Don't Even Look At Your Hotel Room's Minibar Or You Might Get Charged

Gregg emailed us from the Westin Hotel in San Francisco:

My wife and I are there right now. We opened the minibar last night to put a piece of pizza in there in a pizza box. This morning, there’s a $26.04 charge for food on the bill slid under our door. Why? My wife just called to ask and was told, “If you open the mini bar door, there’s a sensor in there and if you move anything in there… you get billed for it.” In our case, we must have jiggled a $20 bottle of wine.

Gregg adds, “Gee…I wonder how many people pay for the wine (or whatever) that they never ate or drank because they simply didn’t look at the bill???” Remember, if you so much as place the hotel’s menu binder on top of the minibar, double-check your bill for charges. Double-check anyway because hotels can be sneaky.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. m4ximusprim3 says:

    correction: “hotels can be assholes.”

    A common spelling mistake.

  2. TheBassKicks says:

    This is completely off-topic. Sorry.

    But I’ve really been dying to know the answer to this question, and I figure this is the place to come for it.

    What makes credit score companies entitled to the information they keep about me? Other corporations and citzens aren’t allowed to farm my information in this way. Why are they? Is this sort of thing in the credit card contract somewhere?

  3. Aaron_Anderson says:

    The last hotel I stayed in told me something like that could happen. Fair is fair I suppose. We had to refrigerators in our room. One for us, and one was the mini-bar. They told us not to monkey with the mini-bar, and that adding tiny airplane bottles would not get us a negative balance :)

  4. Tank says:

    experienced this in vegas a few weeks back. at checkout they tried to hit us with about a $50 dollar charge, told them we put sodas in the fridge, they said it happens all the time and waived the charge.

    • Wolzard says:

      @Tank:

      The unfortunate problem is, as mentioned by the OP, alot of people probably pay this charge unknowlingly.

    • exkon says:

      @Tank: @Wolzard:

      It shouldn’t really be like that, all it takes is a quick check by the staff to show that you didn’t actually take anything.

    • Blitzgal says:

      @Tank: Why don’t they keep track of what’s in the fridge and bill customers for what they actually remove and eat/drink? This sensor crap is ridiculous.

      • animeredith says:

        @Blitzgal: The sensors are definitely annoying, but they’re there because unfortunately there are people out there that will try to do sleazy things like drinking the alcohol and then replacing it with water. If you have human staff checking the minibars then there is a bigger chance that they’ll miss it. At least, I think that’s what the rationale is.

    • kamikazee05 says:

      @Tank: My dad recently emptied the entire fridge to put some stuff in at the Westin in Atlanta (he’s really not the type to read those little signs) and got hit with like a $200 charge, he just explained the situation and they took it right off.

  5. geoelectric says:

    And I imagine they have to take them right off again when you point them out. There’s no way that bill could be considered legit without some pretty prominent warnings.

    • FatLynn says:

      @geoelectric: At the Hyatt Embarcadero last week, they had a big sign that said “don’t touch anything you don’t want to be charged for. If you want to use the fridge to store your own food, let us know, and we will come empty it out for a $10 fee.”

  6. Etoiles says:

    At Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, they have a little tray in the room with chocolate and drinks on it.

    It turns out that there’s a sensor in the tray, and if you pick up something to look at it (the chocolates are not obviously chocolates; they’re in a cardboard cylinder that made us curious) you get charged.

    We called the front desk about the mystery $35 charge but then were told that if the sensor sensed that we put the item back in under 60 seconds and it stayed put for 12 hours, the charge would automatically reverse itself. Seems that was true. But nuts.

    • howie_in_az says:

      @EtoilePB: I wonder how much hotels spend on these sensors and such. I guess the initial investment is worth it because more and more hotels are doing things like this.

    • camille_javal says:

      @EtoilePB: I have this “Raiders of the Lost Ark” scene playing out in my head – trying to put down a tube of pennies fast enough to trick the sensor…

    • animeredith says:

      @EtoilePB: But what if you, say, knocked the tray over and you check out in under 12 hours? The charge would just be on there and they’d just hope you miss it?

