Thefts Add Up to Lodging Industry Losses

Guests are taking away more than a good night's sleep from many of the state's hotels, according to a survey just released by the California Lodging Industry Assn.

Nearly 20% of the establishments surveyed are spending more than 5% of their annual budgets to replace stolen items or recoup losses due to theft.

Towels remain the favorite parting gift for sticky-fingered lodgers, followed by soap and toiletries. But guests have carted off televisions, VCRs, microwaves and telephones, as well as lamps, draperies, dressers, even the beds in which they slept.

Do-it-yourselfers have ripped up carpeting and ripped out bathroom sinks, while a few hapless hoteliers report they've had rooms completely stripped.

Though the study didn't pin a dollar figure on the losses, the end result of all that pilfering can be seen in the hotel rooms, said Anita Kramer, executive vice president of the California Lodging Industry Assn.

Increasingly, hoteliers are fastening appliances to the wall, bolting remote controls to the night stand and substituting plastic cups for glasses to keep them from being swiped.

"Theft is a big problem in our industry," Kramer said. "It adds to operating costs and ultimately drives up room rates."

However, some lodgers cause a stir not by what they take but by what they leave behind. Keys, jewelry and clothing are the most common items forgotten in hotel rooms, according to the survey.

Among the more colorful items left behind: X-rated toys, illegal drugs, hairpieces, guns, false teeth, a bullwhip, a St. Bernard and a prosthetic leg--which the owner never claimed.

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Marla Dickerson covers tourism for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5670.

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