I’ll admit at the outset that I am not in favor of hotels eliminating single-use toiletries. But, I’ve decided it is not worth losing sleep over. Instead, I’ve decided to bring my own.
My two esteemed colleagues, Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time and Gary Leff of View from the Wing–each brilliant in their own right–came down on opposite sides of the issue.
- It’s unhygienic
- It encourages use of counterfeit products
- They’re more likely to be left empty
While Ben argued:
- There’s not compelling evidence they are unhygienic
- You can also tamper with single-use toiletries
- Housekeepers have a process for cleaning rooms, and part of that process is checking how full the dispensers are
Ben points out that “no matter how you slice it, though, this will eliminate hundreds of millions of toiletry bottles per year, and will eliminate millions of pounds of plastic waste.”
He’s right. But frankly, I’m much more sympathetic to Gary’s argument. I don’t understand why Ben believes that single-use toiletries are just as likely to be tampered with when they are replaced for each new guest and often come sealed. Certainly, other guests are far less likely to tamper with them.
Pictures like this give me the creeps:
Bulk hotel toiletries are the best. Keep saving the world hotel companies. pic.twitter.com/Ix8UoCgqRR
— Richard Kerr (@KerrPoints) November 4, 2019
And we know that you never want to touch the drinking glasses in your hotel room. I just don’t trust hotels to keep such wall-mounted units clean.
My Solution: Bring Your Own
I was the kid in college who ratted out his roommates down the hall for smoking pot. One time they retaliated with a bit of of white liquid and some yellow liquid in my usually-orange facial cleanser. Maybe I’m just scarred by that, but lock or not, the idea of communal toiletries is not something I want to engage in.
Recently I was in a little guest house in Germany that had communal toiletries. I hated the smell of them. It reminded me that as much as I love to pack light, I frankly prefer to use my own (Le Labo) products and not anything else.
So my solution is simple. I’ll just bring my own. I’ll refill my little bottles. Easy as that. That way, I always have my favorite body wash, shampoo, and conditioner and I don’t have to worry about whether I like the scent or whether the communal bottles have been contaminated.
It’s tragic in a sense because I buy Le Labo Bergamote 22 because Hyatt introduced it to me. That scent always reminds me of my favorite Park Hyatt properties and now may be a missed marketing opportunity. But now I’ll just take it with me all over the world. I’m not convinced eliminating these bottles will do anything for the environment, but the train is moving and I see there is no stopping it. So picking my battles wisely, I’ll just stop complaining and start bringing my own stuff.
Finally, I do think hotels should be able to opt out of this if they pay a tax, similar to a carbon offset tax. Like with plastic water bottles in SFO, I see more constructive alternatives than bans. That said, no one is banning single-use toiletries outside fo California. Here, the hotels are choosing to package their love for the environment and love of money voluntarily…
The thing is, with you (and others) packing their own shampoo, or buying bottles in each city and just leaving them in the room, we will end up using MORE plastic. There is no reason why single use paper packaging where you tear off the top can’t be used, just like many stores hand out as samples at their locations. This would solve the problem, and still allow for the supply of soaps. I am at this minute sitting in a hotel with both a bathtub and a shower, and they are on opposite sides of the bathroom. No one has told me how this will be addressed, as the one time I have come upon it at hotel with wall mounted shampoo/etc, the shampoo was ONLY in the shower, and you would have to run back and forth to get to the supplies if you wanted to take a bath.
“I am at this minute sitting in a hotel with both a bathtub and a shower, and they are on opposite sides of the bathroom. No one has told me how this will be addressed, as the one time I have come upon it at hotel with wall mounted shampoo/etc, the shampoo was ONLY in the shower, and you would have to run back and forth to get to the supplies if you wanted to take a bath.”
The same people pushing bans on single-use toiletries (for the record, I really don’t care if those disappear) will come up with the solution soon enough – they’ll simply pressure hotels to eliminate bathtubs. After all, showering uses less water than a bath, so it’s “environmentally conscious”. And the hotels will love using it as a virtue signal while they save money on water costs. You’re already seeing the shower-only trend in newer hotel designs, so I have little doubt this will be spread.
I’d tell those anti-bathtub people: “What about the children? Think of the children!”
Seriously, I was in the league of “why do hotels use any footprint to put bathtubs in hotel rooms rather than putting in a larger shower?” until I had kids and travelled with them.
I tend to fall on Gary’s side on this discussion.
Matthew, how do you deal with liquids restrictions on carry-ons? I find that it’s often just *impossible* to fit everything into the 1L plastic bag for inspection at airport security. You need deodorant, perfume, shaving gel/foam, toothpaste, whatever your facial treatment of choice is (even if it’s just aftershave), and now also shampoo and shower gel? Add in any other lotion(s) you might use (e.g. skin, hair), and I can guarantee there’s no way you can fit everything in there!
