Where can I send my mini-shampoos?
May 24, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm in hotels all the time (about 16 nights a month), and it just occurred to me that those little bottles of shampoo and stuff could go to a better cause than just hanging in the room after I leave. Should I donate them to a homeless shelter or some other organization, or would they rather just have a check? Any specific places that are in need of toiletry supplies?
posted by jnaps to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
jnaps: "Should I donate them to a homeless shelter or some other organization, or would they rather just have a check?"

These aren't mutually exclusive. Do both.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2010

My local women's shelter in LA happily takes travel-sized sundries. Perhaps yours will too.
posted by ikaruga at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2010

Your local fire department usually has a "Citizen Assistance Kit" that they give to people who have been displaced by fires or other emergencies, and it's great if they can include these.
posted by SpecialK at 10:06 AM on May 24, 2010

Response by poster: These aren't mutually exclusive. Do both.

(I'd love to, but I'm broke. I was looking for something to do in lieu of giving money, but I don't want to just cause more of a hassle to an organization in order to make myself feel helpful.)
posted by jnaps at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: Yup, women's shelters. On the Rise collects toiletries in the Boston area.
posted by Melismata at 10:30 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hope you're not suggesting to send half-used toiletries!

I spend a lot of time in hotels too, and hate the waste caused by those small toiletries so instead I take my own shampoo, soap etc on the road and treat my charitable donations separately. A win-win: less waste, and charities can choose to spend my donations how they choose.

Another idea if you're strapped for cash: if there are particular hotels you spend more of your time in, write to them and ask if they'd be willing to donate a few boxes of toiletries to a women's shelter.
posted by wingless_angel at 10:35 AM on May 24, 2010

They're free to you, yes, but I don't think you should feel obliged to take them. If you don't use them the next hotel guest will, and they are certainly not going to waste.

In my opinion this is one step away from taking whole rolls of toilet paper on your way out (which I am sure the homeless shelters, etc. would also appreciate).
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Toiletries from Travel.
posted by ericb at 10:41 AM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: From NYC.gov
Prison Families Community Forum c/o CCR-NY
666 Broadway 6th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(914) 643-4528

This organization supplies toiletries, school supplies, and holiday gifts to families of the incarcerated as part of their support network.
posted by ericb at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2010

Response by poster: Hope you're not suggesting to send half-used toiletries!

No, I always bring my own stuff, too. My company sends me to all sorts of hotels, all over the country, but I'd be willing to write a few letters to some hotels in my area. I've talked to a few other flight attendants about this, and they'd be willing to collect some from their hotels as well. It would come out to nearly 70+ bottles of shampoo.

They're free to you, yes, but I don't think you should feel obliged to take them. If you don't use them the next hotel guest will, and they are certainly not going to waste.

Somehow this doesn't bother me much, ethically. It would supposedly be ok if I just took them home and used them, why would it no longer be ok if I donated them to someone in need? God knows I've been ethically wrong, before, however, and if anyone has any more arguments as to why this would be wrong I'm willing to listen.
posted by jnaps at 10:47 AM on May 24, 2010

David Sedaris gives them out to kids during his signings/readings. . .all the above ideas are great. . .just felt like adding that factoid.
posted by Danf at 10:49 AM on May 24, 2010

I used to donate or use the supplies, since I was thinking that they were "mine". But then I realized they're there as a courtesy and that the hotel doesn't do cost calculations based on people using them all the time, so I'm driving up costs for the hotel - and thus for other consumers. And it's incredibly wasteful to be using such small amounts of soap and shampoo -- that larger bottles make much more sense and reduce the green house gases involved in all the packaging, transportation and disposal and so on. And I'm increasing the workload for the underpaid hotel cleaning staff who have to run around and put out all the bottles.

So, for me, it makes a lot more sense to donate or volunteer for a cause, rather than to donate the courtesy items.
posted by acoutu at 10:51 AM on May 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Nthing women's shelters and homeless shelters. I try to do this myself.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2010

I follow the Flylady philosophy of "soap is soap" and use them to clean my toilet.
posted by cottonswab at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2010

My mega-traveler, businessman father-in-law collects every bottle of everything from every hotel room in which he stays. I don't think he's purchased soap and shampoo from a store in 40 years.

