Homemaking: These hotel souvenirs are a real steal

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Last week, I saw a story in the paper saying the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City has launched an "Amnesty Program" under which guests who had at some point stayed at the famous hotel -- and stolen something -- could return the purloined items to the hotel, no questions asked.

The Waldorf Astoria is one of those hotels that's so fancy I'll bet my average readers: a) have never stayed there, b) have never stolen something from there, or c) are not so dumb that they'd send something back that they lifted and successfully squirreled away in their own house. I've never stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, either, but I've gone to the bathroom there a number of times. (In every city I visit, I always make sure I know where the nicest hotels are because they have the nicest bathrooms off the lobbies. The Waldorf bathrooms are really choice -- not just stalls, but little closet-size rooms for each person. Next time you're in New York, try it. You'll feel like royalty.)

My wife and I stay fairly often in commercial lodging, but they're most often Motels, not Hotels. There's only one letter difference in the names, but it's a different world altogether. The places we stay are not the kind that have anything worth stealing. We stay at places where if you want a snack you need to find the vending machines and have some quarters; where breakfast is free but almost inedible, with cold scrambled eggs in the shape of hockey pucks; and the only terry-cloth robe is on the desk clerk if you try to check in after 11 p.m.

As a result, there's very little to steal. The places we stay in have towels, but they're small, thin and worn out, and so rough you have to be careful not to dry yourself off too vigorously, or you might take off a layer of skin. You could do better in the linen department of your local dollar store. It has little plastic notices saying you're not getting fresh sheets or towels unless you specifically ask for them because it is "environmentally conscious."

They no longer provide writing paper and envelopes or postcards, and often there's no pen probably because they were used too often for suicide notes. The air conditioning comes from a big unit under the window that sounds like a diesel truck starting up, and the maintenance man has removed the control dial (probably for the "environment's" sake again).

We can't steal anything, so we make liberal use of the "free" toiletries they provide. We have a closet in our house jam packed with sample-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body lotions. We have little bars of "facial" and "body" soap (I suspect the only difference in the two is the size) stacked in piles so high they topple over. I've got bags of sewing kits and tons of shower caps.

We rarely use the shampoo or conditioner, as each member of my family, except for yours truly, has his or her own favorite brand of hair care products. (Yours truly has so little hair that to worry about shampoo brands at this point is kind of pointless. And body lotion on a grown man is kind of "Silence of the Lambs"-ish.)

Ironically, these little bottles are just the right size to take along when we travel, but when we do hit the road, we're getting more and more of them, a new set for each night we stay. We make sure of that. If we stay more than one night, we take the little unused bottles and hide them in our suitcase each night so they'll give us more. The maids clearly know what the deal is, as there are no empty pint-sized bottles in the trash, and they can easily look in our bags when we're not there. They must feel a little sad for us.

I'm betting there are a lot of you budget-motel types out there in the same boat, with some closet filled to bursting with tiny little bottles and mini soap bars, and I'll bet you want to come clean. The Days Inns, Comfort Inns and Best Westerns across this country better not follow suit and offer their own amnesty day. They'll have millions of people showing up in their parking lots with unwanted personal hygiene items that they don't want but would feel bad about trashing.

Actually, maybe it's a good idea. With the money they save on all those bottles and bars, the motel owners could get together, go to the dollar store and buy a whole truck load of new towels.

Then, at least, we'd all have something worth stealing.


Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.


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