Monday, July 25, 2011

Saying No to Free Hotel Toiletries

Survey on USA Today's travel site, via Veronica Stoddart.

USA Today's survey is far from scientific — but I was still interested in the results, showing that more than 50% of the people who took this survey said they took hotel toiletries with them. And back in March 2010, Christopher Elliot wrote, "A recent Travelocity survey found 86 percent of hotel guests admitted to taking toiletries, like oatmeal soap and lavender body gel."

If you're really going to use those toiletries, then sure — go ahead and take them. The hotel certainly won't mind. But if they're just going to take up space in one of your closets, how about just leaving them behind?

Here are a few tales of people who found they had accumulated a bit too much. (You may want to read the full stories; I'm just including a brief excerpt from each one.) The first is from a story in Time called The Simple Life: Goodbye to having it all:
For Karen Glance, 36, it came down to all those little packets of shampoo. She remembers the morning she opened her bathroom cabinet in St. Paul and counted 150 that had followed her home from hotels in dozens of cities.
Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist writes:
i forget exactly why i ever thought it was a good idea to take home the hotel shampoo/conditioner/lotion. i think it was because i thought it would be good for weekend travel, which it is… but last year when i cleaned out my bathroom, i realized that i didn’t need a whole shelf full of little bottles of shampoo.
And Moata Tamaira writes:
I go nuts about anything that could be accurately described as "complimentary". I'm talking lotions. I'm talking shower gel. I'm talking funny looking plastic shower caps. Whatever is on offer, regardless of whether I will use it or not, I take. ...

What I do have to admit to myself, and to you all, is that it's really not about the usefulness of the products ... it's really just about me acquiring them. Take the shampoo and conditioner, for instance. I'm quite fussy about my hair and I'll pretty much stick to using my usual products. Certainly I'm not going to risk my locks on some unknown hotel branded stuff. ... But I still take the stuff home with me, which means I've got a lovely collection of random tiny-sized hair products in my bathroom cabinet that I pretty much will never use.
Finally, Eric on A Penny Closer point out that, for many, there's something about the psychology of free:
I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of hoarding free stuff. Specifically hotel shampoos and soaps. Not out of frugality. Not out of need. It was really because ... I felt I had paid for them, so I better take them. It makes no sense. But I did it anyhow.

We went to dinner with some friends over the weekend. ... My friend brought up a point I hadn’t considered: You know, if they charged you a penny for those toiletries, I bet you wouldn’t take them.

Immediately, I knew he was right. A penny. A single stinking penny.
If you find you've got a stash of unopened toiletries that you're not going to use, you may want to donate them to a shelter for the homeless, or one for battered women. And remember that even shampoo goes bad over time, so do that donating while the products are still good. Real Simple says shampoo and conditioner last 2-3 years from manufacture date, while bath gel and body wash last 3 years.

Related Posts:
Free Promotional Products: Just Say No
Declining Free (but Useless) Stuff
Get Your Free Valentine's Day Teddy Bear!
Who Needs Another Coffee Mug? Pen? Free Calendar?
Green Useless Stuff is Still Clutter


JustGail said...

I frequently take them, but not always. If they are something I really like, I'll use them in my travel kit, purse (the hand lotion), or home. If not, the office admins have a project going where they collect such things (mostly from the people who travel for work) and then give them to local shelters.

Would I take them if I had to pay? For some of the nicer items, maybe. It would depend on how much they would charge.

Candy said...

I take what I know I will use. I use the soap at my vanity sink for washing hands. I often use the shampoos for spot treating clothes before washing. I even use the shower caps multiple times. I make a point not to let all those little bottles accumulate in my home. Use it up!

Claire Josefine said...

How amusingly synchronistic this post is! I was literally thinking about this topic this morning as I glanced into my friend's open bathroom cabinet and saw an abundance (and then some) of free toiletries. The thought crossed my mind about saying something to him about taking only what one needs. Instead, I shall forward this post to him. As always, you're spot on, dear. Thanks.

klyoho said...

