Protea Hotels

Every year tens of thousands of GUESTS pass through the portals of hotels in South Africa.

Most of them leave with little to show for their presence than an unmade bed and damp towels, but some special souls contribute to make working in hospitality one of the most surprising, scary and hilarious careers on earth.

Every year Protea Hotels asks GMs to submit a list of their strangest finds, along with the most surprising things that walk out of hotel rooms, and as Group Marketing Manager Nicholas Barenblatt says, “you just couldn’t make this stuff up!”

Some room items hotels expect to find used or gone when a GUEST leaves, such as shampoo and coffee station biscuits.

What they don’t expect to have left the room is flat screen TVs, entire bedding sets (including duvet), and on one memorable occasion this year, a whole bed.

“Flat screens are great in hotels because they take up less space in the room, but their dimensions also make them much easier to transport,” Barenblatt says ruefully. “And it takes tenacity to remove one; TVs are bolted to walls or cabinets.”

The missing bed, though, was definitely a stand-out. “The bed vanished from a room in Cape Town occupied by members of a sports team who thought it’d be a great prank after returning very much the worse for wear after a night out. We did get the bed back two days later, along with a very sheepish apology.”

Items like cellphone chargers, iPads and electric shavers are routinely left in rooms, but it starts getting decidedly weird when you find a neat little box containing vampire fangs.

“Not the sort of fangs you’d buy in a novelty shop, but ones that were clearly made by a dentist to fit a specific person’s mouth. That guy did call to collect them, and no – we didn’t ask the obvious question!”

Another item that was missed very soon after check-out of a Gauteng hotel was a 10-carat diamond ring, but a more unusual item was found by housekeeping after someone who was clearly a good artist had checked out.

“His room had a great view, and propped up on the work desk he left behind a canvas of the scene from his window,” says Barenblatt.

“We called him about it, and he told us he’d left it there for hotel to enjoy. It was a beautiful painting, so after a little deliberation we donated it to a charity the hotel supports, for one of their fundraising events.”

Other items that made the 2013 “odd list” are a hookah, the back end of a pantomime horse and a Batman suit – complete with mask.

Perhaps one of the strangest of all, says Barenblatt, is the mystery of the Victorian dress. After a GUEST checked out of the particular hotel, a very beautiful Victorian style dress was found hanging in the cupboard.

“We called the GUEST to tell him that a dress had been left behind, but he swore blind that there was no dress in the room when he’d stayed there. A couple of scenarios come to mind as to what the dress was doing there, but none I’d prefer to think about for too long!”

The stand-out winner of the year has to be the “item” found in a hotel room in KZN.

“This wasn’t so much a case of something lost, but someone lost. A stag party that had spent the weekend in a hotel in KZN left us a little souvenir – the groom passed out tied to a chair. All good and well, you might think, but the poor guy was stark naked and painted Smurf blue for top to toe. It’s two months later and I strongly doubt housekeeping has stopped laughing yet!”