The Case Of The Mysterious MiniBar Charge

by joeheg

I admit, this sounds like the title of some Hardy Boys Mystery. Before COVID-19, when all of the mini-bars were emptied, the MiniBar Mystery played out endless times in hotels around the world. If you’ve stayed in a moderate to a high-end hotel, I’ve no doubt you’ve come across an in-room minibar that looks much like this:

a mini fridge with drinks and beverages

There’s only one bit of advice I can give to you if you see this layout. Close the door and back away slowly from the refrigerator. Don’t touch anything. Don’t even breathe heavily unless you want a huge minibar bill.

I tell this cautionary tale because with COVID restrictions being removed,  we may soon see the return of the minibar and the mysterious charges.

Like many frequent travelers, I’m well versed in minibar etiquette. If it looks like they’re going to charge you for moving anything, then don’t move anything unless you want to pay for it. Drink your water bottle at room temperature or ask for a bucket of ice if you want to keep anything cold.

When we checked into the W Hollywood, we had some snacks and drinks with us that we wanted to keep cold. Now, based on past experiences, this mini bar looked pretty safe. There didn’t appear to be any sensors to monitor if items were moved or removed, so I stored two bottles of water in the fridge to get cold until we returned to the room later that evening.

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After I returned home, I saw an email from the W Hollywood in my inbox with the title “Your updated W Hollywood folio.”

We were staying on points for our visit, and we didn’t have a car with us. The Internet was included, as we were Marriott Gold members and we didn’t have any other room charges during our stay. That didn’t mean they weren’t able to charge the card I left on file for incidentals.

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Here was the message on the email:

Thanks for staying with us at W Hotels. We hope you had a wonderful time.

Please find your folio attached as requested. Any questions or feedback, just ask.
Contact me directly at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. We hope to see you again soon.

I knew I didn’t remove anything from the minibar; I didn’t even MOVE anything. At least, I didn’t think I moved anything.

I wrote a message back to the email address provided in the message. I was polite but firm and totally truthful:

I received the bill updated after we checked out showing charges from the mini-bar.

We didn’t remove anything from the bar but did put two bottles of water in there to get cold overnight. I’m usually good at noticing if there are sensors (and then I won’t move anything) but the items just seemed to be thrown in there.

If you could please look into this matter.

Shortly thereafter, I received another email “Your updated W Hollywood folio”

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 10.46.14 PM

I never got a message back with an explanation of the charges but they did remove the charge, no questions asked. I guess I can’t complain, as they did correct the problem quickly and with no hassles.

For the nights we stayed, they were charging over $400 a night. The appearance of nickel and diming a guest after the fact didn’t sit right with me. I mean come on, I didn’t even pick up the box of condoms on top of the mini-bar (If you’re wondering, it’s the box in the front left with the “nut and bolt” on the front (hint, hint).

Photo Oct 20, 7 56 19 PM

Final Thoughts

I guess this proves that if your room has a minibar, don’t touch it unless you intend to pay for everything inside of it. Maybe they were going to erroneously charge me anyway, who knows? Either way, it makes me appreciate Virgin Hotels approach of only charging street prices for minibar snacks and sodas.

If you’re charging $400 a night, is it going to break the bank to let me have a bottle of water or a Diet Coke on the house? It’s not like I’m asking for a free box of breath mints, complimentary earbuds, a “Facial in a Box” or something to help me safely get my bow-chica-bow-wow

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1 comment

Dustin May 13, 2021 - 12:33 pm

Seems like a lot of higher end hotels add these things to the bill anyways. Almost like they hope you will not notice. I have diamond with Hilton and plat with Marriott. Many times at either hotel chain. They will give you free mini bar credit. And free breakfast at the restaurant up to a certain amount. I just stopped using these benefits. Because they charge it all to my credit card anyway. Then I have to call to get it fixed. Sometimes even after I stop and get the final bill at the desk in the case of breakfast. Traveling this month with my partner. He likes to use these benefits. Out of ten stays at nice hotels. Eight of them I needed to call or bitch on twitter to get the bill corrected. On things that they say are free with diamond or platinum status. Wish someone would do a story on this BS !!!!!


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