In this article, we will discuss how the theft of towels, bathrobes, and bed linens poses a significant problem—not just economically—for hotel worldwide. We will present studies and research that help us understand the scope of the issue. Fortunately, there’s good news: through a real case study, we will demonstrate that automated textile distribution systems can minimize losses and optimize circulating stock.

We recognize that in hospitality settings, attention to the quality of bath towels and bed linens is a crucial aspect that significantly contributes to guest comfort and satisfaction, directly influencing their perception of the service level provided.

The purchase of high-quality linens represents a substantial financial commitment for hotel managers, especially since they are acutely aware from direct experience that the theft of towels and bathrobes is a common practice globally, and maintaining stock levels is costly and often improvised due to a lack of accurate data.

In an article from Wellness Heaven, a German portal for the hotel industry, data from a survey conducted on 1,157 hoteliers across Europe are presented, asking which items are most commonly stolen from hotels. Although the list of stolen items includes some incredible articles, such as televisions and minibars, towels are the most stolen items in hotel establishments, followed by bathrobes and slippers.

In an article published by The Telegraph, among other testimonies, we have found a quote from Roz Colthart, a hospitality industry professional, who believes many hotel guests consider their thefts a matter of pride: “People steal everything,” she says. “I once had a guest who proudly told me and my staff at Malmaison that she had managed to accumulate a full set of plates and cutlery by stealing one piece at a time from our hotels!”

Meanwhile, an article from the NY Post reports that the American Hotel and Lodging Association has found that the hotel industry loses about one hundred million dollars annually due to thefts.

In a 2004 interview, Mark Snyder, the senior vice president of brand management for Holiday Inn in the United States, estimated that 560,000 towels are stolen each year from Holiday Inn hotels.

Similarly, it is estimated that in Spain, annual losses amount to approximately 200,000 dollars, while towel theft in Israel is considered almost customary, with an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 towels taken from Israeli hotels each year.

A recent study titled “Dealing with hotel customer stealing practices: a managerial perspective” surveyed a group of Indian hotel managers about the strategies their organizations have adopted to prevent thefts. Most respondents say that when the guest checkout process begins, the housekeeping staff checks the room for missing items, including the minibar, linens, TV remote, and other items that can be easily identified as missing or damaged. The front desk staff is then informed and adjusts the bill accordingly.

Sometimes, such measures can lead to unpleasant discussions with guests, and luxury hotels tend to absorb the loss to avoid jeopardizing the relationship with the client. The dilemma lies in balancing the need to provide luxury items to enhance the guest experience while managing the costs associated with the loss and frequent replacement of these expensive items.

What tools do hotels and spas need to prevent or mitigate the theft of linens?

To effectively counter the phenomenon of linen theft, the implementation of a tracking system to monitor the bathrobes and towels provided to guests is a cutting-edge and highly effective solution. By adopting an automated distribution system, it is possible to track the flow of textiles from their initial handling to their return, using collection devices capable of recognizing and associating returned items with the user or room number.

This is made possible by integrating a label, known as a Tag, onto the items. This tag is equipped with a microchip that carries a unique identification code and uses RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology to convey information about the linen at all stages of its life cycle, from laundry to distribution, and back after use.

The use of an automated distribution system offers numerous advantages:

  • It allows for precise monitoring of the journey of each piece of linen, ensuring efficient management from washing to distribution to clients, and finally to return.
  • It significantly reduces the loss of towels and bathrobes, thanks to detailed control and the ability to associate each item with a specific user or room number.
  • It provides concrete data and statistics on the use of textiles, allowing operators to optimize inventory and improve the management of linen investments.

This approach not only minimizes the risk of theft but also contributes to a more sustainable and rational management of resources, ensuring that the linen stock is used in the most effective and efficient way possible.

How does linen theft impact a facility's budget?

Understanding the economic impact of thefts is crucial in understanding the costs a facility incurs in replenishing its circulating stock. An exact quantification of the number of items stolen over a specific period is essential for this understanding.

To delve deeper, we can examine data from a case study conducted at a gym that utilizes our automated distribution systems.

The table shows the significant impact that installing our distribution systems has had on reducing monthly towel losses at one of our client’s clubs. Initially, using a traditional (manual) distribution system, with an average daily pickup of 568 towels, the gym has recorded a loss of 583 towels per month. This figure represented 3.5% of the total monthly pickups, amounting to 17,040 towels.

The introduction of intelligent locker systems for linen distribution has led to a drastic reduction in monthly losses, now standing at about 122 towels per month, or 0.85% of the total. This translates to a 79% decrease in losses. Considering an estimated value of 10€ per towel, it’s easy to calculate an approximate savings of 4,610€ per month.

A crucial point to highlight is that, although the study shows a monthly loss of about 122 towels after implementing Abg Systems’ automated distribution system, it’s easy to identify users who have not returned their towel and charge them at checkout. This system not only reduces financial losses from theft or non-return of towels but also increases the level of user awareness and responsibility, encouraging the return of items and maintaining accurate inventory.

In conclusion, adopting an innovative and efficient strategy in textile management marks a significant turning point for the hospitality, wellness, and gym sectors. By implementing advanced tracking systems, a pathway opens for continuous and detailed surveillance of every single item, from towels to bathrobes. This not only enables the monitoring of textile movements and usage within facilities but also offers a tangible solution to the problem of theft, significantly reducing its occurrence.

The introduction of automated dispensers for linen management is another step forward toward efficiency. These automated systems ensure that items are distributed fairly and as needed, preventing waste and inventory overstock. Additionally, the use of intelligent management software facilitates the statistical analysis of textile usage data, allowing for the optimization of stock based on actual needs and consumption trends.

This technological approach to managing linens and towels enables accurate prediction of replenishment needs, reducing the risk of overbuying or underbuying, and leading to significant financial savings. Ultimately, in addition to investing in innovative textile management technologies which optimize daily operations for hotels, it also translates into a tangible economic advantage, reducing restocking costs and improving satisfaction for both staff and clients.


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