Government Muffin-Gate? Looks like standard room service prices to me!

Turns out $16 muffins invoiced by the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. for a 2009 Department of Justice conference is disputed by Hilton Worldwide. The global hotel company responded to the public outrage over exorbitant muffin charges that has been coined as “Muffin-gate“.

The muffin-gate story was fueled by hundreds of reports that the invoice for an August 2009 conference of the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Capital Hilton in Washington D.C. showed a line item charge of $4,200 for 250 muffins.

The Obama administration has ordered all agencies to review conference-related spending.

Capital Hilton Washington, D.C. (February 2011)

Hilton’s response to Muffin-Gate.

The $16 muffin price tag or $4,200 invoiced by the Capital Hilton actually covered 250 muffins, 15 gallons of coffee, 30 gallons of ice tea, and 200 pieces of fruit for 534 people attending the conference.

Has Anderson Cooper never ordered hotel room service?

When I first saw this muffin story last week spreading across the airwaves I chuckled hearing high-profile millionaire TV anchors on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and people like Jon Stewart exclaiming they can’t imagine a $16 muffin.

Give me a break!

Room Service Prices

I can count the times I have ordered hotel room service on one hand.

Here are typical room service menu prices for an upper upscale hotel. This example is taken from a Hyatt Regency room service menu in Columbus, Ohio. I think these rates are actually lower than your average hotel in D.C., Los Angeles, Boston, and New York.

  • White toast $2.75
  • Cold Cereal with fruit $5.00
  • Orange juice $3.00
  • The price for cold cereal, orange juice and toast is $10.75.

All Room Service Orders are subject to State and Local Taxes, a Delivery Charge of $3.00, and a Service Charge of 20%. The Service Charge Includes Gratuity.

  • $10.75 food order
  • $3.00 Delivery charge
  • $2.15 service charge (mandatory tip)
  • $2.66 (Ohio 6.75  state tax + 10% hotel tax  = $2.66)

Grand total for room service lite breakfast = $18.56 for a bowl of cereal, toast and a glass of OJ.

I am assuming there is a coffee maker and complimentary coffee in the room.

Share your Room Service story

I have photographed several room service menus during my hotel stays and I tried to find more examples of room service rates in my hotel photo collection. I couldn’t locate any for this post. I remember paying $11 for a glass of milk when a friend and her young boy stopped by my room at Le Meridien San Francisco  a few years back.

Readers – please share some examples of room service rates from your travels.






About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Not room service per se, but I remember an offer for breakfast at the Crowne Plaza near Blackfriars in London for the low, low price of 25 GBP. $16/person for a catered continental breakfast doesn’t sound excessive at all, just typical hotel prices.

  2. While $16 might be a typical price to pay for a room service muffin, I still can’t see paying $16 for 250 muffins. Banquet room service isn’t room service. Now, if it included all the other stuff, that would make the pricing more reasonable…

    As for room service, next time check the room service pricing versus the price of the same items in the hotel’s restaurant. I typically find the items to be a couple bucks more, which doesn’t bother me.

    What does really bother me is the 20% required gratuity. Walking the food from the kitchen to the guestroom is NOWHERE near the same level of service as actually being a “real” waiter.

  3. Exactly! anyone who has ever ordered food for a conference (in a hotel or in an office) knows that these kinds of prices are PER PERSON and includes the food, drink, delivery, setup, take-away, etc….

  4. Why is this an issue now? Why this wasn’t brought up when Bush was in office? Now that we are having a national debate about equity in taxation, more of the same silly stuff will come up … stay tuned!

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