Another $72 in taxes for my hotel? But I thought we already paid!

When it comes to price transparency, airlines get almost all the attention — and rightfully so. But Joseph Jacobazzi wants us to devote a little bandwidth to hotels today. Bonus: His case doesn’t involve mandatory resort fees.

Jacobazzi reserved a room through a site called Booked.net, a Cyprus-based online travel agency, at the Hôtel Jardin Ste-Anne in Quebec City. “The confirmation from Booked.net clearly says the price included all taxes,” he says. He showed us the screenshots.

But when he arrived, the hotel charged him an extra $72.

What’s going on?

“We e-mailed Booked.net and were told, federal, provincial and lodging taxes are all local taxes,” he says. “They say, ‘We did indicate a total price including taxes, but only general taxes.'”

General? Local? Who cares? Taxes are taxes.

“I want to recover the taxes we paid,” said Jacobazzi.

That makes two of us. An honest rate would include all mandatory taxes and fees, but as we’ve already seen, that doesn’t always happen. (Cough, cough, resort fees!)

Why would a hotel or online agency not include these taxes or fees? Easy. It makes the rate look cheaper than it really is. In Jacobazzi’s case, a whole $72 cheaper.

Our advocacy team asked Booked.net to clarify. Here’s what it had to say:

All information on our website (rates, description and pictures) is provided by the hotel.

We provided all the information we had regarding the available room to the customer. The reservation made by Mr. Jacobazzi included taxes but usually the city tax should be paid at the hotel directly. This is a general procedure for all hotels.

Our company didn’t charge the credit card of the client. Client paid everything to the hotel.
Our company acts as OTA but didn’t charge the guest.

Have a nice day!

In other words, don’t shoot the messenger.

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Let’s try this scenario on for size. Say I’m the revenue manager at the Hôtel Jardin Ste-Anne, and I want to attract more people to my property. What if I advertised a $1 room rate and a mandatory $495 “service” fee? Would Booked.net still be able to get away with the “Our company acts as OTA” excuse?

I don’t think so, either.

Also, does anyone care who charged the credit card? No, that makes no difference. Payment is payment.

So what to do here?

First, we issue a warning to anyone booking through Booked.net. “All” taxes doesn’t necessarily mean all taxes. You may have to pay more.

Second, just because someone says they’re transparent doesn’t mean they really are. And their definition of transparent may be very different from yours. You can’t go wrong by asking lots of questions, including phoning the hotel before making your booking.

Finally, as I often say at the end of these stories, there ought to be a law. That’s especially true for a law-abiding nation like Canada. I can imagine this kind of nonsense happening in the United States, with its rabid free-marketers who sometimes believe that lying is an acceptable means to higher profits.

But Canada? Come on.

We shouldn’t need a rule to force a business to tell the truth. But we may need one to punish it when it lies.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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