Sensor Detects If You Move Anything On Minibar, Charges You

Upgrade: Travel Better writes that hotels are using motion sensors and scales to charge you if you even move an item from your room’s minibar. Here is what one such device looks like at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. Say you want to check out the nutritional information on the package. Or look at it. Or you pick one up and change your mind. You could get charged an extra $100 for food you didn’t even eat. The safest bet is to just not touch the hotel minbar. Or even think about it. No doubt they’re working on sensors to detect that and charge you for it as well.

That’s just one of many annoying hidden hotel fees. Here’s 10 others and how to beat them.

Be careful not to touch anything at the Wynn Las Vegas [Upgrade: Travel Better]
(Photo: Five Hundy by Midnight Podcast)


Edit Your Comment

  1. missdona says:

    Bellagio’s does that too. We got charged for M&Ms that my husband picked up and put down.

  2. qwickone says:

    They should change it to something like if it’s picked up for more than 5 minutes or something. But youre still SOL if you pick it up and put it down somewhere else only to move it back later. Have people had luck having this stuff removed from the bill?

  3. forgottenpassword says:

    How is this legal? Being charged for merely moving an object? Heaven forbid you accidentally bump the minibar…. you could be charged a small fortune!

  4. MickeyMoo says:

    If you saw The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – this would sadly make sense

    (for those that didn’t: there’s a scene where they clean out the minibar and replace the vodka with tap water, the darker booze with tea)

  5. Sherryness says:

    “$8.00 for Beer Nuts. This room IS evil.”

  6. Shortshire says:

    The Wynn does have that but they also have a little note that says the item can be put back within 60 seconds. That’s a reason why I don’t touch anything on those sensors.

  7. buhlackbeard100 says:

    i’m pretty sure that you need to have the items away from the platform it is on for more than 30 seconds or something like that. I’ve stayed at the Wynn 2x in the past two years.

  8. hypnotik_jello says:

    @MickeyMoo: I’m sure the management could just check to see if said products were opened in that case, instead of whether or not they were just moved around.

  9. here’s what you can do:

    1. call the front desk and have someone remove all the items from the minibar/snack tray. get a receipt.
    2. if they refuse, use a laundry bag and put all of the items in it and take it to the manager on duty. get a receipt.

  10. snoop-blog says:

    harrah’a in vegas does the same thing. only they actually sent somebody up to our room to check on it.

  11. snoop-blog says:

    i wouldn’t think a place like the wynn would have those… takes a small fourtune to stay there, same with bellagio

  12. MickeyMoo says:


    I’m sure “management” could, but the mini bars are usually checked by the overworked and underpaid cleaning staff who probably illegally get paid by the room instead of by the hour and don’t have the time to pick up each bottle and hold it up to see if the neck seal has been broken.

  13. missdona says:

    Bellagio removed it from the bill with no problem.

  14. deserthiker says:

    Most hotels have a mini bar restocking fee if you remove items from the mini bars so don’t try that. Is it really so much trouble to not touch stuff in a hotel room ini bar that you don’t want to buy? Geez.

    I’ve seen these in hotels for a long time and I have never been tempted by them. The $18 room room service Caesar Salad is another matter, though. I’ve never spent a penny on mini bars but 24 hour room service has got my number.

  15. MissPeacock says:

    I stayed at a Hyatt in Boston for a business conference and noticed that if you even OPEN the mini-bar they will charge you a $25.00 restocking fee. Doesn’t matter if you take anything out or not. Outrageous!!!

  16. snoop-blog says:

    las vegas hotels/resorts: is a mini-fridge, coffee maker, and a microwave too much to ask?

  17. mopar_man says:

    This is exactly why I bring my own booze if I intend on drinking at a hotel. It’ll save me buttloads of money.

  18. FeedFaceCoffee says:

    Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas has the same thing (last time we went in 2007). What’s really annoying is that the bar is stocked with really pricey and tall items (such as vodka and wine) and it sits right on the dresser. We were careful not to put anything large and clunky, such as my laptop bag, on the top of the dresser in fear of it “accidentally” knocking over everything and us ending up with $1000 worth of alcohol on our bill.

  19. mkguitar says:

    I stay in hotels all the time- this is common.

    IF something is charged to your bill, ask to have the charge removed- or to have someone check the minibar.

