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28 September 2012

An amnesty for hotel pilferers

The Waldorf Astoria

I’ve just read an amusing story about the Waldorf-Astoria’s amnesty for pilferers. Since it was announced in June, the returned goods include a silver coffee pot. A retired psychologist is sending back a teapot that was in the family corner cabinet. “I actually couldn’t enjoy using it,” he said. “There was no doubt it was pilfered. I could understand why someone would want it, but I couldn’t understand anyone in my family taking it, with a few exceptions.”

As I was wondering why someone who could afford to stay at the Waldorf would stoop to pinch things from it, I remembered my own criminal past. When I was sixteen, I hitchhiked for a few days in Sweden. My companion was surprised when I stole a yellow road sign as a souvenir. It was heavy and took up a lot of space in my knapsack, but in those innocent days, I had no problem getting it through the UK and Irish customs. When I got it home I didn’t know what to do with it: embarrassment and guilt came later. Had the Swedish Department of Highways staged an amnesty, I’d probably have parcelled the thing up and sent it with an apologetic note. But they didn’t, and when I left home, I chucked it out.

I feel better about it now that I’ve learned that when the Mayflower Hotel offered a similar amnesty in 2007, someone wanted to return a bathtub. A bathtup? What size suitcase did they have?

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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