What you can - and can't - take from your hotel room

When staying at a hotel, a friend of mine helps herself to the soaps and shampoos in her room. If housekeeping replaces the items, she takes the new ones, too.

She believes that her room rate covers the amenities, however, others consider this to be stealing. So what exactly, can guests take from their rooms? Where's the line?

Items such as soaps and shampoos are meant to be taken from the room, say hotel experts. But there are limits.

The first restriction relates to the quantity of the items removed. 

"Many hotels experience guests taking an unusually high amount of these items throughout their stay, reasoning that they paid for these items in the cost of the room," - Robert Koenig, an expert in hospitality management at New York Institute of Technology School of Management. 

The second limit is qualitative. Some hotel guests take branded glassware, TV remote controls, pillows, hair dryers, clock radios and even plants.

 "They are not entitled to that, of course," Koenig says. A hotel will charge you for swiping those items if its staff notices they're missing.

Irons and hairdryers are hot items at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila. Also on the resort's missing list: artwork, lamps and Gideon Bibles.

 "Haven't they heard of the Eighth Commandment?" asks Kenneth Samson, a consultant for the casino.

Hotel operators are onto you. Instead of supplying rooms with unlimited mini-bottles of shampoo and conditioner, for example, some have installed dispensers in the showers that can be refilled. Those containers are bolted to the wall. Also, some hotels now publish the cost of portable items in their minibar menus. Alongside the price for a bottle of water, for example, you'll also find the price for a bathrobe.

Other items are intended as giveaways.

 "Pens are actually a great marketing tool for hotels," says Cory Sarrett, a consultant for La Galerie Hotel in New Orleans. "They expect you to take them, and they consider it free advertising."

The next time you're thinking of taking a pillow or towel, remember the old rule: If it's disposable, it's yours. If it's not, you'll pay for it, one way or another.