Should hotels advertise “all-in” prices, too?

If you recall last month’s dust-up about airfare pricing, you’ll know that airlines feel singled out by the federal government, which is now requiring them to advertise fares that include all mandatory taxes and fees.

Here are a few details about that dispute. Never mind that other federally-regulated industries have the same pricing requirements, including anyone buying gas, cigarettes or alcohol. Airlines wanted to see other examples in travel, dammit.

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And so did readers.

“Spirit’s [CEO] Baldanza is right about one thing,” says Valanie Bradley, “They should make the hotels quote an all-in price, too.”

She sent me screenshots of what she considered the most egregious example of misrepresentation: La Quinta Inns & Suites’ website.

They give you the base price and tell you it does not include applicable taxes or fees — in small print.

I intended to book a room on the La Quinta site, but was so irritated that I went with the hotel I was comparing it with. That hotel is $5 more on the base price and has some mysterious $2 fee, but at least they were up front about the fact that they were charging it.

She’s right. Hotels, which are regulated by the states and not the federal government, don’t really have to show you an all-inclusive rate until you check out.

Many don’t, pointing out that you might charge something to your room, which would change your bill. They also say there are technology reasons for waiting until the very end of the transaction to reveal your price, although I suspect it may be a psychological reason as well. People book cheap rooms, and if you start quoting rates that include taxes and mandatory “resort” fees, they’ll look elsewhere.

I looked at La Quinta’s site, and Bradley is right. Just like the airlines once did it, La Quinta currently quotes a low “base” rate that doesn’t include the required taxes and fees. That makes its rooms appear to be cheaper than they really are.

I asked La Quinta about its rate display. Teresa Ferguson, a La Quinta representative, explained that the display problem was largely technological.

“We do have some limitations in our reservation process that currently do not provide an all-in price prior to a guest providing a credit card,” she told me. “We are working to change this and happy to say that in April through a new site release, guests will be able to see the total price prior to providing their credit card.”

That’s nice, but what about the other hotel chains that continue to dangle a $19 a night rate in front of you — minus taxes, mandatory fees and required “resort fees” that eventually boost the rate to $49 a night? Can’t the government do something about that?

Maybe. If the attorney generals of several tourism-dependent states banded together to file a suit against the major hotel operators, the resulting consent agreement could mean more transparent pricing. They did it in the past on “energy” fees, for example. Also, the Federal Trade Commission could target several big hotel companies for unfair and deceptive practices, and the resulting settlement could have a ripple effect throughout the industry.

Or Congress could do something, putting pricing practices under the control of one of the federal agencies and asking it to regulate how hotel rates are displayed.

Ideally, none of this would be necessary. Instead, hotels would voluntarily display the actual rate you have to pay for a room, including all required taxes and fees. I don’t know of any hotel guests who like to be kept guessing about their final bill, even the most die-hard libertarians.

No one likes surprises.

(Photo: faungg/Flickr)

130 thoughts on “Should hotels advertise “all-in” prices, too?

  1. In fact, all retail goods everywhere should be sold with the full price including all mandatory taxes and fees.  This is common practice in Europe, Australia, etc, – the fact that most consumer goods and services are sold without “sales tax” is an anomoly compared to most developed nations.  It won’t happen all at once, but one industry at a time sounds like a good idea…

    1. One simple way to remedy this is by a law that states any fee not disclosed on the main pricing page is ‘optional.’  And, if charged at check-out, it must have an asterisk that notes it’s optional.  Also, customers will have, by law, 90 days to charge back such fees on their credit cards.

      There – hotels will be free to price their product any way they want without excess regulation.  But customers only HAVE to pay what is first displayed.  

      Problem solved – everybody is free to do what they want.

      1. All I can think of is this commercial.  I sadly don’t remember what hotel chain it is for.
        Hotel Guest: Why did you charge me $10 for the complimentary water?
        Manager: Sir, the water is complementary with an “E”, not complimentary with an “I”. As in, complements the room very nicely.

      2. Why should I have to take a charge back on my credit card for optional fees? If a fee is “optional” then I don’t want to be charged that fee – period.

        1. Just in case you missed it on check-out or did express check-out without being able to review the final bill.

          By the way, Brazil includes a Taxa de Turismo at R$ 2,00 per day on your bill.  It’s optional, but you have to ask to have it removed.  So this arrangement IS possible.

          1. I still say that I should NOT have to ask to have something removed from my bill because it is an “optional” fee. It also seems like the brazilians are really just hoping that you don’t know the fees are optional so you don’t ask to have them removed from the bill.

