Q: Hi, Peter. I never use room service and never use the mini-bar. In fact, I have always refused to take the key. Now they have this business of leaving it open, and you have to be careful not to lift anything. I had one experience when I checked into the room, and there was an empty space. I reported this immediately. What bothers me is suppose the maid picks up something; even if she doesn't take it, it registers. I think this is a bad system and can lead to controversy.
–Edith Goodmaster, Hamden, Conn.
A: Many of the most well-known hotel chains in the country, including Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Four Seasons, Best Western, and Marriott, do not have mini-bars in many of their locations. In this case, it might be more desirable to choose to stay in hotels that do not have mini-bars. You can request to take out the items in the mini-bar before checking into the hotel, and many hotels will do it free of charge. However, some hotels, including certain Doubletree and Hilton hotels, will charge $25 to remove the mini-bar items.
Some recommendations to ensure that items are not tampered with are to tape the mini-bar closed so that family members don't inadvertently root around in it, or to notify the front desk that you don't intend to use it. You can also attach a note to the mini-bar stating your intentions, so that housekeeping is aware and won't be likely to disturb it.
If an item is removed or tampered with by anybody other than you or your family, the charges can always be contested. It is very important to do this before checking out, because charges are much harder to dispute after you've paid and left the premises. Most hotels claim that the needs of their guests come first, so I am hopeful that you can play on this fact if you should have to contest a charge.