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Web Watch Rewind: Why do hotels charge for Internet access? Because minibars are on their way out

Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies
Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies

Web Watch works hard to make sure our readers are ahead of the curve on various topics.  We like to be among the leaders, not a mere follower. 

Which is why, when we see articles on CNN about how INTERNET FEES IRRITATE HOTEL GUESTS, we secretly smile and go about our business in bringing you the good stuff, because we know that we already brought up this very same topic about hotel internet fees almost a year ago.

In other words, hotel travellers are still upset about being nickle-and-dimed for their hotel stays.  Vegas hotels have taken note, for example, with MGM hotels (Mirage, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay) charging a $20 “resort fee” to cover a free daily newspaper, access to the workout facility, and wired/wireless Internet access — while Harrahs hotels (Paris, Bally’s, Caesars Palace) proudly proclaiming that they don’t have a resort fee at all.

Even worse is that MGM used to include a free bottle of water a day in each room as part of their fee, a very nice amenity to have when you’re visiting the desert in summer. 

Anyway, in reading the CNN artile, the so-called “experts” say that different hotels charge an Internet fee “because they can”. 


Sure, it’s because of higher demand for Internet access in today’s day and age, and travellers will pay for that feature to be available.

But what CNN is missing is more of the “why” hotels have decided that charging for Internet access can be profitable — and that reason hasn’t changed from our earlier Web Watch article.   It’s still that the traveller’s entertainment options are moving more and more to mobile devices and laptop computers.  Portable DVD players and iPods.

The traveller is no longer using the in-room phone (no more super-high phone charges).  The traveller is no longer using the in-room pay-per-view movies (no more cable charges).  The traveller is no longer hitting up the minibar with the special-weighted sensor to automatically charge you the instant you touch any item on the monitored shelf.

Because not every hotel can count on one of their guests racking up $20,626 in in-room charges on every trip, they have to make up that difference somehow.

Did you know what the top selling minibar items are?  According to various hotel chains, they are:

  1. bottled water
  2. Diet Coke
  3. Pringles
  4. M&M’s
  5. Popchips
  6. Beer

But even as a cost-center, more and more hotels are moving away from having minibars in their rooms. Whether it be too much of a hassle to restock and inventory everything, or too many customers complaining about fraudulent charges – hotels are pulling the minibars out and putting the inventory in the lobby, available for purchase 24 hours a day.  Web Watch views this as a good thing, as we’re more assured that the bottle of vodka we buy at the front desk is more likely to actually be a bottle of vodka, and not a vodka bottle refilled with water.

Still, advertising that you have “no hidden charges” can be a farce.  Just like Vegas hotels give an entire room away in order to entice high rollers to stay – and gamble – at their casino, other non-hotel industries are getting into the act. Banks are often proud of their “no hidden charges” policies in comparison to their competitors… but then the savvy consumer has to ask whether such a bank is high quality or not?  If they are aiming for a budget customer who doesn’t want to pay fees, is their product offering also one that caters to that clientel?  Or are they scaring away potential customers who don’t mind the fees charged, as those are accounted for as “the cost of doing business”?

So, Web Watch readers — what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on a hotel minibar?  And what was the highest minibar charge you’v ever racked up yourself?