    Call down or use the TV guest services menu to check your bill in advance – before you are standing at the desk with a flight to make.

    If the Robo-bar is free standing or in a piece of furniture, jar it so that the whole thing registers movement of product.

    You then say “oh, I stumbled into it…we didn’t use it”

    Hotels will clear out the minibar if requested in advance- just tell them the guest has an abuse problem and all alcohol has to be removed.


  20. snoop-blog says:

    the new york new york resort in las vegas does not have any mini-bars :) some rooms even have ice makers (we use them like little coolers).

  21. cashmerewhore says:

    God forbid the housekeeping do inventory.

    Are they going to start putting dye packs on the towels?

  22. beavis88 says:

    This is news? Anyone who has stayed in more than one hotel ought to know that ANYTHING beyond the regular room rate is a complete ripoff (and sometimes even a scam, as illustrated here).

  23. theblackdog says:

    No surprise, they just want to make sure we don’t put bathroom tiles back into the cookie box ;-)

  24. brockmjd says:

    To sum up, yes, there are sensors on the minibar. Yes, they probably register too many false positives. And … yes, the front desk should be able to take stuff off your bill. Couple of further points here:

    1. I’ve successfully had my bill adjusted days later. Sure, you get caught in phone tag with management, and you have to keep on them, but generally, they’re pretty good at working with you. Generally. Of course, with something like a mini-bar charge, it gets harder to prove/disprove after the room has been cleaned. What I’m trying to say is that, if you notice a problem on your bill after you leave the premises, you’re not totally SOL.

    2. I do check my bill meticulously for extra fees, and almost never find them. HAVING SAID THAT…. I did get an odd fee at a hotel in Dallas: something like $1.50/night as a “Safe Fee”. I called them when I noticed that (I checked out at 5am, grabbed my receipt and left; I noticed this a week later as I was doing my expense report). The manager said that that was “for use of the safe”. I said, “But I didn’t!” so he pulled it from the room. Seemed a bit shady that they charged me as a default though.

  25. trinidon2k says:

    I was at some resort in IL that had the minibar sensors. I emptied the fridge to us it to store some left overs and milk that i bought for cereal. When i checked out, they charged me for everything in the fridge. I was able to argue the charge, but I thought it was ridiculous.

  26. Majisto says:

    Stayed in Caesars’s in Nov last year, they have the same annoying setup. Two of the slots were empty – I had my husband call the front desk immediately lest we be charged $45 for a 3 pack of golf balls!!! I think they probably make a lot of $$$ from drunken people who accidentally knock them off the sensors when they stumble back in their room! :)

  27. missdona says:

    @snoop-blog: Most Las Vegas Hotels/Resorts don’t put minibars (or microwaves, or fridges) in the rooms to encourage you to get downstairs and get-a gamblin’. Ridculously policed minibars are a “luxury” that some of the swankier places provide.

  28. GiselleBeardchen says:

    Need a late checkout at the Hilton Chicago? They’ll sell you one for $25/hr. If you don’t accept that offer,they’ll gladly check your bags for the afternoon at the Bell desk——for 1.50 a bag (with tip jar prominently displayed)!

  29. Mr. Gunn says:

    If you’re in Las Vegas, you should pretty much expect to be scammed somehow. Isn’t that kinda the whole point?

  30. Again, if anyone is coming to Toronto, let me know. The hotel I work at has an actual person whose job it is to check the mini-bar. We ask you when you check out if there was anything from the private bar to add. If you lie and the mini-bar girl checks and something is missing, you get charged. If you tell the truth and didn’t take anything, then you’re all good.

    Plus people dispute stuff all the time, if it is less than $10 we usually just take it off.

    A can of coke costs $4. Plus tax.

  31. TangDrinker says:

    You can also call ahead and tell them you’re traveling with your own food due to allergies, or with baby formula/food, or with medicine that needs to be refrigerated and they will gladly pull the items from the minibar and leave you with an empty fridge.

  32. Zagroseckt says:

    Last time i whent to a hotell that actuily HAD one of these things i told them. (in polite terms)

    I basickly gave them 2 choises.

