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While booking hotels in the US (Dallas, TX specifically) I found that many hotels have an area that features shelves with food, fridges and freezers. I see no price tags with the products. Does this mean the products are free for hotel guests?

An example can be found here:

Shelves at La Quinta Inn

If these products are not for free, how do I find out how much they are? Is it considered rude to put something back if I think the price is too high?

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    Absolutely not free, likely overpriced, not rude at all to return an item to the shelf. Look near the register for a price list, or just ask the shop clerk for pricing; they won't be offended. – Giorgio Oct 16 '16 at 23:24
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    In some cases, it might be that the first $X/day of purchases is included with your room charge. But certainly not free and unlimited. – Nate Eldredge Oct 17 '16 at 0:27
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    It is basically an oversized mini-bar - with corresponding prices. – Aganju Oct 17 '16 at 0:41
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    I also see these in TX, these are not free, you have to pay for this. – user52567 Oct 17 '16 at 12:16
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    ugh! what is with places that don't show prices? this is just discouraging me from shopping at all! even if i can ask about any item i want, i'm not wasting my time asking for the price of every item on the shelf, something which i could easily see with a few moments of visual scanning if the %$#@ things were just marked! – user23030 Oct 17 '16 at 21:38
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I often stay at Radisson hotels. And have also seen this type of thing in other hotels as well.

This area in hotels is a shop featuring paid-for items.
The items are likely to have small price stickers on, however if they don't there should be a poster displaying the prices.

It would not be rude to look at the prices and return them to the shelf if you did not wish to purchase.

Pricing in these areas/shops is usually higher than you would pay in a supermarket or convenience store, but likely to be cheaper than the minibar in the hotel room if there is one. .

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    And yes, in answer to the OP's question, it is absolutely OK to ask prices. Americans are extremely friendly, practical, and customer-service oriented. It would be absolutely normal to, for example, pick up ten of the bags of junk food, take them all to the desk, and carefully get the price of each one, and buy nothing. Totally, 100% OK to ask prices. – Fattie Oct 17 '16 at 12:25
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    To add to @JoeBlow's comment, it's perfectly acceptable to leave said ten bags of junk food at the counter if you decide you don't want them, but it's polite to take them and put them back. Some people might find this odd, but if I'm not buying anything I feel I shouldn't impose on the staff who could be doing other things (cleaning, helping other customers, etc). Maybe I'm just odd that way though (and perhaps more than a little OCD) :) – Doktor J Oct 17 '16 at 14:24
  • @Doktor, you're technically right, but I'd probably say that, in this circumstance, if they want to obviously overcharge you by not being transparent up front, leave the bags on the counter and make them earn that extra markup. – coblr Oct 17 '16 at 23:47
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    @coblr The person behind the cash register is unlikely to be the one setting the prices, or gaining any benefit from the markup. If anything, the workers are being exploited by the owners in a more serious way than the guests, who in a business hotel are mostly traveling with expense allowances. – choster Oct 18 '16 at 1:21
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    I was just talking about courtesy though, not whether it's "their job description". It's not about "breaking their back", it's about being nice and showing understanding. – Doktor J Oct 18 '16 at 6:12
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This looks like a feature called The Market at Courtyard by Marriott, though most business oriented properties feature something like this.

The items are not free but you can pay cash/credit or charge to you room.

I recall the price always displayed either on the shelf or sticker. It's like any convenience store. If the prices is not suitable, place the item back on the shelf.

Despite this display, the staff will be happy to direct you to a nearby store.

  • I would ask the price before picking up the item, if my purchase were expected to be conditional on price. There's no need to get your grubby hands all over someone else's apple! – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 17 '16 at 11:15
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: If the food weren't wrapped I'd agree with you. – Joshua Oct 17 '16 at 16:47
  • @Joshua: I'd still rather get a packet of crisps that hasn't been crumpled in someone's grotty mits :) – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 17 '16 at 17:00
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit That's why you move all of the items, and grab one from the back --- crumpling them all in the process, of course! ;-) – jpaugh Oct 17 '16 at 19:02
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I have been several times in Dallas and those shelves are pretty common in Marriott and Starwood hotels. The first reason why you see those is because a lot of them are business type of hotels. So you mostly have solo travelers and they prefer to eat something quick in their room rather than taking the car to go out to a restaurant. Usually, those hotels don't have a restaurant in house, they only offer breakfast.

Then, it is always paying. The exception is the club lounge in some of those hotels where you can have "free" food but this is available only for higher room categories or loyal customers.

The price of the items available in the shelves is usually displayed upfront or on small stickers directly on the items. As mentionned, you can book it directly to your room if you don't have money. The good thing is that it goes far beyond food, you can also find a lot of travel items that can help making your travel better, especially if you have forgotten something at home.

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Usually if you find such a room, it should have a sign explaining how it works. If it doesn't specify free, then it's not free. One notable I stayed at, Candlewood Suites, had an alternative method for providing snacks. The items in the room were not particularly under watch, but a sign posted in the room stated that the room worked on the honor system; if you took out some products, you were expected to leave some money in return. Some products were also free, like the brewed coffee and/or tea. Other hotels may actually operate this way as well, but you should make no assumptions. If you stay at a hotel that has a room that looks like this, you should ask in advance how it works, should you decide to satisfy a snack urge. The staff will be happy to explain how much it will cost you, methods of payment, and so on.

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    Re: If it doesn't specify free, then it's not free : It may be worth noting (for non-native English speakers) that "complimentary" means "free". I remember being puzzled the first time I went to a hotel (long long time ago) and saw the "complimentary" water bottle :) – hertitu Oct 18 '16 at 12:02

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