Travelling – Complimentary Shampoo and Shower Gel

Complimentary Hotel Shampoo and Shower Gel

“I still enjoy travelling a lot. I mean, it amazes me that I still get excited in hotel rooms just to see what kind of shampoo they’ve left me.”  –  Bill Bryson

I too get a thrill from throwing open the bathroom door, turning on the light, waiting for the hum of the extractor fan and looking straight away for the complimentary shower gel and shampoo all neatly arranged next to the wash basin. 

Never mind the number of stars the place boasts on TripAdvisor or displayed as a certificate at the reception desk for me this is the really true measure of a hotel.

I can’t really accurately remember when these little gifts first started to appear in hotel bathrooms, certainly not on my early overseas adventures that’s for sure. On my very first holiday to Sorrento in Italy in 1976 I am absolutely certain there were none and there wasn’t a lot else either – no mini-bar of course and no television and it was light years before WiFi and Internet access.

Guests were expected to provide their own toiletries in those days and without baggage weight restrictions holidaymakers used to lug an entire bathroom full of lotions and potions half way across the World.

Thinking about it, I suppose they first came to my attention in 1995 when I was on a coach tour holiday of some of the National Parks in the USA and each motel room bathroom that we stayed at had these little bottles of bathroom goodies and every night I collected them up and secreted them in my wash bag.

Soon the wash bag was full to busting but at some point along the trip we stopped at a shopping mall where there was a ‘dollar shop’ and my brother, Richard and I found some nice little wicker baskets that were perfect for keeping them in and giving away as gifts for family and friends when we got back home. The beauty of this was that none of my family and friends had ever come across complimentary give-away cosmetics before either so they all thought that they were getting a genuine gift.

Complimentary potions

Who started it I asked, well, claiming credit on its web site for introducing complimentary gels is the  Canadian international luxury, five-star hotel chain, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts but I am certain there will be some conflicting claims from elsewhere.

These days any self-respecting B&B or hotel has free shampoo in little plastic bottles except those that have large squeezy containers that are screwed to the wall so that you can’t take them away and for me this always loses the place a couple of points when I complete the post stay satisfaction survey.

When staying in the room I always remain reluctant to use them because I view them as a sort of holiday bonus, a trophy and together with the sewing kits and the plastic combs and cheap toothbrushes I collect them up and take them home (except the plastic shower caps which always remind me of the rain bonnets that my mum used to wear and look completely ridiculous).  I mean next time you are tempted to pull one over your head make sure that you lock the bathroom door and then just take a moment to take a look at yourself in the mirror.  I guarantee that you will look ridiculous!

I can’t explain why they excite me, they are not top-quality products after all, I’m sure that most of them are based on some sort of industrial soap that probably doesn’t have many scalp or skin improvement qualities anyway.  Sometimes Kim gets carried away and will say something like “Oh look, there is Moulton-Brown products in the bathroom”, I know that it is cheap washing-up liquid but I tactfully keep this information to myself.  In fact I am almost certain that although they may be different coloured liquid in the bottles that they are all the same product anyway and the shampoo works just as well as as bubble bath and vice versa.

Back at home they sit in a box in the bathroom and every so often it overflows and the cabinet door won’t shut properly and it has to be cleared out and the little bottles disposed of – these days I take them to a homeless charity in the town and hope they come in useful somewhere.

 “Hotels have plenty of items, all cute and travel-sized, waiting in store rooms and all you have to do is pick up the phone and ask. And checking out from the hotel isn’t like going through airport security. No respectable hotelier is going to want to pry open your luggage and search for shampoo. We hope you take the amenities. We want you to use them later and think of us.” –  Jacob Tomsky – ‘Heads in Beds’

Hotel Shampoo

30 responses to “Travelling – Complimentary Shampoo and Shower Gel

  1. I’m with you in hating the big squeegee bottle on the wall, Andrew, though of course it saves the hotel money, saves the environment and leaves more space in my bag that is not cluttered up with little never used bottles of ‘conditioner’. What is conditioner anyway? And whatever happened to soap?


    • It is rather like that ‘lather, rinse and repeat’ instruction on shampoo bottles – it is an unnecessary hair product for making additional sales and profits!

      What would be really useful would be complimentary shaving gel because that is a nuisance to cart about!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m more interested in decent towels and plenty of them. Silly little bottles of things are totally useless, almost certainly tested on animals or contain bits of dead animal and are bad for the environment because there is so much packaging of small quantities involved. Maybe I should ask for a couple of quid to be knocked off the bill if I don’t use them? Although on the rare occasion I stay anywhere they probably don’t provide them anyway. I’m sure the place in Burgos for €15 a night didn’t. Well it didn’t even have a bathroom so it wouldn’t have done. And you certainly don’t get them on camp sites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The really useful thing about them is that if you can be confident that they will be supplied by the hotel then you can cut down on the amount of luggage that you take which is important when trying to stay within the cabin baggage limit.