Lol does anyone actually use the 1L clear plastic bag? I’ve never put anything in a clear plastic bag and have never been stopped because of it. The one time they wanted to look in my toiletry kit they just unzipped it, looked around, and gave it back. I know the official “policy” is you’ve got to have one, but in all my years travelling I’ve never seen it enforced.
Tried LHR recently? I was once told that eyedrops and nasal spray had to fit into the plastic bag as well – in the business class security lane, of all places. No exceptions! (Might’ve been a security dragon, who knows.)
“It’s tragic in a sense”
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Lucky for you that your life thus far has shielded you from the true meaning of the word “tragedy”. That doesn’t justify you throwing it around so casually.
I believe the term you’re looking for here is “a trivial inconvenience”.
What are you a victim of genocide or something?
I’m against it, but like you, I will just bring my own. I don’t travel as often as you, so when I go to the store to pick up my travel sized toothpaste, deodorant and mouthwash; I will just pick up a travel sized body wash and shampoo as well. (There goes the idea that it will save billions of bottles.) I’d buy the reusable bottles, but when you fly once every 4 months, you (and by you, I mean ME,) manage to lose things. I’d imagine I’d keep losing those reusable mini bottles by leaving them behind in my hotel room.
I just don’t like hearing the argument that it’s about the environment when mini bottles account for .000001% of plastic usage a typical person uses per year. Please, don’t insult your customers. It’s about cost and we all know it. Risking the ire of (some) of your customers over probably 50 cents savings per customer? Priceless.
I think hotels should still stock small bottles and sell them to the needy guest.
I’ve long brought my own toiletries with me. I prefer my own stuff. I prefer to not share with anyone but my wife and children.
People bring reusable bottles that they get filled at checkin desk when they checkin. Just like water bottles at some airports.
The thing is that refilling a (used) bottle can actually contaminate the soap itself. This has been shown time and time again in scientific studies. Gary has provided links to some of these studies in his blog. I actually work with microbacterial growth and refillable bulk dispensers are prohibited in hospitals etc due to this very reason. Since I began working with this, I’ve trown away all refillable containers in my home and I personally bring my own mini bottles to hotels and trow them away and replace when they’re empty.
We’re talking about hotels not hospitals.
Mildew not MRSA.
As someone who ran the back of the house at several hotels, you need to rethink the “they are replaced for each new guest “. Even 5 diamond hotels are cheap and staff are lazy. I know for a fact it is standard to not replace any item that appears unused. That’s a fairly easy thing to check on an individually wrapped soap bar, but not so easy on a translucent/opaque bottle of shampoo/conditioner/lotion. If the bottle is still on the tray where the attendant put it, it’s not getting replaced for the next guest, regardless of the fill level or type of fluid in the bottle.
As Frank says, it’s just wrong to assume single use items are replaced after a guest departs. Some of those things I don’t use, eg, body lotion; often I take my own in 100ml containers, meaning I don’t use any of the ones provided ( ie they just sit there waiting for the next guest, looking pristine).
Of all the things in a hotel room about which there should be legitimate concern ( coffee cups, machine, cleanliness of the linen, state of the mattres, glassware, inter alia ), a product dispenser is well down the list.
Such a fuss about nothing …but nothing stops the conga line of drama queens on Gary’s site claiming it’s the end of the world as we know it.
A large soap container can be tampered by many guests while the small individual ones are subject to no tdd tampering or by one guest before they are used.
Except it’s MUCH easier to jizz into a small bottle that I can hold and shoot cum into than it is for me to spooge into my hand then transport said spooge to the shower to the transfer to the larger container.
Even if it’s somewhat good for the environment, we should still hold hotels accountable for lying.
If they actually cared, they could have recycled the single-use plastics allllll these years. BUT that would cost money and time, so they didn’t.
They don’t care about the environment, and honestly neither do I (nor do most people based on actions, not words), so all this virtue signaling is worthless.
There’s no reason to accuse others of virtue signaling when you’ve taken the most intellectually honest position: I just don’t care about the environment.
I wish more polluters, racists and misogynists would just adopt your position…I am what I am, so get over it.
Thank you Mattt, for typing that. No one reading this, ie with access to electricity and internet, gives a damn about the environment. Everything our society does is murderous to the environment and has been for centuries. Even if you dont fly, are vegan and recycle your sandals every product you purchase and road you use and house or apartment you sleep in was and is the continuing destruction of non-human species. It is laughable that major hotel chains try to pretend this is an environmental choice. Sidenote: I came to terms with this in my 20’s and life is simpler now. Rarely to i meet “another” though, so cheers!
