Help, my favorite hotel turned into a Hilton — and it charges hefty resort fees

By | April 21st, 2017

When Mehmet Ertem’s favorite hotel was reflagged as a Hilton, it promised to be be better than ever. Instead, Ertem found a surprise on his bill — and it was anything but an improvement.

Ertem’s story is a cautionary tale about hotels in the laissez-faire era of almost completely unchecked capitalism. But it’s also a reminder of how individual customers can win in the end, as long as they’re paying attention.

The object of Ertem’s scorn? The erstwhile Bridge Hotel in Boca Raton, Fla., rebranded as a Hilton property after a renovation in 2012. Turns out they did more than upgrade the hotel. They added several unwanted fees, too. Worse, the hotel was less than forthcoming in its disclosure, according to Ertem.

So when Ertem asked for a room rate through the hotel’s site, and it quoted him a $309 nightly rate, he believed he would pay $309 a night.

Not so fast.

Just below the initial quote, in the fine print, he spotted two mandatory charges: one for a “resort fee” and one for a parking charge.

“If they had quoted $350 plus taxes per night, I would gladly have made that reservation,” he says. “But I will certainly not go there for the quoted price of $309 plus $22 plus $10 plus taxes, just because it makes me feel like I am being manipulated.”

That’s a common sentiment among hotel guests. Rather than review the evils of resort fees — and there are many — let me just point to our extensive archive of resort fee articles.

Resort fees are the epitome of junk fees, as are mandatory parking fees. Junk, junk, junk.

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But Ertem didn’t just exit the site. He also sent an email to Jennifer Graham, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, expressing his displeasure. I think you’ll find the response interesting:

Thank you for your email and for allowing us to respond to your concerns. I’m sorry that you felt manipulated with our resort fee and overnight parking charge. This is something that we try and let guests know upfront and with full disclosure prior to booking on all booking channels.

In our hotel our parking is very limited and thus we have a nightly $10 parking fee which is very competitive with the other hotels in our waterfront area.

Our nightly resort fee offers a great value for guests staying at the resort and includes high speed Wi-Fi, two complimentary drinks daily, bike rentals, and beach chairs and umbrellas. I know you mentioned looking at the Delray Sands and you will find that they also charge a resort fee of $25 dollars daily which doesn’t offer as many amenities as ours.

Seriously? I don’t even know where to start.

You don’t try to disclose. You either do or don’t. Hilton didn’t.

Parking is limited so we charge a mandatory a fee? What the hell kind of logic is that? If I want to park in one of the Hilton’s spaces, I should be able to choose to pay the daily parking rate — not have it automatically tacked on to my bill.

But the final argument is the real showstopper: But we give you so much for this mandatory rate. Never mind that you may not use it. Oh yeah, and one of our competitors does it too, so that makes it right.

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This is so absurd, it can’t be defended. In fact, I don’t think the hotel even believes what it’s saying.

Hilton agreed to waive Ertem’s resort fees on his next visit, but declined to comp his parking. There’s no telling if he’ll take the hotel up on its offer, but something tells me he won’t. If it lied about its rates once, what’s to stop it from doing so again?

  • BubbaJoe123

    Charging $10 for parking? Totally reasonable.
    Charging $25 for Wifi, drinks, umbrella, etc? Fair enough.

    Making either of those charges MANDATORY? Absurd.

    If it’s mandatory, it should be part of the room rate. If it’s separate from the room rate, it should be optional.

  • sirwired

    Well, at least it was obvious enough to be spotted before completing the reservation…

    The resort fee is bad enough, but a mandatory parking fee? A $10/day charge for parking if you have a car you want to park is fine, but charging it even if you don’t have a car? That’s stupid.

  • Alan Gore

    I still go to conferences every so often, but because of the rise of ridesharing services and the ethics collapse of the car rental business, I haven’t needed to rent a car in this century. Therefore, no need to use the hotel parking. Don’t charge me for it.

