Westgate’s “hidden’ resort fees ruined my trip to Las Vegas

Ralph Shaw had never booked a hotel in advance before. His first experience doing so might also be his last.

As he was preparing to leave active military service, Shaw planned a trip to Las Vegas in preparation for his relocation there to attend the University of Nevada. This was his first time reserving a hotel room in advance, he tells us. He booked a hotel online at what seemed like a really good rate. Until he arrived at the hotel.

“The day that I had arrived at the Westgate Hotel, they informed me that they were assessing a fee claiming that they were a resort,” Shaw explains.

Yes, Shaw was blindsided, as have countless travelers to Las Vegas before him, by the “resort fee.”

Shaw explains that the hotel placed a hold on his credit card toward those fees, which added another $570 to the $649 he had already paid in advance for the room at an online booking site.

Which left him between a rock and a hard place. He couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel and, with the hold on his card, didn’t have the funds to return home.

Fortunately he was able to persuade his bank to reverse the hold, which allowed him to get home.

“If it weren’t for my bank, I would not have been able to afford to travel back to Cincinnati, would have been completely out of money and likely stranded in Las Vegas until my next pay period,” he says.

Sadly, we’ve heard it all before. In fact we posted a story to our website in January about another traveler who booked a room at the same hotel and had a remarkably similar experience.

Related story:   Westgate promised, but did it deliver?

As I noted in that story, these fees purport to cover “amenities” like Wi-Fi and use of the hotel pool, but their real purpose is to allow hotels to advertise artificially low rates. The fees pop up in other resort cities like Orlando, but the problem is particularly egregious in Las Vegas, which is why websites like this one have popped up that list resort fees for all of the hotels there.

Unfortunately, perhaps because this was his first time reserving a room online, Shaw did not carefully read the all the terms of his reservation. He booked his room at a discounted, nonrefundable rate through a European booking site called Elvoline. The site’s terms of service page refers to “special fees” that must be paid directly to the hotel, but also, right on the booking page for each reservation is a paragraph with the bolded title “Mandatory Fees and Taxes,” which clearly indicated the $34 daily resort fee at the Westgate.

Not reading that page thoroughly was Shaw’s first mistake. The second was taking an immediately hostile tone in his communication with both the hotel and the booking site, calling them “liars” and “morons.”

We understand how frightening and infuriating this situation must been for Shaw, but it’s important to remember that there are real people at the other end of these emails who were probably not personally responsible for this policy, and insulting them isn’t likely to induce them to help you reach a positive resolution.

Instead, we’d have recommended a politely worded email that explains the very special circumstances involved for this American serviceman. Our advocacy website has a link to executive contacts at the Westgate Hotel that Shaw could have used to work his way up the corporate ladder.

Related story:   "This situation is just an intolerable insult"

Nonetheless our advocates reached out to both Elvoline and the Westgate Hotel on Shaw’s behalf, hoping that they might show some sympathy for a member of our armed services.

But, alas, to no avail. As many have learned before Shaw, Vegas can be a cold-hearted place, and we must file this one under “Case Dismissed.”

Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

  • Alan Gore

    I would like to see a requirement that the initial quoted price of any hotel room, airline fare, etc. would have to include all mandatory fees. Anything else is bait-and-switch.

  • moonshin

    just another reason not to go to vegas…..

  • Daddydo

    The resort fee was created to add billions of $$$’s in revenue to the hotel community. It is a way to charge the client lots of money with minimal cost to the hotel. I would guess that this money is taxed in a completely different accounting method, so that the hotel can write it off as services, where if it were included in the rate, full income taxes would be assessed.
    Stay agitated! The Excess fuel charge that was added for the airlines a decade ago when fuel was so high, is still being collected on each ticket that you purchase. Free money for all but the traveler.

  • Bill___A

    I hope people are writing their congressman (or woman) about it. Sadly, many people who are fleeced are not even from the USA.

  • DReid

    You’re absolutely right about the tax situation. Any fees such as the resort fee is not subject to lodging taxes. A huge bonus to the hotel. The entire amount goes directly to their revenue. It’s just wrong and guests should have the option to opt-out if not using the ‘resort’ add-ons.

  • Jeff W.

    Unfortunately, that will of little use at the federal level. Hotels (and car rentals) are a local issue. Airline fees can be regulated by the feds as planes fly from state to state or country and the airlines utilize federal resources to operate.