    1. remove the unit compleatly.
    2. comp me the entier contents of the unit.

    or i’m going to shake the thing every 20 minuts till eather 1 or 2 gets done.

    since the thing charged x amout per cencor and the guy at the desk musta ben a bit lazy i got the whole minibar comped :)

    all that and i drank 2beers and one of those little bitty things of vodca

    if i ever end up in that earia again ill stay there again.

    PS. the room was like 130$ a night.
    they made there cash off me :p nice place tho.

  33. @MickeyMoo: Having worked in management in a couple of those Las Vegas resorts being mentioned (fortunately that is over), I can tell you for a fact that the housekeepers are not underpaid or overworked. The employees are part of the union and the union negotiates the work contracts on behalf of the employees, which includes how many rooms/shift to clean and how much they get paid. If they feel overworked or underpaid, it is the result of the union negotiations, not the management making the employees work unfair hours/be paid inappropriately.

    @snoop-blog: Yes it is, things like that make you stay in your room longer (same reason the tv stations in the hotel rooms only have like 10 channels, and no HBO or anything), and spend less money in the casino. Why would they put a coffee maker in you room if you can go downstairs to one of the 3 Starbucks in the casino/hotel and spend $7 there?

    But yes, they can/will take off the charges if you didn’t use the items in the mini-bar. While staying in one of the resorts, I noticed a charge on my bill for the mini-bar, which I hadn’t used. I just called down to guest services and they removed it, no questions asked.

  34. rbb says:

    I would hate to check out the morning after an earthquake. The checkout line would be horrendous with all those people disputing their mini-bar tabs…

  35. renegadebarista says:

    Disney had just started using this system in the Grand Californian at Disneyland when I was there last, and my 8 year old son picked something up and showed it to me. While it was on my bill when we got ready to check out, when I contested it they sent someone up to check and had it taken off within 3 minutes. No reason other hotels using this system could not act the same way Disney does.

  36. sith33 says:

    @zagroseckt … intriguing spelling on that one. $130 a night for a nice room? Was this like 10 years ago. Jeez, the Riviera runs $140/night these days, and it’s constructed entirely out of hookers and bed bugs. And that’s a conference rate! Sigh…

  37. DeeJayQueue says:

    @Zagroseckt: ok so #1: Learn to spell. #2: Don’t brag about how you scammed the hotel and stole minibar drinks while acting like a douche to the hotel staff.

  38. snoop-blog says:

    @12-inch Idongivafuck Sandwich: great point. about the union and the amenities

  39. snoop-blog says:

    @sith33: my new york new york trip was only $55/ night. gotta have a good travel agent to find the best deals.

  40. youbastid says:

    These things have been around for the better part of a decade. And every hotel that has them should take the charge off if you call them and notify them. Big whoop.

    @sith33: It all depends on when you go and what promotions the hotels are running. I stayed at Mandalay Bay for $100 a night last month.

  41. Corydon says:

    I worked night audit at a Quality Suites for a while before I got a better job. They did one kinda shady thing and one really shady thing IMO.

    The kinda shady thing was the expensive bottled water in each room (I think the charge was something like $5 for one of those large Fiji bottles). To me, that was only kinda shady since I figure everyone knows not to touch that kind of thing (and in my experience very few guests ever “took advantage” of the water). There wasn’t an automated system to track it; the housekeepers would report back to us if the water was missing when they cleaned the room.

    The really shady thing was automatically charging customers $1.50 for a newspaper each morning. You had to ask to have this fee removed from your bill as you were checking in, and we didn’t make it obvious. You really had to pay close attention to the paperwork to avoid this charge. Most people didn’t.

    By contrast, if you bought a newspaper from a box on the corner, it cost 75 cents.

  42. 44 in a Row says:

    $130 a night for a nice room? Was this like 10 years ago.

    It all depends on where you stay and when you stay. Weekends are more expensive, but I’ve stayed at the MGM Grand for $50/night and Mandalay Bay for $90/night during the week, and at Mandalay Bay for under $200/night on a weekend. You need to do some better shopping around; sign up for all the casino email lists, and they’ll send you good deals.

  43. ekthesy says:

    @44 in a Row:

    Yeah, the key is “weekends”…I stayed at the Luxor not so long ago (Feb ’02 I think) for $39 a night, Monday-Thursday…I don’t think I’ll ever see a price like that. Not that the Luxor is the Ritz-Carlton or anything, but still.

