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For Return Of Stolen Items, N.Y. Hotel Offers Amnesty


Hey, is that a Holiday Inn towel hanging there in your bathroom? And did I just see an ashtray from the Motel 6? Well, if your sticky fingers could not resist squirreling away a trinket from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and your conscience is getting the better of you, I have good news: the famed New York hotel is offering an amnesty program for the return of hotel property. Matt Zolbe is the Waldorf's director of sales and marketing, and he joins us now. Hi, Mr. Zolbe.

MATT ZOLBE: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me on.

MARTIN: Sure. So, tell us about this amnesty program? Basically, did you just start noticing that a lot of stuff was missing?

ZOLBE: No, no. Really, what was the genesis of this is some photography that we put on all of our guest room corridors. People are captivated by them. They stop and really want to read about the people, the famous people who've been here. So, that was my first experience in getting museum archival elements out into the public. And I saw how normal everyday items would matter. So, then it was how do I get these things - you know, old hangers, old in-room amenities, finials from lamps, anything that has the logo, the logo crest - ads. It doesn't have to be stolen, but amnesty is kind of a bad-boy term that, you know, generates a little bit of, you know, forgive me, but a little bit of media exposure. So, there was something there.

MARTIN: Tell us about some of the items that you've recovered so far.

ZOLBE: You know, it's almost all been food and beverage. Forgive me if I bore, but the roots - we use that term of our fame, really lies in your medium, radio - in the '30s, '40s and '50s and our famous supper clubs. Three of them were, you know, had Sinatra and Lena Horne and Xavier Cugat and Benny Goodman. And so, you know, when people came to New York, come to the supper club, have dinner, slip a demitasse spoon in your pocket. Lots of silver, not that much china. I'm getting creamers, tea sets, I got a soup tureen, I got a big coffeepot, documents that I love to get too. But the three-dimensional stuff, so to speak, is almost all food and beverage.

MARTIN: Demitasse spoons - I guess those are small.

ZOLBE: They're small, exactly.

MARTIN: Easy to pilfer.

ZOLBE: Yeah, and it seems as if they were coming out of the banquets more than the restaurants, really. It's the woman who gets awarded a couple of different times in the Waldorf ballroom at a luncheon for, you know, selling a lot of product. It's the dad in manufacturing who wins a salesman of the year type of award and takes a couple of nut dishes from Peacock Galley. And we the stories. We have the names and, you know, it's usually the granddaughter and she usually has a story of how the Waldorf was sort of part of - not everyday conversation in the family but certainly, say, on Thanksgiving when there are those two little nut dishes and we don't remember when dad took them. And, you know, she's able to take you to that time. And that's what I'm looking for, those mile markers, as I said, in people's lives.

MARTIN: So, clearly, you have never pilfered a demitasse spoon.

ZOLBE: I don't ever recall pilfering a demitasse spoon, no.

MARTIN: At least that you're not going to admit on the radio.

ZOLBE: No, I haven't, I haven't, no, no.

MARTIN: Matt Zolbe is director of sales and marketing for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, now offering an amnesty program for returned items. He joined us from our New York bureau. Thanks so much, Matt. Good luck with this.

ZOLBE: OK. Thanks very much. Take care.

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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