I just stayed a hotel in Vegas that has transitioned to the wall mounted toiletries. It’s disgusting and makes me cringe. The shampoo dispenser was broken so I had to basically rape the unit to get any out.
Almost all hotels show signs of lazy cleaning if you look closely enough. Adding another step to this cleaning process only makes that worse as the properties, most likely, don’t give their housekeeping additional time to thoroughly clean the boxes.
If they made these dispensers so you don’t have to touch them, I would be much less creeped out. On the other hand I’m sure they didn’t clean the handle either so at the end of the day maybe it’s just me.
To make a long story short if the hotels had to list what their hotel did in these situations I would be more than likely to book the single use property. It’s worth at least $20 a night to me but maybe I’m high maintenance.
I do care about the environment and so I’d rather hotels go communal if that’s the only way to cut down on waste.
This might be a dumb idea (since presumably they would adopt it if it were feasible) but why can’t hotels recycle single-use toiletries and wash and refill them after each guest? They could stock up on a bunch of reusable single use toiletries, and rotate them; that way nothing gets thrown out but people feel more comfortable with the hygiene aspect. The only problem would be people taking the bottles, but a) how many people do that? and b) maybe you could provide some kind of reward (say, 500 pts) for not doing so?
I’ve never relied on a hotel to clean me. I’ve bringing my own since I started traveling 20 years ago. What do I do? I have a stash of small and medium size bottles that I refill from bigger bottles that I keep at my house. The length of the trip dictates which size I use (and if I am willing to check a bag). I’ve had the same stash of travel bottles for about three years now.
And I love the trend of newer hotels being shower only. Tub/shower combos with a shower curtain are revolting. They cannot be rid from the earth soon enough!
I usually bring my own (I like the shampoo and conditioner that I like — I have my own refillable travel bottles since the products I like usually don’t sell travel sizes), but I can’t help but roll my eyes at this anyway, only because I can’t see how much of this is related to saving the planet (which I’m all for!), and how much is just cost-savings using that as an excuse.
Interestingly, I haven’t seen this rolled out at many places yet — but I do most of my longer hotel stays internationally, and I expect this rule to trickle down more slowly there.
A “clairvoyant” compromise? I don’t think it means what you think it means.
Feeling feisty this week? Clairvoyant was an appropriate and. deliberate word choice.
Matthew, I agree with you 100% on this. I’m already seeing these pop up in IHG and Marriott hotels outside of CA (though you still get a facial soap by the sink) and I find myself using my own previously pilfered toiletries. First saw them in Costa Rica and wasn’t thrilled but it was an eco-resort (or so they say), so I assumed it was par for the course. The odds of tampering would seem to be low (but not 0); however, the odds of these things not being cleaned often enough and developing some nasty growth would seem to be quite high.
Plus, nearly every time the nanny state requires feelgood excrement like this, we eventually find out that it did more harm than good in the long run.
Reading most of these comments doesn’t give me much hope about the future. Presumably many of you are business leaders? Scary. This isn’t a sacrifice. It’s a change… a much-needed change. People in Chicago fought a ban/tax in disposable plastic bags and guess what – there are fewer bags stuck in trees or blowing down the streets. No one is forcing you to use the soap; just bring your own TSA-approved mini bottle. I’m guessing many of the biggest whiners have kids- enjoy telling them (or your grandchildren) how much you loved your disposable mini bottles of shampoo, water, etc. Our oceans and their inhabitants are literally choking on plastic waste. Any step, however small (or also cost minded) is a positive one.
Generally, most of them are in the boomer age bracket and stereotypically hate change and couldn’t care less about how they’ll leave the world once they’re gone. Fortunately they’ll die soon enough and the younger folk – Gen X and younger – can work on repairing the earth.
One thing nobody mentioned is the waste of soap and shampoo that will come with the big bottles. Seriously, when all you have in the room is a small bottle you use it as it is the only one you have. Now, with a big container with a pump people will pump as much as they want without worrying they will run out of it. On the other hand, by having big containers of soap and shampoo I wonder what will happen to the quality of the products offered. Using the example from Matthew, Le Labo products are very expensive. An 8oz bottle of their shampoo sells for $28. I know some Park Hyatt and Fairmont properties provide Le Labo products in small bottles. So, do you think they will have a huge container of Le Labo products just sitting there on the bathroom so people can bring their own bottles and fill it in and take home? Either they will offer much cheaper alternatives or they will quick realize the change will cost them way too much. Since the “save the planet” is a huge BS as this change is all about reducing cost you can probably say goodbye to high end products in hotel bathrooms.