Don't steal that hotel pillow … buy it!

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When people travel, they often seek at least the same comfort that they have at home.

Many hotels have picked up on that desire, offering luxury guest rooms, complete with fancy bathrooms, designer furnishings, and luxurious beds.

The experience is so pleasant for some guests that they are buying the amenities and other objects inside the rooms and around the property - or at least newly minted copies of them.

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One hot seller has been beds. About five years ago, The Four Seasons began promoting the "perfect sleep" with a mattress made exclusively for the hotel, high thread-count sheets, oversized down pillows, and duvets with 100 percent down comforters. The hotel sells approximately 500 beds to its guests annually.

The Ritz-Carlton wasn't caught napping when the luxury-bed trend started. Its Comfort Essentials Collection includes a feather bed, down pillows, and 300-thread-count Egyptian-cotton sheets by Frette.

"Our guests are bringing more luxurious bedding into their own homes, and we want the Ritz-Carlton sleep experience to meet or exceed the discriminating tastes of our travelers," said Scott Rohm, vice president of Ritz-Carlton's rooms division.

Evidently, the strategy is working. Within the first six months after its introduction in the fall of 1999, Ritz-Carlton sold $65,000 worth of feather-bed products just in its San Francisco property, and more than $55,000 worth of the Frette linens.

Meanwhile, over at the Westin, travelers' prayers for a good night's sleep were answered with the introduction of the Heavenly Bed in August 1999. This blissful bed consists of a mattress, box springs, three sheets, a comforter, down duvet cover, blanket, and five pillows, all in white.

"With the launch of the Heavenly Bed, we saw our guest-satisfaction scores go way up," says Sue Brush, vice president of marketing for Westin Hotels and Resorts. "The guests apparently felt that if the hotel could keep that bright white bed clean, the room must be clean as well.

"Guests immediately started asking how they could buy the bed," says Ms. Brush. "We currently sell three beds a day, along with sales of many individual components."

Judy Capps of Olympia, Wash., bought a bed after staying at a Westin in Seattle in September. "Getting into that bed was like getting into a cloud," she says. "I had to have that same bed at home, and I ended up buying four of them!"

But be prepared to pay. A queen set from Westin costs $2,300; a king runs $2,700. Prices for beds branded by other luxury hotels are comparable.

But it is not just the plush beds that drive customer requests. Guests are asking how they can purchase artwork and antiques, cutlery and crystal, fixtures and fabrics, and even taking photographs and measurements of hotel bathrooms to be duplicated at home.

Even so, the luxury-hotel groups did not intend to become furnishings salespeople. "We never meant to become retailers," says Anne Engelerdt, corporate director of retail for Ritz-Carlton, "but more and more customers started to ask if they could purchase our items."

Hotels have made buying furnishings easy. Bedding and other items can either be purchased through the hotel's retail outlets, websites, catalogs, or through an 800 number.

And don't worry about cramming that mattress into the overhead bin on the flight home - while the items are ordered from the hotels, they are shipped directly from the manufacturer.

One of the oddest things a guest asked to purchase? During a recent Christmas holiday, the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif., had a large gingerbread house on display in the lobby. The house, made with 400 pounds of flour and 80 pounds of sugar, was so sweetly tempting that a guest bought it for $6,000.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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