It’s not difficult, is it? You go for the one not behaving like a complete arsehole.
The same applies to hotels. If most of them are treating you like dirt, a sucker to be milked once in the building, you’ll end up going for the one that treats you fairly.
This argument is wheeled out time and time again when it comes to charging for Wifi. We all know being pumped for £20 is an exploitative rip-off. But it happens in other areas too. Outrageous breakfast charges when all you want is some toast or a bowl of cereal. Or laundry charges so extraordinarily detached from reality that no sane guest would get their laundry done there.
The mini bar is a classic battleground for this sort of thing. Because hotels know they have a captive audience, they reckon they can get away with charging whatever they like for minibar items. Bottle of generic, fairly mediocre wine? £30 minimum. Chocolate bar that costs 60p in the shops? £4. Can of mass market lager? £6 – why not, huh?
Such contempt for the paying guest shines through. It’s a fabulous way to build a seething resentment. Although quite why a hotel would want to do that is beyond me. Surely there’s a sane, workable business model in basically not being an arsehole?
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I found a good example of that recently. In Munich, I stayed at the Hotel Anna and Hotel Excelsior, both part of the same hotel group. (Fairly hefty disclosure: I was hosted for free at both. They have good and bad points, nothing particularly worthy of a full review, however). And at both, one thing stood out like a flashing, wailing beacon wearing neon pink and a flamboyant headdress. On the side of the mini bar was a little sticker, proclaiming that all items inside would cost one euro each.
OK, it wasn’t the most handsomely stocked minibar in the world, but I immediately had a look inside, double checked to see I wasn’t making a horrible mistake and then scoffed a packet of Haribos. Yes, they were probably making a slight profit on those Haribos, but I felt perfectly happy to pay a euro for the pleasure and convenience. And the same again later when I drank the beer.
My minibar extravagances would have made the hotels a small profit. Nothing to get excited about, mere dots on the balance sheet, but a small profit nonetheless. And a bigger profit than they would have made if they charged outrageous sums for the minibar items – I’d have not touched them.
But they made a far bigger profit in distinguishing themselves as Not Arseholes. It’s tragic that such a little dose of reasonability can make such a large impression, but it is something that will be remembered. Hotels that are being ruthlessly calculating in exploiting a captive audience would be well advised to switch their ruthless calculation to exploiting the gigantic gaps in the “treat people as you would like to be treated yourselves” market.