The Case Of The Mysterious MiniBar Charge – Make Sure It Doesn’t Happen To You

I admit, this sounds like the title of some Hardy Boys Mystery. However, it’s a story that I’m sure plays out endless times in hotels around the world. If you’ve stayed in a moderate to high end hotel, I have no doubt you’ve come across an in-room minibar that looks much like this:

There’s only one bit advice I can give to you if you see a layout like this. Close the door and back away slowly from the refrigerator. Don’t touch anything. Don’t even breathe heavily unless you want a a huge minibar bill when you check out.

Like many frequent travelers, I’m well versed in minibar etiquette. If it looks like they’re going to charge you for moving anything, then don’t move anything unless you want to pay for it. Drink your water bottle at room temperature or ask for a bucket of ice if you want to keep anything cold.

When we checked into the W Hollywood, we were coming from Disneyland in an Uber. We had some snacks and drinks with us that we wanted to keep cold. Now, I know my way around a mini bar and this one looked pretty safe. There didn’t seem to be any sensors to notice if items were moved or removed, so I stored two bottles of water in fridge to get cold until we returned to the room later that evening.

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The day after I returned home, I saw an email from the W Hollywood in my inbox with the title “Your updated W Hollywood folio.”

We were staying on points for our visit, and we didn’t have a car with us. Internet was included, as we are Starwood Gold members so we didn’t have any room charges during our stay. That didn’t mean they weren’t able to charge the card I left on file for incidentals.

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Here was the message on the email:

Hello,
Thanks for staying with us at W Hotels. We hope you had a wonderful time.

Please find your folio attached as requested. Any questions or feedback, just ask.
Contact me directly at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. We hope to see you again soon.

I knew I didn’t remove anything from the minibar; I didn’t even MOVE anything. At least, I didn’t think I moved anything.

I wrote a message back to the email address provided in the message. I was polite but firm and totally truthful:

I received the bill updated after we checked out showing charges from the mini-bar.

We didn’t remove anything from the bar but did put two bottles of water in there to get cold overnight. I’m usually good at noticing if there are sensors (and then I won’t move anything) but the items just seemed to be thrown in there.

If you could please look into this matter.

Shortly thereafter, I received another email “Your updated W Hollywood folio”

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I never got a message back with any explanation of the charges but they did remove the charge, no questions asked. I guess I can’t complain, as they did correct the problem quickly and with no hassles.

For the nights we stayed, they were charging over $400 a night if you were paying cash for the room. The appearance of nickel and diming a guest after the fact didn’t sit right with me. I mean come on, I didn’t even pick up the box of condoms on top of the mini-bar (If you’re wondering, it’s the box in the front left with the “nut and bolt” on the front (hint, hint).

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Final Thoughts

I guess this proves to me that if your room has a minibar instead of a refrigerator, don’t touch it unless you intend to pay for everything inside of it Or maybe they were going to erroneously charge me anyway, who knows? Either way, it makes me appreciate the Hyatt Andaz minibar policy where anything non-alcoholic is yours, no charge.

Help yourself to a local snack and non-alcoholic drink from our complimentary minibar. Start an email in your room and finish it in the lounge, using our free WiFi throughout the hotel. We are a world without walls, meant to create an open exchange of stories, ideas and moments.

If you’re charging $400 a night, is it going to break the bank to let me have a bottle of water or a Diet Coke on the house? It’s not like I’m asking for a free box of breath mints, complimentary ear buds, a “Facial in a Box” or something to help me to safely get my bow-chica-bow-wow on.

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One thought on “The Case Of The Mysterious MiniBar Charge – Make Sure It Doesn’t Happen To You”

  1. i was charged for minibar items at the holiday inn melbourne airport — saw the charge on my credit card bill, and when i called them they said it was for “the wine and cookie” i had from the minibar. i hadn’t touched the minibar. when the hotel refused to budge, i disputed the charge on my credit card and didn’t hear anything further about it. got me thinking that housekeeping staff can take anything they like from the room and charge it to the guest …

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