    I think this robo-bar stuff is predatory and a totally BS move by the hotels. For every one of the posters above who knows better than to touch anything, there’s fifty other visitors who aren’t as savvy. Just because the customer SHOULD look at the bill first to see if there are any bogus charges doesn’t mean the hotel has the right to just stick stuff on there in the hopes they can get away with it.

  44. m4dhatter says:

    This is very common at hotels all over the country. In the past, while on a long business trip, I’ve requested that the minibar be emptied and I use it for my own food / leftovers.

  45. Javert says:

    I for some reason thought this was common knowledge? At the nicer hotels on the strip, the fridge is usually within the dresser so for one to ‘bump’ into it and jar the contents would be quite a feat.

    As with others, one time, when I was dumb, I opened the door and looked at an item. When I was charged for it, I told them what I did and they removed it from the bill. Not very difficult.

  46. missdona says:

    @Javert: Bellagio (and Wynn) have a tray of goodies on top of the dresser that triggers the sensor.

  47. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Lest ye forget the chargeback, lads. Even if a hotel gave you a hard time about removing the charge for a minibar you didn’t use, you could still call your credit card company.

  48. cronick says:

    I stayed at the Wynn ONCE. The service was so terrible – after complaining, being apologized to and comped, TWICE, the service got worse – I checked out and moved to another hotel for the rest of the week.

    But, while I was there I picked up a $10 mini-bag (teensy-tiny bag) of “Wynn” potato chips. Less than 5 seconds later, I returned the bag to the mini-bar. Less than 5 minutes after that some guy was pounding on my door demanding to inspect my mini-bar.

  49. Paul D says:

    Marriot does this, even overseas.

    The wife and I were in Paris for a week, at the Marriot Rive Gauche. Out of curiosity, I took a gander at the minibar. I picked up a few things, looked at them, and put them back…

    THEN I read the sticker conveniently placed inside the mini-fridge that said something to the effect of “any item removed will be charged to your room.”

    We had to go down to the front desk and explain that I was just curious and hadn’t actually consumed everything.

    They were really nice and understanding about it, and they removed the charges (which had already appeared in their computer system, 5 minutes later). I don’t remember exactly how much it was, but it was a lot.

  50. ecwis says:

    @k8supergrover: Hey, I was hoping to visit Toronto and Quebec this summer. Let me know if you happen to work at a Starwood hotel… I’m hoping to use my points for an award stay.

  51. ecwis says:

    @mopar_man: But how do you keep your booze cold?

    What I have always done is remove everything from the mini bar and place my own stuff in there. This kind of ruins my plan! :-(

  52. missdona says:

    I think Hilton Waikoloa’s new system is better. They give you an empty fridge and a menu of stuff you can order for the fridge. If you order anything off the menu (i.e. $20 for a 6 pack of beer), it’s yours to keep.

  53. snoop-blog says:

    @ecwis: fill an empty trash can with ice and beer. problem solved.

  54. randalotto says:

    At a hotel in New York I was at, we were charged for several things in the mini fridge, despite not having even taken them out.

    Our offense? We put a small takeout container in the fridge, apparently jostling some of the items and setting off the sensors. At least they were willing to fix the bill.

    Oh, and we requested that they clean out the mini-bar to avoid such problems. “Sure,” they said, “but there’s a $25 fee to do that…”

  55. akalish says:

    People–this is why I stick to small, quaint local inns. Hands down friendlier service and fewer attempts to take advantage of you. And usually full kitchen access if you want to store a case of water in it as well. Think about where you’re spending your money before you spend it.

  56. theblackdog says:

    @brockmjd: I have seen a sign at a hotel desk that they will charge a daily “safe fee”, unless you tell them to remove the charge from the bill.

  57. Jasmo says:

    Las Vegas was built on, and perpetuates itself by, transferring money from people’s pockets to it’s own. By visiting, and particularly by participating in the smoke & mirrors ‘luxury’ charade that hotels like the Wynn stage, you agree to play along. Or, you are a complete fool. Either way, the money gets transferred from your pocket to theirs. There is no use in complaining – you ask for it and the city is more than happy to deliver.

