It’s Friday. My “write whatever I want to” day. I’m well aware that just three weeks ago I wrote about how I didn’t want these posts to turn into me ranting about this or that. I’m giving myself a pass on that rule this week, as I now have a new thing that really annoys me. It’s a problem with hotels and I know I’ve given them a hard time in the past. First it was my list of five things I wish they did right and then my confusion about why they either give you too many or too few pillows. But it’s been several months and I’ve moved on to a new annoyance.
This one is more than just an issue about the room; it’s something that takes time and effort to discover and fix.
How come hotels keep charging me for minibar items when I never even touch it?
I wrote about this problem when we stayed at the W Hollywood and I was charged almost $30 for “munchies”.
BTW, I’m totally with the Points Guy’s opinion that the W hotels go a little too far in finding hip names for everything.
So, we just got back from a great overnight stay at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa last weekend. I used points for the room so we didn’t have any charges except the $15 valet parking fee (the hotel has no self parking available). I also got some coffee from the hotel restaurant in the morning so I was expecting the bill to be slightly higher but was surprised when two charges showed up on my credit card.
I had no idea where these amounts came from, so I emailed the hotel and asked for a copy of our “final” bill. It turned out we had three charges for the minibar for pita chips, a bar of dark chocolate and a bottle of Epicurean water, totaling $13.89.
What bothers me is that this charge was added well after we checked out of the hotel room. The reason I was able to figure out something was up with the bill was:
- I regularly (maybe obsessively) check over my credit card accounts.
- I wasn’t expecting any charge from the hotel since I paid for the room with points so I was easily able to see an unexpected bill.
- I check my miles and points regularly and saw an unexpected increase in my Marriott Rewards account.
I’ve contacted the hotel and I’m sure that this will be resolved. In my experience, hotels are generally quick to issue credits when you question charges from the minibar. However, I’m seeing this problem get worse and worse. When staying at hotels with minibars that have sensors, I’m at an over 50% ratio of getting charged for something when we didn’t even move a thing. I can’t imagine that I’m the only one; I just was one of the people who caught it and now it’s taking the time of me checking my credit card statements and contacting the hotel twice to get it resolved.
What if, instead, you were paying $350 a night for the W Hollywood, or the $525 a night the Epicurean was charging for a room, during your stay. Maybe you went to breakfast, got room service, had a drink at the bar and valet parked your car during your stay. Are you going to go back after the fact and recheck your bill to see if $20-$40 extra in minibar charges were added to your tab? Maybe or maybe not. If you notice it, it’s then up to you to contact the hotel and tell them you didn’t take anything. How many people does this happen to? How many of them catch it and, more importantly, how much money are hotels making off charges from “faulty” sensors in the minibars. I see no end to this because there’s no incentive for hotels to change anything. They’ll take the charge off if you complain, usually no questions asked. You’re so happy that they didn’t give you any hassle about removing the charge that you forget it was the hotel who charged you extra in the first place!
So what can I do? Luckily for us, we have some really smart readers of our blog who gave us great suggestions on Facebook when I wrote about this last time.
Mini bars – I take a photo showing the contents as soon as I check in. I take another photo when I am getting ready to leave. They usually match. If not, I’ll gladly pay for whatever I took. But I’ve got date and time stamped photos to dispute bogus charges. I delete them about a month later.
I’ve recently heard of being able to ask the staff to empty a minibar on arrival. If I see one in my room on future trips I’ll give that a try.
We do have an upcoming stay for several nights at a hotel where, based on online reviews, I am almost expecting a mystery minibar charge. I think I’m going to ask them to empty the minibar for us and see how they respond to the request. For a one night stay, I’m not sure I’d want to have the staff come up the room and empty the whole minibar. For those instances, I’ll start taking a picture of the contents when checking in and out, just in case.
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