Hotels Go High-Tech To Stop Towel Thieves


hiltonThose big hotel towels are so soft, so absorbent — they’re like Bounty on steroids. No wonder you’re tempted to take one home when you check out.

Be forewarned that when you and your pilfered towel walk out the lobby door, an alarm may go off somewhere.

At least three U.S. hotels are using radio frequency identification chips sewn into the fabric to track their towels, bathrobes and sheets.

One reason is better management of inventory. But there’s also the human factor:

Hotel guests steal a lot of towels.

A Honolulu hotel that uses RFID chips to track linens saw the theft of pool towels drop from 4,000 a month to only 750, The New York Times reports, reducing replacement costs by $16,000 monthly. William Serbin, executive vice president of Linen Technology Tracking, which makes the chips, said the theft rate for hotel linens and robes is 5% to 20% a month.

According to a 2004 survey by Orbitz, 18% of hotel guests admitted taking towels. Only 2% took bathrobes or bathmats. (Bathmats?)

Replacing these items has gotten much more expensive because the price of cotton has jumped 150% since August. It’s so high that clothing manufacturers are incorporating more synthetics into fabric, raising prices — look for increases of 10% to 20% for cotton apparel this year — or using less of it.

“Aeropostale is reducing the size of tags in garments, saving five cents on each piece of clothing,” Justin Rohrlich wrote at Minyannville.

What’s behind the new price of cotton? The Boston Globe explained:

The apparel industry was hurt after poor weather hurt cotton crops in China and Pakistan over the past several years and speculators then cornered the market. Demand far outstripped supply, and prices skyrocketed. Cotton hit a record high of $2.44 per pound on March 8: last year, cotton averaged about 77 cents a pound.

Before RFID technology was available, hotels had no simple solutions for stopping the theft of towels and other linens. Put your crest or logo on the towel, and those who wanted a memento of their special trip would swipe them. Leave the logo off, and they’re a tempting target for those who are too cheap to buy their own towels. Count the towels and bill the guest’s credit card? That can lead to a hassle.

What possesses people to steal hotel towels and other linens? Would the possibility that an RFID chip lurks within be a deterrent?

{ Newscenter}


  1. To #1 Eli:

    Because its much more effective to shame and embarrass the gonifim AS WELL AS prevent / recoup the financial loss. Also – once the tags are sewn in, you don’t have to go through the tsuris of sending in and defending the credit card claim, fighting with the gonif and his credit card company, etc. Instead – you rip the towel right out of the shmegegee’s luggage right in the hotel lobby in front of everybody.

  2. They can’t do that for pool towels and sometimes they dont realize because someone requested extra towels and then they don’t realize when one is missing!

  3. People take extra towels from the carts in the hallways, when they are being replaced so they cant just bill the credit cards. (same place they take extra, soap, shampoo, shoe polish kits, etc…)

  4. To #1:

    eli, Most hotels don’t count how many towels are placed in your room when you arrive & when you leave or even know how many towels you may have used during your stay.

    Hey eli, You wanna buy some really nice towels??? They’re all at my house………next to the robes, slippers, shampoos, soaps, cups, etc.,

  5. there are eyes that watch all the time. “DA lifnei mi ata omed yesh enaim raos.” This should be a frum jews only deterent to steal.
    How much money are these hotels wasting by buying RDIF technology are these ” missing towels” really worh all that investment??

  6. these new towels are only going to be at holiday inn and hampton, you can still steal the towels from motel 6 but beware, there are toenails in the sheets and towels