  • AAGK

    It can get even worse….In Jan, I booked a wknd at the Ritz in Tahoe. Flew to SFO, drove with my partner. The Ritz requires valet parking each day of your stay. There was a blizzard and the state closed the roads and it took 7 days before our car was considered drivable. Valet parking was @$70/day and there was a large daily resort fee, even though the hotel was unable to provide resort amenities, including skiing, 5/7 days. Oh, and they returned the car on the last day with a dead battery.

    These fees are out of control and hotels obv consider them part of the room rate. It’s absurd.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Extra parking charges if you have a car – totally reasonable. Charging EVERYONE for parking, junk fee, just like the ‘resort’ fee. Just a way to show up higher on comparison sites.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    Absolutely. Optional fees, where it is very easy to opt out of the included service, can be separated from the price of the room, mandatory ones need to be included in all ADVERTISED and POSTED room rates.

    Parking is easy; Don’t pay the parking fee, don’t get the tag to put on your car.

    Resort fees, if you pay it, your room card is updated to allow you to use the included services that non-resort fee payers don’t get. Swipe your card, computer says customer paid the resort fee, hand them their drink. WiFi is trickier, but perhaps doable with a bit of IT work on the back end. In the end, might just be worth it to include WiFi in the room rate.

  • Travelnut

    Yep, if they want to argue that the amount guests pay goes toward all hotel infrastructure whether or not the guest actually used it, that is a charge that should be wrapped into the room rate. Anything else playing games.

  • BubbaJoe123

    WiFi’s actually quite easy, it’s just the regular login process. Pay the resort fee, and, when you enter your name and room number on the wifi login place, if your room is tagged as “paid resort fee,” it doesn’t charge you anything.

  • finance_tony

    Based on the headline, I thought this was going to be a story about an already-made reservation – and the customer showed up and owed a resort fee that s/he didn’t agree to.

    But the ownership change happened five years ago, and it was disclosed well enough that the OP could decide whether to book it. I’m somewhat curious as to why he contacted you.

    Now I’m totally against resort fees, but I don’t understand the hubbub on this particular case.

  • finance_tony

    Then again, the Hampton Inn by the local light rail stop charges everyone full price, even if they don’t park in the attached garage. Or use the pool. Or eat breakfast. Or drink the coffee. You’re paying for all sorts of hotel infrastructure whether you know it or not.

    The real story, IMO, is making a mandatory resort fee separate from the per-night price, not necessarily what they attribute said resort fee to.

  • RightNow9435

    I am guessing it was because of 2 things: (1) the absurd letter the OP got from the hotel (2) a mandatory parking fee even if you arrive in an Uber. Sounds like a hotel to avoid.

  • sirwired

    The reason this is a despicable practice is not because you are paying for things you aren’t using, it’s because it means they advertise a daily room rate less than what they are actually charging.

  • finance_tony

    I totally agree. The OP seemed to be more upset about the former, hence my comment.

  • Annie M

    These are among the most hated fees in travel and make no sense. Just include them in the daily charge and say you DON’T charge resort fees – I know I’d pay $25 a night more if the hotel next door had a lower price plus the resort fee.

  • Joe Blasi

    forced Charging for parking what if you don’t have a car?

  • RightNow9435

    and what’s next—-a forced extra charge for a bellhop when you arrive just with a backpack.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Charging the $10 for overnight parking in a limited parking lot, will that supply the Hotel with unlimited parking spaces in the end?, what if someone doesn’t has a car but travels to the Hotel by taxi? If the guest shows a taxi receipt will the Hotel reimburse the guest for the $10 upfront charge?

  • Joe Blasi

    20% auto tip added to your room rate for the maids.

  • KanExplore

    And thereby get a unmerited competitive edge on any honest property in the area that doesn’t want to play that game. Good for Mr. Ertem for pushing back. I will not book a property with a “resort fee.”

