This Complimentary Bottle Of Water From Best Western Costs $3. Huh?

Best Western knows that hotel customers hate trumped up fees for minor perks, which is why they kindly offer this complimentary bottle of Poland Spring for only $3.

Justus writes:

I noticed this water bottle in my room last weekend and couldnt help but laugh/snap some pics and email them to The C. Since when does “complimentary” mean “we will charge you 3 dollars for this tepid bottle of water if you open it’? I guess I should be thankful, because this misleading behaviour enabled me to pilfer bottles off the housekeeping cart without feeling guilty.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Corporate-Shill says:

    A dinky label suffices as the warning for a $3 charge?

    Not in my book.

    • silver-bolt says:

      @Corporate-Shill: Most price labels are dinky…

    • VeiledThreats says:

      @Corporate-Shill: I made that mistake once when I stumbled into a hotel after a very late check in. It was dark, I saw the water and gulped it down. Upon later inspection, in the light, it was a $5 bottle of water! Fortunately, the brand was common and it was a standard size. I went to a local 7/11 and picked up a new one, popped the little paper collar around it and avoided the charge. Actual cost? .99 plus CRV.

      • azntg says:

        @CapitolStorm: Consider yourself lucky.

        Sometimes, the UPC barcode can be different, even for two identical bottles of the same size products (one bottle offered by the hotel and one bottle sold in retail stores). And of course, I’m sure some hotels will check for the switcharoo.

  2. dako81 says:

    What if you don’t consume the water. What if you just borrow it through your digestive tract, and return it to the container with some extras?

  3. CreativeLinks says:

    Well, there are two definitions of Complimentary:

    1) Given Free as a Courtesy
    2) Expressing or Containing a Compliment

    Perhaps Best Western was expressing you a Compliment. As in, “this $3 water will look great with your suit.”

  4. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    The very nice display is complimentary, the bottle of water is $3.

  5. bohemian says:

    I have seen this in better hotels but not a Best Western. This trap is a common warning on Trip Advisor to not touch the bottle of water in the room, it will cost you some insane amount of money.

    The last time I saw one of these at a Hyatt the same brand of water in a slightly smaller bottles was around the corner in the vending machine for $1.

    • lihtox says:

      @bohemian: I think it’s rather pathetic how upscale hotels nickel-and-dime their patrons; you’d think that, with their concern for appearances, that they’d want to avoid the appearance of money-grubbing.

      • leprendun says:

        @lihtox: Strangely enough, that seems to be the norm. At nicer hotels like Hyatts and Hiltons, you generally have to pay extra for wireless and parking, where both are usually free at lower-end hotels. I don’t get it either.

        • floraposte says:

          @leprendun: I stayed at a really nice hotel on business a couple of weeks ago (the Hotel Teatro in Denver, since they deserve public acknowledgment), and when I checked in they made a point of telling me that the water in the room was complimentary– the “no charge” kind of complimentary. It’s such an anomaly these days that they bought considerably more in good will with that investment than the water cost them.

      • Coles_Law says:

        @lihtox: You’re telling me-the last time I was in a Hilton they charged $0.05 per foot of toilet paper.

      • oneandone says:

        @lihtox: I think it’s similar to what airlines are doing now with their fees: aiming for the lowest ticket ‘price’ to splash across search engine sites. It gets your attention, and if you’re not experienced enough, you won’t realize that you have to add $$$ in fees, extras, etc to reach the actual cost.

        It’s also a way for companies to get the less-thrifty people to subsidize the more thrifty people. I started noticing this after reading an article by Richard McKenzie about why inkjet printers are relatively cheap but the ink is so expensive – if you use your printer once a year, it’s cheap. If you use it every day, your ink purchases are paying for the less-printing people’s printers. I think the same principle applies to ipods & itunes downloads. So the hotel guest who enjoys (or falls for) the convenience of the bottled water, minibar, wifi, etc subsidizes the extra-frugal traveler.

        Simple principle, but I never noticed it until it was pointed out – and now I see it everywhere. I couldn’t find a link to the article, but it’s republished as a chapter in his book Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies (By Richard B. McKenzie) which you can apparently read on Google.