      1.  I can’t speak for Europe, but in Australia and New Zealand the law basically states that there has to be one price given and that number is all inclusive and is the final payment. So if you walk into a store, the price shown on the product or on the shelf label is fully inclusive. The same applies to airlines, hotels, etc.

        The only exception in New Zealand is business transactions, which breaks out the GST (Goods & Services Tax = similar to VAT), as a separate line item for business tax purposes.

        1. As a follow-up to my previous post:  same rule in most of Europe – for a transaction in which you do not get a receipt, the VAT is included.  For others, the portion of the final price which is VAT is noted, and if you are a business (filling the gas tank of a company car for example), then you can reclaim the VAT on your year end accounting with the tax man.  If you are not a business which can claim a VAT refund, then it is just a piece of information.

      2. It’s always included in the posted price.  

        For commercial transactions, they may quote an ‘ex-tax’ price.  The VAT appears separately on receipts because businesses that pay VAT can reduce their VAT obligation by the amount of VAT paid on qualified purchases (ie, VAT inputs.)  They pay only the NET VAT (VAT collected – VAT paid)

    2. I wholeheartedly agree. Every vendor, not just airlines and hotels but rental car companies and all retailers etc should display and/or advertise the full price which is about to hit your credit card. It has long been a desire of mine

    3. The biggest problem with this is the product comes from a centralized manufacturer that generally attaches a price tag with the suggested retail price (which stores tend to follow). Each state has their own sales tax rate and many cities charge a rate on top of that so it wouldn’t be practical to have the price tags on retail goods reflect the price with tax included. (And in order to have it reflect the correct price, the store would have to have the employees retag everything-costing more labor and driving up prices)

      I am all for posting signs stating that X% will be charged on these items for sales tax. This would give any shopper with even half a brain the ability to figure out how much the item were to cost-especially if they were not from that area. (Most cell phones come with a calculator. And if they didn’t have one, they could always ask.)

      Booking a hotel is different since you are doing it on a website-and the coding could be written once (and the fees changed easily if they were changed by the city/state).

  2. My economic philosophy is that we have too competing goals which are both legitimate and must be respected.  One one hand, government should generally stay out of business as it generally lacks the expertise nor if efficiency a goal of government.
    On the other hand, we need government regulation for consumer protection.  Otherwise we up with no civil rights, to consumer safety, etc.
    Therefore the government should impose regulations necessary to prevent consumer confusion, but no further.
    Based on the e-mails which have appeared in the site, it appears that travelers are confused/deceived by the hotel industry practice of not including hotel imposed mandatory levies such as resort fees and energy surcharges in the base price.  However, I have yet to see a letter to Chris complaining that a guest was surprised that there were taxes added to the bill anymore than other consumers are surprised when taxes are added to their bills.

    Accordingly, the compromise is for the government to mandate that any unavoidable fee be inclued in the base price, but allow the industry to present government mandate taxes as it sees fit.

    That way both the rights of the business and consumer are protected.

    1. It is not about surprise that taxes are being added.  After you live in the U.S. for at least a month, you stop being “surprised” that the price quoted is not the price you pay.  That goes for the vast majority of goods and services, with a few notable exceptions, like gas, cigarettes, and now airlines.  However, U.S. businesses still keep “surprising” customers by the AMOUNT of those additional fees — and yes, taxes.  Sales taxes differ by county; some municipalities tax hotels differently; ditto for car rentals, etc.  Obviously, the business is better than the customer equipped to compute applicable taxes: after all, it does just that many times a day.  So, why doesn’t the business display the full price?

  3. I don’t mind the government taxes and fees not being included in the initial quote, but I would like to see the breakdown of the various taxes and government imposed fees I would be charged at some point during the reservation process. 

    I believe if we complacently accept the government taxes, we begin to lose awareness of our individual tax burden. How much tax IS on a gallon of gas? People usually respond with “Well…it’s posted at the pump.”. Yes, but how many people have an idea without looking?

    I DO think “mandatory” hotel imposed fees should be included in the rate…especially resort fees. I have also been charged a Priceline/Hotwire check in fee by the hotel, even though my room was prepaid! Why not include a link to optional fees and services. Wifi, newspaper, breakfast…etc.

    While we are at it….next up? Rental car taxes and government imposed fees!!!

    1. Many travel sites on the web that offer rental cars do show the “total price” in smaller print next to the base price. The same is not true when one goes to the hotel listings at the same sites.

    2. Without a doubt all “mandatory” provider (be it hotel, airlines, or otherwise) should be included in the rate – the only reason to not do this is to attempt to decieve the consumer!

