Some might find collecting hotel shampoo an odd thing to do, but there’s comfort in knowing that when one little bottle runs out, I only need to reach inside the basket of samples I keep in a bathroom cabinet. No leaving the house. No racing to the store. My basket of shampoo was always bountiful. Until it wasn’t.
A few years ago, I noticed some hotels no longer lined tiny bottles of shampoo atop their bathroom sinks. In an attempt to trim costs and cut down on plastic, they were replacing them with huge bottles locked in brackets on shower walls like prisoners trapped in stockades. Soon the little bottles were gone from virtually every hotel. The supply in my bathroom basket began to dwindle. I could see the end coming.
I never set out to wash my hair with only hotel shampoo. It just happened. A bottle I absently brought home led to another bottle, and another, until free shampoo became a kind of obsession.
It wasn’t enough to have a complimentary little bottle from each hotel on a trip, I needed a bottle from every night at every hotel. I started stashing bottles deep inside my toiletries bag on the mornings of hotel stays, hoping that when I returned a gleaming replacement would be waiting on the counter. Almost always, it was.
Occasionally, a housekeeper would go rogue, plucking the hidden bottle from my bag and placing it back on the sink. But such vigilantes were rare, and soon my home shampoo collection grew. Confident that my basket would remain forever filled, I basked in home showers, lathering healthy gobs of that free shampoo into my hair, letting it pour down my shoulders in a foamy cascade of bubbles.
But the other day, I noticed my basket was down to just three bottles: one from a Beijing hotel, brought home after the last Olympics, another from a hotel I can’t remember and a third so old the liquid inside had hardened into a grayish clay that crumbled into chunks when I shook it. Discarding that last bottle, I placed the one from the mystery hotel on my usual spot beside the shower door. Then I began to dread the inevitable trip to the drugstore knowing that soon I will be standing frozen in shampoo aisle overwhelmed by the rows of bottles in blues and greens and reds with labels screaming words like “Shape!” “Volume!” and “Shine!”
“You are embarrassing, and I don’t want people knowing I know you,” my wife recently said. She could have been talking about many things, but in this case, it was shampoo. She’s never understood my basket of hotel samples claiming valuable space in the bathroom cabinet. She thinks I’m “being cheap.” I prefer the word “practical.”
For the most part, I’ve kept using hotel shampoo because it was easy. Doing so meant one less decision in a life of dilemmas. But now, with the bottle from the mystery hotel growing emptier, I’m met with the sadness one feels when reduced to rationing his last drops of free shampoo, trying to stave off the inevitable.
I can’t believe I am alone in this lament. Surely, there are others who have relied on the generosity of hotels and never bought their own shampoo. Others, who, like me, are facing a dark and uncertain future.
People have suggested I bring empty little bottles to hotels and fill them with shampoo from the big shower containers. That would be stealing. I am not a thief. Instead, when my last free hotel sample goes dry, I will walk to the closest store, head to the shampoo aisle, close my eyes and buy the first bottle I grab. Like any other normal adult.