        Also – I think a lot of companies (like airlines) are carrying this to the extreme, by applying fees for what used to be extras to what many people see as necessities (water, blankets). And little signs like this in the hotels cross the line into tackiness (IMO).

    • rpm773 says:

      @bohemian: It’s even better when they tell you it will be a $20 fee to have the “complimentary” items removed from your room. Hotel Sax, Chicago, IL.

    • madanthony says:


      part of the reason that nicer hotels probably get away with that kind of stuff is because a lot of their patrons are business travelers whose employers are picking up the bill anyway. If the employer is willing to pay ~$150 a night for a hotel room, they probably won’t balk at $15 for wireless or $3 for water.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @bohemian: As someone already pointed out, 100% of the reason for this is because biz travelers can expense these items, and the hotels will take advantage of that (and why not?).

      The Bob family staying at a Holiday Inn can easily take their rental car to the IHOP down the street if the hotel tried charging $12 for scrambled eggs from a cardboard carton. However, when I travel on business, especially when I don’t have a rental car, I’m more or less trapped.

      For the most part, the mid-up scale hotels are in downtown areas, which is where many biz travelers need to be, so it’s not like we can just go to a Hampton Inn (i.e. our favorite hotel chain all around).

      That being said, our company policy is to avoid Sheraton at ALL costs – they take the extra fees too far. Many don’t even have coffee makers in the rooms anymore – so when I’m forced into one, I just Amazon Prime myself a cheap one for $15 overnight!

  6. AgentTuttle says:

    I would feel obligated to enlighten the staff as to the definition of “complimentary.” Good move on taking them from the house keeping cart BTW.

    • Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:


      Agreed. Taking from the housekeeping restock truly turns the tables on ‘the man.’

      • henwy says:

        @Yoko Broke Up The Beatles:

        Right, because theft is cool. You can’t blame the hotels for being slightly deceptive when the OP’s out there actually stealing.

        • JoshReflek says:

          @henwy: You cant blame the OP for doing what’s right and teaching them they can’t lie to customers without expecting retribution.

          and yes you CAN blame the hotel for being deceptive, there is no catagory “slightly decpetive”, its either a lie or it’s not.

          the label states “complimentary” and “$3”, these are mutually exclusive statements.

  7. cookmefud says:

    all you hotel management types and ceos of the various corporations that do this stuff take note:

    I travel a LOT.

    …and I do NOT patronize hotels anymore that I have experienced this type of slimy hidden charge practice from in the past.

    there’s about a thousand different options in most areas for places to stay. I’d rather stay at a super 8 that doesn’t try to screw me with hidden charges, than give my money to a nicer-end hotel that does this kind of crap to their customers. if I see the “free” bottle of water, or “free” starbucks coffee displayed (along with a note about how it’s really $3 underneath the bottle or in micro print somewhere), I always wonder what other kind of charge is going to sneak onto my credit card weeks after I’ve left. that’s not a good feeling to leave your customers. when people are out of town, they’re already a bit wary because they’re not at home…they rely on their hotel to give them a little bit of that comfort of home. if you’re making a customer have to be suspicious about even the place that they’re using as a home base when they are out of town, then you are failing. those little “freebies” that aren’t really free might seem like a good idea to you and a way to pump up your bottom line, but I guarantee you they are really costing you more in lost business than you think they make you.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels like this.

    • youbastid says:

      @cookmefud: News flash – they don’t give a crap if you’re not happy. They watch the bottom line. If that starts going down, then they look in to why. But if it’s going up, who gives a shit? And those little slimy tricks? They make it go up.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I saw this in a hotel in Finland. There were two bottles of water. Both had the same information on, though one was clearly marked “complimentary” and the other one was not.

    Anyway, the poster does not seem to be very clear. Where did it say they had to pay $3? Some hotels do give the first bottle of water for free, as in my experience. I also do not think any reasoning can justify stealing products from the hotel.

  9. catnapped says:

    Hey it’s not their problem if you can’t see the asterisk (next to “complimentary”) in .00000000000001 point font size!

    Bring your glasses next time!

  10. tande04 says:

    I travel quite a bit and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this. ‘Course I don’t stay in many Best Westerns.

    I know that most hotels we stay at we always get the water from the front desk. There is really is complementary.

  11. GuinevereRucker says:

    Buying bottled water is stupid. Just turn on the bathroom sink water and fill up a cup! MMM!

    • HawkWolf says:

      @GuinevereRucker: buying bottled water when you have a tap right there is kind of dumb. buying it at a restaurant, however, is not. which is sad.

    • feckingmorons says:

      @GuinevereRucker: There are Federal standards for the purity of tap water. There are none for bottled water.

      I like a nice glass of tap water over five dollar city water in a bottle.

      • azntg says:

        @feckingmorons: Agreed.

        Boy, it’s surprising to see how often bottled water is nothing more than “purified” tap water from another city.

        But some areas have better tap water than others, admittedly. I think NYC tap water, which usually comes from the upstate Croton Reservoir and mixed with water from the Catskill Mts., is vastly superior to… say, for example, Las Vegas tap water. And so on.

        • FLConsumer says:

          @azntg: NYC tap water rules. Between the water itself and water towers on top of each building which keep it nice & cold, I’ve yet to find anything quite as good.

          Tap water down here in Florida leaves much to be desired. Even with whole-house filtering it doesn’t even come close.

    • cmhbob says:

      @GuinevereRucker: Are you serious? You couldn’t pay me enough to use a glass in a hotel room. There have been a number of TV reports with hidden cameras about how those classes are “cleaned” with the same rag they clean the toilet.

    • TVarmy says:

      @GuinevereRucker: []

      Straight from consumerist. They failed to clean glasses properly at ANY hotel. They just used glass cleaner and a rag they use for anything else.

      However, a cheap and greener option is to just use a bottle or thermos or mug of your own. Or if you really want to use the glass, bring some dish soap and use the sink.

    • Wombatish says:

      @GuinevereRucker: Only with a sealed plastic cup or a cup of my own.

      And ice that has -not- touched the ice bucket, or no ice.

      But then, yes.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @GuinevereRucker: I just went on a business trip to Dubai. You do NOT drink tap water there under any circumstances, because it will give you ferocious kidney stones and gout–it’s sea water, desalinized but still overly heavy in minerals. They have terrific spring water (they export it), and the hotel I stayed at gave you plenty each day at no extra charge. Of course the price of the room was ridiculous, but what do you expect from Disneyland of the Desert.

  12. AppleAlex says:

    On a cruise we went on recently I was stupid and drank the water in the cabin 2 big bottles of it over a 5 day period. on the 6th day I got a receipt in my cabin for $10.

    yup you can’t even trust hotels with bottles of water when you’re surrounded by water

  13. pgh9fan1 says:

    I think you folks are all missing the point. Here’s what I’d have done. The sign says, “A charge will be billed to your room if consumed.” I would have just opened the lid and set the lid next to the bottle. It would have forced them to replace it before the next guest arrived and according to their own rules they can’t charge you. It hasn’t been consumed–just opened.

  14. Tom Halladay says:

    I stayed at a Marriott in Baltimore last weekend and saw the same thing. While I hate to be nickle and dimed, the picture above is misleading as the 3.00 fee was clearly marked on face of the tag. At least it’s marked, unlike the minibars that detect when you lift the drink off the platform & charge you based on that.

  15. Xerloq says:

    I travel quite a bit. I love call the front desk and ask why there is a charge for the “complimentary” items. Most front desk managers get stuck between the common understanding that “complimentary” means “free” and the charge. They almost always say they’ll waive charges. I note their name and time of call, and consume away.

    I’ve never seen a charge for consuming these items after using this tactic.

    On a side note, the most devious thing I saw was a teddy-bear and blanket on the bed with a big sign that said “Forget a Friend? A Gift of Comfort from Us to Your Child.” No cost was plainly displayed, and there was no indication in any of the information booklets. I asked the front desk – sure enough, there was a $150 charge for the bear and blanket.

    I found the TINY tag on closer inspection that read, “$150 will be charged to your room if any of the tags are removed from this item.”

    Most upscale places have these kinds of fees, but are happy to waive them if you ask nicely.

    • jacques says:

      So if the tags were removed, or the stuff disappeared, the hotel would charge. That makes sense. How would they bill for a kid cuddling up to a teddy bear versus an adult taking the thing and putting it in the corner?

      What hotel was this?

    • booleyhitt says:

      @Xerloq: I guess these places don’t truly know what a “gift” is: Something given voluntarily without payment. I would hate to be the management’s kids at Christmas. “Here ya go Billy! A Tickle Me Elmo doll. That’ll be $450.”

    • annexw says:

      There is a charge if you take the bear and blanket. Just like there is if you take a robe or towels.

      There is no charge if you use it (or in this case, do not take off the tags).

      The bear is for a kid (or whoever) to snuggle because they forgot theirs.

      The hard part comes when you have to explain to your kid that the bear has to stay to help other kids and can’t come home with you. ;)

  16. Brian Johnson says:

    The bottle was free, the water however would cost you.

  17. Wooglin says:

    “I guess I should be thankful, because this misleading behaviour enabled me to pilfer bottles off the housekeeping cart without feeling guilty.”

    I’m somewhat disappointed at this statement. Surely this is a bad, misleading situation that Best Western has set up, but one grievance does not give us carte blanche to commit our own.

    The mislabeling was simply misleading, and since the OP read both labels, he was unharmed. Conversely, theft is directly harmful.

    • feckingmorons says:

      @Wooglin: I have to agree with that. While I would have pointed out that complimentary and three dollars are indeed different, stealing is stealing, and more than a simple mistake.

      I’m fairly sure if you mentioned the three dollars on your bill and then showed them the complimentary tag it would have been taken off your bill. Stealing is simply a crime.

  18. Richard Grossman says:

    I wonder if the undoubtedly poorly paid staff gets charged for the bottles you take off their carts.

  19. benn09 says:

    Perhaps what “complimentary” means in most of these cases is that this bottle/teddy bear was complimentary placed in your room. Use of the item, though, requires payment. They are freeing you of the burden of having to go all the way over to a convenience store or vending machine to purchase the same item.

    Just like how the television set is complimentary and watching, ahem, the adult films requires payment.

  20. outsdr says:

    Best Western corporate is NOT going to like this; if it’s in the room, it’s supposed to be free.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Another thing to watch out for at some Best Westerns is a hidden “security charge” you are not informed of when you make the reservation on line. The Best Western in Willcox, AZ hit us with this one and explained it was for the night watchman! What’s next, a special not-disclosed charge for the guy who mows the grass? This kind of nonsense gives the chain a bad name and the chain ought to stop franchisees from gouging customers.

  22. DjDynasty says:

    I once had sex with a guy in a hotel which had all those “complimentary” bottles of water.. During the act of sex, I grabbed a bottle and poured it over my head letting it run down my body.. He actually had a fit about the $5.00 bottle. I laughed because he was paying $170 for the room, a lot more than that for the date we went on prior to going to the room, and he’s complaining over a $5.00 bottle of water. I personally stay at the Ritz Carlton. I’ve been to New Orleans once a month for years. I write rave reviews about them, even to corporate, I’m a share holder of the company thanks to all the money earned while visiting other hotel rooms with expensive water, and I pay employee rate when I visit.

  23. emt888 says:

    God help you in Vegas! In most of the hotel minibars, the items are in a fridge that have sensors. If you even pick up an item, the sensor registers it and it is automatically charged to your room, even if you were just picking it up to look at it and you put it back. Also, if you put your own stuff in the minibar fridge, the sensors register the weight and when you take it out, you’re charged.

    • youbastid says:

      @emt888: No it’s not. Depending on the hotel, they give you 15-60 seconds to put it back, and if anything is charged to you accidentally they will take the charges off.