    3. Again, if European businesses can program their computers to break out the taxes from the final price, so can American businesses … so why do they not do it?   It probably needs a govt. regulation to require them to do so … and then we get all the hubbaa-bubba about too much regulation.

      1. It is not about can computers be programmed to display a price including tax…I’m sure they can.

        I would prefer that ANYTHING we purchase be quoted WITHOUT tax, (including gas). I believe this makes us more aware of the tax burden we are paying and makes it harder for the government to slip new taxes in.

        I do not understand why people are surprised when a $99 airline ticket is not $99 once the government imposed taxes and fees are added in. Now…just like I stated with hotels and resort fees, if the AIRLINE imposes a mandatory fee on top of the $99 (Spirit and their “fuel” charge)…I believe that should be part of their quote.

        If the tax breakout is available on the purchase screen for those that are interested…how many people will click to expand that? The same number of people who check the tax breakout at the gas pumps.

  4. Yes they should.

    A lot of Vegas hotels now advertise “no resort fees” to slam the properties that do have them. 

    I hate “resort fees” because 9 times out of 10, I’m not going to use one of the so called perks. If the resort fee includes internet, okay, fine. Beyond that…they can keep their newspaper, the bottle of cheap water, and I never have time to use a pool when on business.

    1. I actually wouldn’t mind optional resort fees. There are some places that I would happily pay for the amenities provided such as Wi-Fi, fitness center… It is the the mandatory fee that gets my goat.

    2. The resort fees in Vegas have gotten out of hand. I was just there and it’s not just that the fees are sky-high, but you really get very little for them. $20 or more a night gets you WiFi but no free access to a business center (so if you don’t have your own laptop, it’s useless to you), access to the pool (gee, thanks, it’s 65 during the day and 45 at night – I’ll get a ton of use out of that in February), and some other things that are downright useless. I was just at the Mirage and would have had to pay $20 a night in resort fees if my room hadn’t been comped; I didn’t scrutinize the amenities too closely but I do know that $20 didn’t even include a lousy bottle of water per night. I could’ve gotten one from the minibar for $10 though…what a deal.

  5. I want to see all hotel fees.  Room, Tax, Occupancy Tax, Excise Fee, Surcharges, etc. plus mandatory parking fees and resort fees if they have them.  I was at a Hilton recently that had a mandatory parking fee of $30 a night, plus a $35 resort fee.  That added $70 a night!  Big shocker at the end.  Marriott’s seem more upfront about taxes and resort fees, but they still burry parking in the fine print.  When the hotel owns the parking garage, I don’t see how they get away with charging to use it.
    But hotels have nothing on Rental cars.  If someone needs to be transparent its rental car companies.  My bills are often 50% more than the quoted price due to fees.

    1.  re: parking

      In the same way they don’t give you free food just because they own the restaurant.  Nothing is free.  The question is whether you want parking included in the room rate.

      Enought people travel without cars that it would be unfair and imprudent.

      1. It costs the hotel in labor, electric/gas, and food costs in order to make food. 
        If they own an un-staffed parking area, there is little overhead cost; therefor it makes no sense to gouge people for parking.  In a large city, where parking on your own would cost $30+, yes, it’s fine for the hotel to charge, so long as you have a car.  In a small city in the middle of Wisconsin, where there is free street parking, it makes no sense to charge for parking, yet I have seen it.
        What my beef is with are hotels that have a mandatory parking fee.  Car or no car, you still pay for parking.  It is required.  When they charge you if you have a car, and don’t charge you if you don’t I am completely fine with that.

      2. I vaguely remember one hotel I stayed at many years ago that had a mandatory (and not included in the base fare) parking fee, whether you had a car or not.  Needless to say, I never stayed there again.

  6. I would definitely prefer a total price rate from hotels. Would sure beat trying to figure out how much tax is in a particular area, if there’s a resort fee, etc. Especially considering that the tax and fees can add up to quite a high percentage of the rate…

  7. I think there should be a standard of simple reasonableness.

    I disagree with emanon256 about the parking part. A reasonable person could show up at a hotel without a car, especially the sort of “city” hotels that generally charge for parking. City, especially downtown city parking is always “outrageous”. $30/night isn’t terrible – especially if it someplace like San Francisco, New York, or Chicago – in fact, that’s a fairly competitive price for those places.