  7. ludwigk says:

    the last hotel I stayed in had a minifridge in each room, and the thing was empty. Clearly, just a convenience for the guests staying there.

    This must help the hotels out with guests who might try to run off with mini bottles of liquor right before they leave (which probably happens at places with mini bars).

    • freelunch says:

      @ludwigk: I love the empty mini-fridges… intended for the guests that value cold beer from the across the street rather than pay the $9 water bottles.

    • FLEB says:

      @ludwigk: I think this is just a case of “high-class hotels aren’t all they’re cracked up to be”. It seems the higher up the price ladder you go, the more they still nickle-dime you.

      • Inglix_the_Mad says:

        @FLEB:

        My friend had one that wouldn’t reverse the charge for a couple wine bottles (small), peanuts, and beers. He was like okay, and on his second to last day there, poured said items he was charged for along the edge of the box spring between the box spring and mattress. Oh yeah, after he removed the liner and then crushed the peanuts into the safe / drawers.

        Petty, I admit.

  8. Zwitterion says:

    Another fine case of attempting to sneak in some extra earnings under the radar… I just don’t know why companies can’t be honest anymore. Just another reason why you should READ, READ, READ, and SCRUTINIZE everything you get involved with, that has to do with money and services and products.

  9. SniDa says:

    This happened to me at Millenium Broadway in NYC, except they were kind enough to slip us a paper bill under the door to let us know. Went straight to the front desk and got it cleared.

    • taking_this_easy says:

      @SniDa: i guess its more profitable to sneak these fees away while paying for the technology and sensors…..

    • lizk says:

      @SniDa: It happened to me at the Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, but I wasn’t lucky enough to see it on the bill they slipped under the door. I only found out when my company’s accounts payable department contacted me and said, “hey, did you notice your credit card statement is $32 higher than the bill you submitted to us?” (It’s a company card.) I called to straighten it out and had to talk to three people before the charge was removed. They’d charged me for a bottle of wine I never drank. Even though they removed the charge, they treated me like a total criminal–“well, didn’t you drink it? are you sure? maybe you just cracked the cork open to smell it?” (As if one could mistakenly open an entire bottle of wine on accident and forget about it!!)

    • HungryMohican says:

      @SniDa: I also experienced this at the Millennium Broadway. Yes, there was a sign on the fridge door, but the print was very small, in a dull gold lettering, and at about the height of my shin. It wasn’t noticed until one of my friends said something about “wow, they have all of these very specific compartments for everything in the fridge” after he had already removed everything so we could use the fridge to store some items we had purchased. We had to call the front desk, they sent someone up to inventory the entire fridge & then they brought us a small cube fridge (for a fee, of course). This was an annoying & ridiculous inconvenience & it took a lot of arguing & convincing for them to send someone up to do the inventory (and bring the other fridge).
      Great hotel, bad fridge. :-(

  10. YeshayaMaylord says:

    I put a bottle of water in the minibar at a Westin once, THEN read the notice inside the fridge that says that anything you move or put in the fridge may result in a charge. I snatched the bottle back out, and a quick call to the front desk assured me that I had gotten lucky and the sensor hadn’t been tripped, so I didn’t have to contest a BS charge.

  11. phrancis says:

    I was in SF staying at the Westin St.Francis last month and also moved stuff around in the mini-fridge to make room for new stuff. I remember seeing some kinda pressure sensor under each item and thought “aw crap”. Sure enough, I got charged at check-out. I told em what happened and they cleared it…

    I wonder if I could have pulled an Indiana Jones and quickly swapped a similar weight item (rock) fast enough?

  12. mkguitar says:

    This happens all the time.
    1.) do not be afraid to ask the hotel to inventory the contents at check in. I have been billed for a mini bar which they say was not completely stocked when I checked out- I don’t drink so the assumption is that it had not been stocked.

    2.)Most hotels will work with you- if not, contact the frequent stayer program- ask then to intercede.

    3.) If it is a “robo bar”- just shake the whole thing- tell then that the door stuck, or you bumped it with the suitcase.

    4.) ask for a fridge- tell them you are diabetic and need to store medication- do this at the time of reservation…call to confirm before check in so that they can install the fridge and get it frosty for you.

