The Hidden Fee Scam Is Spreading

Last January, when my wife and I flew over to Honolulu for a birthday party, we spent one night in a hotel. The room rate, which I noted when I made the booking, was $287 for the one night. However, when I checked out the following day, in addition to restaurant charges, the hotel room tax and the state excise tax which I had expected, there was an additional charge: a “resort fee” of $30 for that one night.
This is an unfortunate trend in the hotel business. Resort fees supposedly cover the cost of various amenities that are available to all hotel guests, although not necessarily used by all or even most of them: swimming pool, gym or spa facilities, business center, “free” wifi, beach towels, and so forth. In fact, the fee can cover whatever the individual hotel wants it to cover.
In fact, the resort fee is nothing more than the hotels adopting the same game the airlines have been playing for the past several years—quoting a low fare, then tacking on an assortment of fees for basic services such as checked baggage or more leg room.
Interestingly, government has now cast a jaundiced eye on the practice, at least where the hotels are concerned. The attorneys general for many of the individual states are conducting an investigation into the practice. The Federal Trade Commission has also become involved, serving notice on the hotel industry to, in effect, watch their step because the resort fee, which the hotel guest usually doesn’t discover until check-out, appears to be deceptive pricing.
Indeed it is. In my case, I thought I was paying $287 for my hotel room in Honolulu but, because the resort fee is mandatory for all guests, the effective rate was $317.
Sudden thought: Maybe Amtrak will adapt this technique to generate some additional revenue. What if an extra $20 were to be tacked onto the published fares for all the long-distance trains? It covers your access to the Sightseer Lounge car . . . whether you use it or not.
For more information, click here for a story on this subject by Charlie Leocha that ran earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal.