Saturday, April 29, 2017

How often are items purchased from hotel minibars?

We don't mess with them. All of the things that Stacy Jean noted in her answer to the question (Stacy Jean's answer ), we noticed years and years ago.

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Don't assume that everything that shows up in a hotel is a 'profit center' simply because it comes at a price. Sometimes, it's simply there for guest convenience. (Indeed, many people miss many of the things that, over the years, have been eliminated because it neither can be provided at a good enough profit for the hotel to be much of a 'profit center', nor can the hotel give it out as a free amenity; and in either case, can be provided at the cost of more bother than it's worth. See Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What features of restaurants and hotels have almost completely vanished? .)

Long-distance telephone is one modern-day example: the 'profit' from it is negligible, unless you price it so high that the guest feels like she's been gouged when the call shows up on her bill. Indeed, even Red Roof Inns offer it as a free amenity. (And Red Roof is an economy chain: one of the things that go with successfully running an economy property is aggressively watching the bottom line - and watching it with the free amenities, especially those that you can't limit a guest's use of.)

Guest convenience is the only reason I can imagine having a minibar: you'll only see them in the more pricy hotels. As Stacy noted, the cost of goods is only part of the cost factor. They're maintenance-intensive and require lots of attention and management: even in a small hotel, restocking them and inventorying the goods will be a full-time job for one person. They don't work with all computerized front desk management systems, and they don't work reliably with others (that's why, when you dispute a minibar charge, the hotel so easily gives you the benefit of the doubt). Shrinkage is bad because the guest might dispute the charge, or leave the hotel with nothing more than a debit card on file, or closed-out cash folio, from which we can't collect the charge if we don't find out until after he's gone just how thoroughly he's cleaned out the minibar.

Also, any booze sold for on-premises consumption is going to present a hotel with the risk of dram shop problems. Under the law in many places, if you're our guest, you have too much to drink, and you drive off in a car and cause a drunk driving accident; we're liable to the loved ones of any happy little family you decimate in your fatal, drunken, head-on collision; the same as if we'd knowingly gotten you drunk and handed you the keys - simply because we sold it to you and allowed you to consume it to excess on our premises. That you're consuming little bottles of it in the privacy of your own room without our knowledge adds to the risk; at least a bar would know you've had too many and cut you off, and try to call you a cab home rather than let you drive away. (That's assuming that you're doing the consuming. What if you have the wife and kids with you? What if someone rents a room, and has some underage college-age kids - or even younger teenagers - over?* We have no way of knowing who's drinking.)

(And no, the liquor companies don't give out free booze. In some states, it's illegal. In North Carolina, most of the cost of liquor served by the drink is the tax on it. Like the seal you see on the bottom of a pack of cigarettes, every bottle of liquor sold by the drink must have a costly tax stamp.)

Minibars are bad. Nothing about them is worth it.

* - Although I don't approve of underage drinking, don't think it's funny, and have nothing but contempt for a hotel management that allows it, I did find the story of NBA player Jayson Williams' adventure with minibars rather amusing. [At least neither he nor the hotel allowed it to happen on purpose, nor was there any serious negligence involved.] He'd wanted to do a good thing for the community, so he chartered a plane, flew some kids to Puerto Rico for a basketball camp, and put them up in a hotel there, but forgot to ask the hotel to disable the minibars in the kids' rooms prior to checking them in. By the time he picked up on what would happen next, the kids had already gotten into the minibars; and he ended up with a $41,000-something charge on his American Express card - some of those bottles were $300-a-bottle champagne - a group of inebriated kids for whom he was responsible, and a learning experience . . .

Originally appeared on Quora

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