    5.) carry lock picks, decline the key- pick the locks, drink everything and deny it.
    open the bottoms of the beer or soda cans. Use the steam iron to open up the candy bar wrappers, remove the candy and reseal them.

    for other tricks check http://www.secretwalltattoos.com

    MK

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @mkguitar: 1 and 2 are good. 3 and 4 are debatable. 5 is theft.

      thats a pretty good mix!

    • MyPetFly says:

      @mkguitar:

      “Use the steam iron to open up the candy bar wrappers, remove the candy and reseal them.”

      Yummy! A puddle of chocolate! ;)

    • Zeniq says:

      @mkguitar: Yeah, I’m all for 1, 2 and 4. Three sounds like a good idea if you think you moved one thing and are worried about getting charged for something you didn’t eat or drink. 5 sounds is a tad criminalistic.

      • EYESONLY says:

        @Zeniq: “5 sounds is a tad criminalistic.”

        …And also, uh, a lot of trouble to go to?! (MK had to be kidding with that one, right?)

    • LeoSolaris says:

      @mkguitar: Isn’t just the mere possession of lock picks illegal? For some reason I thought it fell under the laws against “criminal tools” unless you happen to be a locksmith.

      Otherwise not too shabby of a list. I would be rather peeved if a hotel tried this one.

      • Con Seannery says:

        @LeoSolaris: Uh, there are maybe 2 states, I know of one, that it needs a license for, and I know they’re illegal in DC, but you’re pretty much cool anywhere else, though if you get caught doing something afoul of the law AND have them on you, it looks REALLY bad…

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        @LeoSolaris: Note to self, bring fake locksmith identification with my lockpicks.

      • samurailynn says:

        @LeoSolaris: Locks can be picked with paperclips… last I heard paperclips were still legal (although possibly not an airplace). But, I’m sure it is illegal to pick locks that you do not own.

    • Parapraxis says:

      @mkguitar:

      sometimes, the sarcasm sensors in some of my fellow commenters don’t work.

      good job on #5, though. I love it.

  13. lordargent says:

    Old news, I even parodied it on fark earlier this year.

    ‘Body found packed in dry ice at hotel. First responders didn’t want to move the body due to the high minibar prices’

    [forums.fark.com]

    /you would think they could have done this a better way that would reduce the number of false positives. /RFID everything, to ensure that the bottles are still there. And weigh everything to make sure the total weight is the same.

  14. The_IT_Crone says:

    A hotel I was in had VERY prominent warnings that basically said if you used the minibar to chill things, we’d be liable for any charges for moved stuff. I think it was less of a warning than a disclaimer :/

  15. OletheaEurystheus says:

    The new Water Club in Atlantic City has this. Worse they have the tray kind that detects any weight change and charges you.

    Funny enough I heard the company who owns the Borgata cant understand why no one wants to stay there at all… lets see, small rooms, everything 2-3 times more expensive than the sister hotel RIGHT next door, and instead of having room service having a weighted tray that overcharges you…. Yeah takes a rocket scientist of a CEO to figure out how much fail was involved in its creation.

    • Nick1693 says:

      @OletheaEurystheus: “The new Water Club in Atlantic City has this. Worse they have the tray kind that detects any weight change and charges you.”

      What if you don’t take anything off, but add some stuff? Do they give you money?

  16. EOr says:

    I had something similar happen. I actually took a bottle of water out of the mini-fridge (despite the fact that they were going to charge me $4 for it or something) but the bill added a bottle of wine that I must have jostled when taking the water out. They actually checked to make sure the wine was still in there before taking it off my bill…

    • @EOr: Perhaps if enough travelers opened the fridge door and slammed it (thus jostling everything inside and registering a near-simultaneous “sale” of the contents) hotels might get the message.

  17. Minibar in my hotel in kazakhstan had half liter beers for 2 Euro. That’s reasonable. This was twice the price of going across the street to buy it. I don’t mind paying a convenience fee to have things in the room. I just hate the bend you over and take this 6 dollar Snickers Bar. If they would just charge a normal fee instead of tricking people into paying.

