LIFE BY LOUIS: How I got away with stealing hotel towels

Thursday May 28 2020

If you thought that the current levels of corruption and theft in the country are out of this world, then you have not heard about my preoccupation with pinching hand and face towels from hotel rooms.

There is this time when I was young, good looking and working for a rich employer in this city that has a rescue team and a regeneration team.

The employer had spare budget to send single young men for training in exquisite tourist island destinations in the Indian Ocean. 

The hotels there are serious business, and my single room was the size of a medium sized mall in the outskirts of Nairobi.

Because I was young and I was allowed a few misdemeanours, I was chatting the room service lady in subjects that were not necessarily about hotel hygiene. In the process she stole me the secret that in those kind of hotels, they don’t reuse or recycle towels. 

I was coming from a country where reputable hotels still give you slippers of different colours so as to make them unattractive for stealing. They also proudly give you tiny bath soaps the size of painkillers. All their towels and bedsheets are permanently embossed with the name of the hotel. Even with all those measures, they still treat you as a robbery suspect during checkout.


With this kind of background, this extravagance with towels got me quite surprised.

30,000 PER DAY!

Looking back, I realise that the hotel was charging an equivalent of thirty thousand shillings per day, and a set of new hand and face towels only set them back just less than three hundred shillings per day and left very satisfied customers who enjoyed brand new white towels every morning.

They also threw in a new bathrobe although I had never worn one, and their stocked fridge was free where you didn’t have to account for tiny things like a bottle of water during checkout. Locally, those fridges are items that you treat like a heavily fortified and guarded government installation.


The tragedy with this new intelligence from room service is that it gave me a sense of entitlement. Every morning before room service came knocking, I cleverly stashed all my hand and face towels in my suitcase.

Every evening I emptied the fridge of the new bottle of wine, bars of chocolate and soft drinks which they duly refilled without fail. 

By early evening of each day, they had replaced all the towels with brand new ones, and this drove my towel appetite crashing through the roof. By the end of the two weeks training, I was almost totally out of control.

On the day of checkout that was also a very teary experience, I could barely lift my suitcase. It resembled a major towel consignment container from China. As I sat there at the reception, the cashier sent a guard to go and check if the room was intact. He must have read my passport and concluded that young men from Matimbei could not be trusted. 

My mind immediately went to my stash of towels. I had lined them on the floor of the suitcase and covered them with my dirty boxers and vests from the gym workout that morning. Anyone who was going to catch me with stolen towels and send me to jail was also going to be admitted in an intensive care unit in a major hospital due to acute gas poisoning. As I sat there I was thinking of how I was going to be caught and jailed in that remote island, and later hanged after three weeks without the knowledge of my family. This prospect filled me with grave terror.  

The guard finally returned after what seemed like an eternity and gave me a clean bill of health. I flew back to my Leafy Suburbs like someone who had gone to Turkey to buy bathroom towels for wholesale.

Those days I was still young and was allowed to have multiple girlfriends. Within a month of my return, all the towels had mysteriously disappeared from my bedsitter.