Why hotels need to start labeling their minibar items

22Oct09

Whenever I stay in a hotel, I’m amused at the ridiculous prices associated with the minibar items. Granted, nobody’s forcing you to buy them — but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of trickery and deception with these products. For instance, the hotel might:

– Use an automated switch system to charge you for items you merely picked up, but never opened or consumed.
– Place items you have to pay for next to free ones, hoping that you’ll eat them by mistake.
– Include extra sets of certain free items in a slightly different location, thus tricking you into thinking every copy of that item is free.

To me, this approach is rather unethical and is bound to create consumer backlash over time. What’s the solution? I’d like to see a clear and obvious label on every pay-for item in the room. Regardless of the text they choose, the label needs to convey the idea that “if you open or use this product, we’re going to charge you for it.”

Would better labeling of minibar items reduce hotel revenues? Probably a bit, as fewer customers would be duped into paying for things they thought were free. However, it should also lead to greater customer loyalty in the long run. After all, is an extra $15 in minibar fees enough to justify scaring a customer away for life?



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