Time To Legislate: This Hotel Rip-Off Needs To Stop


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If you ask a group of frequent travelers what five aspects of the offerings they get from hotels and airlines they dislike the most you’re likely to get a host of different answers.

Some will probably point to the inability of certain airlines to keep to a schedule (that would be you AA), some will probably comment on hotel rooms that don’t offer enough power outlets and some will complain about the ever decreasing amount of space passengers are given on an aircraft…..but I’m willing to wager that one ever more apparent aspect of travel will appear on most of their lists – Resort fees.

Resort fees are essentially a way for hotels to nickel and dime their guests by charging them for things that should either come included with the room rate or things that most of them probably don’t want in the first place and more and more hotels are now trying to get away with this.

Last week I was looking at hotels in Miami and trying to figure out where I should stay over the two nights that I’ll be in town and resort fees kept on appearing on my screen.

The biggest annoyance I had was that resort fees aren’t included in the room rates quoted despite the fact that there’s no reason they shouldn’t be – this makes comparing hotel prices tricky as not all properties levy these rip-offs on their guests.

The property that first started to get my blood pressure rising was Hyatt’s Confidante on Miami Beach.

When first looking at the property I didn’t notice the small note on the Hyatt rates page that should have alerted me to the extra charge….

 

…and the resort fees aren’t exactly immediately clear when Hyatt shows you the total cost of your stay:

It’s only because I wondered why I was being charged taxes and fees at a rate of 30% that I expanded the costs and saw the key driver:

For this particular stay the resort fees were equal to 16% of the nightly room rate….but what do you get for that?

There’s a small link on the rates page that reads “resort fee policy page” and you would expect that when you click on that link an explanation of the resort fees would be there in front of you…but it isn’t.

That link takes you to the hotel’s homepage (here) and you have to scroll half way down a good-sized page before you find what you’re looking for…..

….but blink and you’ll miss it!

Apparently guests at the Confidante Miami beach have to pay extra for the chairs the hotel provides by the pool and on the beach, they have to pay extra to use the hotel gym, and extra for a bike too.

Why?

Why is a beach-adjacent hotel with the word “beach” in its name charging guests for beach chairs? Why does this hotel get to charge for the use of the gym when its an accepted free amenity at most other properties? Why are guests being charged for a bicycle and helmet when, at a guess, most will probably never go near one of the hotel’s bikes?

This is just wrong.

If I thought that the Confidante Miami Beach was bad I was in for more annoyance with the W South Beach.

The W South Beach is another hotel that charges resort fees but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t paying attention.

  • There is no mention of resort fees (that I can see) on the hotel’s homepage
  • The page showing the various rates on offer makes no mention of resort fees
Click to enlarge
  • The “rate details” link opens up a window that makes no mention of resort fees

    Click to enlarge 
  • The cost summary page makes no mention of resort fees – just general “taxes and fees”

  • So you have to actively investigate what the charges are before you realise that you’re being charged resort fees of $35/night

Not only is the W South Beach charging resort fees surreptitiously but I can’t find any page on the hotel’s website that explains what exactly the $35/night is for.

Presumably such a page exists but the fact that I’ve searched and can’t find it goes some way to showing how opaque this hotel’s fees really are.

Amazingly it wasn’t the W South Beach that raised my blood pressure most as, just as I thought no other property could annoy me more, I opened up a booking for the JW Marriott Miami.

So far the two properties I’ve discussed are situated in the Miami Beach area and even though neither is really a resort I can see how they may make an argument to suggest that that’s what they really are….but there’s no viable argument for the JW Marriott Miami.

This property may be near water (most of Miami is) but it’s right in the middle of downtown Miami….

…..and even the images of the rooms make it clear that this is more a business hotel than any kind of resort:

Still, this hasn’t stopped the property from adding what it calls a “destination amenity fee” to its rates (even on award nights):

What’s more, the only explanation for this “destination amenity fee” that I’ve managed to find on the hotel website is this:

That’s it…I haven’t found any other mention.

Where do I start with this?

Firstly…….virtual bowling???? Really Marriott? You’re now forcing people to pay for video games they will probably never play? Pathetic.

Secondly, I’m pretty sure I remember reading that my Marriott elite status entitles me to enhanced internet access….oh look…..it does!

My Marriott Platinum Premier status entitles me to Marriott’s “fastest connection absolutely free” so why is it that, while I’m logged in to my Marriott account, this property is trying to charge me for an amenity that’s actually a benefit included in my elite status?

Rip-off

Rip-off

Rip-off

Bottom Line

I’m not a big fan of government interference but as hotels and hotel chains clearly can’t be trusted not to rip consumers off and as these fees are rapidly becoming more common it’s time for legislation to put a halt to these fees.

These are charges that aren’t clearly defined, aren’t always obvious and are mostly for things that should already be included in the rate or that guests don’t want in the first place.

I’ve made a pledge to never stay at a property where I’m charged a resort fee/destination fee and, if more people follow suit, perhaps the hotels will eventually get the message….but I won’t hold my breath.