There are many charities that collect these in my area. Women's shelters, for instance. Don't let them pile up at home . . . Share them!

Marcie Lovett said...

Not only are they free, but they're so stinkin' cute! It's hard for a lot of people to admit that they'll never use all those tiny bottles, but I also encourage donating them to someone who will benefit from them.

Once I realized that the opened toiletries were tossed by the cleaning staff, even when you stayed more than one night, I started "hiding" them so I could use them again and leave the unopened ones behind. My (very) small contribution to saving the planet.

Lee said...

You nailed me on this one. I loved to bring the cute ones home, planning to put them out for overnight guests. But our house was usually too messy to have anyone except my sons' friends for sleepovers. When we moved, I dumped the bottles in a container, which I recently opened. Most were gunky and not suitable for us or guests. Now when I'm feeling the urge to take something other than scented bar soap or those great shower caps, I think of that container and can control myself.

A friend participated in a project where items were mailed to military personnel in war zones. They were collecting these to include in each package. Interesting idea.

Julie Bestry said...

Before flying became so traumatic and weight limits yielded so much extra expense, I'll admit I always took free hotel toiletries. It was easy to collect and donate the ones I didn't absolutely love and use to my area domestic violence shelters, as I was already visiting to make regular donations on my clients' behalf. Nowadays, I only take the toiletries if I'm road-tripping (and thus, not dealing with the airline fuss) or if a product is truly luxurious or unusual.

I always take the shower caps, however, as they serve so many useful purposes.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

I've surely taken, then tossed, more than my fair share of hotel mini-swag, but this post is making me think of other items that also go bad while we neglect using them. I know you've addressed cosmetics, but perfume also doesn't last forever, nor does shoe polish, nor individually-wrapped anything!

And what about household items like cleaning supplies or garden supplies? There must be a "toss by" date that's appropriate for that stuff, too. I have some plant food that's so old I fear it might kill a houseplant!

Seems like the conclusions are always the same: free is never "free" and use is the all-important factor when deciding whether or not something should stay (or come home with you in your suitcase)!

Jeri Dansky said...

Wow - thanks for all the thoughtful comments!

I got a few emails from people who also said they collect these toiletries specifically to give as donations. One person said, "Our churches offer showers for the homeless — they make up little packs to give to folks who need them — and I donate mine there."

Another person wrote to say she collects them when she travels, but "it never makes it into my own cabinets. I drop it directly at the local women's shelter."

And yet another person collects the toiletries and gives them to a local charity that provides food and other essentials to the needy.

I didn't want to encourage people to take the toiletries for donation purposes, because for too many people that donation step would never happen; it would be one more burdensome thing to do that just never got done. No one should feel obligated to take the toiletries and deliver them to an appropriate charity.

But for those who do take the toiletries and donate them: Bravo!

Jeri Dansky said...

Marcie, someone else replied by email, telling me the story of a hotel that, to his dismay, replaced his perfectly fine soap bar after a single use. He had stayed at other hotels that did NOT do this, so it surprised him.

So hotel policies differ, and you may not always need to hide the opened bottles!

Jeri Dansky said...

Cynthia, that Real Simple article I linked to also has information on how long you can keep perfume, some cleaning supplies, and some plant food.

And yes, I agree: "It's free" is not, in and of itself, a good reason to acquire anything. "It's free and I can —and will — really use it (or donate it)" is a whole different story.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Thanks, Jeri! I hadn't yet clicked on the link. Now I have to go investigate my cleaning supplies!

Nancy G said...

I'm in the use what I need and leave the rest camp. I'll open the small hand soap at the sink and use it in the shower, too.

My husband travels often for business and always takes everything, brings it home and dumps it on the bed for me to deal with. It drives me nuts. I always end up putting it in a bag with food donations at Thanksgiving.