed.”
We don’t call them either. Leaving a message with their secretary might be a bit awkward.
If items left behind in hotel rooms are an indication of what travelers are up to on the road, partners and spouses have good reason to be nervous. Recorded in the log book I found a whip, pornographic materials, a nurse’s uniform, a wig, a stethoscope and narcotics. Then again, I also found business books, language tapes and a Bible.
Years ago, when I worked on the front desk of a hotel, a guest left behind a blow-up doll. The doll hung around the back office for weeks and became like an employee, sitting in on meetings spread-eagle in her chair, her red lips shaped into a permanent look of surprise. One day she just disappeared. I think she grew tired of all the jokes.
A few years ago at Opus, I found a bag of marijuana stashed on a ledge in the stairwell. I alerted the operations manager, Nicholas, and while passing a spliff back and – er, I mean after flushing it – we speculated on which staff member it belonged to. Recently, it occurred to me it might have belonged to a guest, after I read an interview with rocker Ryan Adams. Speaking about the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, he said, “I used to hide my pot in the ventilator shaft for every time I returned, with a few Xanax for coming down from the boozing. It was always there, as they never dusted the place. Not so anymore.” Hotels are always happy to hold on to extra baggage for frequent guests, but our hospitality ends with illegal activities.
Speaking of which, a friend of mine used to manage a swank hotel in Los Angeles, and one day a female guest came to the front desk to ask for access to another guest’s in-room safe. When she was informed that only the registered guest could be granted access, she gave a sinister retort: “Oh, he won't ever be back!” The next day, management opened the safe and found $200,000 in cash stuffed inside. They notified the police, who confiscated it – to the disappointment of the housekeeper, no doubt. Typically, hotels hold on to an item for three to six months and then dispose of it, donate it to charity, or allow employees to keep it.
What should you do if you leave something behind in a hotel? Call Lost and Found immediately, and pray that it hasn’t been sold on the black market – a new revenue stream for hotels during the recession (kidding). If they can’t find it, be patient and persistent; sometimes items are temporarily misplaced, but eventually they should show up. The hotel will arrange to mail it back to you.
As for that housekeeper in Miami, she turned the money in, and people were so taken by her honesty and dire personal circumstances that she received donations amounting to far more than the money she found. Let her story be a friendly reminder: If you’re going to leave anything behind in a hotel room, a modest tip for the room attendant will be most gratefully received.
Have you lost or found something unusual in a hotel room? Share it at 
About OPUS Hotels. Uniquely stylish and always fresh, OPUS Hotels redefine the boutique experience, blending contemporary design with warmth and intuitive service.

Daniel Edward Craig. The former vice president and general manager of OPUS Hotels, Daniel Edward Craig is a hotel consultant and the author of the hotel-based Five-Star Mystery Series.

 Daniel Edward Craig

Also See: The Pros and Cons of a Hotel Blog: A Retrospective / Daniel Edward Craig / May 2010

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