How did you become interested in “Do Not Disturb” signs?
As with most collections, it started quite by chance. Initially, I took some as souvenirs from the places I visited for work. A colleague saw them and said that they would make a nice collection. From then on, I made it a point to keep any signs that I found.
How did you come across so many collecting opportunities?
I traveled quite a lot during my 32-year career as a training specialist with the International Labor Organization of the United Nations. During this time, I visited (and even lived in) many interesting countries, such as Bhutan, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, Fiji and many, many others. But my collection started at a late stage, and I therefore missed many excellent opportunities.
What was the first sign you took?
One of the first signs I remember taking was from the Holiday Inn in Islamabad, around 1991. It wasn’t particularly attractive, but it had the name of the hotel, which is the reason why I took it.
Do you ask for permission or sneak it into your bag?
I generally don’t have any complexes about taking the ordinary paper signs, as I consider these consumable materials that are easily replaced. It’s a different story for the more sophisticated or special signs that I know have a higher cost for the hotel. In this case, I always ask to buy them. In a few cases, they can be found on sale in the hotel souvenir shop. Sometimes it is impossible to acquire them.
I must be clear that I don’t encourage stealing, and I always encourage others to ask the hotel staff before taking anything.
About how many signs do you take per year?
It varies quite considerably. I don’t usually stay in so many different hotels, and the biggest contributions come from friends who travel or from exchanges with other collectors.
How big is your collection, and where do you keep it?
My collection numbers nearly 8,000 pieces from about 180 countries. Owing to the different shapes and sizes, I haven’t found a simple way to store them, such as in albums. I keep them in large envelopes or in filing boxes, divided by country.
Have you ever considered opening a Do Not Disturb museum?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the facilities to create a museum, but I have sometimes thought about it. If I could find a suitable place to permanently display my collection, I would even consider donating it.
What’s your approach to collecting?
Whenever I enter a hotel room, the first thing I do is look behind the door for the DND sign. I get very upset when there isn’t one. At times, I would even want to change hotels if this happens.