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Me and a mean mini-bar

Mini-bars are spectacularly annoying.

Well, some mini-bars are annoying.

It’s like a weird form of torture having a cold little fridge packed with nice things like chocolate and wine sat in the corner.

‘Open me’ it taunts.

I’m not complaining about the potential increase in calorie intake. If I can’t, or don’t want to, resist temptation that’s my problem.  My issue is that in the rather famous and rather expensive chain hotel I was staying at, the chocolate bar was almost £10 and the tiny bottle of wine was almost £20.

The prices were crazy. These prices have moved past crazy and become strangely arrogant. Like some of the people who work in the mega expensive shops in places like Cannes in France and the Kings Road in London who look at you and dare you to ask how much something costs so that they can laugh at you. It seems to me that if you’ve paid a lot of money to be in this room they shouldn’t punish you by multiplying the price of the chocolate bar by seven.

It’s not as if you’re in the beautiful bar enjoying great service and wonderful décor. You’re in the room that you have already purchased for the night. Part of the service of paying for a room, expensive or otherwise, should be the right to have cold things available at a maximum of twice the price you’d pay in a shop.

This particular mini-bar was even more intent on stealing my wallet than most. There were sensors underneath things so that when I finally caved in and opened the fridge I was charged for my wine before I’d even decided to drink it. Despite being the most expensive glass of wine I’ve had (excluding special occasions) it wasn’t even that nice.

It’s this behaviour by big international hotels that puts me off. Rather than feeling like a guest you feel like a pawn in an evil accountant’s business plan being hurried around a chess board. I know accountants are important and that hotels must make money as well as looking after their guests – and that is a tricky balance to achieve. But the moment I feel like I’ve come second to profit in a hotel the most important rule in hospitality has been broken.

Charge me good money for good quality and great service by all means. But don’t ever charge me £10 for a Mars Bar because it’s mean. And counter-intuitive. If the baby fridge were to be packed with reasonably priced drinks and snacks I’d embrace the little box and probably empty it. But as it is I fear it and almost wish it wasn’t there.

4.1.1

Château d’Isenbourg in Colmar, France

Small, luxury hotels like those you find in the SLH brand lead the way at making guests feel like the centre of their universe because on the whole they are genuinely pleased to see you. I’ve never walked out of an independent hotel feeling like I’ve been mugged. Last week at this big hotel – I most certainly did. The mini-bar started it and the 24 EURO BILL FOR WIFI FOR ONE DAY finished it. The capital letters are designed to express annoyance. I’d underline them too if I wasn’t quite so terrible at using computers.

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