Hotel soap is as invaluable as the travel experience itself, for some.

I HAVEN’T BOUGHT a bar of soap in many years. No, I’m not dirty. I’m a hotel soaplifter. I like to steal hotel soap.

I come from a family of hotel soap thieves. Growing up, my dad would occasionally let me accompany him on business trips, and I enjoyed laying out all my pilfered hotel soaps on the bed after returning home just as much as I liked the trips themselves.

Most good hotels these days will give you two bars: one for the sink, and one for the shower. I will immediately stow the shower bar in my luggage, and, if it’s a hotel that has really nice soap, I might also hide the other bar that I’m using before the maid comes in the next day in hopes of getting two fresh bars.

Once, while looking for a document in my suitcase in the lobby, a whole stack of soaps fell out of my suitcase and into plain view of the front desk staff.

But wait, it gets worse.

I also take soap from the housecleaners’ carts if they leave them unattended, or if my cute toddlers create enough of a diversion that I can snag some right out from under the maids’ noses. I’ve employed many different soap stealing tactics — the one I like best is to roam around the floor with an empty ice bucket, as though I’m looking for ice.

But these days, snagging extra hotel soap has become a tribulation. Some hotels give their maids these little shower caddy type things to hold their soap and toiletries, and they bring these annoying caddy things with them into the room they’re cleaning. I have only ventured into other people’s hotel rooms for soap under one very rare circumstance: the pursuit of extremely high quality, beautifully scented soaps.

Other maids might not have the caddies, but they will purposely position their cart in such a way to make it difficult to get to the soap and other toiletries. Some even go so far as to drape towels or newspapers over their goodies to discourage thieves like me.

All of these efforts to snuff out soaplifters tell me that I’m not the only one out there who likes hotel soap. I’m less fond of hotel shampoo, conditioners, and lotions because they tend to be of lower quality.

But a bar of soap, any soap at all, can be useful.

I have been caught in the act of taking soap off maids’ carts and, once, while looking for a document in my suitcase in the lobby, a whole stack of soaps fell out of my suitcase and into plain view of the front desk staff.

No one has ever said a word.

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