Thou Shalt Not Steal...Hotel / Vacation Rental Towels!
By Richard B. Evans, President of Revenue Report Card LLC & Author of “the Definitive Study of Vacation Rentals”
I calmed him down but really didn't know what to say. Yes "towel cost" is always high. But this has been the case at every hotel I've ever worked at. I told him that "some of our best customers were probably taking a towel or two" and we'd be better off to just absorb it as a cost of doing business and not embarrass good repeat guests.
But I left that discussion really wanting to understand the metric. Were a vast amount of our guests really packing up our towels!? You've seen the cartoons and heard the jokes about stealing hotel towels. Haven't you?! You can see a few in Exhibits "B", at article end.
I went to work and completed the following metric study (Exhibit "A").
First question, did the study cause you to look and think twice?! Does it in any way make you rethink the age old adage – that "guests are stealing a huge number of towels?!
77.6% (above) of annual "towel and linen" purchases comes from bed linens! At $108, $114 and $111 (3.5 diamond) per dozen being paid for various linen types it's evident that the lion's share of the "towel & linen" expense line comes from bed linens; not towels! Are bed linen being stolen?!
I called my friend Dennis Greenwald whose family has been in the towel and linen business for 3 generations (Hurricane Towels and Linens provided me with the prices above) and I really drilled into the metrics with him.
Here is what I learned; towels and linens typically have a different mixtures of cotton and polyester. Both towels & linens typically can be washed 50 times before almost all of the cotton is washed out of the item and at that point should be retired. At that point, if you hold a sheet up to the light, you can see through it in certain spots. The polyester is holding the item together.
Still, if no one is looking over the executive housekeepers shoulder, he or she may continue to use towels & linens for up to 80 washes or more before retiring them. If you look at Exhibit "A" you can see that I was very liberal and used more than 50 washes in the metric study (before retiring items).
Next comes towel loss through damage and theft. It could be lipstick, grease, a kitchen spill, a guests need to clean his/her bicycle, motorcycle or car and other situations that arise. All of these things contribute to "towel loss" and cause towels to be retired well before useful lives are over.
Finally, there is "theft". This can come in the form of "guests taking" or "staff stealing". Sometimes guests go to the beach with what they feel are disposable towels. Or joggers take wash cloths to dab sweat from their brows. I sometimes wonder if I went to housekeeper's homes if I'd find their bathrooms fully stocked with hotel towels & linens (it's not a malicious thought, I've become less trusting over the years through life experiences)! And I once was sitting in my office, later than anyone expected, and watched a large box of towels going over the top of wall! These occurrences are why we hotel and vacation rental operators believe we're taking a big "towel" hit on our financials.
To reiterate, however, the vast majority of what we're spending is tied up in linens (i.e. – fitted sheets, flat sheets & short flat sheets) and they are the most expensive components of our "towel & linen" purchases. So a flaw seems to exist in our theory.
My "logical" beliefs, still tell me that most of what is walking out of our "front doors" are hand towels (at $16 a dozen) and wash cloths (at $6.50 a dozen)! Hardly substantial costs. I'd also like to think that bath towels, at $55.57 per dozen, are NOT making a mass exodus through theft!? Am I wrong?
Sheets costing $108 to $150 a dozen, I believe are less likely to be stolen then bath towels. But again, this is my assumption.
So in summary, whatever "towels" ARE walking out of "front doors" simply can't seem to be "material" (so to speak!) items. :)
Maybe it's time to reassess and dispel old beliefs in order to better understand our second highest line item in the Rooms Division department.
Faith in humanity, partially restored!!
Richard B Evans
President of Revenue Report Card LLC
Phone: (954) 290 - 3567