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This article is more than 2 year old.

To take or not to take — here’s a handy guide to resolving every traveller’s predicament

Mini

Indians are the new globe-trotters, but travel etiquette is yet to keep pace. Getting drunk while flying, playing loud music on trains and planes, stuffing those extra cakes and croissants from the hotel buffet counter to take back to the room — all of these fall under some of the common travel offences.

To take or not to take — here’s a handy guide to resolving every traveller’s predicament
“To Take or Not To Take” is a conundrum that I’m sure every traveller who has checked into a posh hotel room has faced and acted upon. Haven’t we all pinched the occasional pen, the comb and the bath-gel mini-bottles believing it to be a harmless act? The problem arises when many travellers don’t realise that crossing the line is the difference between enjoying that complimentary chocolate on the pillow and taking the pillow home.
Etiquette issues faced by hotels are also not just limited to hotel rooms. Getting drunk while flying, playing loud music on trains and planes, stuffing those extra cakes and croissants from the hotel buffet counter to take back to the room, and standing five feet away from the group tour guide at the monument while eavesdropping on his proprietary briefing — all of these fall under some of the common travel offences where travellers fail to draw the boundary between right and wrong.
Everyone does it?
I believe what drives this action is an unfair sense of entitlement that we all have when we pay a good price for an experience. We paid for the flights through our nose, for the expensive vacation and for the lovely hotel room. So why can't we take those little hand-towels or bathrobes back home with us? A friend confessed to me how he always carries home the blanket from his international flights because they are “cozy” and warm him up “while watching television” in the colder Delhi nights.
To understand this behaviour better, at ixigo, we did a study with travellers and hotel partners last year to see what are the commonly stolen items in a hotel room. We realised that more than half of the travellers admitted to stuffing their bag with at least one hotel amenity at the end of their stay. Around 38 percent of people owned up to taking face towels, bathrobes, pillows, blankets, irons, hairdryers, ashtrays and even the batteries from TV remotes!  What is more surprising is that all of these revelations came from seasoned and rookie travellers alike.
Driven by these insights, ixigo saw an opportunity to inform travellers on the dos and don’ts of hotel etiquette through a video which we relaunched last week. Within a span of 24 hours, it went viral and was trending across 10 countries.
The fact that our video was featured by Whoopi Goldberg on ABC’s primetime show ‘The View’, where her own guests admitted to flicking hotel pens, is proof that this behaviour is not only a cross-culture issue but practised openly on a global level.
But just because everyone does it, is it the right thing to do?
Where do hoteliers draw the line?
The recent incident involving an Indian family in Bali snowballed into a major national issue overnight. It sparked a huge debate on Indian tourists and their behaviour overseas, but the big question is should the blame lie only with the travellers?  And there is nothing Indian about it mind you, as my colleagues in the hotel industry will tell you how the habit of flicking things from rooms transcends nationalities and races.
The thumb rule in the hotel industry is that consumables (soaps, shampoos, creams, stationery, fruits in the fruit basket) and personal usage items (toiletries, tissues, disposable slippers etc) are OK to take, simply because they are already accounted for in the pricing of the room, and once used or opened these personal effects will need to be thrown and replaced by the housekeeping staff anyways. This by no means is a prescription to always take these items, but if you can’t resist the urge, do not feel embarrassed about it either.
Wherever unsure, it is best to call up the front desk and double check. In many upscale hotels, when you want to take some buffet food to your room, it is best to request the sous-chef. In some cases, they may even pack some for you and your kids. You do not need to hide those fruits, parathas and croissants in your bag and be guilt-ridden about it.
Talking of guilt, for those of you with a cupboard full of consumable amenities from your last dozen trips, may I suggest you distribute them to the needy to rid yourself of any remorse.
Hotels have for decades refused to address this issue headlong, be it to avoid offending guests or to stay clear of an expensive predicament.  While hotels want to make their guests feel at home with their services, they can take proactive measures to educate their guests about what they can’t take.
Subtly labelling certain consumable amenities with a “feel free to take back home with our best compliments” would be a nice way to address this since guests would know what is acceptable. Properties can also share an informational checklist with their guests clearly mentioning a rate-list of what amenities can be bought from the hotel and at what price. I was recently at a Westin property in China’s Guangzhou where the entire king-sized bed, mattress and pillows were advertised in the reception with their price tag, being sold as an “experience” the traveller could take home.
With international travel growth coming rapidly from tier 2 and 3 cities, Indians from the heartland are the new globe-trotters. To cater to this new audience and guide them on travel etiquette, tourism boards and international hotel chains can come together to create first-time traveller video guides in vernacular languages. Short multilingual educational videos like the one we did recently on “stuff you can take from hotel rooms” can help make people realise where to draw the line on their kleptomaniac urges.
Meanwhile, the scent of the particular white-tea based mini bain-douche from Guangzhou should refresh me for a few more humid Gurugram mornings.
 
Aloke Bajpai is CEO and co-founder of ixigo.
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