'Great silver give-back' gets raves at the Waldorf

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It is being called the "great silver give-back" and it now totals 85 spoons, 1 oyster fork, a sugar bowl, an ice bucket, and 2 candlesticks. The beneficiary -- the posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel -- is delighted. Those returning the objects to the hotel presumably have relieved guilt-troubled consciences.

Some of those guilt feelings go back a long way. One person returned four 65 -year-old spoons dating to the days when the hotel occupied the site where the Empire State Building now stands. In April a woman sent back a 49-year-old sugar bowl that, she said, had been taken from the Waldorf by her grandmother.

A hotel spokeswoman says the returns began last Jan. 28 and that most of the pieces are being put right back into use.

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Why the rush to give back the silver? Says Waldorf manager Eugene Scanlan: "The news of high silver prices made people realize that any item of silver has value. The sudden realization that 'borrowing' or taking a souvenir is actually theft has given many Americans pangs of conscience. Obviously, they're honest people who really didn't mean to steal."

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