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.
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.
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.”