Admit it — every time you’ve gone to a nice hotel, you’ve swallowed the urge to grab a few of those irresistible towels in the bathroom, snag some fountain pens off the front desk, or pocket some of the refreshing body wash in the shower. There’s always something you could steal.

Now, imagine that kind of behavior was not only meta-encouraged but celebrated and even rewarded. Hence is the case of one such “competition” held by the Roosevelt New Orleans in 2019. In honor of its 125th anniversary, the hotel ordained this: “The person that offers up the most outrageous stolen item from our hotel—between now and July 1, 2019—will receive seven free nights in our Presidential Suite, along with free private dinners cooked by the executive chef, and spa experiences,” General Manager Tod Chambers said in a release.

So how much was really on the line here? Well, because this hotel happens to be a member of the Waldorf Astoria fleet, a single stay in one of these fancy suites is valued at an eye-popping $1,500 – and that's just for the room alone. The private dinners and spa stays skyrocket this already-steep price tag to roughly $15,000. In other words, in exchange for successfully swiping a lower-cost – but nonetheless iconic -- item from the hotel, you could end up walking away with a cool five-figure prize package. Talk about enabling unconventional petty crime … 

But anyway, what’s the deal with this grand hotel? The Roosevelt New Orleans first opened in 1893, but back then, it was the Grunewald Hotel, named for the owner, businessman Louis Grunewald. Three decades later, it became a Roosevelt in 1923 and featured the talents of such musicians Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles. After that, it became a Fairmont in 1965, and later temporarily closed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina took a toll on its basement. Yet two-ish years later in 2007, the hotel sported the Roosevelt name once again after its new owners refurbished it into a classic, luxury facility.

In honor of its rich history, the hotel declared it would “accept any item from any time period in the building’s hotel history for our Historic Giveback Contest,” Chambers said, adding that the endeavor was intended "to celebrate her entire past.” And not just that — the hotel promised to display the items from the competition in window cases in the lobby and even return them to the owners who stole them if they wished! Everything from Grunewald plates, stemware, a full tablecloth, antique menus, vases, and keys were stolen. Other highlights included:

-A collage of “Roosevelt Reminiscing Uncle Benny” who stayed in suite 370 for 50 years as his own home

-A candelabra from “Maw-Maw,” queen of the Mardi Gras all-female group Krewe of Venus in 1955 (turned in by her own granddaughter)

-A signed poster by the Supremes from circa 1972.

-A 100th Anniversary Banquet Menu from 1912.

-Original hand-drawn blueprints from the hotel’s expansion in 1923-24

So with all of these crazy finds, what item actually won this highly-unconventional contest? Turns out it was a vintage coffee pot, returned by New Orleans local Leigh Guglielmo. Seems kinda ordinary compared to the rest of the lot, but it turns out, the winner was to be drawn at random from the pool of entries.

Well, folks, it seems like Leigh probably enjoyed his time staying at the hotel, so kudos to him. But we can’t help but hope there’s another contest like this in the near future for the rest of us peasants who may not have been sticky-fingered  – or lucky enough – to win the first time around. 

Top Image: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

You can find Crystal Duan at Crystal-Duan.com, crystalxduan.substack.com, and on Twitter and Instagram @crystalxduan

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