So that’s why hotels put water bottles in your room

If you thought hotels just stock the minibar in your room with overpriced bottles of Fiji in order to line their pockets, think again. Sure, at $6 or more per container, it’s liquid gold — but it could also prevent all of your guests from getting sick when the tap water is no longer safe to drink.

Consider what happened to Rosanne Skopp when she stayed at the Holiday Inn Miami Beach recently.

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In the middle of our visit we returned to our room to find a note from the Miami Beach Department of Public Works, placed there by the hotel.

There was a water main issue (which we had witnessed as we left the hotel in the morning and saw more water in the streets and on the sidewalks than in the ocean!) and we were advised that we should not use the tap water for the next two days unless we brought it to a rolling boil for 1 1/2 minutes.

Hello! We were in a very modest hotel room. No pots. No stove. No fridge. Give me a break.

We immediately went down to the front desk and got two bottles of water.

Skopp believes the hotel should have placed two complimentary bottles of water in each room with a note reminding guests not to drink the tap water.

But then things got worse.

The next morning we asked the friendly front desk folks if the water was now safe to drink inasmuch as we saw huge volumes of fresh ice cubes being brought to the pool bar as well as numerous people drinking all sorts of liquids which had hotel water in them.

The immediate answer was yes.

Being a bit suspicious since the original directive had said two days I called the Miami Beach Department of Public Works and was told to refrain from using the water since they had not completed their testing. (Eventually they did clear it for

But, the hotel obviously chose expedience over guest welfare. As a matter of fact, guests who checked in the day after the original notice, when the ban was still in effect, got no notice at all!

Skopp has written to Holiday Inn, but received no reply.

As I review her situation, I’m really not sure what Holiday Inn can do for her or the guests affected by the water situation. Should they reach out to all guests at the hotel at the time and offer them something for the inconvenience? What if no one was incovenienced?

There’s also a legal argument to be made. Section 509.221 of the Florida lodging statues states:

(1)(a) Each public lodging establishment shall be supplied with potable water and shall provide adequate sanitary facilities for the accommodation of its employees and guests. Such facilities may include, but are not limited to, showers, handwash basins, toilets, and bidets. Such sanitary facilities shall be connected to approved plumbing. Such plumbing shall be sized, installed, and maintained in accordance with the Florida Building Code as approved by the local building authority. Wastewater or sewage shall be properly treated onsite or discharged into an approved sewage collection and treatment system.

I guess the question is, was the water in Skopp’s room not potable, or might it only have been undrinkable?

If I were on the Holiday Inn side, this customer complaint would be difficult to respond to. Certainly, the hotel could have done a better job of notifying guests about the “boil water” notice. But how do you compensate someone who just observed this apparent carelessness?

One thing is for certain: I have a new perspective on water bottles in my hotel room.

(Photo: Antonio Viva/Flickr Creative Commons)