In a recent stay at a well-known chain property, my first vision upon entering was a largish bottle of water with the outrageous price tag of $7 (plus tax, of course). This prompted me to dwell on the matter because I see this as a hot topic and one that can have disastrous long-term consequences for a property.
While on the surface, charging exorbitantly above what a grocery store does may indeed be a big profit maker, there is a lurking psychological principle at work. Namely, most travelers look at this and, subconsciously reflecting on this number, conclude the following:
1. Why is this bottle $7 when I can buy it in the supermarket for less than a buck?
2. Does this hotel think I am stupid enough to buy it at this price?
3. What other ways is the hotel going to try and rip me off?
4. I’m suspicious and this hotel isn’t earning my trust. They’re going to have to work even harder now to win me over if they want me to stay here again.
Whereas I’m sure that the bean counters at corporate are delighted to offer their owners another income stream that heavily offsets its costs and I’m sure they are able to wax poetic on how the high price is justified, the practice runs counter to our fundamental role as hosts.
What you really should be saying is something along the lines of, “Hydration is important and we care about your health. Have some water with our compliments.”
If you are one of the offending hoteliers or executives pushing water at ridiculous prices (and you know who you are!), feel free to respond to this plaintive cry in this column with your own explanations (or more accurately excuses) for why this highway robbery is permissible at your property.
With a new cadre of competitors emerging every year, you cannot afford to lose any guests from such easily fixable, yet also highly emotionally charged, matters. Practices such as these will only continue to foster further resentment and conversion away from traditional hotels, and you cannot let such trivial issues become insurmountable barriers to success.