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This ‘Travel Hack’ Is Stupid, Illegal, and Not at All Funny

Another day, another set of travel shenanigans on social media. 


oday, it’s a viral TikTok in which a man offers up a “travel hack,” and films himself buying snacks from a hotel front desk. He gives his room number for the charges, then walks away and explains, ostensibly out of earshot of the employee, that he’s given a different room number than the room he’s actually registered in. 

Of course, the more accurate word for that is theft, and a number of commenters on TikTok and the media outlets that shared the video noted that. Some commenters also noted that the previous videos shared on the TikTok were clearly parodies. The “hotel hack” video has over seven million views, while the previous record was 25,000 for that account. 

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The account’s bio line now reads, “I do not condone stealing. This was a joke.” The problem with parody, however, is that it has to be clear it’s parody—the premise has to be just ludicrous enough that a reasonable person would understand the author isn’t meant to be taken seriously. 

In 1729, Jonathan Swift (who is generally regarded as one of the English literary canon’s finest satirists) deadpanned that the best solution for poverty in Ireland was to fatten starving children to be sold as food. It caused a sensation back then, of course, but the sensation also brought attention to the social issue at the heart of Swift’s complaints (it’s also made clear later in the text that the entire work, A Modest Proposal, is satire). 

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It’s unclear in this TikTok, today, exactly what the videographer is attempting to lampoon. Perhaps it’s travel influencer culture—suggesting that many of the “travel hacks” have in fact been widely known for years, exist in an ethical gray area, or are in fact outright theft. 

It may be just another part of the new canon of questionable travel ethics, like “begpacking,” where travelers will show up in a destination without enough funds to continue their trip, and will busk or outright beg for donations to continue their journey. In another alternate reality, a Dutch woman tricked her social media followers into believing she was on a monthlong journey through Southeast Asia, when she was really housebound in Amsterdam, posting photoshopped pictures of herself, later revealing the trickery was part of a school project on how social media can be used to distort reality. 

The rise of user-generated content online has generally made the internet less trustworthy writ large. The New York Times recently reported on Amazon’s self-publishing services allowing knock-off travel guides poorly written by artificial intelligence to flood the market at a fraction of the price of exhaustively researched, trusted travel guides by major travel media brands (ahem, like us). 

So, what is an actual hotel hack, that doesn’t raise internet hackles and isn’t unethical? A good starting point is this viral post from a Twitter user who uses the clips on the bottom of a hotel room hangar to fasten the two sides of the blackout curtains shut. It’s a harmless, useful solution to the relatively minor problem of a pair of hotel curtains not completely blocking out all the exterior light. 

Other crafty hotel room hacks include turning a bathroom sink into a makeshift refrigerator with a bag of ice, hanging clothes up in the bathroom and running the shower to steam out the wrinkles, or requesting a toothbrush or razor from the hotel brands that supply them free upon request. 

In the meantime, consider sources when looking for travel information online. Content that is designed to attract attention isn’t necessarily true, and the intention of the author isn’t necessarily ethical or benevolent—the objective is to get attention. Carefully consider sources, and when in doubt, lean instead on the pair of hacks that have served travelers well for millennia: gut instinct, and common sense.

Note: This article has been updated to correct the name of Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal.’

siabeanie0485 September 24, 2023

This is theft. Yes. But as someone who works in hotels we can be clever too. I've had guest try this trick, but what they don't remember or realize is I know their room number either because I'm the one who checked them in / was there when they checked in, saw them go in/out said room or another fd agent knows the room number. And we just charge it to the right room anyway. Can't be mad either bc we have that guest on camera taking snacks and walking away. We have the right to charge the room. 

westonparker2920 September 22, 2023

This idea depends upon an existing morality for its success.  If the front desk was just a tad more suspicious they would have asked for his name, proof of ID, to make certain that was indeed his room.  Slipping into and taking advantage of these lax areas of security are not clever, they are, as someone already said, a theft.  They are also immoral because they break down existing morality and make the world just a lousier place.  This guy is just a d**che bag mascarading as clever.

gregholden4430 September 21, 2023

Interesting article. If I watched TikTok and saw this clip my reaction would be… yeah, could see that working… but would never occur to me to do such a thing, much less repeat it. 
Was a similar incident at the Y. Guy put his valuables in a safety deposit type box provided for this purpose, got distracted and left without the key. Next guy opens it, rifles through the wallet and walks off with $200. Unfortunately for  this thief, it was caught on CCTV. He was lucky and was only banned from the Y for life. 
People doing such petty crap ultimately cause more ‘weight’ for everybody… other than the motive and magnitude of the crime, from a travel perspective they are basically terrorists. 

MsPolyTheist September 21, 2023

Thank you!