Couple fined 500 francs for drinking own Champagne in Swiss hotel

by | 28 Mar 2020 | News

The Fleurs de Zermatt hotel. (Picture: Booking.com)

After drinking a bottle of Champagne they brought to the hotel, a couple got fined CHF 500 and had a run-in with local police.

What was supposed to be a romantic couple’s getaway turned into quite a catastrophe when the bill was presented at check-out.

We find out why a simple bottle of Champagne and a strange rule set two guests back CHF 500.

It could have been a perfect trip

Marcel Kalbermatten and his partner wanted to spend three romantic nights in an Alpine hotel in snow-covered Zermatt, Switzerland. The two brought a bottle of Champagne in their luggage which they wanted to drink in the room during their stay.

When they asked for an ice bucket at the reception, they were made aware that eating and drinking are prohibited in the hotel’s rooms and guests violating the rule would be fined up to CHF 500.

This seemed silly and confusing to the guests. After all, the “Fleurs de Zermatt” website shows a photo of a suite with a bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket with two glasses. Since nobody would order bubbles just for decoration, the couple decided to ignore the rule and enjoy their Champagne anyway.

So far so good. But after they demonstratively left the empty bottle for the staff to find, things went sideways.

500 Swiss Francs for a Champagne party

Upon check-out, the couple is informed that they violated house rules and will therefore be fined CHF 500 (€470). That, of course, didn’t sit well with them.

Kalbermatten refused to pay the fine demanded by the hotel manager. According to Kalbermatten, hotelier Daniel Biner showed “no understanding” when speaking with him on the phone and told the couple that house rules are house rules and should be followed.

This led the front desk to call the cantonal police, who inspected the room but found no damage, the local Walliser Bote newspaper later reported.

Slightly stumped by the situation, the police consulted the prosecutor who quickly dismissed the whole case. Since the couple did not cause any damage in the hotel room, there was no criminal offense to be prosecuted.

Hotel rules: futile, ethical, necessary?

The prosecutor’s decisions showed that the hotel’s house rules were not 100% enforceable. This means they generally serve as more of a deterrent to guests wanting to behave in a way the hotel’s management doesn’t appreciate.

To make the rule enforceable and allow the hotel to fine guests, there would have to be a legal ban on eating and drinking in the room. However, it doesn’t look like such a law will ever be passed.

The hotelier, Mr Biner claims he introduced these rules for good reason last year: “We had many incidents where eating and drinking in the room damaged the inventory.” According to him, guests have cut vegetables and fruit directly on the table or opened beer bottles on the edge of wooden furniture, leaving ugly marks.

Given these experiences, it’s understandable that Biner wants to protect the hotel’s property and ensure future guests can enjoy well-maintained rooms. However, the way the rule was applied in this particular case begs the question of how well hoteliers at the Fleurs de Zermatt Hotel live the principles of hospitality.

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