An Indian family was in the news a few months ago but for all the wrong reasons. They were caught stealing “accessories” from a resort in Bali. Their suitcases were opened and the search yielded towels, electronic items and decorative items, among other things.
The incident went viral on social media, with many feeling embarrassed and outraged. Some spoke of the importance of being ambassadors of our country while a suggestion was made to cancel the passports of such people with a bent for larceny.
As I read through these reactions. I tried to remember if I were guilty of something similar. Well, I must admit I have taken those small bottles of shampoo and body lotion that are so convenient for travel.
In fact, at one hotel in Moscow, the chambermaid even asked me why I hadn’t used the bottles she’d put out the day before. The only reason these had remained untouched was because we had had a very early start and I hadn’t had time to use them.
When I told her that the shampoo was really nice, she walked to her trolley and pulled out a whole lot more and gave them to me. This gives me the impression that we are expected to use these items and no one is keeping count of the empty containers tossed in the trash. However, packing towels and hair dryers is definitely not done.
They were caught with 14 plastic bottles full of sand, weighing 40kg, in the boot of their car. I can only conclude that this couple lived in a concrete jungle and had always longed to live by the sea. So, they decided to recreate a beach at their doorstep. I can understand an impulsive need to keep something as a memento but when the need becomes greed, then it is time to stop and think.
As the debate raged online, there were a few patriotic Indians who gave examples of similar unacceptable behaviour by people from other nationalities! Obviously they hadn’t heard the saying about two wrongs not making a right. This adage was a favourite of my parents whenever we said something like “but she also did the same” in a bid to get out of a sticky situation.
Then I read about a couple holidaying in Sardinia who faced up to six years in jail after they stole some sand as a souvenir. The Italian island’s white-sand beaches are highly protected, with harsh penalties for those who try to take away some. Just as I thought that the supposed crime did not warrant such extreme measures, I read further and realised that they hadn’t just scooped up a handful of sand.
They were caught with 14 plastic bottles full of sand, weighing 40kg, in the boot of their car. I can only conclude that this couple lived in a concrete jungle and had always longed to live by the sea.
So, they decided to recreate a beach at their doorstep. I can understand an impulsive need to keep something as a memento but when the need becomes greed, then it is time to stop and think.
Even more recently, a PIO (person of Indian origin) hotelier was caught offloading suitcases from the carousel at an airport and driving away with them.
Interestingly, he had partnered with Donald Trump’s family on four hotels. When he was arrested, he confessed to stealing luggage over a long period of time and that although he knew it was wrong, he did it for the thrill and excitement.
According to the housekeeping department of one hotel, guests often walk away with towels, irons, hair dryers, cable boxes, clock radios, blankets, paintings, ashtrays, TV remote controls and even pillows. I am not listing these to give you ideas on what else you can walk away with but merely to remind you about what is off limits the next time you stop at a hotel.
However, there are a few hotels that actually have checklists that remind you not to steal the toiletries. Maybe the next time you travel, you should check these out to avoid any embarrassing moments later if you do get caught.
— Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.