What makes a freebie

You have to find the line between stealing and taking what the hotel owes you."

So Ross tells Chandler on an episode of the TV series Friends, to justify taking items from his hotel room when he felt the hotel had ripped them off.

This was what came to mind when I read the results of a survey by the Hotels.com booking service, which fingered Singaporeans as the guests who are most likely (after Argentinians) to pilfer hotel rooms.

Judge all you want, but some hotels want you to enjoy your stay and if an extra sachet of instant coffee, extra pair of slippers or extra dose of shower foam makes you happy, they will gladly load you up.

So I'll just come out and say it. I do take stuff from hotel rooms, and also from airlines and restaurants, but only disposable or single-use items.

I have been told that any in-flight snacks and fruit remaining after a Singapore Airlines flight gets removed. Do they get taken to the lounge? Maybe.

But can the extra bar of Snickers I took, or apple that I helped myself to, tide me over that layover or bus ride to my holiday destination? Definitely.

Once, I was eating at a restaurant and asked for some hot sauce. Instead of a regular bottle of Tabasco, the waitress brought me several miniature bottles of the hot sauce. When those proved inadequate for the Philly Cheesesteak that I was having, she brought out twice the number of bottles that she originally gave me and walked away with a smile.

I took those I did not use there, as well as the little packets of chilli sauce, ketchup and other sauces provided at fast food restaurants. My reasoning? I have never emptied a bottle of ketchup in my life, so these little packets help me when I really do need some.

With hotels, toiletries are a given. So are the complimentary packets of coffee and tea. Bedroom slippers, once worn, get tossed out when a room is turned over for the next guest, so those also end up in my bag. The same goes for the fruit, chocolate and (free) bottles of water.

But I stop at linen, towels, robes. plates, cups, utensils, pillows, hairdryers, coffee machines, radio clocks and even (yes, some do nick them) TV sets, because that's stealing.

Toilet rolls and tissue paper are off my list too.

Nor have I ever cleaned out the mini-bar at the Upper House in Hong Kong. The mini-bar is stocked with complimentary beer and nuts, but I do not leave for the airport with a suitcase stuffed with packets of almonds, or a six-pack of beer.

Judge all you want, but some hotels want you to enjoy your stay and if an extra sachet of instant coffee, extra pair of slippers or extra dose of shower foam makes you happy, they will gladly load you up.

Some hotels even pride themselves on being able to give guests what they want.

When my family checked in at the Conrad Centennial Singapore for a staycation, among the first things the duty manager suggested was that I download the Conrad Concierge app.

Now, I had already checked in and picked my own room using the Hilton Honors app prior to my arrival, so the idea of installing another app was not appealing. But I was glad I did.

Otherwise, I would not have discovered that Conrad Singapore offers four brands of toiletries, of which three are available upon request. I was encouraged to ask for one of each, to determine which one I preferred.

Did my wife need another pair of bathroom slippers? It was just a few taps away. Did I want a particular range of toiletries to use after a swim? I simply made the request on the app before I left the pool area, and it arrived in my room five minutes after I got there.

The Conrad also offers 15 different types of pillows. I had housekeeping send one of every type to my room, so we could each pick what we wanted.

None followed us home when we left the hotel, of course, but I can well imagine how concierge apps can lead to more headaches for hotels.

With the app, guests can start requesting extra items and try their luck at seeing which off-menu items are available.

I wanted a bubble bath and typed in a request while having another round of toiletries sent up - all in the cause of research, you understand? The concierge called to say that there was none.

But when my toiletries were delivered 10 minutes later, the woman who brought them had a bottle of bubble bath solution with her, and she even offered to draw a bath for me.

Now, if only there was a way I could take the app, and its accompanying raft of services, home with me.

sherwinl@sph.com.sg