Featured image JW Marriott Miami courtesy of Marriott

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve successfully gotten tje resprt fee refunded on vaious Marriott/ihg bookings after the fact by sending a complaint saying they weren’t obvious during the booking process

    • That’s really good to know. Let’s hope more people are as proactive as you as I’d love to see this appalling money grab ended.

  2. Thanks for the post. I 100% support everything you wrote. It is despicable what these hotels are doing. Very devious and in my opinion unethical. It is a direct reflection of the leadership of the hotel. If they try to slip these rip off fees on to unsuspecting customers, what else are they willing to do to take advantage of them?

    On their main website they post:
    “At JW Marriott we fill your journeys through life with everlasting moments to leave you richer.”
    Their actions prove that this is clearly not true. It’s disgusting how some companies will blatantly use deception and trickery to take advantage of their customers.

    • Agreed – if hotels actually thought that these fees were fair and merited they wouldn’t make them so opaque and they’d explain clearly exactly why they’re being levied. As this clearly doesn’t happen I’m left to assume that the hotels know exactly how shady, underhand and unjustifiable some of these fees are and they’re just trying to see what they can get away with.

  3. The solution seems pretty obvious. Do you think that these pigs are going to regulate themselves? One possible alternative would be to legislate additional fees for airlines and hotels to be taxed at double the standard rate and commissionable to travel agents at double the standard rate as well. The advantage would be that you weren’t actually forcing behavior, just creating incentives to have a true price.

  4. Agree 1000%…they are just taking a page from the slow “death by fees” the airlines have gotten away with. I remember the Hilton Paddington charging me a “tray” fee, in addition to the delivery fee for ordering a burger one night. Next night, I ordered the same thing,,,told the lady at in room dining, “please, I don’t want the tray tonight…it didn’t taste very well last night, so don’t included it with my meal.” Silence. More Silence.

    I’m waiting for rental car companies to charge us, when we rent a car, for the luxury of having 4 tires as opposed to say 3, or telling us the engine is an optional upgrade.

    The hotels will claim that they offer a better experience and want to be listed on competitive searches. Well, guess what? If you have a brand that is supposed to stand for quality, say a JW, it’s not likely you will be compared to say a Best Western…two different customers and two different audiences. What these guys are all doing is stripping away things that used to be standard and then saying they are giving you “full control” over your experience by choosing the options you want to enjoy. As a frequent biz traveler, I’d love to be able to enjoy one of those resort amenities that I’m being charged for but never have time…And one of the other writers is correct, if you bitch about the resort fees, especially if you have some level of status, you can often get them waived,,,,if you don’t mind the hassle and the humiliation….

  5. Thanks for writing this, and posting those egregious examples. You are right, this disgustingly greedy trend is, indeed, the thing about travel that infuriates me the most. It is a thoroughly dishonest practice.

  6. In NYC, some Marriott/Starwood hotels charge a destination fee or mandatory fee of $25 to $35/night. These are similar to resort fees, as they include certain benefits (whether the guest uses them or not).

    In Niagara Falls, Ontario, most of the hotels charge a “destination marketing fee” also sometimes called a “mandatory fee” that is a percentage of the room rate. Sometimes the mandatory fee can be 10% of the room rate! These fees don’t appear to come with any additional benefits. They are apparently levied to help the hotels cover promotional or other marketing fees paid to the local municipality.

  7. I read a great article in the past talking about resort and destination fees. Now I certainly do not agree with a fee like in Miami or now those that are charging in New York City or Chicago, but in places like Vegas what I am told is that the booking agencies only get a percentage of the Room rate and by having a low Room rate and charging a resort fee the property gets to keep the revenue from the resort fee. I assume the same holds true for places like Miami and new york and Chicago where folks are using hot wire or kayak to do their booking. Maybe what you will see in the future if these chains were smart, is that book direct with us and don’t pay a resort fee

  8. While I don’t expect any regulation under the current administration, you’d think the government would have an interest to legislate this:
    Not only is this misleading to customers searching for a hotel, as these fees only become visible at the very end of the booking process, hidden with taxes and other fees, but the hotels don’t pay taxes on these fees. The larger the percentage of these fees becomes, the less taxes the government collects!
    Also, I think this is a lot worse than airline fees: With airlines, you have a choice whether you want to purchase an add-on service or not, none of them are mandatory. With these resort fees, you don’t have a choice. You can’t opt out and not take advantage of those marvelous virtual bowling games! That’s why it’s fraudulent and tax evasion!

  9. I agree with your article and the comments – these hidden costs shouldn’t be tolerated. I am so tempted to want to bill hotels a “Guest Fee” where I charge them back. How about an “unused towel credit” of $15 for every towel in the room I don’t use? How about a “toilet paper refund” proportional to the amount I don’t use??

    What’s to keep hotels from charging you just $1 for the room, and $300 in fees?

    I think that we should make sure to mention these hidden fees when writing online reviews at various travel websites.

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