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Michael hainey
By Michael Hainey

New York Times bestselling author and guest Treat contributor

My life of crime began in Milan, when I stayed at the Bulgari Hotel in the early 2000s. It was the first time I’d ever stayed at a five-star European hotel, and I could not get over the soap. I was used to staying in giant American hotels where all you get are tiny white bars wrapped in crappy paper. The soap at the Bulgari, on the other hand, smelled like tuberose and fresh rain, and was the size of an ostrich egg. I couldn’t believe it. Nor could I believe how many bars there were in my room when I checked in: five. Before I could even think, I snatched them all up and stuffed them at the bottom of my suitcase. The next morning, the chambermaid only encouraged my bad behavior when she restocked them. I snatched those, too. We played this game for the next five days and by the time I checked out I had 30 bars of soap.

Reader, I’m here because I need to come clean; My name is Mike and I am addicted to hotel soap.

Am I alone in this? Maybe you need to come clean, too. I know there are others out there just like me.

If you come to my house now, and do what any normal person does — snoop in people’s bathrooms, of course! — you’d find a box in my linen closet filled with maybe 80 bars of assorted soaps. Mementos (or so I tell my wife, to assuage my guilt) from many of the best hotels in Europe: the Bulgari, the Ritz in Paris, the Connaught in London, the Splendido in Portofino and countless others. I have so many bars in that box, it will take me years to lather my way through them. The craziest part is during lockdown I was convinced I would run out of soap. The world might have been in a panic searching for Clorox wipes and N95s but, after a year of not traveling, all I could think about every time I washed my hands was that I was going to run out of soap.

So, what did I do this past summer on my first business trip since lockdown? I had hoped my time away would cure me, might have broken me of my addiction, but like a cat burglar who lives for the challenge, I returned to my old ways. If you were in a certain hotel in Los Angeles this past June you may have passed me in the hallway. I was the man walking very slowly, making his way towards the unattended house-cleaning cart. And you might have seen that as I passed it, I quickly relieved it of six bars of soap and dropped them in my bag. Poof!

Afterward, I slid into my room. But I soon realized I was out of practice. My nerves were not what they used to be. I sat on the edge of the bed, a cold sweat running down my face and the back of my neck. After a moment, I calmed down. Then I decided to take a shower. Good thing I had some soap.

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