Hoteliers: Stop Nickel and Diming Us!
by Robert McGarvey
The report out of NYU’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism is a 2×4 across a weary traveler’s forehead: “Following the 2014 record of $2.35 billion, total fees and surcharges collected by U.S. hotels are forecast to increase to another record level of $2.47 billion in 2015.”
I get it. Hoteliers are jealous of the profits wrought by airlines’ “ancillary fees” — totalling many billions in 2014, per research out of IdeaWorks and CarTrawler. Wrote Money Magazine: “the largest three U.S. carriers (United, Delta, and the newly combined American and US Airways) racked up $13.7 billion in total ancillary revenue in 2014. Add in Southwest and the total goes to $15.6 billion.”
You know what? The airline fees don’t bother me that much because, mainly, I dodge them. I never check a bag. I buy no food on board. I have a stack of free GoGo passes. I don’t fly the three carriers that charge for carryon (Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier). I don’t buy alcoholic beverages in flight. I don’t buy movies. Call me a skinflint but my credit card pretty much stays in my wallet at 30,000 ft.
I don’t even spend much money at airports which I have said generally ripoff passengers.
Hotels however get my goat, with an ever expanding list of fees. NYU’s Bjorn Hanson itemized a stultifying list of upcharges in his report: “Examples of fees and surcharges include: resort or amenity fees, early departure fees, reservation cancellation fees, internet fees, telephone call surcharges, some business center fees (including charges for receiving faxes and sending/receiving overnight packages), room service delivery surcharges, mini-bar restocking fees, charges for in-room safes, automatic gratuities and surcharges, and baggage holding fees for guests leaving luggage with bell staff after checking out of a hotel but before departure, and charges for unattended parking. For groups there have been increased charges for bartenders and other staff at events, special charges for set-up and breakdown of meeting rooms, and administrative fees for master folio billing.”
These hotel fees just are harder to dodge and, sadly, they are spreading.
Even Hilton and Marriott have ended same day, free reservation cancellation.
Here’s a list of obnoxious hotel charges I put together last year. Egregious things like early check in fees – the room is, obviously, empty, right? $5 to “restock” the mini bar, on top of the $10 you are nicked for the $2 candybar?
Resort fees have irritated me since I first heard of them and, really, $40 a day for pool towels, “free” activities, a newspaper I do not want and, oh, did I mention the invariably wretched hotel WiFi (which is why I usually use a personal hotspot).
Hanson noted that resorts are getting ever more clever (or greedy?): “Other of the more recently introduced fees and surcharges include charging for unattended surface parking in suburban locations.”
Why would I pay extra to park in a large lot built for that purpose? I understand paying a stiff fee to park on the Upper East Side – but in Scottsdale?
I am also hearing anecdotal commentary that more hotels are charging guests for taking stuff from the room – everything from the obvious (bathrobes) to the bizarre (toiletries – who charges for them?) Towels, ashtrays, bottle openers are also showing up as add on items on guests’ bills. Note: if you have stories about these purloined item charges, tell me – firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to document a story.
Here are the problems with the avalanche of fees: (1) often they are hidden and, if not hidden, they are not exactly made clear. Word of advice – if resort fees in particular are not plainly disclosed, decline to pay them. Check on a mobile device. (2) We have met the enemy and he is us. If we don’t protest greedy, grasping, illogical hotel fees, we will see more of them. It’s that simple.
Draw your personal line – and don’t accept one fee beyond it. That is how travelers can – and must – fight back in 2015.
Note: I am also looking for cases where people believe a hotel or convention center blocked their WiFi and disabled their ability to create a personal hotspot. Email email@example.com