Stop charging for bottled water

“Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

I start this blog post with a scholarly line from the Samuel Taylor Coleridge classic, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The speaker in this case was a sailor of a marooned ship surrounded by salt water.

While it is obvious to all that the modern hotel guest is not a sailor (nor can a guestroom be considered a ship in the ocean), the parallel I am drawing reflects the continued reluctance by hoteliers to recognize activities that truly are unbecoming to the hospitality profession. In this case, I am referring to our proclivity towards affixing outrageous prices to such basic amenities as bottled water.

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). 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. This doesn’t make any sense and I probably won’t stay here again.

Whereas I’m sure 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 excuses explanations 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.