The Bloggers
Subscribe to this Blog

The Monday Rant: Mini-Bars, Maxi-Buzz Kill

Andrea Sachs

I am afraid to even look at it, much less touch it or -- aghast! -- open it.
I am referring, of course, to the Evil Mini-Bar, the cruelest of hotel appliances (amenities is too generous and kind a word).

Back in the day, mini-bars were friendly repositories of refreshments. Sure, the items were overpriced, but that's what you got for convenience. (Who wants to leave the in-room fete to run around a strange town looking for coke and Johnnie Walker?) Nowadays, though, the bars have lost their party-hearty appeal and have become a thing to fear. Like a clown under the bed. The boogie man in the closet. The fridge that will double your hotel bill.

I blame the motion detectors, the Big Brothers placed inside the fridge to spy on us. (For a complete discussion, see the transcript from last Monday's Travel Web chat). It used be that you could open the fridge, peer inside, pull out a beer, read the label, look longingly at the frosty liquid, then place it back, sadly. Now, if you even nudge a mini-bar item, you could be slapped with a charge. Kid you not.

During a recent stay in Atlantic City, my hotel room featured a tray of gourmet treats set on the counter. Below it, a sign warned guests that if they picked up an item for more than 30 seconds, they would be assessed a fee. (The sign patronizingly ended with a "Cheers.") That's like asking a kid not to pet a puppy. I was so tempted to pick up one of the snacks for 29 seconds, but worried that my watch was not synchronized with the hotel's. Oops. Just kidding.

My biggest gripe, however, goes to the ogres who patrol the fridge interior, theatening to charge guests who keep personal items inside. To me, that is just mean and petty. Why not give a tiny shelf to guests who can't afford $4 sodas and $6 Pringles? You don't charge us shower space for bringing our own shampoo and conditioner, or a hook rental fee if we use our own bathrobe.

To outwit the hotel scrooges, I now jerry-rig a primitive Frigidaire. I fill up the ice bucket with loads of cubes, place my perishables in a plastic bag and bury them in the ice. I have been doing this for a while, but worry that hotels may start placing sensors in the ice bucket to catch guests who are filling it with more than ice.

I fear the day when I have to start fearing the ice bucket.

By Andrea Sachs |  August 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Andrea Sachs
Previous: Friday Photo: Dog and Pony Show | Next: August Is the Cruelest Month

View or post comments


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I wonder how many hotels actually get away with these charges and why they don't realize that it creates more hassle than it's worth. Who doesn't dispute a $6 snickers that they didn't eat? It's not even like outrageous valet parking or wifi fees--at least you're using it. But surely at some point the bad will of numerous guests saying "I didn't eat it" will lead to bar relations.

Posted by: ah | August 4, 2008 11:08 AM

Chris Elliott over at has an article up about this today. His best advice? Don't accept the minibar key, or ask the front desk to remove the items from the room entirely.

Posted by: Liz | August 4, 2008 11:40 AM

My last hotel trip, I was so incensed at the sign saying if i even took the items out for 30 seconds that I would be charged, so I took all the soda and the 3 cans of miller light out for the week and then put them back in. There was no key to it.

Went to the front desk and saw the enormous bill and disputed. They almost refused to take it off my bill. I handed them a picture of the minibar I took on my cell phone and showed them the time stamp. I then pulled out cash and handed them the money for my week stay and said they could bill me for the things I did not eat and drink. Finally the manager realized his efforts to get me to pay the extra cash was futile and allowed me on my way.

Small victories

Posted by: JamesD | August 4, 2008 12:52 PM

Heard a comedian say once "Mini-bars are a window to the future. Look at the mini-bar menu and you will see how much a Kit Kat will cost in 2018!"

Posted by: Dan | August 4, 2008 2:09 PM

Oh please, there's no need to get vengeful.

When I check in, I tell them to note on the reservation that I'm diabetic. Therefore, I will be using the minibar fridge to keep my necessaries cool.

Now, those necessaries aren't insulin since I'm not insulin dependent, but they don't need to know that. (I do usually get myself some crudite to snack on.) But I never have a problem with minibar charges for simply breathing on the minibar by guilting them for not providing a simple fridge ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2008 8:29 PM

The thing that gets me about the mini-bar is when they knock on the door saying they need to check the mini-bar. (I don't know wheter this is necessary with the motion detectors.) Why should I interrupt my relaxing evening in my room so that you can verify that I haven't used anything?

Posted by: Jon | August 6, 2008 7:42 PM

When I make a hotel reservation I request that the mini-bar be emptied and a working refrigerator be provided. This service has been provided with no problems. This definitely solves the possible problem of being charged for items that were never used.

Posted by: Dory | August 6, 2008 8:16 PM

Why even patronize establishments such as the ones described here? I routinely stay in clean, comfortable, safe places in decent locations with fridge, microwave, coffee/tea, internet access and sometimes even breakfast or snacks at no extra charge. I prefer more value for my hotel dollar.

Posted by: Lore | August 6, 2008 11:18 PM

I stayed in a pretty upscale hotel (for work) once & I was hungry after a workout so I went for a Kit Kat bar. Well, the Kit Kat had been opened, had one bite taken out of it & then placed back in the wrapper & back in the fridge. On further investigation, the Pringles can had the top wrapper peeled back, all the Pringles eaten, the wrapper put back on & the plastic top back on. And they tried to charge me for this stuff!!

Posted by: liz | August 7, 2008 10:29 AM

wooden fence [URL=]wooden fence[/URL] [url=]wooden fence[/url] [url][/url]

Posted by: wooden fence | August 9, 2008 2:01 PM

kentwood mi hotel kentwood mi hotel [link=]kentwood mi hotel[/link]

Posted by: kentwood mi hotel | August 10, 2008 12:12 PM

stereotypes stereotypes [link=]stereotypes[/link]

Posted by: stereotypes | August 10, 2008 12:14 PM

kuma video kuma video [link=]kuma video[/link]

Posted by: kuma video | August 10, 2008 12:15 PM

iewatch 2.0 crack [URL=]iewatch 2.0 crack[/URL] [url=]iewatch 2.0 crack[/url] [url][/url]

Posted by: iewatch 2.0 crack | August 10, 2008 12:16 PM

rikku videos [URL=]rikku videos[/URL] [url=]rikku videos[/url] [url][/url]

Posted by: rikku videos | August 10, 2008 12:17 PM

big buff guys big buff guys [link=]big buff guys[/link]

Posted by: big buff guys | August 13, 2008 10:57 AM

oatley access panels [URL=]oatley access panels[/URL] [url=]oatley access panels[/url] [url][/url]

Posted by: oatley access panels | August 13, 2008 10:59 AM

in a fix tv show [URL=]in a fix tv show[/URL] [url=]in a fix tv show[/url] [url][/url]

Posted by: in a fix tv show | August 13, 2008 11:02 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company