Being a professional traveler is like an occupation, you are always learning new things on the job - sometimes you learn by trial and error, other times you are learning by just screwing up. It’s all about experience - the more experience you have traveling, the more savvy of a traveler you will be. The key is to absorb and learn from your experiences. Let me share with you some lessons learned while traveling in Thailand….
#1 Settling room bill upon checkout
While I was I checking into my room at President Park Hotel in Bangkok last November, I asked the front desk clerk if it was ok to pay by credit card for my hotel bill, the front desk told me ‘yes sir”, you can pay by credit card. Well upon check it, I was ready to pay by credit card, and that was when I was told there would be an extra 5% service fee. As somebody who does not like to throw away money unnecessarily, I was visibly upset about this. I told her - ‘I wish you would have told me about this extra service charge when I checked in”. With her supervisor breathing down her neck, she avoiding looking into my eyes and demurely said in a soft voice that she advised me about the extra charge. I guess she was relatively new on the job, and truth be told - she did not advise me as such. I guess she was trying to save face with her boss. Rather than pay the extra 5% service fee, I told the young lady’s supervisor, if that’s the case I will pay in cash - in the local currency. As I had a taxi waiting for me outside to take to me Kanchanaburi, about a 2 hour drive from Bangkok, I had him take me the nearest currency exchange bureau on the Sukhumvit to change my travelers checks into the local currency (baht) and then drive me back to the hotel to pay the bill. This whole procedure caused over an hour delay in my departure from Bangkok.
Lesson learned - find out upon check-in, whether there is an extra service fee if the room bill is paid by credit card. If there is an extra fee, at least you can decide in advance if you’d prefer to pay by cash to save some monies and avoid the hassle (and time lost) that I experienced.
#2 Minibar - convenience or nuisance ?
Most hotels put a minibar in your room stocked with sodas, beers, wine coolers, bottled water, snacks and candy. Some hotels even stock their minibar with condoms. The condoms, candy and snacks of course are usually in a basket on top of the refrigerator or on the dresser. I never use the minibar because the prices are for all these goodies are outrageous. It’s a real moneymaker for the hotel, and I guess a convenience for guests who are too lazy to run down to the nearest 7-11 or convenience store and buy their own drinks and snacks at local prices. As an example - if you were to consume a small bottle of water from the minibar, the price charged by President Park Hotel would be about $2.50USD. The same bottle of water if purchased at the local 7-11, would be about 50 cents. Every day, the maid does an inventory check of the minibar and the guests are billed for any items consumed. As you can surmise that most guests do not use the minibar, but go to the store to stock up on their own drinks and snacks.
I never, ever use the minibar and if I have visitors, I forbid them to consume any items stocked in the minibar. Of course, I usually go to the local store and purchase a variety of drinks and snacks, which I readily make available to any visitors.
I had a very troubling experience when I checked out President Park Hotel in Bangkok last December to catch a taxi for my departure flight to San Francisco. As I paid my room bill by cash the night before my departure to facilitate the check out procedure, I thought I would avoid any potential delays. Wrong….
Upon check out that morning, the supervisor asked me if I used anything from the minibar. Of course I didn’t and neither did my lady friend who stayed with me during my final 3 nights. Not willing to take my word, they sent somebody up to the room to check the minibar nevertheless while I waited in the taxi ready to depart. One of the bellman ran out to the taxi and informed me that one wine cooler was missing. What the F***k, neither my lady friend nor I consumed anything from the minibar. With the mounting anxiety that this delay would cause me to be late for my flight, as one never knows how traffic conditions are to the airport, I ran into the hotel and visibly upset, I denied using anything from the minibar. Expressing my concern about how this delay (I already lost 20 minutes) might cause me to miss my flight as it was scheduled to leave in about 1 hour and 40 minutes, I told them I will pay them whatever they want so I could get out of there pronto. At the last minute, the supervisor profusely apologized and tore up the bill. Thanking the supervisor for extending me this courtesy, I bolted outside onto the streets, hopped into my taxi and told the driver in no uncertain words, to step on it! Fortunately, traffic conditions were fairly light and we made it to the airport in about 20 minutes.
Lesson learned - When you’re checking into the hotel, if you don’t plan on using the minibar, kindly ask the front desk to remove everything from the minibar to avoid any potential complications. If they refuse, you can remove everything from the minibar and store all the drinks and snacks in a cardboard box, of if you’re staying in a condo hotel like President Park, you can store everything in one of the overhead cupboards. When you’re ready to check out, just put everything back into the minibar. Do yourself a favor and get permission from the front desk to handle the minibar situation like this!
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