By Robert McGarvey
The New York Times headline momentarily made me wonder what century I was in: “Drink Up Business Travelers, the Minibar Is On The Way Out.”
I ask you: when was the last time you used a minibar?
I honestly cannot recall. I know it was not in this century.
I also know many businesses do not reimburse for minibar purchases, at least of alcoholic beverages (and what else has anyone ever bought from a minibar?). Hippy Hampshire College for instance specifically notes among its non reimbursable expenses “Mini-bar alcoholic refreshments.”
Lots of other universities and many, many businesses say likewise: forget claiming minibar expenses.
That’s not why I stopped buying from them by the way. I stopped because the markups made me gasp. A $1 beer might cost $10 and, yes, I know hoteliers tell us they lose money on minibars ad maybe they do but if I bought from them I’d be losing my own money and I can’t abide that.
But this also means that as hotels yank out minibars I won’t object.
In fact I hope they also clear away the for-sale clutter that increasingly shows up on table tops in rooms, everything from sunscreen to local nuts. Some hotel rooms look to me like a Canal Street vendor made a hasty exit and just dumped a suitcase full of junk inside my room.
Take that junk, too, please.
Incidentally, although minibars are vanishing, hotels are putting in place mini-fridges – they are becoming “the coin of the realm,” said Joe Brancatelli, who indicated that the availability of same has shaped some of his decisions about where to stay.
That’s smart on the part of hoteliers. Many travelers now have prescription drugs they want to refrigerate. Others want a place to stash a Diet Coke and a sandwich.
Hoteliers may in fact be listening. Rooms, the NYTimes tells us, are undergoing a big redesign, said to be driven by generational changes in who travels, but it’s as much a function too of how long our trips are (they now are much shorter, a couple nights instead of maybe four).
So hotels are also getting rid of closets, in favor of hanging racks. Okay by me. I happen to use closets but wouldn’t mind if the stuff was in the room instead.
Where you will hear my objection is in the push to save room space by eliminating the desk. I use a desk on every trip, often as much as four or five hours a day, handing email, writing, maybe doing a little news reading. I don’t demand much of the desk – drawers are unnecessary and probably undesirable because I might forget something I put inside — just a flat top and a decent desk chair.
But I definitely want a desk.
And lots of wall outlets. Lots. Most hotels are still failing on that score. I can’t recall the last time I did not wind up unplugging something the hotel owned to make room for my stuff. In 2017 I should no longer have to do that. What does a power bar cost anyway? A few dollars.
At least some hotels – finally – are addressing the inroom shortage of outlets, per a a USA Today story. So some progress is getting made.
Incidentally, the Times story does report that Marriott, the chain that had led in eliminating desks, has backtracked, mainly because their guests spoke up. More progress of a sort.
Hotel rooms, too, are shrinking. That’s mainly because trips are shorter, but also because it’s believed that Millennial travelers will prefer to hang out in communal spaces – the lobby – than in a room. So shrink the room is a hotelier mantra of now.
They also are getting rid of business centers because usage is way down. I know I haven’t used one in five years and really don’t trust them from a cybersecurity perspective. So I’m unlikely to change my mind..
I also am no fan of hotel gyms and, lately, many hoteliers too are looking at ways to shrink or eliminate them.
Add this up and it sounds like a lot of what we know about hotel rooms – especially those for business travelers – may be in flux.
And probably the most interesting point in the Times piece is that hotels, right now, are confused and undecided about exactly what to put in a room – which means that it’s up to us to speak up loudly and often about what we want and what we don’t care about.
My preferences may not be yours and that’s fine. What matters is that we make our wants known.
Hoteliers say they are listening. Let’s see if they really are.