  18. Morticia says:

    I don’t understand why Hotels bother with mini bars. Ok I know they get to charge premium on the items but I still would imagine it was more trouble than it is worth. The time and energy spent into staff checking, having sensors and then the customers getting their backs up over charges…. the hotels really need to move on.

    • youbastid says:

      @Morticia: Obviously because they make huge profits off of them. They aren’t lying in their beds awake at night, clutching their accounting binders, wondering if it’s really all worth it. It is.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @Morticia: It’s a convenience for hungry drunks like myself. Mmmm, $9 Toblerone.

    • johnnya2 says:

      @Morticia: Actually hotels are moving away from mini-bars. They are a relic of the 90’s. Most newer hotels do not bother with them. The amount of labor involved in restocking them costs more than the profit.

    • kerrington.steele says:

      @Morticia: I’ve stayed at several hotels recently that have done away with minibars and instead have empty fridges or mini-fridges (for items you bring in yourself, or water bottles), and sell concessions in the lobby where the front desk can keep an eye on them. this strikes me as much more efficient, and the hotel can stock a greater variety of items (shampoo, sandwiches, dental floss, beer, etc.) without requiring lots of staff attention.

      the downside was that in the last hotel I stayed at (an all-suites Marriott in Dallas), the rooms were only stocked with the basic toiletries instead of the full range you used to see regularly. if I wanted a shower cap, body lotion, mouthwash or tissues, I had to buy them from the “convenience mart” in the lobby. :(

  19. youbastid says:

    All this and more in this month’s issue of DUH Magazine.

  20. bdgbill says:

    Heres the scam: Insert bullshit charges on every customers bill. The charges can be for the useless safe, for the mini-bar, for newspaper delivery etc.

    If a customer challenges the charge, cheerfully refund it. There is always a nice percentage of customers (suckers) that do not read their bill, don’t have the spine to challenge the bill or don’t care because their comapany is paying.

    There are always enough suckers to make these policies profitable in the short term.

    After I get these charges waived from my bill, I always tell the manager that I will not stay in the property again because of their sleazy methods.

    • @bdgbill: I’d add that most business travelers don’t look twice at the bill unless there’s a line item for a restaurant/bar charge. All those little things add up; companies taxing each other and us invisibly.

  21. Oh farking stupid.

    I don’t drink coffee, but a chain hotel I stayed in way back in the 80’s had coffee pot and fixins in the room (fee of course) ….. so I went to the convenience store and got me some tea bags and hot choc for the missus.

    I guess these days they would charge me for heating the water.

    This nickel and diming crap is getting way past stupid. If the hotel offers a mini-bar (it is a step or two above the typical chain hotel that I normally frequent) then I am sure the hotel is charging premium prices for the room and surely can afford to let the room renter to use the farking ‘fridge.

    • @Corporate-Shill:

      Edit

      “free” instead of “fee”

    • Sidecutter says:

      @Corporate-Shill: Same feeling I have about the internet usage. I’d love fore someone to actually give me a reason that isn’t BS why I can stay in a $45 hotel and get internet access for free, but once you pass ~$80/night, internet costs $10+ a day. There’s a serious case of “WTF?” going on there.

      • Southern says:

        @Sidecutter:

        Because most business travellers stay in these upscale hotels, and those hotels know that these travellers will pay the extra $10 Internet Surcharge (probably because the company is paying their bill anyway). You don’t typically see many business folk staying at the Motel-6 on the south side of town. :)

        Personally, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between a $200/night room and a $31/night room. When we’re on vacation or a trip, my wife and I typically don’t go to the hotel until we’re ready for bed (at which point we grab a shower and hit the sack), then when we wake up we get dressed & leave for the day, not going back to the hotel until that night again. *Shrug*..

        • mbz32190 says:

          @Southern:

          I agree with you. I think the fanciest hotel I have ever stayed in (that I have had to personally pay for) has been a Comfort Suites. Honestly, I don’t care about amenities as long as it is clean and has a hot shower.

        • Parapraxis says:

          @Southern:

          you ever get the feeling lying in bed in a $31 a night room that something very, very, wrong happened in there?

          ….

          me neither.

