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Yesterday I highlighted the fact that the JW Marriott Los Angeles has joined the growing number of properties that charge guests a rip-off “Destination Fee”, and I lamented the fact that the property is claiming that the new fee is in place (in part) to cover the cost of internet access (an amenity which a lot of Marriott elites are supposed to get for free).
The JW Marriott Los Angeles is far from being the only property to claim that its indefensible fee covers something that thousands of guests should be getting free of charge (just check out what the Andaz West Hollywood and the InterContinental Downtown Los Angeles claim their rip-off fees cover) but this is the first time that I’ve had readers show me that there’s actually something we can do about this….at least when it comes to Marriott properties.
In the comments section of yesterday’s post, readers Ripley62 and bcf both pointed me to a paragraph in the Marriott Bonvoy Terms and Conditions which not only have I never seen or heard about before but which I failed to spot when actually looking for it!
Here’s the important wording from section 1.3-c-v (Benefits of membership/complimentary in-room internet access):
“Participating Properties that have mandatory resort charges, which include internet access, will provide a replacement benefit, to be determined at each Participating Property’s discretion.”
This is interesting and I’d really like to see how individual properties handle this.
Although the rules give individual properties discretion when it comes to deciding what the replacement benefit should be, a property is going to find it hard to argue with a guest who demands that the replacement benefit should be worth as much as the internet access benefit it is replacing.
So, in the case of the JW Marriott Los Angeles, a guest with elite status which offers free internet access should be able to demand that the property provides them with another benefit worth at least $9.95 (the cost of basic internet access at the property).
Considering that this property already includes a daily $20 food and beverage credit as part of its $25/night Destination Fee this may actually mean that some guests get back more from the hotel then they actually pay (assuming they’re in a position to use the $20 F&B credit economically).
Sadly, considering these Destinations Fees are specifically designed to confuse and rip-off hotel guests, I fully expect a lot of properties to ensure this rule doesn’t leave them out of pocket by being clever with what replacement benefits they offer.
I can imagine a lot of properties choosing to issue elites with things like spa vouchers equal to the cost of internet access so, if a guest wasn’t already planning to use the spa, the voucher would serve as nothing more than a temptation to spend yet more money with the property in question and wouldn’t represent a true saving (who has heard of a spa ever offering anything for $9.95?)
The key to not being ripped off is to avoid making bookings with properties that choose to levy destination/resort/amenity fees in the first place (and to make sure that you’re not being charged a fee that you have no legal obligation to pay) but, if for some reason you absolutely have to book with a Marriott property that likes to rip-off its guests, make sure you try to claw back the cost of internet access if it is an amenity you should be getting free of charge as part of your elite benefits package.
Note: I’ve searched the terms and conditions of the World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards and Hilton Honors programs and cannot find a similar clause in any of them…but as I missed the clause in the Marriott Bonvoy t&cs it may be worth a few readers having a look for themselves!