Should minibars be banned by law? Michael Bloomberg, er, Chris Elliott, thinks so…

I know, I really shouldn’t read Chris Elliott’s stuff. But it’s kind of like looking at a car accident on the interstate during rush hour — you want to look away but you can’t…

Anyway, this is where Chris Elliott’s latest piece on hotel minibars comes in. Yes, he has a point — they’re overpriced, but they’re costly to operate and nobody is forcing you to consume anything from them. And as he points out, they never turn a profit. I’ll do everything I can to avoid consuming things from the minibar, but when I’m arriving in a foreign city with 100 degree temperatures in the middle of the night, I’d rather have the option to pay $6 for a cold drink than not have the option.

But Chris Elliott disagrees. They’re so overpriced that they should be banned by law:

What can be removed today can make an unwanted comeback tomorrow. No, they need to be banned, if not by company policy, then by law.

But Chris isn’t just concerned about the cost of the minibar contents, but also about your health:

Wouldn’t it be great if a full-service hotel chain bravely stepped forward — publicly and permanently — and said, “We’re done with minibars”?

If not, perhaps it’s time for the government to step in and encourage the hotel industry to do the right thing, if not because it’s good for customers’ wallets, then for their health. Despite a move by some hotels to add healthier options, most still stock junk food.

Despite the disappearance of some minibars, many resorts continue to market these snack traps as a “convenience.” But they’re no more a convenience than cigarette vending machines, which, thanks to strict federal laws, are now all but extinct. No two ways about it — these money-sucking iceboxes aren’t just bad for hotels, they’re bad for you.

Chris, if the whole “advocating” for consumers thing doesn’t work out, you have a bright future running for the mayor of New York!

Filed Under: Media
  1. The article is a bit odd because the health concerns seem like an excuse not really linked with his actual complaints about minibars. I would leave the political digs elsewhere if I were you though. Do you really want to start an internet discussion about New York’s soda law on your blog?

  2. Trying to draw an analogy between minibars and cigarette machines is nonsensical and bizarre. It’s a silly article, and the pitch seems to be “Get rid of them because they’re a ripoff, but if that excuse doesn’t work, than use ‘health’ as a (fake) excuse, because I hate minibars.” Fortunately Mr. Elliott is not a lawyer. He’s hardly a writer.

    I’ve never had a problem with asking hotels to remove the the contents from minibars, and I’ve never been charged for the “privilege of emptying and restocking the minibar,” from the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago to the Four Seasons in Singapore just a week ago. They remove everything with a smile, and I can then use the fridge for items I enjoy that I can pick up easily while I’m out.

  3. My family recently stayed at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. I was not impressed to see that there was no minibar in the Business Class room to which we were upgraded. Unlimited Nespresso, yes, but no minibar. There were even several stemmed glasses, but nothing to pour into them. Distressing.

  4. that’s pretty ridiculous and probably just Chris looking for filler as usual.

    chances are that ANY “healthy” options would require a significant amount of maintenance as the items would be perishable. Not to mention that this isn’t a school cafeteria selling soda and candy to kids and it needs to be replaced with apple slices and water… this is a hotel room (which kids can’t occupy on their own in the first place) selling goods to adults.

  5. Agree Chris Elliot is again being rediculous. Diasagree with your comparison with Mayor Bloomberg. Unnecessary.

  6. File this CE “piece” under Liberal Fascism Rears It’s Ugly Head Again….

    Brings to mind another question:

    Should articles by Chris Elliott be banned by law, to prevent their IQ debilitating effect?

  7. Lucky – Cheers to you for stepping, albeit ever-so-slightly into the political/advocacy realm! (It helps that I agree with you.)

  8. More things that we need the gov’t to regulate? I’m down for some regulation as a NYCer but this would be too much (and not worth the $$$ to enforce it). Use the fix the MTA instead!!!

  9. Is there a reason that an outsized percentage of miles and points enthusiasts seem to be libertarians?

    For the record, I see no reason for a minibar ban, but neither do I have a problem with the government taking away our precious right to have 32 oz of sugar water all in the same cup instead of divided between two separate cups.

  10. Chris Elliott is a moron. I don’t take anything he says all that seriously. If you do the exact opposite of whatever he suggests, you’ll be right more often than not.

  11. We don’t need our elected officials wasting time crafting and voting on legislation regarding mini bars. What a waste of time by Mr. Elliott to even consider it.

    We live in a free market society that allows me to eat and drink as I see fit. Including awesome $7 packages of gummy bears and assorted nuts.

  12. @Rose

    I’ll take a stab at it, because I’ve noticed it too… I think young-ish people with a DIY mentality, who pride themselves on thinking outside the box are naturally attracted to both classic liberalism and travel hacking. Plus government/bureaucracy and airline management have a lot in common, so it’s only natural that the enemies of both would seek similar enemies!

  13. His point is like saying that the government should ban restaurants in Times Square because they’re too expensive.

    I think most rational people figure out by age 12 that if you don’t want to pay an exorbitant price for food, you can go elsewhere.

  14. Lucky, I think you and I might differ a bit on politics, but I totally agree that a legal ban on hotel minibars is absurd. I can only hope he was kidding. The economy, education, health care, and a ton of other things need serious attention…and lawmakers should spend time banning minibars? WTF?

    Plus, this book I was reading not too long ago by a guy who worked in hospitality basically said that virtually any front desk person will reverse a minibar charge, no questions asked. (Although that doesn’t mean I’m bold enough to actually take something from the minibar and then try to get away with not paying for it.)

  15. How about we ban all soft drinks and alcohol, because those are the two main ingredients of the unhealthy enough to be banned minibars I see (and never use). While we’re at it, let’s ban all fast food, as it too can be seen as unhealthy by some, also, high end restaurants because they are too expensive.
    Let the market determine what food is good and bad for peoples’ health and wallet.

  16. What about promoting/encouraging brands like Andaz that have complimentary mini-bars instead? This is the USA, if I want a 40oz soda or to pay $8 for a Kit Kat bar, isn’t that my perogative?

  17. How about food at stadiums/sporting events? Probably more expensive and equally unhealthy.

  18. Banning mini-bars? Methinks not! Let’s not forget about Andaz’s free minibar bar (alcohol not included) and Kimpton’s InTouch program where guests can raid the minibar and receive a $10 credit ($15 credit in NYC) to use toward munchies and drinks.

  19. Darn you Patrick for stealing my exact thoughts I was about to post about Andaz and Kimpton! I love that Andaz does daily refreshes when you partake of your freebies, and without a minibar, what would I raid at Kimptons?

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