    • mmmsoap says:

      @Corporate-Shill: Eww. Never use hotel coffee pots, as MANY of them have been used to cook up meth. Yeah, even in the nice places.

  22. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    Go to the front desk and tell them you want it taken off the bill. Be polite, but firm. Ask to speak to a manager if you must. They will acquiesce.

    Those damn minibar sensors are the worst thing ever.

  23. pragakhan says:

    It’s pretty easy to see the large device and round scales the items sit on. I don’t like seeing these ignorant posts, it’s like getting mad that it’s not sunny out and you can’t figure out why.

  24. MercuryPDX says:

    You could always call the front desk right away, say you’re a diabetic alcoholic with a peanut allergy and ask them to empty it for healthy and safety reasons.

  25. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I’ve been billed by hotels days AFTER checkout, and had to call to reverse them. I suspect employee theft, either taking items or not stocking them fully.

  26. harleymcc says:

    Remember,

    -Bring a soldering iron.
    -Ice Tea looks like any amber booze.
    -No one notices holes in the bottom of beer cans

    Just saying….

  27. magic8ball says:

    It bugged me when my hotel in London did this. They were at least upfront about it – the outside of the fridge had a sign that explained it – but I really wanted to use the fridge to store the sandwich fixin’s that I picked up at Tesco. No such luck. :(

    • PirateFrankie says:

      @magic8ball: Ha! My hotel in Regent’s Park London did the exact same thing. I managed to wedge some of the fixins in between the bottles and stuck the beer & yogurt out onto the window ledge (it was early March). I was tempted to hang drying laundry out to complete the effect.
      Since this was a fairly nice hotel, it would probably have been less unsightly to just let me use the damn mini fridge.

  28. ShakeelSea lion says:

    That’s a great idea. I mean, they can’t possibly charge you $600 for _every single_ item in the minibar unless you were having the kind of time where the police would have been called.

  29. ryan89 says:

    I stayed downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. The cheapest thing in our minibar was a Snickers bar for $3. I could have walked down the hall to the vending area and got the same Snickers bar for $1.50. Or I could have gone half a block to Michigan Ave and got it for 59 cents at Walgreen’s.

  30. johnmc says:

    My father ran afoul of this one once. He got out of it by telling the hotel desk that he needed to store medication in there.

  31. MissTicklebritches says:

    You can also request that a hotel remove the contents of the mini-fridge for you before your stay. Alcoholics do this all the time.

  32. tooki says:

    Even worse are the sensor-tripped snack tray on the credenza. When I stayed at the Westin SF, I didn’t even touch the damned nuts after looking at the price list… I mean, WTF $9 for a 2oz can of peanuts?

  33. Snakeophelia says:

    When I traveled to Melbourne this sprin on a business trip, the hotel in which we stayed provided Cadbury bars – big ones – and restocked them every day. Did I mention that’s my favorite chocolate? I not only ate every bar that the maids kept leaving in my room, I ate all the bars in my friend’s room. Whatever they charged us, it was worth it. Nothing like waking up at 4 am with jet lag and going, “Oooh, that’s right – Cadbury’s!”

    Another hotel I visited in San Francisco had lube and condoms in the minibar fridge. THAT must have been fun at the front desk when someone complained about being erroneously charged for those.

  34. bravo369 says:

    I can imagine how many people get hit with charges because their kids opened the fridge or in some of the cases here, put a drink in to make sure it’s cold. I’m sure if you didn’t actually take anything then the front desk will reverse the charge. ask for a manager if you have to. There’s always a chargeback or you can sue them. i’m sure one of the 3 will work.

  35. JasmineAnubis says:

    This is not a scam but simply a labor cost issue for most hotels. You know how long it takes to look through every fridge in a 1000 room hotel every day? Labor is always the biggest cost in hotels and these fridges are just one of the many things to reduce that.

  36. forgottenpassword says:

    I wonder it it common practice to have the maids accidentally bump each & every minibar while cleaning the room (while you are out)?

  37. clickable says:

    Ask the hotel to empty the minibar. We always do that either in advance or immediately on arriving.