What I'm saying is, even if you don't actually give the physical toiletries to a charity, you can keep them for yourself and divert a little extra of your own money to a charity of your choice, where they can decide to use it for all sorts of things.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2010

As for the question about whether charities would rather have a cheque, the thing is that most charities can do far more with money than they can with physical goods. So if you are comparing just those two things, go with the money. Your money can go to support hiring a professional grant writer or fundraiser or a truck and driver and so on.

I used to be involved with a food charity. The marketer made about $10 an hour and, in 6 months, brought in $100k in donations from a major tuna company, $1M in seed capital for a food processing plant, $1M in other funding, hundreds of thousands in funding from other sourcesand so on and that's not even getting into all the foods that the food bank got from big donors. The charity still collected canned goods, but they weren't worth nearly as much as a dollar was and it was incredibly resource intensive to pick up small donations or even sort them as people dropped them off at the door. For every $1 we collected, we could supply $7 in food.
posted by acoutu at 12:02 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to take my own shampoo with me on trips, but now I just have a freezer-sized Ziploc bag into which I place the hotel-issued supplies. Mr. Adams and I now have two bathrooms in our home for the first time in XX years, so some of those tiny soaps and shampoos I leave in the "guest" bathroom. The rest I either use when I run out of regular shampoo/soap at home, or I give them to my friend. She is a member of the Lions Club, and they have a couple of "parties" throughout the years at various nursing homes - Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, etc. She always collects my hotel toiletry extras prior to one of those functions, since it is traditional to put together little gift bags for each resident, and they love having personal soaps, shampoos and lotions.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2010

Those items aren't free and intended to be taken, any more than the towels or ironing board are. I stay in hotels a lot myself, and it never occurred to me to take the unopened toiletries; for all the reasons mentioned by acoutu above. In fact, one chain I frequent has a policy of stocking one of the vanity drawers with multiple bottles of their offerings, so that you never run out.

However, leaving half empty bottles behind bothers me, so I carry 2 little refillable plastic bottles in my shaving kit, and pour the unused shampoo and conditioner into them and add any unused soap to my little soap holder.

Then I use those when I am camping, or staying in a motel that doesn't offer the toiletries.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2010

In regards to those who said If you don't use them the next hotel guest will, and they are certainly not going to waste and I'm driving up costs for the hotel, that is assuming the hotel leaves unused items in the room for the next guest. I don't think most hotels do that.

I know a woman who cleaned hotel rooms when she was in high school and she explained that they have to throw everything consumable away after each guest. She said it was in case someone tampered with the item, like put Nair in the shampoo or something funky in the coffee. Of course, she's just one person but it wouldn't surprise me if it was standard practice.

I collect them and donate them usually to a relief drive held at work. I figure that they wouldn't ask for these items if they didn't need them.
posted by soelo at 1:44 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another option is your local Ronald McDonald House (or other similar house). Often families don't have time to pack the basics when their kid/sibling is hospitalized, and those houses always have wishlists.
posted by headnsouth at 1:45 PM on May 24, 2010

I'd say donate the items to one of the charities listed above, or wait for an agency or church in your area to have a toiletry drive (I just googled "toiletry drive"+"my city" and found a ton). I've worked audit and front desk for a hotel, and I know that at least at the chain I worked for, they definitely DID budget in for every guest using the usual soaps, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and shower cap. That's what they meant by "complimentary." You are covering the cost of two of everything when you pay for the room, so it is in no way "stealing" from the hotel or making the hotel eat the expense of something unforeseen. It is not at all analogous to taking the towels or ironing board, as those items are not consumable AND are not explicitly listed in the budget to be provided for every guest, nor are you paying for them when you rent the room. (I am obviously not advocating taking every single consumable from the drawer in a hotel like PareidoliaticBoy mentioned, though.)

It also will not give a maid cleaning and restocking the room more any extra work, since she has to move all the little bottles to clean the counters and shower, anyway. In fact, I know they usually preferred you take the little bottles, as otherwise they would have to inspect the bottle/wrapper to see if it had been opened, water damaged, etc, and thus would have to be thrown out. That inspection takes more time than just putting down two of everything.
posted by wending my way at 2:35 PM on May 24, 2010

I spent some time as a youth care worker in a group home. We had someone at a hotel who provided us with half-used shampoo and conditioner bottles. It really helped since we were operating in a pretty cash-strapped Canadian province.
posted by fso at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2010

We travel a lot for work and periodically collect up the hotel samples and donate them to the local teen shelter. We also collect up all the conference bags we get and donate those as well.
posted by tamitang at 5:02 PM on May 24, 2010

I hadn't thought about the tampering aspect of unopened consumables and I had assumed that items I didn't use would be simply be left for the next guest. I suppose that makes some kind of sense; in an incredibly paranoid, law-suit adverse way, but it certainly doesn't explain why the chain I mentioned stocks the vanity drawers with a dozen or so of all the consumables.

