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Got a fetish for stealing items from hotel rooms?

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th August 2003 03:00 AM

I have more than a dispassionate fetish for keys. Just about every hotel I have stayed in, when it comes to checking out, I do not shriek out when my bill is presented. That I pay without any grudge or queries.

I have more than a dispassionate fetish for keys. Just about every hotel I have stayed in, when it comes to checking out, I do not shriek out when my bill is presented. That I pay without any grudge or queries.

By Timothy Bukumunhe

I have more than a dispassionate fetish for keys. Just about every hotel I have stayed in, when it comes to checking out, I do not shriek out when my bill is presented. That I pay without any grudge or queries.

However, I always ‘forget’ to give them back the key. I feel the key rightfully now belongs to me — a reminder of the hotel I stayed in, and in what room. As we speak, my booty of keys lie abandoned in a box somewhere in my spare room.

Funny thing though, I don’t look at them every Sunday when I’m doing nothing, admire them or show them off to friends who call round to visit. Rather, the satisfaction that I get out of running off with hotel keys is simply knowing that I have box full of hotel keys in my possession.

That is my kick, and it is a kick that I can’t rationalise. I am sure that one day I will tire of this ‘hobby’ and toss the entire lot out into the bin.

Call it souvenir hunting, stealing or relieving but in today’s Uganda, people are busy walking off with items that do not belong to them. Some do it because they want souvenirs. Others do it because it is a cheaper way of doing a spot of some home shopping and without having to pay for it.

Petero Avereno who owns Mama Mia, the pizza restaurant at Speke Hotel, has seen it all before. The rate at which things go missing is alarming, he says. “At one point we had to build a metal cage around the toilet cistern to stop theft. People would go to the bathroom with heavy duty bags and once inside there, they would pack everything from the toilet roll holder to the flushing mechanism.” It just does not stop there. He goes on to say how diners will walk off with salt shakers, napkins, ash trays, glasses and cutlery.

At the former Nile Grill on Uganda House, diners were not allowed into the toilets with bags and that included ladies handbags. All bags would be left with the security man and the key sought from the manager at the bar. They had to do it because no sooner had a fresh toilet roll been put in, it would vanish, as did the toilet roll holder and even the taps on the sink.

Up country, restaurateurs are not that worried about cutlery and salt shakers going missing, but the day-today essentials like sugar, salt and coffee. During the Miss Uganda regional finals in Lira earlier this year, we stayed at St. Lira hotel. Whenever we ordered for coffee, the coffee tin had just enough coffee in it to fill two teaspoons while the sugar bowl had four teaspoonfuls of sugar.

It was a bit of a drag especially when you wanted to have three or four cups of coffee, but as the manager explained, leave out a full tin of coffee and a full bowl of sugar and it will vanish. “The customer would have their two cups then empty the rest of the coffee and sugar into a plastic bag and be on his way. It’s only when the next customer orders coffee that you realise he has emptied the tin.

When James Lukwago left his parent’s home and set up his own he didn’t have what he termed as the ‘essentials’. “When I left home, mum gave me the usual stuff — plates, saucepans, glasses. But what I really needed were some empties, beer bottles that is. Over a period of three months, just about every kafunda I had a drink in I would leave with a bottle. Two years later and I have accumulated close to four crates of empties and all for free.

Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe has had their fair share of thefts and from tourists. Back in 1999, as one American tourist checked out, hotel security noticed part of a towel sticking out of a suitcase. When told about it, the tourist got cagey and was not willing to repack his suitcase as hotel staff looked on. Unfortunately for him, it was a move, which only aroused suspicion. When forced to open his case, the tourist had packed just about every towel he could get his hands on.

“But he didn’t just pack any towel. He only went for the towels that had the hotel logo on them” said the then hotel manager.

The Kampala Sheraton Hotel has a discreet but polite notice to deter thieves or would be souvenir hunters. On the thick hotel dressing robes is a notice that reads “should you want a replica of this dressing robe, please inform reception and it will be billed to your room.”

Another ‘home shopper’ who had a dazzling set of steak knives was forced to stop using them when a guest pointed out they are similar to those used in Rock Garden Café at Speke Hotel. When the café opened up almost five years ago, they had an impressive set of steak knives which were imported from Dubai. This particular ‘home shopper’ dined there every Friday for a month and a half. On each occasion he walked off with the steak knife.

“Fridays were the best days to do it. As it’s busy, the waiters never noticed that there was always a knife missing. I would just slip it between a pile of papers and be gone. It was only when Aly Daya, the then manager of the place came over to my house for dinner that I almost got caught out. Had it not been that another guest had mentioned they look like those of Rock Garden Café, I would most certainly have been caught,” he says.

Abroad, the souvenir hunter or home shoppers are much more sophisticated than we are in Uganda at the moment. The hotel chain Holiday Inn admits that over the years the level of theft has taken a new twist. In the old days, guests used to check out with the simple stuff — toiletries, coat hangers and the odd pillow. Today however, they check out with just about the whole room from the mini bar fridge, television set, hair dryer, electric kettle and the bed linen!

The White House in the United States and Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom have also had their fair share of theft. After a state dinner, a good amount of cutlery and plate with the logo White House and Buckingham Palace go missing. And the irony is that the caliber of guests who go off with these things are senior diplomats, cabinet ministers and members from other royal households.

And at the wedding of footballer David Beckham and Victoria ‘posh’ Spice some years ago, the couple were forced to run newspaper adverts encouraging guests who had attended the wedding to return cutlery, plates and glasses!

Got a fetish for stealing items from hotel rooms?

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