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Is It OK to Stockpile Food from the Hotel Buffet?

Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel’s new weekly series in which Editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Join the debate by leaving a comment below!

The complimentary hotel breakfast buffet: It’s a refuge of no-cost sustenance for travelers beset by marked-up menus, bad exchange rates, and $10 lattes. It’s not always good. Sometimes it’s better suited for consumption in a prison cafeteria than for paying guests who have (mostly) not violated federal and state laws. But we nonetheless line up near the juice carafes and fill our mouths with dry bagel because we are desperate. And it’s totally free, so one might as well choke down some carbs before the cave-tubing excursion.

Whether the buffet was an assortment of watery fruit or a cinnamon-glazed feast, I have, in the past, gone ahead and put a banana or a Danish on my plate with the intention to eat it later; I don’t consider this, in any rational sense, to be stealing.

In 10 Ways to Eat for (Mostly) Free on the Road, I suggested that travelers leverage the free hotel breakfast by squirreling away an item or two for post-breakfast consumption. Stockpile your snacks within reason, of course. I’m talking about taking an orange or a croissant to fend off an afternoon sugar crash, not surreptitiously scooping servings of potatoes and eggs into Tupperware like a kid at fat camp. Still, a number of readers called me out for being rude.

For example, Kerry K. said, “‘Leverage’ your free breakfast? Yes, I have heard of MANY hotels objecting to this, and in fact posting polite signs to the effect of please don’t make a sandwich for lunch to carry out of the breakfast room. Eat a big breakfast, but don’t steal food for later. It’s really rude.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t eat a big breakfast. And I don’t subscribe to the concept of throwing rational thinking in the bin and rigidly following an ethical framework created by a capitalist entity when it leaves some travelers at a disadvantage. I’m a vegetarian, so I forfeit my dibs on the meat, which is often the most expensive item in the buffet. (This means more bacon for everyone else. You’re welcome.) Give me some fruit and something from the grain group and that’s breakfast. It’s perfectly acceptable for an overeater to gobble up masses of eats from every section of the food pyramid, but those of us who prefer multiple small meals throughout the day will wind up deprived when we stick to the rules. Are we really being so rude by grabbing an apple to go?

Which side of the debate are you on? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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