The Surprising Reason Hotels Have Ice Machines

Ice machines can be found in virtually every American hotel.
Ice machines can be found in virtually every American hotel.
Imageegaml/iStock via Getty Images

For some, there is no bigger thrill while traveling than to discover an ice machine close to their room. Taken for granted at home, ice becomes a precious commodity in hotels. It’s become part of standard lodging accommodations, along with a clean set of sheets or an ironing board.

But ice wasn’t always a gratuity. In fact, the reason hotels have made free ice machines permanent fixtures is because ice once came with a price tag attached.

Back when the Holiday Inn was a burgeoning franchise in the 1950s, founder Kemmons Wilson noticed that rival hotel operations charged extra for ice. As someone looking to break into the hospitality industry, Wilson was looking to improve the guest experience and thought that gouging his lodgers for ice was a poor way to go about it. At a Holiday Inn, ice could be fetched for free.

Because the Inn was a franchise with a uniform set of standards, each new location that opened brought with it the same policy about free ice. Other hotel chains looking to compete with the increasing popularity of the Holiday Inn began to concede. Soon, ice was a no-charge benefit for virtually all hotels.

(Wilson had other thoughts about hotel surcharges. Some chains tacked on $2 extra for each child, a policy he did away with. The Holiday Inn became a massive success, though not all of his ideas landed. Wilson once wanted to install a trampoline in each location, an ambition that ended when a child hopped on one and crashed through a window.)

Of course, a machine handled by multiple guests needs regular cleaning and maintenance, and not all hotels necessarily keep up with the task. A 2012 CBC investigation found bacteria, including E. coli., on ice machines at six major hotel chains in Canada. Ice machines and dispensers should be cleaned monthly.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

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The Reason Stone Crabs Are So Expensive

Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Many people associate lobster with fine dining, but the stone crab may be the true king of fancy shellfish. Per pound, the crab is the most expensive seafood consumed in the United States. The crustacean is highly sought after for its delicate, succulent taste, but that's not the only reason for its high price tag. The cost of stone crabs comes from the way the creature is harvested.

To prevent their population from being wiped out, stone crab fishing is strictly regulated. In Florida, where 98 percent of all stone crabs sold in the country originate, the crabs can only be harvested from October 15 through May 1. That's why stone crab season lasts half the year at markets and restaurants.

Stone crab harvesting isn't as simple as hauling a box of live crabs to shore. Fishermen are only allowed to collect one claw from each crab they catch. The claw must be at least 2.75 inches long, and it can't belong to an egg-bearing female.

Once the claw is broken off, the live crab is thrown back into the ocean, where it will have a chance to continue mating and reproducing. Stone crabs can survive with one claw, and it takes them about a year to regrow the lost appendage. That means there's a good chance the owner of the stone crab claw you ordered is still crawling through the ocean when your dinner arrives.

Due to these sustainability practices, one pound of stone crab takes more time and effort to harvest than most other crustaceans. The crab can sell anywhere from $30 to $60 per pound depending on the claw size. And thanks to high demand from seafood lovers, that price likely won't go down anytime soon.