Casino steals page from airline playbook, swaps out resort fee for phone “processing fee”

By | April 5th, 2010

Back in January, I noted with amusement that Harrah’s had issued a press release saying it does not “impose mandatory resort fees attached to a room reservation.”

At the time, I wondered why Harrah’s had phrased its announcement in exactly that way. Why not just say, “We’ve eliminated resort fees?” Also, it remained unclear why a large casino resort would turn down money from its guests that, at least according to the other casinos in town, they were more than willing to pay.

Well, yesterday I got the troubling answer to all of those questions.

It started with an email from reader Ada Sui. She and her husband, Norman, had booked a room by phone at Harrah’s Reno Hotel and Casino.

He was told that there will be a $5 processing fee. We have not heard of this and wonder if it is legal or not. We realize that this is a small amout to bicker about, but just for the record, is this legal?

Airlines have charged extra for reservations made by phone for several years, but I’ve never heard of a hotel doing it. So I called Harrah’s reservations number to find out more about the processing fee.

A representative confirmed that at about the same time Harrah’s announced the chain-wide resort-fee elimination, it quietly added a phone reservation fee of $10 for its Las Vegas and Tahoe resorts and $5 for its Reno property.

“We decided to do that instead of a resort fee,” he told me.

How interesting.

If you do the math on that, it’s clear Harrah’s is still losing money. If it could charge a $10-a-day resort fee, it would make far more than a one-time, $10 phone reservation fee.

But I’m worried that any hotel is charging for a phone reservation. Guests like the Suis, who make their reservations by phone, now must pay a higher room rate for the “convenience” of calling the hotel. What’s next, charging people for the “convenience” of paying with a credit card? (Don’t laugh, several airlines already to it.)

Is this a future hotel revenue stream? Something tells me it could be.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.