  • Bill___A

    The Fairmont Lake Louise now charges a daily fee for bellhop servoces Whether you use them or not…..looks very resort fee-ish, and very unacceptable.

  • Bill___A

    I think at the end of the day, many people want to treat others fairly and to be treated fairly by their suppliers. That’s how a business relationship is supposed to work. When resort fees and other non optional fees come into play, that sense of fairness is violated and it is particularly disappointing when it comes from a major brand There used to be a day when major brands set themselves apart by being a cut above and consistent. Not seeing that anymore.

  • 42NYC

    While I hate resort fees – what confuses me is that the same people who complain about unbundling in the airline industry are complaining about bundling in hotels.

    I like bag fees – I can save money if I don’t check a bag.
    I like charging for food – I can save money by eating at home before the flight.
    I like changing for seat reservations – I can save money by letting the gate agent put me in seat 32e
    I don’t like resort fees – I don’t use the hotel phone to make local calls.
    I don’t like resort fees – I travel with a mobile hotspot and don’t need their wifi
    I don’t like resort fees – I never use the hotel gym.

  • Kairho

    Something’s a little messed up here. Although things could have changed since Ertem made contact here, I just checked online and the $25 per night resort charge is prominent when selecting a room category at the Hilton website. No mention of a mandatory parking fee.

    But the Rate Details (on a routine click through) do mention parking: “Optional services for an additional charge
    Parking charges: Self parking – $16.00, Per Night Charge. Valet parking – $16.00, Per Night Charge”

  • Lee

    Two “complimentary” drinks? Gad – if they were actually “complimentary,” the guest wouldn’t be paying for them with the resort fee.

    This nasty bit of gouging has hit NYC hotels and is spreading. I can only imagine that hotels must be able to report this fee income differently than standard income from room fees – or why not just built the stupid thing into the overall price if it is mandatory? I won’t ever stay anywhere that conducts business like this –

  • cjbs98

    Totally agree and the response using another hotel as an example was ridiculous. Got the same kind of letter once from a well known yogurt company–I had written to complain that they had gone from a 6oz container to a 5.3 without any reduction in price AND were basically using the same sized container. The response I got back was a typical too bad, you lose response but what really ticked me off was a sentence that said EVERYONE ELSE has gone to the 5.3 size. Really? So hotels, airlines, even mere yogurt companies all use the same lame excuses……

  • Byron Cooper

    I went on to check on the facts as stated in the article. The resort fee of $25 is prominently displayed in bold print with a black box around it, above any other information about fees. You can’t miss it. The $10 parking is optional. If you don’t park there you do not get charged. I confirmed that with Hilton. No fine print.

  • cscasi

    One would think if the hotel was unable to provide the resort amenities, you could have asked a credit to your bill at checkout, if you were charged extra for those. As for the valet parking fee, isn’t $70 a day a bit unreasonable? I guess you could have asked the valet to deliver your car to you each of those days and when he could not, you should have been able to get a reduction for no service available. Still, what a vacation.

  • AAGK

    There are def worse places to be and the blackout was very short. I also tore my ACL on my first ski run. The hotel employees had to sleep over so they offered me a discount if I would let them use my 2 room suite for the staff. Sigh. It did make several small refunds on my card and helped out on an upgrade and some items on my next trip to another property. I can say I have never encountered nicer people who don’t want to give you any money back. You almost can’t tell.

  • AAGK

    The parking fee is one of the most complained about items in reviews bc it is mid mountain. It is disclosed but a lot of people miss it. Also, it applies to folks coming by for lunch or spa appointments who understandably wouldn’t read fine print.

  • jmj

    laissez-faire era of almost completely unchecked capitalism

    insert eyeroll emoji

  • Tigger57

    I’m sick of people complaining about resort fees.

  • Mark

    Some RC properties in the US will give a valet parking credit for non-residents who visit to dine. Shows up even more how bogus these charges are…

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