      Probably tested on animals, I agree!


  3. I remember moving several times where I would throw away a big box of small bars of soap and little bottles of shampoo. Now I rarely take them away unless they are really cool. Recently I had bars of soap shaped like leaves in a hotel. A few of them made it into my shaving kit. I usually carry a couple small bottles and a small bar of soap just in case.


  4. By contrast to you and Richard, I actually adore the push button dispensers. I even have one in my own shower. Three different coloured shampoos to make it easier to remember which is which.
    The only trouble is that I read a novel a few years back where some psychopath went round hotels sticking acid into these dispensers and permanently blinding future guests.
    Needless to say, I have now stopped all psychopaths staying in my house.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A good chuckle story – thanks Dai!

      On a serious note I read somewhere that the reason you rarely find kettles in European hotels is because of the despicable things people leave inside them which results in lots of time consuming cleaning. Since reading this I always undertake a thorough examination of any such appliance before using it!

      I think the fact that so many get stolen is another factor.


  5. Make that SHOWER GELS rather than shampoos.
    As for what is fair game to take: I guess slippers are okay, but dressing gowns are not. Shampoos and soap are okay, but towels are not.
    I once took a shine to a coat hanger at the Hotel Savoy, opposite the railway station in Geneva. When we checked out, I accidentally took one as a keepsake!
    My dear wife spotted it in my hand luggage as soon as we got to the railway station to take the train to the airport.
    She attempted to frogmarch me back to the hotel, but in the struggle, I broke free!
    She then returned the coat hanger to hotel reception and apologised for having a petty criminal for a husband!
    But I have an even stranger story. I once went with a works outing to Amsterdam. It was 1985. We stayed in a very modest but comfortable hotel called Hotel Terminus, just off the Damrak.
    I shared a room with the company’s odd job man. He was very handy with a screwdriver. (No …don’t read any gay subtext into that remark!! Ha!)
    When we were travelling back in the coach, he reached above my head for his holdall in the luggage rack. Ostensibly, to show me some porn magazine that he had bought.
    To my utter amazement, I saw that his holdall was largely taken up with the painting of Old Amsterdam that had been the centrepiece on our room wall !!
    The blighter had unscrewed it.
    I tried to tell him that he had brought shame on the British nation. Alas he looked at me like I was mad.
    * = You Could Not Make It Up (even if you tried!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I am always intrigued to see what might be in a hotel room. Certainly huge variation from country to country and spot to spot.


  7. I am still marvelling at the enterprise of you and your brother, Andrew! 🙂


  8. I was once hauled aside entering Christchurch NZ, because the X-ray showed what appeared to be fruit – don’t ever try to carry fruit into NZ! The official knew exactly where to search my roll-aboard – and there it was – a little round cake of soap! Apparently soap and fruit have a similar X-ray profile. A hotel ‘sample’, the fragrance was pleasant, and I had carried the same cake of soap for years!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. True, for me large, thick towels are more to my liking than anything else Don’t you think so, as well?


  10. I have so many problems with allergies that I can’t trust the ingredients in those little bottles. I’ve read that Europe has tighter regulations on what can be used in these products. The American versions have lists that look like they come out of some evil chemical lab.


  11. I find those little bottles fantastic! Especially when you are travelling on a budget. They are of a perfect size to take through in your hand luggage and at the end of each short trip I Re-fill them so I can use them again! (I usually travel in hostels or with friends I can’t usually pick more up along the way).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Cheapskate Travel – Part One | Have Bag, Will Travel

  13. I did enjoy rereading this, Andrew, and Dai’s comments are hilarious. Long live our blogging community- with notable exceptions,of course 😔. And somehow I can’t get the image of you in a shower cap out of my mind! Even worse than bathing hats….

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh, you sound just like my husband. He always used to clear the bathroom out of bottles of washing-up-liquid-look-alike, and there the little bottles would sit in the bathroom cabinet at home doing nothing. Thank goodness for dispensers-on-the-wall: greener, less wasteful, and husband-proof!


  15. Another excellent tale Andrew. You certainly keep me amused.


  16. Impressed at your chutzpah in giving away hotel toiletries as gifts! Though I might have been suspicious that nothing matched 😉. I’m definitely in the camp that prefers dispensers – the little bottles are such a waste.


  17. In Canada, and probably the US, those little bottles of toiletries have always been available (at least in my lifetime of travel). I was shocked in 1977 when we visited the UK and hotel rooms didn’t even have facecloths! Sometimes we have stayed in hotels where the sample bottles were of very high quality. I take them home and use them. I’m always disappointed when the shampoo etc is in large bottles attached to the wall. But I guess it is less wasteful. I had to laugh about you giving the samples away as gifts when you got home. Too funny!


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