One of the biggest arguments that I have with my husband when we’re on the road together concerns the hotel mini bar. I avoid them like the plague, preferring to save money by buying snacks and money at a nearby grocery store. Whereas he can’t seem to stay out of them, rationalizing that ease of access is worth the extra costs.
Which is why I applaud the emergence of a trend that I’ve seen at several luxury hotels: The complimentary mini-bar.
I first witnessed the trend at the sophisticated Baur au Lac in Zurich. As expensive as it is private (if you were going to Switzerland to open a secret bank account, this would be your pick), the hotel rewards their lavish spenders by including a minibar stocked with beer, wine, soft drinks, water, and snacks in their suites. Chocolate is represented (naturally), and there’s no question that wi-fi is free.
I asked the bellhop who showed me to my suite about the policy. “Our customers don’t want to be nickel and dimed,” he replied. “The owners made a conscious decision not to bog down check out with a list of charges.” Made sense to me; as I munched my Toblerone, I wondered how much the hotel actually spent vs. the goodwill and repeat customers they receive.
My second encounter with the free minibar came when I toured the famed Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. A notable celebrity getaway(Julia Roberts and her husband were having breakfast a few tables away), the Post Ranch Inn treats its guests like stars, with a gift-size basket of snacks and drinks, including a full-sized bottle of wine, free in the room.
One could argue that with the prices that the Baur au Lac and Post Ranch Inn charge, the minibar should be free (and you’re right – if ALL hotels in this category went this direction, I might justify splurging for a stay more often). Which is why it’s so exciting that less expensive hotels, such as the AC by Marriott chain, also offer a gratis minibar. I haven’t been to an AC by Marriott, as they are mostly located in Spain and Italy, but it sounds like they also want to offer travelers something a little extra.
So a question to all of you out there: Do you use the minibar when you travel? Would it make a difference to you if your hotel offered it for free?
Note: The Baur au Lac sponsored my stay, but my opinions are my own.