by Nancy Bestor
Twenty-five years ago I did some traveling for my job with the California banking industry. My expense account was generous, and the hotels were high end. My co-worker, who had been traveling with the company much longer than me, said when she was on the road she would often order room service and hide out in her room, to avoid company dinners whenever possible. She also clued me in to using a hotel room’s mini bar if I didn’t want to see anyone in the hall or down in the restaurant when getting a soda or drink. This made perfect sense to me, because I was 24 years old, and didn’t really want to spend my evenings with bankers 50 years my senior, after I had already spent the entire day in meetings with them. I got used to getting a coke from the mini bar when I returned to my room, and ordering a hamburger and french fries from room service, then sitting on my bed to watch a pay-per-view movie and eat my dinner. I didn’t pay much attention to the prices, because I just signed over the bill to my company (and I wasn’t ordering Chateaubriand either).
Fast forward 25 years. Bob and I are paying the hotel bills now, and I realize that room service and mini bar prices are damn expensive! No way am I paying $4 for a can of coke, or (I kid you not here) $5 for a 12-ounce bottle of water. I can walk down the hall, or better yet, send Bob to the vending machine, and pay $1.50 for a coke (yes, still a rip off, but better than $4). I can even LEAVE THE HOTEL, and walk to a convenience store to buy a soft drink. And room service, really? The food is mediocre, arrives lukewarm at best, and it is WAY overpriced.
Here are a few random but interesting minibar facts: the top selling minibar snack is Pringles; M&M’s make up for 7% of minibar revenue; and the number one minibar item is bottled water, followed by Diet Coke. (Maybe Jeopardy will have a hotel minibar category sometime soon. If so, you’re welcome.)
Many hotels have done away with the minibar altogether, as apparently I’m not the only one who thinks the prices are not worth it. I’m always frosted (get it, frosted?) when some hotels won’t even let me put my own food/drink into the refrigerator to keep it cold. Since minibar products are sometimes on sensors, even if you move a drink to make room for your leftovers, you’ll be charged. Rude.
Who even uses the minibar these days anyway? Are there still companies like mine from 25 years ago who will pay most every hotel bill and not bother to suggest their employee go down to the lobby or restaurant for a soda or hamburger? Give me an empty hotel fridge any day. I’ll fill it with cheaper and better food and drink.