It’s the modern world’s equivalent of Pandora’s Box or the tomb of Tutankhamen – fear-inducing, shrouded in mystery and opened only by the foolhardy or exceedingly brave. Yes, I’m talking about the hotel mini bar.
Housed within those four chilled walls are some of the most expensive items on the planet. They didn’t use to be. Milliseconds before they were placed within the sacred, insulated vault they were just normal consumables – cans, miniature bottles, nuts, chocolate bars, etc – easily bought for just a handful of change from the shop around the corner. But, once inside, their value skyrockets. It’s as if the mini bar contains its own separate economy, undergoing the sort of hyper-inflation not seen since post- WWI Germany. And, as such, anyone foolish enough to take anything from within is either a regular on the Forbes Rich List or in no fit state to realise the consequence of their actions.
As a child travelling with budget friendly (read: tightwad) parents, on the rare occasion that our hotel contained a mini bar (this was rare – a cheer went up if there was hot water), it was routinely emptied. The contents would then be put to one side to make way for spreadable cheese, bread rolls and other supermarket-bought delights to cover our day’s nutritional needs (why stop at a nice restaurant when mum’s got a lovely cheese sandwich already made for you?).
Sadly, such translocations aren’t possible any more. Oh no. Now there are little sensors inside the fridge. One slight movement and a giant red button, probably labelled ‘KERCHING’, starts fl ashing in the reception. Should you accidentally nudge the miniature pipe of Pringles, even if it’s just to squeeze in a few wedges of Laughing Cow cheese, the GDP of a developing nation is immediately added to the room bill. To suggest that you haven’t consumed anything leads to the despatching of a crack team to check that a bottle hasn’t been drunk and then refilled from the tap (a classic trick).
But don’t think it’ll stop there. As we speak, scientists in white coats are frantically working in laboratories across the world on the latest monitoring devices. In a few years it won’t just be little sensors. There’ll be laser beams, retinal scans and plenty of flashing, bleeping LEDs. Embedded microchips will track the exact movement of each item, while radars will predict whether you’re the sort of person to be tempted by Dhs500 Lindt chocolate.
Just as the space-race spawned hordes of useful discoveries that seeped into the home (non-stick frying pans, pens that can write upside down and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk), I’m sure the science behind mini bars will begin to help society. After all, something’s got to stop my flatmates stealing my Dairylea.