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Last year I went to a resort in Mexico and the towel boy asked me to please bring him some food from the buffet. He told me he didn't eat breakfast and is not allowed to get food from the buffet.

I felt weird and trapped because he was the towel boy. If I said no, it would be weird to see him again for new towels. So I went to get him some food. But I felt really weird and didn't know how to react.

What kind of trouble can I get into if I keep doing this?

  • 12
    Why was this downvoted? it is a very good question and any of us could face this while travelling. – Nean Der Thal Jul 4 '14 at 14:40
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    What is a towel boy? – user141 Jul 4 '14 at 16:17
  • The persone at the beach responsible to give you clean towels – Conrad C Jul 4 '14 at 16:23
  • I made the question more factual and objective by asking "What kind of trouble can I get into?" rather than "What should I do?" I was wondering if the question can be reopened in its current form. – Tom Au Jul 6 '14 at 19:36
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    I think it might also help if you could clarify whether this is more about "someone asked me for a tip, and I felt it would be awkward interacting with them later if I didn't" or "someone with a sad story asked me to break the rules for them, and I wanted to, but was worried about consequences." In other words had the towel boy asked for money to buy breakfast, would this be different? – Kate Gregory Jul 6 '14 at 23:58
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First, you did a good thing, there was no comeback, and so it's all good. But I want to answer your more general question for other people in that situation,

Many buffets have and explicit 'no leftovers no sharing' policy, if they don't make it explicit up front then they undoubtedly will if you start abusing the buffet. So while sneaking someone a few chicken wings (or whatever) may go unnoticed it becomes a slippery slope to feeding a ton of other people for free. And, if you're caught, they will attempt to make you pay. If you get caught the best case is you pay for a buffet for an extra person, worst case -- if the buffet is included in the room rate -- you pay for an extra room.

While I would have done what you did I would probably recommend other people to offer a little money to the towel boy, or offer to take him for breakfast somewhere else. The chances are the hotel knows about this and are OK with it, but it's also possible that it's a setup for a scam which is why it might be better to offer something else.

But you should never feel unable to say no if it's something you're not comfortable with. I don't want to sound boorish but it's OK not to give if you don't want to. I don't imagine you're the first person the boy has hit up for food, nor will you be the last. Similarly I'd wager that he's pretty used to being refused and it's not going to affect him. Sure it might make you feel bad, but then I suspect that's the point.

You could try and address the larger problem (that the hotel employees? or hangers-on don't make enough) either via the hotel website or other review sites. But that's not really what you asked.

In short, if you want to help, offer some help in some other way, because sliding stuff off the buffet has potential to get you in a heap of trouble. But, if you don't want to help, don't be afraid to say no.

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Here are the actions I might take in your shoes. In descending order of preference, and to avoid bad consequences, they are:

  1. Have food for the boy (purchased from the outside) when he visits your cabin.
  2. Have money for the boy when he visits your cabin.
  3. Some buffetts will allow you to take away partially eaten food. If so, I would "take one bite" out of something, and give away the rest (other than the food near the "bite" to the boy.
  4. Some buffetts will impose a surcharge for "wasted" food. In that case, pay the surcharge and give the "leftovers" to the boy.
  5. Some buffetts will impose a surcharge for a "sharing" plate.

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