As if! We certainly don’t steal from hotel rooms. Do you? Shudder to think. But just in case you happened to accidentally put something in your suitcase from the Waldorf Astoria (you know that super famous, fancy hotel in New York City), or know someone who has, they’re ready to strike a deal. Just send whatever it is back and they’ll grand you amnesty. No questions asked, no charges, no being banned from the hotel.
Fact is, the Waldorf takes its history seriously. As it should. Its one of the finest examples of Art Deco in the world. Marilyn Monroe once lived there, as did President Hoover, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter and…Paris Hilton. The hotel offers historical tours, a pretty cool archive to keep track of it all and their very own history movie. We hit up the hotel’s director of marketing, Matt Zolbe, to find out just a little more about this amnesty for guests/thieves and to see how it really does affect a hotel when you up and leave with their stuff.
1) Why should anyone return something? Like, what’s in it for them?
The hotel is presenting this opportunity for items to be returned, no questions asked and a clear conscience received! Those returning items can know that they are helping aid the hotel in building the historic archive of a landmark New York City property.
2) What’s the most commonly taken item from the Waldorf?
Items taken have varied from silverware to restaurant menus to linens. The most common item taken are demitasse spoons during the supper club era in the 1930’s and 40’s when the hotel was home to the city’s most popular supper club venues.
3) Has this changed throughout the years? Like have different decades seen different things be more popular to steal from the Waldorf?
Our famous supper clubs projected the Waldorf into the living rooms of middle America throughout the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. Visitors to New York found the opportunity to personally experience the Waldorf a major highlight of the Manhattan experience. We believe these years saw a tremendous interest in food and beverage elements as diners were presented an opportunity to take a bit of the Waldorf home with them.
4) What’s the strangest thing someone’s ever taken from the Waldorf?
The glass shower door from Frank Sinatra’s apartment. The door had the initials of Frank and Nancy Sinatra etched in it from when that couple lived there.
5) Have you ever caught anyone taking something? What did you do?
We’ve noticed guests taking flower pots form our public restrooms; the Bull and Bear statue at the entrance on Lexington Avenue; and picture frames. All have seen circumstances when we’ve chided the individual for this behavior.
6) What is the normal penalty for taking something? Does it depend on the item?
We are not particularly litigious; we just want our property back.
7) What’s the ultimate thing you could get back?
We’d love to have the original Park Avenue urns, though they were not necessarily stolen. However only two of the four’s existence is currently known and we do not have records dating back to their departure that indicate how we lost possession.
8) What do you hope to get returned?
The hotel is looking to recover any and all items in order to expand the archives and help capture the hotel’s fascinating history. These items could include silverware, menus, dishes, linens, ash trays, etc. Actual value of items isn’t really known either, and not as important as the historical significance.
9) What’s the most annoying/difficult thing to replace once it is taken?
Picture frames off the corridors. We use wonderful archival photos and affix them firmly, but they walk with great frequency.
10) Before you put something new in a room, do you consider the likelihood that it will be stolen? How does this affect what gets put in the room?
It is not a major consideration. Maintaining the integrity of the experience is of utmost importance. Thus we do not adhere items that would naturally be taken. An example is our Royal Suite. Photos of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are often in need of replacement.
11) Has anyone ever returned anything on their own free will and accord?
Yes- it happens often.
12) We hear you’re looking for stuff mainly from before 1960? Will you accept returns from more recent times?
The hotel team will of course accept any returned items, even if they were taken post 1960. However, only those items predating 1960 will be considered for placement in the Host to the World gallery.
13) Are there any specific demarcations that will let people know an item was taken up till 1960? Like was there a specific Waldorf stamp or something people can look at to decipher?
There are not. And sometimes it requires guesswork on our part. However in terms of culinary items, we frequently have items of the same generation with which to compare.
14) How should people go about returning an item?
Items can be sent to the hotel (301 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022) to the attention of the Hotel Archivist .
15) Most hotels don’t have an archive per se, but the Waldorf has quite an extensive one that is available to view online. When did this project get started?
2006 – we set up a physical archive from a dusty closet, then hired an archivist company, Lettera. We then in 2008 used Linux software to establish our digital archive.
16) What, in your opinion, is the most overlooked historical fact about the Waldorf?
We were the first hotel to have a ballroom. Prior to the opening of the original Waldorf in 1893, the concept of entertaining in a hotel was conceptually non-existent. With the Waldorf ballroom, the nature of a hotel and its purpose was seemingly transformed.
17) Why did the Waldorf move from its original location?
The hotel moved from its original location uptown to Park Avenue in order to accommodate the need for a larger, grander hotel. The Waldorf=Astoria known today opened at 301 Park Avenue in 1931. The former hotel was taken down in order to make way for the Empire State Building.
18) Where can people see their items after they’ve been returned?
During the amnesty period, the hotel’s staff will evaluate returned items, selecting the best to be displayed on the hotel’s Facebook page. Top returned items will then be showcased in the lobby museum.