  38. MsAnthropy says:

    Maybe it’s their cunning attempt to foil sneaky guests like me, who will drink those little bottles of water and cans of Coke… and then replace them before I check out. This only works when staying in the hotel for more than one night (unless I plan a shopping trip for some disgustingly early hour the next day), and where judicious use of the ‘do not disturb sign’ has prevented the pesky maid getting in and itemizing my minibar usage before I get the chance to fill it back up again.

    I used to avoid minibars like the plague, now I just think ‘fuck it, it’s 4am, I’m thirsty, and I’m drinking that Sprite right now!’ – I just make sure I leave the minibar stocked identically to how it was upon my arrival. It’s never failed me yet!

  39. SuperiorInky says:

    Man, if the sensors are that sensitive what would happen if there was an earthquake? All of that stuff being rattled around, sensors going off left and right, charge upon charge…that could cause quite a disaster.

    You: “Sir. There was an earthquake and my mini bar got rattled. Am I going to get charged for that?”

    Person at front desk: “Why yes! Yes you will! MWAHAHAHA!”

  40. JasonR says:

    I’m not a lawyer, but despite the warnings, I wonder if a hotel actually attempting to charge you for the product they claim you touched would hold up in a court. My understanding of contracts is that they require “consideration” – meaning that if you pay money you have to get something of value… a product, service, whatever. Where’s the consideration in this case?

    Before someone says that they got the right to nudge a product, I would suggest that could be ‘fair’ if they have a flat fee for opening the fridge and taking a look around… using the refrigeration mechanism for your own needs at $x/day. But a fee based on which products they believe were moved seems somewhat arbitrary. I get the idea (just as I get the idea behind receipt checks), but it still doesn’t seem right.

  41. Kjgmusic says:

    I actually don’t think this is really too bad. This is a downfall of the convenience of modern technology, but overall it’s worth it. I would imagine the charges can be reversed easily enough upon inspection and discovering that the items are still there.

  42. My wife and I stayed at the Westin in Indy this summer. When we checked in, we were asked if we wanted the room fridge locked. I said, yes please. They typed a code into their computer and remotely locked it from the front desk…or so we thought.

    We got up to the room and checked to see if it had locked. It had not. I called the front desk and they tried it again. No dice. They then asked if I wanted a ‘technician’ to come up and look at it. I politely declined…deciding to be careful.
    We were careful and did not get charged for anything in the fridge, despite accidentally jostling it a few times.

    We did have a problem, though. Coming back from walking around the downtown area, I had to get something out of our car before returning to the room. We used Westin’s (grossly) overpriced valet parking, so we made our way down to the garage to see if we could find the car. We did…and discovered that the valet left it completely unlocked! I was furious. Not only was this the Westin garage, but it was also part city garage available to the public. I complained to the front desk, and when it was all said and done I got a decent chunk taken off my bill.

    That was my first and last experience with valet parking and the Westin Hotel. For as expensive as that place is, they really nickel and dime you.

    • MyLud says:

      @Matt Redacted: I just posted about this same hotel. The Westins are all licensed names, and can be so hit-or-miss (see the Las Vegas Westin story on this site). I’m not surprised to hear you had this experience there — mine was bad, too.

  43. shorty63136 says:

    Hm. Hampton Inn gave me Oreos, Sunchips, and bottled water for free. No sensors, just – “Here ya go. You might be hungry.”

    Maybe I don’t stay in upscale-enough hotels. The Oreos were great though.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      @shorty63136:
      I was thinking the same thing. We stayed at a Ramada in Atlanta and they had a little coffee maker with tiny Starbucks “pod” thingies to make coffee in the morning (one cup). Stay across the street at the Hampton Inn and you get free breakfast bar. I don’t spend enough to get minibar hotels, though.

  44. Meathamper says:

    Hey, what about drinking the expensive Evian, and fill it back with tap water? Yeah, yeah. How inconsiderate of me.

  45. bwcbwc says:

    Minibar sensors: yes, they’re being abused now, but they were originally put in because of guests scamming the minibar and claiming they didn’t take anything. There are many better ways for the hotels to handle this: Leave an empty shelf in the minibar, add a second mini-fridge for guest use or include a minibar inventory step each time the room is cleaned. They have to restock the thing and the inventory can validate that the sensors picked up legitimate item usage and not just jostling. It would still be susceptible to problems on the last night of a stay, though.