  58. skotty4 says:

    Spent this past weekend in Vegas at the Venetian….SAME thing! They even warned us at check in “move it you bought it”.

  59. bdgbill says:

    This is a great example of hotels greed getting in the way of them making money.

    All but the rubiest rubes know that the mini-bar is a total rip off and avoid it. I’m sure the only people who buy anything from the mini-bar are expenising it back to work or are wealthy.

    Why not charge slightly inflated convenience store prices for the products and actually sell something? Personally, I would not pay $5.00 for a 4oz bottle of coke if I was a billionaire. I would however, pay $2.50 for an ice cold 20oz coke. This would still be about a 400% mark up.

    Hotels make the same mistake with most of the “extras” they offer in rooms. I never even consider renting movies or video games because I know the price is crazy.

  60. indydrew says:

    All nice hotles in Vegas have this. Bellagio, Wynn, The hotel, Mandalay. I stayed at Bellagio last year and I moved the whole dam thing, took it off no problem. As for the Venetian, it’s not a 5 star hotel like the others, it’s an over rated 3 star dive that should be closed. Screw the craptastic Venetian. If you stay in Vegas and you have money or want to pretend you do you stay at Bellagio or Wynn, end of story.

  61. trujunglist says:

    Sorry folks, but as a 15 year old teenaged bad ass with a growing curiosity towards the “finer” things in life, I left many a hotel bar filled with water where vodka or gin should have been.
    I didn’t mean for this to be the outcome, so I apologize to all who’ve been charged 10 dollars for a 50 cent bag of M&Ms.

  62. IndyJaws says:

    We saw the same thing in Vegas last year at Red Rock. However, the sign prominently displayed that any items removed for over 15 seconds would be charged. Just for the heck of it, we moved a few things for a couple of seconds and put them back…no charges for us.

  63. Maulleigh says:

    My mom used to use the things in the minibar and then go to the grocery store to replace them. No one was the wiser. Now I guess those days are over.


  64. GOKOR says:

    Whenever on vacation my friends and I usually use the minibar as a fridge to store the stuff that we buy from the convenience store down the block.

    We never eat the stuff from they supply us with, because we read the menu and pricing, knowing they’re going to charge $5.00 for a snickers. You’re telling me that it’s OK for them to charge us now for making space for our normal priced stuff while all of their 10x overpriced stuff is still in the fridge?


  65. GOKOR says:

    I guess the answer now is to go buy your own styrofoam cooler at a gas station, fill it with ice from the ice machines and have your own makeshift fridge. Then keep it right next to the minibar.

  66. ecwis says:

    @trujunglist: It’s not entirely your fault. :-) They can deal with people like you by simply putting tamper evident stickers on the bottles. I have seen this at many hotels. So I don’t think these Robo-Minibars are at all necessary.

  67. ecwis says:

    @theblackdog: Even if you want the safe, you could still tell them you don’t want them to charge you. It’s not like they can remove the safe. If they can, then it’s not a safe safe. :-P It should be bolted down to the floor, wall, etc.

  68. Mary says:

    Just for the record, I stayed at The Treasure Island a little over a month ago and we didn’t even have an overpriced bottle of water sitting in the room ; ) I actually really enjoyed the hotel, except the entire mirrored wall…

    But the people we were traveling with just wouldn’t believe that we didn’t have a mini-bar. They were convinced it was hidden. But I scoured that whole place looking for it when I was bored one afternoon, it didn’t exist.

    Now I’m glad we were there instead of the Venetian where everybody else stayed.

  69. SecureLocation says:

    Need to check not only your hotel bill but your credit card statement for that month. often these charges don’t show up at checkout but are added later. If it does show up, call and tell them where to put their $6.50 bottle of water.

  70. Sudonum says:

    Because when hotels used to do it that way years ago they lost a boat load of money on it. Even with todays price gouging they barely break even on mini bars. Most hotel managers hate the damn things and would like them removed. But upper management seems to think that they need them, and obviously some guests feel the same way because they’re still around. (former Hilton Hotel department head)

  71. bbbici says:

    Now how about an article about ridiculous hotel phone bills!

  72. bdgbill says:


    Any business that cannot make money selling products at a 400% mark up deserves to lose money.

