Note: Long read, please be patient; there may be value in some part of it.
VALUE: I really LIKE the 16-hour tanning process; things SHOULD take work and effort and time to achieve and build, IF you want them to have value. Value in an MMO is something that takes time or money (and getting money takes time & effort, so therefore: time & effort = value).
REALITY: "Place a guard"; "Trust your town"; "Work with others"; "It's more realistic". While those are noble sentiments, none are very accurate or actually very feasible in an Online world (which we are). Right now, anybody can walk into town and take your hides; which is made possible because you must sleep at some point. In reality, you could have a dog bark, or place your tub in a locked fence.
PROBLEM/ISSUE: Tanning Tubs are having leather/hides taken. If enough people (% of players = concerned) are concerned with the loss of hides (enough that care or know how to comment (% of concerned), then one may conclude this is something that effects gameplay and enjoyment (at least for a portion of players (lets call them 'crafters'). This may lead crafters to question 'Why spend time/effort if the reward is uncertain?" That is: Why play a game that allows others to disrupt my working for my reward? We want to encourage players to hunt and craft.
(1) The easiest solution is to say "working as intended"; that is... the difficulty of maintaining looter-free Tanning Tubs is meant to be an important part of game play, and used as a way increase the difficulty and rarity (and thereby value) of hunter/tanners.
(2) Make Tubs available in houses with outdoor/porch areas; this may not be the best option as it would de-value towns and the community, but would allow casual and individual players easier gameplay, as well as provide another reason to encourage porch spaces.
(3) Make tubs lootable only by the player who deposited the item and City Admins. This could cause problems with tying up Tubs as players neglect to pull their items, but could easily be overcome with an 'expiration period' after which anyone can pull the items; say, 4 hours?
(4) City 'roles' or 'crafters' could be appointed by City Administrators (i.e. Tailor, Carpenter, Mage, etc.) and only the appropriate City Crafter (or City Admins) can pull (or place?) items into the tubs (if setup that way by city admin). This could negatively slow the process down, but might encourage a whole new aspect of gameplay; that of Trades People. I find this concept to be the most appealing and exciting to me as a player and crafter (i.e. Place or pull processed items for gold or trade). Also, could allow for rent or taxes (or Upkeep/Maintenance costs as an intentional money sink) on trades-buildings to be established, but that's a whole different issue & topic.
If you've read this far, thank you for your time and attention. I hope we continue to improve an already FANTASTIC game. I hope it never stops growing and evolving to make the game better for everybody; not easier... Better! -- Grimshok