This Hotel Wants to Reward Past Guests for Returning Surprising Items

Author: David McMillin       

Roosevelt New Orleans

The Roosevelt New Orleans is inviting any guest who stole items in the past to send them back for the chance to win a seven-night stay in the Presidential Suite. (Courtesy of Hilton Hotels)

Hoteliers are getting creative in an effort to stand out in a crowded market. From giving away stays for ditching social media to letting customers name their price at check-out, some unconventional approaches are so novel that that prospective guests feel compelled to book, enabling properties to collect data, and ultimately, fill rooms.

The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, is the latest hotel to make us do a double take with a friendly invitation to those who been their less than scrupulously honest previous guests. As the property celebrates its 125th anniversary, it’s inviting any guest who stole items (those items can also be purchased, so these guests aren’t all criminals) in the past to send them back for the chance to win a seven-night stay in the Presidential Suite. It’s called the 125th Anniversary Giveback Sweepstakes, and the hotel wants items from that rich history to put on display. “In honor of our 125th Anniversary, the public is encouraged to bring in any and all items they have taken from the hotel in the past,” the promotion reads. “Hotel keys, pillow covers, robes, menus, décor — no item is too big or too small.”

I’d like to think that I’m in the majority of folks who’ve never lifted any items from hotels except for travel-sized toiletries. Sure, the oversized robes at luxury properties are tempting, but the disclaimer that you’ll be charged if they wind up in your suitcase is enough to keep them on the hangers. The Roosevelt’s sweepstakes, though, seems to offer proof that guests do take items — whether on purpose or accidentally — and some of them hang on to them for a long time. So far, guests have already returned invoices from the 1940s, menus, postcards, and a plate from the Blue Room, an iconic venue where Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra performed.

Memories Are Powerful Marketing Tools

In the age of in-room Alexas and facial recognition–enabled check-in kiosks, plenty of hotels focus on what’s new and what’s next. While The Roosevelt has made big changes to keep up with the times — a $145-million renovation was completed around four years after Hurricane Katrina — the sweepstakes is a refreshing embrace of what has already been. The contest will certainly help sneaky thieving guests and local residents remember why they love the property (so much that they took a piece of it home), but more importantly, they will help new guests connect with that sense of history.

Event organizers can take a cue from the approach. Consider the number of tchotkes, branded items, and souvenirs that attendees have taken home from conferences — lanyards, bar glasses, t-shirts, books autographed by keynote speakers, and more. Organizers push to reinvent and innovate experiences each year, and with good reason: That drive for change is what keeps attendees on their toes and keeps them coming back to discover what’s new. However, as events approach significant milestones, there is an opportunity to celebrate all those changes with a collection effort like The Roosevelt’s campaign. It’s a fun way to engage long-time attendees and share your event’s history.

And if you happen to have anything from The Roosevelt sitting in your attic, enter the sweepstakes.