    But the hotels operate at state, county, or city levels. You would have to argue your case with those sets of politicians. And those politicians answer to the local residents, not to the traveling public.

    Why do you think the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. They get a fancy new stadium, paid in part by an additional tax on hotels. Not a tax on the residents who will be going to the game, but to the visitors — most of whom will not even be there for the game. Same thing goes on for car rental fees. Easier to tax the visitor rather than the resident.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah. We all want that. But the upside of these scammy “resort fees” (and the fact that the government will do nothing to rein them in) means that’s not gonna happen any time soon.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Which is why I find it surprising that the local governments *haven’t* gone after this egregious practice! Clearly they are losing tax revenue on a massive scale.

  • Tigger57

    Most every hotel in Las Vegas has a “resort fee”. So does Hawaii and Florida (a few). I just booked a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Florida resort fee is $30.00 per night for a total of $300.00! You have to read everything when booking yourself sometimes you have to search for what the fee is.

  • Tigger57

    Most resort fees in Vegas are plus tax

  • polexia_rogue

    one time me and my husband were going to stay at the Flamingo for 20 days which at the time meant a $50 a day resort fee. The woman took pity on us and told me point blank; the fee is for the pool, the gym and the wi-fi. “Instead of charging you the 1,000, I’m blocking your key card so if you need to use the pool or gym you can pay a fee then. And wi-fi is $12 a day, you can pay through your wireless device. ”

    So it’s possible for hotels to take pity on someone.

  • Bill___A

    A tax such as the one paying for the raiders stadium, or car rental levies – are all legal taxes, despite the annoying nature of them. They are generally a fixed amount or percentage in the entire area that they are applied. They are not the same as “resort fees” at all, which are in my view, a deceptive trade practice. If they advertised rooms for a dollar a night to show up in search engines, and charged a $400 a night resort fee, would that make it more vivid?

  • Annie M

    The site’s terms of service page
    refers to “special fees” that must be paid directly to the hotel, but
    also, right on the booking page for each reservation is a paragraph with
    the bolded title “Mandatory Fees and Taxes,” which clearly indicated
    the $34 daily resort fee at the Westgate.

    He just didn’t read it – it was there. I hate resort fees too but almost every hotel in Vegas has them now and if it is there to read – the consumers need to actually read the entire page.

  • RightNow9435

    actually, a good reason to stay at regular chain motels without resort fees

  • PsyGuy

    It’s really come to the point where making a travel purchase requires no less than every single consumer obtaining a degree in expertise,a s these fees, or whatever they’re predecessor will likely be around a long time.

  • PsyGuy

    It’s less pity and more options.

  • PsyGuy

    This is true everywhere in the US.

  • PsyGuy

    Yes, but it wouldn’t change anything.

  • PsyGuy

    Not really, they don’t go after the resort fees as a business incentive.

  • PsyGuy

    There are plenty of hotels that do not have resort fees.

  • PsyGuy

    They would just unbundle other things and make them optional, such as linens. Entirely optional but who doesn’t “want” sheets and towels.

  • michael anthony

    When “resort fees” approach the cost of the rate you book and expect to pay, then it feels more like price gouging than an actual fee. And that’s when I think some sort of regulation needs to be introduced. Ifor they can’t police themselves, then some other entity needs to.

    It’s also appalling the treatment afforded military. Hawaii may have resort fees everywhere, but they also discount for military and state residents. The last time I was there, the rains had moved in for about half of my dates. The hotel waived all resort fees for those days.

  • joycexyz

    Why should someone have to read the “fine print”? The rate posted should be the rate you pay. Do you have the option of not using those extras? No! Totally scammy.

  • Lindabator

    not fine print when it is clearly listed and highlighted, meaning it is important to read

  • Annie M

    I agree they should be listed upfront. However, apparently the DOT and our government don’t believe that. If enough people complained to their representatives enough about these hidden fees maybe they would do something. Until then – you have to read carefully any time you book a trip.

  • DReid

    Do you know if it’s a local tax or a room tax(transient lodging tax)? That would be good to know

  • Tigger57

    The rate is 13% in Las Vegas and it is a Hotel Tax. For a current list of hotels and the fee plus what you get for fee go to http://www.lasvegasdirect.com/las-vegas-hotel-resort-fees/

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