  46. MyLud says:

    At the Westin in Indianapolis, they had a bottle of water on a sensor plugged into the fridge. The bottle of water was placed on the counter, next to the TV. IF YOU MOVED THE BOTTLE OF WATER, YOU GOT CHARGED. There was NO signage about this.

    Adding insult to injury, of course, was that I’m an SPG Gold Member, and in MOST SPG hotels — but not this one — the water bottle is complimentary, so of course, I picked it up. I did NOT open it, an did replace it.

    To be fair, when I complained to the front desk, they did make sure the charge was removed. I’m wondering if it wasn’t because of my Gold status (in other words, if I wasn’t gold, would I have been charged?)

  47. stuny says:

    In an overseas hotel, we used their computer to print boarding passes for 4 family members. It took 3 minutes, but we had to pay a 15 minute minimum for the PC use, plus a per-page printing fee. The default was set to print a cover page, so 4 boarding passes came out as 8 pages. It took 10 minutes of arguing to get them to waive the fee for the fraudulent cover pages, since I told them we didn’t choose the cover page and we cannot change your computer settings.

    With the bad dollar conversion, printing 4 inkjet pages cost us $45!

  48. dweebster says:

    Ought to be an interesting morning after a 4.0+ earthquake for the moneygrubbing hotel’s clerks.

  49. I_Spy says:

    The best solution that I’ve seen to the hotel minibar was at the Courtyard in Brussels, BE. They just gave you an empty fridge with a small card in it stating that snacks and beverages could be purchased at the store in the lobby.

    Of course items could also be purchased at the Carrefour grocery store down the street for much cheaper and stored in the fridge just as easily as items purchased from the “minibar store”.

  50. mwpeters8182 says:

    I always check my bill just to make sure that there’s no charges that shouldn’t be there, but in the hotels’ fairness, I’ve never seen a minibar without a warning not to put other food or drink in there, an that they’ll send a fridge if requested.

  51. satoru says:

    Every hotel in Vegas has sensors on the food in the mini-bar as well as the food that’s put out on the tables.

    What I always do is to call housekeeping and have them remove it on day 1. That way I never have to worry about tripping the sensor.

  52. carpetstain says:

    You know, I’m not sure you can really call it “sneaky.” When I stayed at a Westin in Chicago, there was actually a document right above the minibar that warned against this very thing. Of course, I didn’t actually notice it until I had lifted up several bottles to see what all they had but then I called the front desk, politely explained what happened and they cleared all the charges right then and there.

  53. GertrudeHaermm says:

    As a semi-frequent traveler who pretty much never touches anything in the mini-fridge, I always call down to the front desk when I get to the room and ask for someone to come and empty the mini-bar. I’ve never had a hotel balk at the request, so it works pretty much everywhere. That way there’s no way they can sneak in the hidden charges, and as long as you give them a valid reason they’re very accommodating.

  54. mariospants says:

    I remember back in the swinging ’90s heyday we used to go to hotels a lot and the company covered any charges from the mini bar and the restauraunt without question. One time a bunch of us had a “meeting” at 3AM (ok, it was a party) and one guy walked in with a duffel bag, unzipped it and said “here, have some of my mini bar”. He had dumped the entire contents of the mini bar into his bag and brought it over. It was classic. Oh, and back then they seemed to stock a lot more booze, too.

  55. dmbbnl429 says:

    Happened to me at the Philly Westin over labor day weekend, ordered a burger from a diner, put the leftovers in the fridge and discovered that i was charged for the mini bar. I called and they credited me back for that charge.

  56. HogwartsAlum says:

    I wish they’d just put a fridge in there in case you want to buy food and save the leftovers. I hate that when I stay in a hotel there’s no place to put my leftovers if I have them. And that coffee is gross.

    The fanciest hotel I ever stayed in (so far) was a Hilton in Los Angeles. The room wasn’t that different from a regular business class hotel, but the BED…sooooo comfortable. It really made the difference for me. Most hotel/motel beds are either way too soft or are like sleeping on a rock. This was like a cloud!

