Its presence is nearly phantom and its payoff is practically pointless. The minibar remains a puzzling component to any hotel room, primarily because guests have long been aware of its pricey deception. What was once considered a luxury now appears to be more of a running gag. And while late-night desperation may justify its existence, knowing exactly how inflated and ridiculous price fluctuations are for the usual snack and beverage minibar suspects will more than likely halt any impulses. Here’s a look into exactly how much minibars are ripping you off, and why hotels are finally evicting these unwanted guests:
Just one look at the price tag of stocked beverages and snacks in hotel rooms is enough to cry foul play, but there are certainly some minibar menus in particular that verge on the edge of sheer mockery. According to a list compiled by TripAdvisor, some of the most ridiculously priced minibar inclusions range from retailed $6 packaged peanuts being sold for over $18 in a Toronto resort to a $7.43 bottle of water at a Oslo, Norway hotel that would cost you 99 cents at your nearest gas station. A can of soda that’s completely complimentary in Morocco is priced at just under $8 in Seoul, South Korea.
Not only are prices often spiked, but because many guests are wary of purchasing items from the minibar, products usually have a long shelf life. Sandeep Sharma, account management vice president of Minibar Systems, talked to Hotel Management magazine in regard to how expiration dates are another overlooked factor when it comes to these exorbitant goods.
“Typically the minibar product tends to sit on the shelf a little longer,” Sharma told Hotel Management magazine. “Twenty to 25 percent of occupied rooms will use the minibar. The remaining 75 percent probably will not. We try to ensure the product that goes in has the longest shelf life as possible.”
Hotels wising up
But are enough people buying $4 cola cans and $6 peanuts to keep hotels from pulling the plug on this service that seems on the verge of extinction? Results from a TripAdvisor survey indicated that guests found the minibar to be the least important amenity for them, coming in at 21 percent, behind spa and beauty treatments, business centers and laundry service. The combination of guests not caring and the difficulties of managing every room’s minibar seems to have hotel chains signaling defeat on the expandable feature.
The Independent reported that some of the biggest hotel chains in the world, such as Starwood and Hilton, have been gradually removing minibars from their rooms for the past few years, primarily due to how difficult it is to police each product. Many hotel chains such as DoubleTree and Sheraton began installing electronic sensors or scales to try and detect when a can of soda or bag of chocolates had been lifted. This practice has led to many errors in charging, resulting in unexpected bills and plenty of complaints. A manager at Milwaukee’s Ambassador Hotel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that it’s estimated that 90 percent of automatic charges for the minibars in their rooms turn out to be in error. Of course, it’s unlikely that hotels would be quick to point out an erroneous charge on your bill during check out.
Ultimately, the decision to move on may be largely due to the fact that overall minibar sales have been on a steady decline in the U.S. for the past several years. As The Telegraph reported, PKF Hospitality Research found that income from hotel room minibars in the U.S. dropped 28 percent from 2007 to 2012, and the trend only seems to be continuing to go downhill from there.
A mini eulogy
While the later years of its existence were plagued with controversy, no one can deny how the mini bar was once a welcoming presence when arriving at a home away from home. May the thrill of opening a fridge to find it fully stocked with candy and sodas forever linger in our memories. Farewell minibar, and may your legacy forever live on through the favorable 24-hour convenient store located across the street.