I have read that the favorite thing rich people steal from luxury hotels is soap. Why? Some folks just have larceny in their DNA. Some see hotel soap as virtually a no-risk theft.
Would any upscale hotel stop a departing guest and ask to check his luggage for possible toiletries hidden in the soles of Gucci loafers or wrapped in a Victoria Secret?
We’ve even heard that people take hotel shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, even mouthwash, because those items often come in sizes a traveler legally can carry aboard commercial aircraft.
We know several people who grab all the hotel goodies they can collect, save them at home until they get a bag full and then donate the stash to homeless shelters and the like. It’s harmless enough, a sort of workable Robin Hood thing.
At St. Matthew’s House, a shelter for the homeless and the hungry on Airport Road in Naples, people often donate toiletry supplies they got from hotel rooms on their travels.
“We get them and use them all the time,” says Todd Melkowits at St. Matthew’s. “When people come in off the street needing a shower, for example, people who need to get cleaned up, we give them a little thing of shampoo, some soap and so on.
“A lot of people save them for us and we use a bunch of them. And we could use more all the time.”
We suspect, however, that not all hotel guests who pilfer the fancy soaps donate them to charitable organizations. Then again, what do they do with them? I doubt they’d display the sample-sized bars of Bulgari or Hermes soap in their powder rooms at home. Wouldn’t one’s guests snicker, knowing the super soap was pinched from a posh hotel?
The larger question, the issue you might hear Greta get her teeth into on Fox News, is whether stealing hotel soap and such is really stealing. Town & Country magazine reports that writer Vanessa Friedman calls it HSS, Hotel Soap Syndrome. So there’s a syndrome for it now.
One offshoot to this troubling malaise is the shaky justification for taking home partially used soap. Perps who do that allegedly claim it’s OK because those soap bits would never be used for the next guest.
Ha. Busted. While it’s true not even the budget motel down by the river would leave a hairy, thrice-used soap bar for a new arrival, there is a good use for such remnants. They’re getting recycled.
One system is that of CleanTheWorld.org, which collects used soap bits, sanitizes, sterilizes and boils them to remove all impurities and makes the cleansed soap into two-ounce bars.
Clean The World then distributes the soap to impoverished and disease-ridden areas around the world, including in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and beyond, in all to more than three dozen nations.
Simple hand washing in the third world could save untold lives, especially of children, “one bar of soap at a time,” as CleantheWorld.org puts it.
Meantime, penurious people have low-tech ways to extract every last molecule of value from bar soap.
Some melt and meld slivers for re-use. Others put soap detritus into a blender with water. Voila! Liquid hand soap, which eventually goes down the drain.
It’s a circle of life thing.
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Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.