The end of hotel room service? Good riddance.

The NYT reported the other day that the New York Hilton Midtown is going to end room service from August.

It seems that they lose money even charging $40 for breakfast. Kevin Drum doesn’t think he will miss an option he rarely uses, which was my first reaction: I stay in hotels about 40 nights a year and I last used room service three years ago.

Even travelling on an expense account, $40 for breakfast is a ripoff. Like the overpriced hotel phone and the $16 PPV movies, its an option I never use. I don’t like to overpay even when someone else is paying the bill.  But you have to wonder about a business that is unable to make a profit off of a $40 breakfast.

Room service via Shutterstock

Room service via Shutterstock

$300 is a lot to pay for a hotel that does not even have room service. But Manhattan hotels have been peculiar for a long time. Hotels with bad smells, worn carpets and furniture still charge top dollar for rooms. But even in Manhattan, this type of ‘service’ stands out:

The New York Hilton’s room service menu covers three pages, and ranges from a Pat La Frieda custom burger ($28.50) to populist items like macaroni and cheese made with Velveeta ($23.50). In small print, the menu specifies that for each order there is an additional 15 percent service charge and an in-room dining charge of $5.50 per person.

Add in the surcharges and that burger is costing almost $40 all on its own. And you can be fairly sure it is going to be just as pre-processed as the Velveeta mac-and-cheese.  Those prices are offensive.

What doomed room service, besides its usury prices?  When times are good, expense accounts are generous. The bean counters raise prices to maximize revenue. Then when times are less good people start watching expenses more, and demand suddenly drops. The bean counters raise prices to maintain revenues.

Though in the end, hotels are doing what the airlines and everyone else is doing — cutting costs anywhere and everywhere they can.  But at $40 for a simple breakfast, good riddance.

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