Hotel calls mandatory room safe fee a tax, requires you to opt out when checking in

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By Christopher Elliott

Next time you check into the Fairfield Inn in Sandusky, Ohio, mind the safe in your room. They’ll add a $1.07 fee as tax to your confirmed rate for having one — whether you want it or not.

But you probably won’t even know they charged you for a safe, because they list this surprise surcharge as a tax on your final bill.

Want to have the fee removed? Good luck with that, too.

Maybe it’s a dollar a day, but for Tom Slikas, it was the principle.

He explains

I called them after I received the bill. They said it was “unavoidable” and can’t be reversed. Even the front desk guy said it was a hidden fee.

What’s next, $1 for toilet paper, $10 for remote control insurance? How can they do this?

They don’t have to notify you of these charges at time of booking. Even if they notify you at check-in it is too late as I am inside my cancellation widow.

But what irritated Slikas the most was that the invoice showed the $1.07 as a tax. Why not display it as a hotel safe charge?

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“That has to be illegal,” he says.

Slikas’ hails to Marriott, which owns Fairfield, have gone unanswered. So I asked.

Here’s how it responded to him

Thank you for your feedback involving the safe charge at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Sandusky. I have refunded the charge, I apologize for any inconvenience experienced by yourself.

The safe is there for the safety of guest valuables. We do not ask guests if they are going to use the safe, or if they have used the safe as we feel this is a private matter. It has been our experience that if a guest has valuables they prefer that no one know.

There is a sign on the desk which advises guests that there is a safe charge and if the safe is not used please advise front desk and it will be removed. We have had guests who left behind very valuable items and phoned back to find items were indeed still in the safe.

At the same time we realize that to some it is an inconvenience. Please, again, accept our apology and we do hope to have the opportunity to serve you again.

Fairfield was correct to refund the $1.07 surprise safe fee, but like Slikas, my advocacy team and I are troubled that the item would be displayed as a tax on the final bill. No one argues with taxes. (Here’s what you need to know about travel and money.)

Perhaps they should.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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