Travelling Timmy

So, OK, made it to Lisbon, hours after connecting flight gone. But some things have changed for the better. When bounced like this it appears that you get a Marriott, not some fleapit.

And what gets better again is that there\’s no such thing as the mini-bar here. There\’s a 24 hour shop in the lobby instead. Bottly of perfectly drinkable (not quite what I\’d serve at home but at 2 am quite drinkable) Vin Verdhe for €5.00. Err, yes, that\’s five euros.

Whcih to anyone who remembers mini-bar rices is absurd.

I\’ve been trying to work out why they\’ve stopped trying to make vast profits out of thirsty guests. The room service hamburger is still €17, so they do like the idea of decent margins. I\’m sorta assuming that the old system, while it had very high margins, might not have had good profits.

Firstly there\’s your stock. Every room has to have a selection. Then it\’s got to be checked and restocked after every guest. I can imagine that being expensive. It might be a great deal cheaper to have a much smaller stock, at much lower margins, in one place in the lobby. The bird watching over it was obviously sorting something else out on her computer while she waited for thirsty Englishmen to turn up waving cash.

That\’s the best I can come up with. That despite eyewatering prices mini-bars really didn\’t make all that much money. Thus they no longer have them.

18 thoughts on “Travelling Timmy”

  1. The economic insights here are probably correct. Let’s not mention the spelling. I’ve had a few myself, bottly rices are good where I live too.

  2. I haven’t seen a mini-bar since I stayed at the Toren in Amsterdam about 5 years ago (where I had a €1.50 Twix and that was it). Maybe budget hotels don’t get them, but if the conventional explanation (rather than Tim’s) was right, one would expect them to cross-subsidise the cheap room prices with profitable mini-bars.

  3. Yes, I’ve also seen a lot fewer of them in the last few years.

    A few hotels tried to cut down on the staff costs by installing electronic fridges that report what you’ve taken. Interestingly even a lot of those have stopped bothering to stock them, so even after the capital investment it’s still uneconomic.

    My guess, much like Tim’s, was that they’d priced themselves out of the market.

    Plus arguments with customers about how much they’ve had, and having to police the staff to make sure they don’t pinch any.

    Possibly also affected by employers no longer allowing you to put mini-bar drinks on expenses (but still allow the £17 room-service hamburger if you arrive after the restaurant is closed).

  4. Richard,

    Possibly also affected by employers no longer allowing you to put mini-bar drinks on expenses (but still allow the £17 room-service hamburger if you arrive after the restaurant is closed).

    I think that’s pretty much it. People will pay anything you ask if it’s charged to their employer.

    It’s perhaps also the case that in the not-too-distant past, you didn’t have late-night supermarkets in places. If you wanted a drink you didn’t have much choice.

  5. Another practice is to make mini-bar service available to some guests and not others. People whose bill has been pre-paid (eg by an airline for people whose flights are delayed, or simply because they have booked the hotel as part of a package holiday) don’t get access to it. (Often the hotel does not have access to the credit card details of such people, and there is no easy way to charge them for stuff taken from the mini bar).

    Usually this is done by putting a lock on the fridge so that the guest can’t open it. I suppose it is also possible that they have mini-bar fridges in some rooms but not others.

    I have sometimes stayed in two and three star hotels with mini-bars in which the prices were reasonable though. The mini-bar then actually becomes a useful service.

  6. I have also been told that the practice of carefully opening little bottles of whisky, drinking the contents, and replacing it with tea and closing the bottle again as carefully as possible is quite common, which probably both increases the costs of stock and the amount of labour administering the whole thing, given that you need to carefully check for this to avoid upsetting and inconveniencing future guests.

  7. I have also been told that the practice of carefully opening little bottles of whisky, drinking the contents, and replacing it with tea and closing the bottle again as carefully as possible is quite common.

    Not always tea, some of the more disreputable customers have replaced it with an orangey substance that is naturally occurring in the human body…

  8. I have never bought anything from a minibar, unless perhaps long ago when I had a small child in tow. I wouldn’t even spend some other bugger’s money at those prices.

  9. It varies from chain to chain and indeed even within chains/ companies. As Richard (# 5) points out, I can recall the ‘Electronic fridges’ which logged charges even when you had a look or moved in any way the minibar’s contents. How many times did I have to argue with the reception staff after being charged for something I examined and after looking at the price, didn’t purchase?

    On a slightly unrelated note, have any readers of this other than Arnald travelled in either the Soviet Union as was then or North Korea? Would be interesting to see if minibars will survive in ‘ The Courageous State’!

    True story about travelling in Russia. 1991 I think. Off in Naberezhnye Chelny. Bought vodka off the hotel desk. Asked if they had any Pepsi or 7 Up as mixer. Blank stare then: “You’re too far out of Moscow. They haven’t reached here yet”.

  10. The problem is that if the mini bar has nice snacks then people will eat in their rooms rather than use the restaurant. I stay in a Novotel a lot and the mini bar is very expensive. I am on expenses so I eat in the restaurant.

  11. I stay in a Novotel a lot and the mini bar is very expensive.

    One thing that amuses me about Accor hotels is that they will have a single premises containing (say) a Novotel and an Ibis, or an Ibis and an Etap (now Ibis Budget). Essentially it will be one hotel with different standards of room and different prices, but the different sections will be branded differently.

    However, a large part of what makes the difference between a more expensive Accor brand and a less expensive Accor brand is the other facilities – bars, restaurants, etc. With these dual branded hotels, they obviously want as many guests as possible to dine in the restaurant or drink in the bar, regardless of the branding of the bit of the hotel they are staying in, so you will see signs in rooms in the cheaper branded hotel explaining that guests are most welcome to use the restaurants / bars etc of the more expensive branded hotel. In fact, they further explain that if you show your room key to the waiter, you will receive a 30% (or some such) discount. So you get most of the benefits of staying in the more expensive hotel, only cheaper.

  12. Having travelled extensively [and lived for a bit] for a few years in the US, although a while ago, I’d report that there was a period of locked minibars. At check-in one would be asked “would you like the key to the minibar”? This was not universal but frequent enough to be remarked upon by other international travellers I met.

    Does this still go on? Seems a sensible solution to the issue posed above about access to credit card details for prepaid people etc. (Although here in Australia they often will only check in prepaid or “comped” people with a credit card swipe or cash deposit, so no need.)

    (Unrelated to the post really, just curious.)

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