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Steal This Continental Breakfast: The Urban Forager's Guide, Vol. 1

Times are tough, so many people are searching for hotels with free continental breakfasts. 

Problem is, some of those eating aren't guests, says Hampton Inn, says manager front desk clerk Alfonso Tobenas. That's right. Folks walk into tourist hotels and pose as guests to gain access to morning chow. Who would do such a thing? Lots of people, according to local hotel insiders.

"It is what it is, bro, times are tough and they're hungry," Tobenas says. "They're just trying to beat the

system and save a buck. The first time you're going to get away with it,

the second and third time I'm going to ask you to leave."

So how does Tobenas, who has worked five years at the hotel tucked away behind Dadeland

Mall, spot the freeloaders? By the way they talk -- they can't hide that Miami accent -- and by the way they dress. Tobenas can spot a real tourist from across the room.

Tobenas says some people even regularly rotate hotels for their free breakfasts, but he recognizes their faces after a while. When he spots them, he lets them

eat free-of-charge so they let their guard down. Then he confronts them and asks for their room number. At that moment, they realize they've been found out and generally leave without incident.

If they keep coming back, he either charges $7.50 -- the estimated cost of the breakfast per person for the hotel -- or calls the cops and have them charged with trespassing, though not usually with theft.

Story continues on next page...

With a full breakfast bar of pastries, cereal, fruit, yogurt, a waffle maker, prepared eggs, bacon, sausage, juices and coffee, who wouldn't want to try and take advantage of Hampton Inn's bangin' free breakfast? Some hotels are like Shoney's, but better 'cause they're free.

The thrifty set also visits Kendall Hotel and Suites, an extended stay place conveniently located next to Baptist Hospital on SW 88th Street that offers a buffet-style breakfast for its guests complete with all of the aforementioned food items, plus a chef who makes omelets. Breakfast is part of the package for guests, and $12 for those who don't stay at the hotel.

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Irvin Rey, the hotel's manager, will kick you out if you're not a paying customer, although he isn't too hardcore about it. He says he treats hungry sleazeballs with respect. "I'd really appreciate it if people pay the fee," says Rey. "Times are tough, but everybody's got to stay in business."

Smaller hotels such as the Riviera Suites in Miami Beach seem to keep out non-guests. Anybody scouting for a free breakfast here has to traverse a maze of hallways to find the buffet. Only those smart enough to look by the pool find what they're looking for.

However, some hotels have staff on hand just to watch for freeloaders. The Kendall Hotel and Suites checks to see who's actually a guest. So, if you plan on taking advantage of this amenity, here are two tips you should follow: Don't stick around to enjoy the ambiance. And know where the side entrance is so that you can make a swift exit. Bon appetit!

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