As I am the person who set up our corporate account with that chain, and am also someone who is extremely environmentally conscious, I will investigate this, and report back. If I discover that the soap, shower cap, sewing kit, hand-lotion, and bath gel which I never use at these places always gets thrown out, as a matter of procedure, then I will have to rethink my position. If this turns out to be the case, then I believe that changes in how this area of the accommodation business are conducted will need to be made, as it's shamefully wasteful.

As for variable-costs budgeting, this process is for business planning, and the actual costs accruing should be examined periodically, and any adjustments reflected in the room tariff.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:37 PM on May 24, 2010

Danf: "David Sedaris gives them out to kids during his signings/readings. . .all the above ideas are great. . .just felt like adding that factoid."

Yes he does! He particularly liked this high schooler who was in line in front of us, and gave her some random soap or something.

On a serious note, go ahead and donate them! Especially since wending my way says that it's accounted for by the hotels and easier for the cleaning staff. My company does some support for a shelter in our neighborhood, and they are always asking for sample/travle-size products.
posted by radioamy at 7:14 PM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: Operation Shoebox. They collect all kinds of small toiletries for the soldier care packages they put together and send.
posted by booksherpa at 8:50 PM on May 24, 2010

A consultant I managed on one of my projects back when I was in management consulting (mainly in the US), she did a bang-up job on a project-wide fundraiser for local womens' shelters in Chicago. We were a group of maybe 200 or so analysts, consultants, managers, senior managers, and partners for a big consulting firm, and the majority of the staff, particularly at the lower levels, were housed weekly in the local hotels. My consultant was tasked with encouraging the whole project over a period of a few weeks to bring in their small toiletries, which she kept a studious count of, and then kept in these big clear plastic trash bags, which she must have got at home depot or something.

Then, when our project party / fundraiser came, she had the big bags there on display, and people had their last chance to bring any additions. I forget the exact details, but for something like every 25 that we brought, she had given out a raffle ticket. Then, when the big bags were finally sealed, it was announced what the raffle prizes would be - some damn fine prizes including an iPhone (right after they were first released), Amex gift cards for like $50 or $100 I think, and various travel-related gifts (XX,000 rewards points at abc hotel, etc.). A bunch of us in management who hadn't done a good job of collecting the toiletries were like "damn!" but then they announced that the grand prize (I think it was a free RT flight anywhere xyz airline flies); would not be raffled off, but instead people could enter guesses at the total number of toiletries collected, for I think like $5 bucks a guess. She kept the numbers on a pre-printed sheet and wrote people's names next to the numbers so no two people could pick the same one, I think.

Anyway, in the end, we raised at least a few hundred bucks (or maybe thousands? not sure) for the charities in addition to all the toiletries.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:46 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here is the answer I received to my inquiry from one chain I frequent ...

Hello Jeffrey,

Nice to hear from you. Here at XXXXXXX we take pride in offering deluxe amenities to our guests at no charge. In our hotels where we have condo/executive type suites we do have a basket in the room full of these little bottles to assist housekeeping with restocking a larger room. Some clients feel the need to take a few extras on the road with them and some do not.

We really prefer that our guests enjoy their stay , and if that means taking a little reminder home with them, we are ok with that. At this point, we have not run into any amenity abuse; however if this becomes an issue, I am sure we would limit the amount per room, per stay.

Hope this helps answer some of you questions. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

In short, these items are not thrown out, at this chain, at least. The cost associated with them is understood, and subject to review, as should be the case for any variable costs incurred by any prudent business. I would check with the hotels you use, and find out their policy with respect to these items, as it is extremely environmentally insensitive to simply throw them out. Past practices of hotels are changing, no longer do they automatically change your sheets and towels every day, as an example, and it wouldn't surprise me to discover that this is one area where a more environmentally prudent policy has been adopted.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:28 AM on May 26, 2010

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