Must Need Free Stuff

Hundreds of tiny bottles line my bathroom cupboard shelves. It looks like I have a heavy chemical dependency combined with OCD because the small bottles are organized by type, size and brand.  This cabinet appears to support a very organized addict, with each individual dose measured out.  They're ready-to-grab for a quick fix. 

I might have an addiction to free, hotel-provided cosmetics.

Some of the bottles are dusty. Okay, most of the bottles are dusty. Some of the dust is older than some of the other dust because while I might bring home countless bottles of free grooming products -- I'm not about to dust them. I’m not crazy.

A closer look at the bottles finds that the various categories are disproportionately represented. The number of shampoos to conditioners is way off. The body lotion to body gel ratio is a joke. The generic brands get pushed to the back in favor of pricey, flashy designer products like commoners being shoved aside to make way for a royal procession.


Perhaps when I was younger, the first and logical thing to do when checking into a hotel was to have athletic sex. Something about a rented room makes me want to christen it with some heathen act, just to set the tone. I might be the reason you travel with a blacklight wand.

During my hotel stay, I use tiny soap that's so frustratingly difficult to unwrap with wet hands. Like an old joke, the tiny bar slips, and I use extra care in bending over to retrieve it. I don’t want to bonk my head and be found drowned in this strange hotel by some stranger in a strange city.

I slide the other unused toiletries into my Dopp kit with a nonchalant need that I don't understand.

I take the conditioner, body lotion, shampoo and the sewing kit. Why the sewing kit? I have no freaking idea. Perhaps it's a cry for help. I never touch the shower cap; using a shower cap is totally not committing to getting clean. Get your hair wet, you’re not a spurned Janet Leigh seeking solace from a hot, steamy shower. You’re a goddamn man with short hair.

The next day, the hotel housekeeper replaces all of the amenities. I curse her and bless her and slide the babies into my bag.

I've stayed in hotels for a month at a time and amassed a collection of complementary toiletries so large that by the end of my trip I've pondered leaving a bulky sweater behind in order to make space in my luggage.

No matter what the products, I always conjure up a justification plan for dragging them all home – like making adorable and courteous guest baskets for visiting house guests, or contacting that charity in NYC that takes hardly used hotel soaps, squishes them into larger bars and ships them overseas to cleanse the unwashed masses.

If you’ve never read it, the story by Shelley Berman of his battle with the hotel maid over leaving little bars of soap in his room is truly hysterical. I feel his pain.

When I pack to go home at the end of a trip, I remove all of the tiny bottles from my Dopp kit where they have been hidden like Anne Frank’s family. What have I done?! I only wanted to maybe keep two special memento bottles, little cute tokens of my trip, and once they are all together it looks out of control. I want to place the rest of the booty back on the counter for the maid and walk away.
But if I do, she'll know I was hoarding them, which of course she already knows because she supplied them. I really should turn her in for causing the cost of lodging to skyrocket with her lavish replenishing of amenities.

For the record, I've never grabbed/stolen amenities from an unattended housekeeper's cart that I pass in the hall; but I have totally paused and looked in the cart. Is that premeditation" God, I hope the Supreme Court stays super busy and doesn't take up amenities theft as a crime.

My relationship with the hotel maid as a concept has not been honest. They knock on the door about ten in the morning. I can't answer the door. I'm busy watching cartoons and fashioning the complimentary robe into pants. Through the door, I tell them that I'll leave in five minutes, when in actuality I have no concept of time. I also clean up the room every day before they come.  And I rumple up the other side of the bed and squish all the pillows so they don't think I slept alone.

One trip to the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the housekeeper-as-Santa pulled items off her sleigh/cart that I had never seen or heard of in a hotel. She was a freak. The first night she placed the cutest bottle of shaving gel innocently next to the shampoo.

It was a message to me privately that said, "I get you, and can help you."

The next night I found a little bottle of mouthwash cuddled up to the shampoo. I gasped a little and lost my balance, barely catching myself on the counter. The next evening she brought a little water to the well when she left me a rare, never-before-seen tiny pump bottle of Bellagio hair spray. I got so worked up and poor Bob had no idea why my passion was so incredibly high that night. With this level of entertainment in Vegas, I didn't miss Siegfried and Roy so much.

I can score two amenity highs per day at ritzy hotels and cruise ships because they replace the used or missing bottles at turndown service.


On a recent Silversea cruise to Alaska, I was presented several lines of toiletries from which to choose. The toiletries are high-end Rodeo Drive brands, like Bulgari and Ferragamo -- in non-Lilliputian bottles. Lord have mercy, they put the “Amen” in amenities. Oh, here’s the kicker -- they're presented on a silver tray by a butler. I may look tough; but even I faint at fancy. As he leaves I size up the silver tray they were carried in on and wonder if it will fit in my carry on.

By the end of the trip I have amassed so many bottles that I have no room to pack any smoked salmon or a baby seal like a normal person.

Before you think I radiate crazy like a microwave oven with a cracked door, please know that I do occasionally use the stuff I gather. Sometimes, when packing for a trip, I grab one expendable bottle of shampoo and toss it in my toiletry bag just in case I end up staying in a yurt that doesn't provide amenities.

But if I do stay in a yurt I'll choose one that provides amenities. The Tibetan housekeeping team will place the toiletries in a hand woven basket. Of course I'll stuff the basket in my carry on and avert all eyes as I check out.

2 comments:

  1. Your obsession is not as unusual as you might think, as a matter of fact it could be enhanced as there are freebies you are missing. Of course you do not want to take towels or robes, they will wind up on your credit card. Lightbulbs and pillows are also no-nos.
    But... there are Kleenex and the spare roll of toilet tissue to be exploited as well as the occasional shoe shiner.
    I understand your disdain for shower caps, yet one or two in inventory are handy when painting a ceiling, one never knows.
    xo jc

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  2. EVERYTHING you said is so true, I used to be embarrassed about the amount of teeny tiny bottles that I have but now I am shouting to the world, I have tons of tiny bottles that are fancy and cute!!! Thanks for a great and hilarious post. Amen in the amenities, Bwah ha ha!!,

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