      • SayAhh says:

        @youbastid: bring a scale with you, along with rocks. Within the 15-60 seconds grace period, weigh the bottle of booze then put it back. Repeat with every item inside fridge (spread over a generous period of time to avoid triggering sensor AFTER the alloted time). Then weigh rocks and place inside sandwich bags and swap. The hotel will undoubtedly discover it after you check out, but it’ll be pretty funny in a Punk’d sort of way–albeit much lamer.

        Just return the bottles you took out while you check out or otherwise it’d be theft :)

      • emt888 says:

        @youbastid: It must be different at certain hotels because when I stayed at Harrah’s, I picked up a bottle from the minibar just to see what it was (the bottle was turned so I couldn’t see the label) and I immediately set it down again and the charge showed up on my bill. I had it in my hand less than 10 seconds. The hotel was nice about taking it off of my bill.

    • ajlei says:

      @emt888: Luckily for me, my dad lives in Vegas and the last time I went to visit, I got my bottled water and booze for free!

  24. MoebiusSK8 says:

    When I stay at hotels I don’t use the soap, or the towels. I certainly don’t buy anything through roomservice. I bring my own drinks and such in my own ice chest.

  25. MoebiusSK8 says:

    I bring my own soup, shampoo, and towels.

  26. Judge_Smails says:

    Poland Spring? I thought they merged with Morgan Creek to be Moland Spring.

  27. tahamaki says:

    I am reminded of the Cruise Ship Bible Prank that appeared on a while back.


  28. Anonymous says:

    I remember the last time I stayed at a Best Western, I got charged for the bottle of water even though I did not drink it (or even open it for that matter). Luckily I was able to get the charge off my bill, but that’s just ridiculous.

  29. savdavid says:

    LOL!! I am complimenting you $50.00 for staying here tonight, too. Receive your complimentary bill and pay upfront. Love, Best Western.

  30. philipbarrett says:

    I like to put the bottles in the closet. Each day housekeeping brings more & I add to my collection. Before I check out I put all the bottles back on the counter & then at the front desk refuse the charges. I figure if enough customers make this a pain in the ass it’ll stop.

  31. JulesNoctambule says:

    The last time my husband and I went on a trip, we stayed at a bed and breakfast. The inn offered hot tea, chilled soft drinks, cookies from the local bakery and a lovely assortment of bath products to all its guests at no additional charge for any of them. The cost was, of course, already factored in to the price they charged for a night’s stay — and that, depending on the room, was the same as or lower than the rates at nearby chain hotels. When we have a B&B as an option, we flat-out refuse to stay in a chain hotel.

  32. Wombatish says:

    It very possibly truly was complimentary, and they just left the “old” tag on underneath.

    Lazy, but not really harmful.

  33. CapitalC says:

    I like how it says “…our staff will refresh daily.”

    Does that mean that the staff will drink my water and I’ll get dinged $3 or that they’re simply going to change my water with other water meaning I should get it for free?

    I like Four Points, they have tag on the bottles of water in the rooms which reads “It’s water, of course it’s free.”

  34. HiPwr says:

    I guess the author is able to swallow “tepid” water if it is stolen.

  35. CafeSilver says:

    I am a manager for a Best Western, and it is stories like this one that are giving all hotels a bad name. Up until this point, I had not read about something like this from a Best Western; but I knew it was only a matter of time. All Best Western hotels are independently owned and operated and when some properties do this is gives all of Best Westerns a bad name.

    In the last year or so we have experienced a number of guests asking if they will be charged for this or that at check out. Of course we inform them they won’t. Lately, a lot of guests come to check out and when they hand us their keys to their rooms they get this panicky look on their face and tell us in a worried voice that they lost or broke one of the room keys and if we were going to charge them. This is absurd! Those room keys cost like three cents, but people have told me they have stayed at other hotel chains and have been charged as much as ten DOLLARS for a lost or broken room key. Yes, the hotel industry is suffering, but this sort of stuff will only make us lose our customers’ trust.

    My Best Western still continues to do very well though, and we take pride in treating our guests extremely well. We aren’t losing customers and we aren’t bleeding money. Other hotels should take note.