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Bubble trouble: thieves cash in on the hot tub craze

The Guardian - Mon Apr 12 15:17

Name: Hot tubs.

Age: Ancient, though re-popularised in the US in the late 60s, when the Jacuzzi brothers invented their jet whirlpool bath.

Appearance: A large cauldron of bubbling stew made from suburban swingers.

Hot tubs aren’t just for swingers. They’re for people with arthritis, and for those who like to swing. Actually they’re for pretty much everybody these days. Ebay sales jumped by more than 1,000% this time last year.

Why did that happen? We can’t all have arthritis. Because so many people were stuck at home during lockdown last April, when we also had a spell of fine weather. Hot tub retailers rapidly ran out of stock, and have been playing catchup ever since.

They didn’t see it coming. Exactly. But with so many Britons having their summer holidays cancelled, a hot tub in the garden made for a more exciting staycation.

How much are we talking? The inflatable sort usually cost between £400 and £800, rising to about £18,000 for more substantial models.

So not that cheap. That’s probably the reason so many of them are getting stolen.

Stolen from where? Sometimes from dealerships – thieves took 10 hot tubs worth £50,000 from a business premises in Scotland just before Christmas – and sometimes from people’s back gardens.

You’re kidding. How do you go about nicking someone’s hot tub? First, let the water out.

That makes sense. No point in getting done for stealing the water as well. And if it’s inflatable, deflate it. Then you can cart it off in a wheelie bin, as thieves did in Bradford last summer during a spate of hot tub robberies.

This has turned my worldview upside down. Because you never suspected there was a thriving market in hot hot tubs?

Precisely. Will this be a big headache for home insurers? They have been paying out for thefts, but the real increase has been for accidental hot tub damage – submerged phones, strimmer-induced punctures, that sort of thing. Aviva saw a 188% year-on-year increase in spa-related claims for 2020.

All this talk of hot tubs has made me think about buying one. Certainly. Can I interest you in the six-seater Santa Barbara? A snip at £12,999.

No thanks. A guy I met at the pub said he could get me one for 60 quid. Fine. We’re sold out anyway.

Do say: “You don’t have to be naked, but you can’t wear the high heels.”

Don’t say: “My muscles are so tired and sore – let’s just take his bicycle.”