  57. HRHKingFridayXX says:

    I guess they have to cover the cost of the sensors somehow…

  58. JohnDeere says:

    sounds illegal.

  59. The insane part about it is that they probably knew that, in testing, it wouldn’t work that well but that enough people would overlook false charges. It’s like pharma saying “oh, these drugs might kill people but we can settle and still make money.”

  60. The upside to the sensor based systems is they know exactly what’s in the minibar all the time, meaning they’ve got absolutely no grounds to throw a minibar charge onto your account after you’ve checked out and send it straight to your credit card.

    Lesson: look at your bill. Nearly every hotel I’ve ever stayed in (and I stay in hotels every week) lets you see your bill from the TV.

  61. temporaryerror says:

    The Drury Hotel chain (in St Louis, New Orleans, and a few other places) give you free internet & in room long distance, as well as a mini fridge with a couple of sodas and a microwave with a bag of popcorn (and a little coffeemaker with a couple of bags of coffee. It’s a fairly upper class place too.
    (no, I don’t work for them. Just stayed there a couple of times. Generally an enjoyable experience, although I wasn’t paying for it.)

  62. S-the-K says:

    On the one occasion when I stayed at the Swan resort at Disneyworld (for a conference), I brought my own snacks. This included individual packs of Pringles.

    In the minibar also was a small container of Pringles. The day I was to check out, I found that they put a charge for the Pringles on my room account. Housekeeping must have seen my empty Pringles container in the trash and decided to charge me for it. The problem is this:

    1. The original Pringles container was STILL in the minibar.

    2. The Pringles container was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT in size and shape as the container in the minibar.

    Unfortunately, I had to work with our office manager to argue with the Swan resort to remove the fraudulent charge.

  63. Confuzius says:

    Wow, this past summer on my italian trip we would routinely empty the mini bars and replace them with our own food and drinks until we left.

    Never got charged for anything, which actually surprised my considering the stink we left there after some particularly ripe asiago made an appearance.

  64. chenry says:

    I got charged for long distance twice because I dialed the area code on a local call. Force of habit, we have to dial the area code back home so I just did it automatically. What fun, $24 just to have a recording say “you have dialed incorrectly”.

    Front desk was wonderful about removing the charges though.

  65. Tedicles says:

    I’ve run into this many times…why not just pay the bill, then call your credit card company and dispute the charges? Since you did not use/consume/take the items in question, it is not a authorized charge. Get Visa (or whomever) to take the entire thing off your bill, then get the hotel to deal with the credit card company. Most likely you’ll get a free stay out of it; and you don’t have to lie or otherwise compromise your integrity.

  66. randomd00d says:

    Its about making money.

    The thought is that people were probably drinking the booze, replacing it with water and putting it back.

    When it is discovered, there is no proof as to WHO drank the booze…it could have been that way for a while.

    Or just eating some munchies, then goto the grocery store later on and replace the munchies.

    So the sensor thing was a CYA manuever to ensure they get their cash.
    And, if it happens to malfunction every once in a while and people don’t contest it… Hey, thx for the ‘tip’!

  67. kbarrett says:

    The first time I rented a room with a mini-bar, I just asked the motel owner ( he happened to be in at the time ) to empty the damned thing.

    He cheerfully did so.

    When I checked out, the night manager tried to charge me $75 for stuff he said was missing. I called the police.

    The police arrived. The Motel owner arrived. Much arguing went on. The owner reviewed his reciepts and noticed that this night manager had checked out nearly all past mini-bar overcharge complainers.

    The night manager left in the custody of the police. The owner refunded half my bill.

  68. fonfa says:

    That is so stupid. I hate being treated as a criminal.

    After travelling around quite a lot, all i say is: Screw hotels. Hostels are the way to go.

  69. s2eb779 says:

    Most hotels state that you cannot place items in the fridge or they will charge you. They should have denied the key to the fridge, or never opened it. Or…. never take back a to-go box to a four star hotel… only if you’re staying at a 2, 2/5, or maybe 3 star hotel.