  73. Employees Must Wash Hands says:

    I stayed at the Mirage a few years ago. While going through the minibar looking at what was on offer, I discovered there was a spring-loaded switch on some bottles and IR sensors behind others.

    I called down to the front desk and asked and they told me yes, it is an automatic charge, but they’d have housekeeping check it out next time they were through the room and not to worry about it.

    When I went to check out, the desk clerk clearly realized I was just browsing and simply said, “Went through the minibar, did we? Let me take all those charges off.”

  74. Sudonum says:

    I don’t think that a 20oz coke at $2.50 is a “400%” mark up. However your point wasn’t lost on me, or the hotel industry, since they couldn’t make money on a “400% make up” they decided to try a 1000% mark up. Hopefully that won’t work either. But as someone once said “never over estimate the intelligence of the American public” or something like that.

  75. trujunglist says:


    Heh, you’d be surprised at just how many tamper evident bottles of alcohol I tampered with and was never charged for in my roaring teens. I guess the problem the hotels have with only tamper proof bottles is that someone has to go in and check every single bottle to see if anyone did anything to it. Most of the time you can make it look like nothing was tampered with at all. So, I don’t really blame them for the robo-bars, because who knows what those darned pesky teenagers are likely to get into.

  76. Justinh6 says:

    Ah, that photo was taken by Tim from the podcast.

    An excellent weekly listen on everything vegas.

  77. Buran says:

    @k8supergrover: $4, even $CDN, is nuts. Since you work at a hotel, I can ask why it’s so expensive… you buy in bulk, so it should be cheap. Do you have a better explanation than “because we can”, or is that really it?

  78. abercrombie121 says:

    I had this happen to me at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle, WA we did get it off of the bill though :) it was just kind of annoying how it just charges it to your bill

  79. jkaufman101 says:

    The good news is that soon, the economy’s dip will mean that fewer people will be filling those hotel rooms, and hotels then will be forced to drop those fees or go out of business. Personally, I hope the greedy ones go out of business.

  80. texmandie says:

    I’ve gotten spoiled to relatively reasonable minibar charges in Germany and Austria – a half-bottle of fairly good Austrian wine was 6.50 EUR at a four-star hotel in Vienna (a full bottle would have been 6 EUR at a grocery store). 330 mL (12 oz) bottles of beer were about 2.50 – 3 EUR, which is not out of line with what a restaurant would have charged you for it.

    Then again, I’d forgotten how expensive consuming any sort of alcohol you didn’t pick up at the grocery store was in the US, till I got a reminder this last Christmas visit home…

  81. estace says:

    The Renaissance in Hollywood also does this. I did however successfully remove the entire contents of a Pringle’s can without actually moving the can and saved $5.

  82. estace says:

    I should also add, at The Renaissance, they give you a 10 or 30-second countdown timer to replace the items before they are charged to your bill.

  83. grebby says:

    It’s simple. If you’re in your room, you’re not spending money in the shops, the restaurants, or at the gaming tables. You’re costing Steve Wynn money! Why are you taking food out of Steve Wynn’s grandchildren’s mouths, you sick bastard?

  84. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I always wanted to take the $6.00 bottle of water and replace the contents with tap water.

  85. modenastradale says:

    I can’t imagine paying for alcohol inside a casino/hotel in Vegas. Why would you do that? Just go downstairs, stick a quarter in a video poker machine, and wave at the next cocktail waitress who walks by. Get your favorite drink for a $1 tip.

  86. BuriedCaesar says:

    @gokor: Keep in mind that some hotels now are including a provision that prohibits you from bringing “outside food” onto their premises – usually a document you have to sign before you get your card key to the room. If you’re caught, they reserve the right to charge you as if you had taken it from the mini bar. Heads they win, tails you lose.

  87. nuttycakes says:

    I learned this lesson the hard way last year at the Paris. We had gone out to dinner and couldn’t finish all our food, so took some of it back in clamshells. The first two rows of the minibar fridge were all Paris-related chotzke items that didn’t need to be refrigerated, so I took ALL of them out (it wasn’t just a single line as there was stuff behind each item). I then replaced each one exactly where it needed to go the following day after delicious leftovers, but had a $400+ minibar bill upon checkout. Thankfully, the front desk sent someone upstairs to confirm everything was in its rightful place and the charge was reversed. Phew.