Ridiculous or not? Mandatory housekeeping fees are just around the corner

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By Christopher Elliott

To get an idea of what the hotel bill of the future might look like, take a look at your present bill at the Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Guests at the resort are “required to pay a mandatory housekeeping gratuity and utility service fee of up to $22.95 per person per day,” according to the terms on its website.

Or stay at easyHotel, the European-based discount hotel chain, where housekeeping costs between €8 and €10 and at one of its properties in Dubai, it even charges 5 Dirham per extra towel. I’m not making this up.

American hotels might appear hesitant to follow suit, but there’s evidence that they’re warming to the idea. Selected Starwood hotel properties, for example, offer 500 frequent-stayer points for guests who opt out of housekeeping services. Other chains have cut back on housekeeping or offered discounts (some as high as $20 a night) for guests who turn down maid service.

Many vacation rentals properties break out housecleaning fees. When hotels try to get in the act — as this one did back in 2008 — guests protest.

An overwhelming majority of hotel guests assume that the cost of housekeeping is included with their room. However, in the past, people could once say the same about being able to check a bag on a plane. Alternatively, being served a meal on a longer flight. But now, many domestic airfares no longer automatically include those services.

Guests should be allowed to opt out of serviced rooms

Hotels have already begun the transition by allowing guests to opt out of having their rooms serviced. It marks the initial step in this ongoing process.

Some guests like being able to tell the hotel staff to skip their room. Scott Weiner is a Virginia Beach, Va.-based executive. He recently stayed at the W Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz. Scott collected 500 extra loyalty points (W is part of the Starwood chain).

“I would definitely do it again,” he says.

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But while such a choice might save the property money, it’s unlikely to generate any revenue. Unbundling the room rate from the fee is the only way to make serious money. And also by making it mandatory, a practice some hotels currently implement with so-called “resort” fees.

You’d have to look hard to find a hotel manager who wouldn’t want to tack a mandatory $22.95 per person per day charge for cleaning. As the Atlantis does – and get away with it.

Housekeeping is an additional expense

The hotel industry will argue that housekeeping is an expense. It’s not part of the room you are renting from them. They’ll probably take a page from the airline playbook, saying that you don’t get a housekeeper when you buy a house. Why should it be any different at a hotel? (Related: These hotel complaints will make you want to check out.)

Guests commonly expect that their linens and towels will be changed regularly at a hotel, considering it a reasonable expectation. And while some wouldn’t object to opting out of housekeeping for a day or two, they’d see the opposite – mandatory housekeeping charges over and above the room rate – as nothing less than a money grab. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the lowest rate.)

One thing seems certain. Airlines rake in record profits, some of them almost entirely as the result of surcharges that didn’t exist only a few years ago. It’s only a matter of time before a major American hotel chain will follow Atlantis and easyHotel. And housekeeping fees will probably be among the first of the unpopular new charges.

What do you think? Are mandatory housekeeping fees a good idea, in an industry where surcharges are becoming increasingly common? Or does the thought of shelling out another $20 per night seem ridiculous to you?

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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