I admit, this sounds like the title of some Hardy Boys Mystery. It’s even more mysterious because, since COVID-19, almost all hotel mini-bars have been emptied. Before that, the MiniBar Mystery played out endless times in hotels around the world. If you’ve stayed in a moderate to a 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 of 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 huge minibar bill when you check out.
I tell this cautionary tale because with COVID vaccinations becoming more prevalent and more people traveling, we may see the return of the minibar and the mysterious charges.
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 had some snacks and drinks with us that we wanted to keep cold. Now, based on past experiences, this mini bar looked pretty safe. There didn’t appear to be any sensors to monitor if items were moved or removed, so I stored two bottles of water in the fridge to get cold until we returned to the room later that evening.
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. The Internet was included, as we were Marriott Gold members and we didn’t have any other room charges during our stay. That didn’t mean they weren’t able to charge the card I left on file for incidentals.
Here was the message on the email:
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”
I never got a message back with an 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. 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).
I guess this proves that if your room has a minibar, don’t touch it unless you intend to pay for everything inside of it. 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, at no charge.
Help yourself to a local snack and non-alcoholic drink from our complimentary minibar.
Virgin Hotels takes a slightly different approach, only charging street prices for minibar snacks and sodas.
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 earbuds, a “Facial in a Box” or something to help me to safely get my bow-chica-bow-wow
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary