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Theft: the real cost to accommodation businesses

26 March, 2012

A recent survey conducted by Living Social and Mandala Research revealed that 39 per cent of US travellers admitted to pilfering items from accommodation.

Following this revelation, the Accommodation Association of Australia (AAA) decided to conduct research among its own members on theft by guests, in which it posed the question: what do you define as theft and how prevalent is it in Australia? 

The good news is that despite the apparent willingness of US travellers to help themselves to the contents of their room, more than eight out of ten members felt that theft levels had remained more or less static over the last decade.
 
Six in ten members indicated that up to two per cent of their overall annual costs are attributable to theft, with three in ten estimating the cost of theft to be slightly higher at between two-to-four per cent. 
 
Despite the relatively low overall costs, members have demonstrated a low tolerance for theft with 43 per cent claiming that they would consider reporting the theft of goods with the minimum value of between $100 and $200.
 
In Australia the items stolen most frequently after amenities include towels (51 per cent), batteries (35 per cent), mini-bar goods (29 per cent), pillows (28 per cent), remote controls (22 per cent) and hairdryers (ten per cent).
 
Amenities such as shampoos, emery boards and sewing kits were rated as the most frequently taken items. 
 
However, this represents somewhat of a grey area as 38 per cent of members did not consider the taking of amenities as theft, whilst 35 per cent said that it would depend upon the quantity of amenities removed.
 
Amenities clearly represent a tempting proposition for guests given the growing trend to use well recognised brands - 64 per cent of members reported switching over to brands such as Earlsley & Windsor and L'Occitane.
 
The often disputed area of mini-bar purchases was less of an issue for association members, with 60 per cent confirming that mini-bars are not included in rooms. 
 
Amongst those that do include the service, the denial rate is estimated to be relatively low at less than two per cent - a factor which goes part the way to explaining why operators that use mini-bars have maintained the range of products at a more or less constant level over the last ten years. 
 
The introduction of credit card pre-authorisation is the other important factor to note, with 47 per cent of members using this practice to remove or reduce the risk of mini-bar denials.
 
In terms of the tools at your disposal for managing theft, only 50 per cent of members were aware of the GuestTRAX service included in the Association's membership fee and only nine per cent of members have used the service to report a badly behaved guest.
 
Of the most unusual items to be stolen from properties, the most frequently named were pot plants, televisions, fire extinguishers, toilet rolls, microwaves, ironing boards, and kitchenware such as potato mashers and egg flips. 
 
Other items reported as stolen included shower curtains, door handles, pool covers, curtain tie backs, laundry baskets, ash trays, light fittings, bedside tables, toilet seats, and toilet parts such as wing nuts and plungers. Everything it seems, apart from the kitchen sink.
Source: Accommodation Association of Australia

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