Posts Tagged ‘nickel and diming’

Travel Peeves – Being Nickel and Dimed at Hotels

October 13th, 2009 at 5:57 am (AST) by Jake Richter

I have spent over 180 nights in hotels this year so far, with another 30 nights still planned. Those stays have been at dozens of hotels around the U.S. for the most part, ranging from Marriott Courtyard and Homewood Suites on the lower end to high end hotels like Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, and Ritz Carlton as well as a number of unique boutique hotels.

Note of the hotels are particularly inexpensive, which is why I find myself puzzled and frustrated by special add-ons and hidden prices a number of properties charge on top of their already noteworthy hotel rates. It’s not so bad when I have the option of not using these extra services, but it frosts me to be socked with basically unavoidable additional fees that by all rights should be included in the hotel rate.

Perhaps the top extra cost item I find at many hotels is having to pay for Internet access, at rates ranging from $9.95 to $14.95 a day. And even then, the Internet service tends to be slow and flaky. The places offering free Internet are frequently not much better, however. I get around this by using a Sprint USB wireless data adapter which plugs into a special mobile router from Cradlepoint and lets me share the Spring data connection among multiple computers. The cost is about $60/month, and I signed up back when they truly had an unlimited data plan (nowadays everyone seems to provide only 5GB of data a month under such “unlimited” data plans and then charge ridiculous amounts beyond that level of data). So, while many of the hotels I stay at charge an Internet access fee, I can always opt out using my own connection (which is frequently faster and more reliable). (Addendum: Here at our hotel in Berlin it’s $37.50 a day for Internet service. Eek!Fortunately they provide 30 minutes a day free access at the business center.)

Another extra add-on that I find quite annoying is the so-called “Resort Fee”. This is a separate fee, typically in the $5-20 daily range, which a hotel may charge to cover bell service, maid service gratuities, and other things that should be optional or at least discretionary. Most recently we were charge a resort fee at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, where a little note card hailed all the great services that this fee covered (including “free” Internet service which was exceedingly poor). And, ironically, in terms of service, comfort, and overall ambiance, the Peabody was the most disappointing hotel we stayed at during our four week tour of middle America (with the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, and the Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta being the best). I understand that places like the Opryland Resort outside of Nashville charges a $25 resort fee. And the Renaissance hotel in Curacao that I stayed at last week charges a 15% “service charge” (for pretty spotty service at that). At hotels were I get good service, I typically tip quite well – more than a resort fee usually, but a resort fee would dissuade me from leaving a gratuity for the housekeeping staff or giving a tip to the bellman

My final peeve with respect to extra charges at hotels is the fee some larger chain hotels, most notably Westin and W Hotels, are dinging their guest for when they receive packages. In fact, I was recently quoted in the Chicago Tribune about this type of nickel and diming. As someone who travels a lot, I will frequently ship luggage to my next hotel, and in any given week, may well receive a dozen packages from at my hotel with various items ranging from sundries and food to batteries and computer hardware. As I discovered last March when I checked into the Westin Buckhead in Atlanta, I was being charged nearly $50 to receive three pieces of luggage I had sent myself. I had no advance knowledge of these fees, and it was a shock to find that at a minimum, the hotel would charge guests $5 to $50 to receive a single package, depending on its size and weight. Furthermore, this was chain-wide for Westin and W Hotels. This surprise fee, combined with the lack of personal service and recognition as a Starwood Platinum guest, got me so incensed that I checked out of the Westin after only two nights, and moved across the street to the wonderful Mansion on Peachtree (which I previously confirmed did not charge a package receipt fee). I also canceled a 17 night stay I had booked at the W in Minneapolis in boycott and protest of this blanket policy, and have not stayed at a Westin or W hotel since, nor any other hotel which charges package receipt fees.

I even sent Westin’s corporate management a letter expressing my disgust with their short-sighted policies on trying to squeeze every dollar from their guests, and while I got a heartfelt apology and sympathetic phone call from the manager of the Westin Buckhead, I never heard from corporate management.

In summary, I would suggest that anytime you plan on booking a hotel and don’t want to be surprised by excess fees beyond already high local taxes in most locations, contact the hotel and confirm that they do not charge resort fees or package receipt fees, and also carry a backup Internet connection to avoid being dinged for daily Internet access. That’s what I do now, and I’ve been a lot happier with my hotel stays as a result.