    With that said, if the hotel (or whoever) is going to make me pay some “charge”, no matter what, it should be shown in the “base” rate. Taxes. Resort fees (harumph, I say). Sundries, misc. fees. Whatever you want to call them, if there’s no way for me to get out of them after I show up at the hotel, it’s part of the rate. Feel free to break it all out for me so we can marvel together at how municipalities really try to screw over the visitor, and I’ll be sure to write my congressman about it, but in the meantime, I’d really like to know how much it costs to stay at the property when I’m trying to decide on a property. 

    1. Actually, there have been two hotels I have stated at recently that had a mandatory parking fee.  Car or no car, you still pay the fee because you have access to the lot should you choose to park there.  In most big city hotels I have not been charged if I am not using the car park.

      1. So the lot is open access?  No gate or attendant to pay?  Anyone can just park there if they want?

        Sounds like the guests are getting completley screwed on this if they have to pay.

      2. With all the hotels I have booked for clients I have never seen this.  What hotels are doing this?

        Parking fees are getting out of hand in cities.  In SF you will pay from $45 to $60 a night to have the hotel park your car. 

        1. Grand Wilea in Maui, and the Ritz Carlton in Beaver Creek.  Took a taxi to the first one, got dropped off and picked up by friends at the other who were staying at another hotel. Both had a required parking fee regardless.

          1. The Grand Wailea doesn’t charge you a parking fee if you don’t have a car.  Now there is a resort fee, but parking isn’t included.  I just called the resort to verify it, so you should contact them on a questionable charge.

          2. The GW was more recent, I am going to call them right now and see if they will adjust it.  Thanks!
            Beaver creek was over a year ago, so I think I am out of luck.
            In both cases I did question it and was told that parking is a mandatory fee for all guests.  I even pushed them at the GW and they pushed back that it was a required fee.

          3. I can see them saying it was mandatory if you had a car.  I would still question it if you didn’t have one.

          4. They agreed to credit back $30 per night to my credit card on file!!!!
            In both cases I told them I did not have a car.  In Maui we took a taxi, and in Beaver Creek we carpooled with another couple who was staying at the Hayat.

    2. I had a parking fee in CA once and found out that the Handicap parking which was right in front of the hotel was not in the garage so they could not charge me a parking fee.  We never used the garage once and they never gave us a pass kee for it. glad my guest had a HP plate with them

  8. I would prefer a price that included all taxes and fees as has already been mentioned. Failing that I would like to see prices include all mandatory charges while keeping government taxes as a separate item. This should apply to all goods and services not just travel providers. I am waiting for the day when Walmart or Target will advertise something at $10.00 and add a $2.00 fee at the checkout.

      1. But the deposit is no surprise, either.  (It’s $1.2o a twelve pack in Michigan – but no sales tax for food – even soda)   

        1. Surprise it is not.  A great annoyance, maybe?  I grew up in a country where what you see is what you pay; even tips were frowned upon.  There were no 99.99 tricks either!  I don’t understand why consumers in the great U.S. put up with a world where the final price has to be calculated or estimated.  This estimation usually possible, but rarely easy.  E.g., when grocery shopping, you have to remember which goods are taxed and which aren’t.  And yes, whether there is a “deposit” on cans or bottles.  Clothes?  Sometimes there is a “tax holiday” for certain items.  Of course, all that is chump change compared to telecom companies, hotels, and car rentals…  The point I’m trying to make is this: in the vast majority of the cases, the BUSINESS knows EXACTLY how much you will have to pay, including what will go to the government.  Optional items?  Same thing — the business knows how much you will pay for those after tax.  Just put up the final price, like gas stations do!!!

        2. try the 99 cent store . . . they have these little signs that say that everything is 99.99 cents . . . ok then.  just call it the Dollar Store, ok?

  9. I don’t have so much of an issue with the taxes as I do with the so called “resort fees”.  They should not be mandatory and if they are, they should be included in the room price.
    They seem to add in “internet” (I have a dongle so don’t need it) and some other things that people actually don’t use, and say that’s what you get for the mandatory resort fee.  Some people travel without computers, believe it or not…why should they get dinged for internet?

    Las Vegas, after all of these years, is intent still upon screwing people out of money.

  10. Heck, even without the local government taxes/fees, I’ll settle for getting the “resort fee” and other such fees included in the quoted rate; it’d be a start.

  11. It’s called shopping and using your brain.  Anyone who reads a $19 per night rate at a decent hotel and isn’t aware that’s a ‘too good to be true” price is just lazy.

    Also, a great many hotel taxes are local.  Most large metro areas find it easier to stick it to out of towners than their voters.  I can see why it would be difficult to quote those from a tech standpoint.  Difficult, not impossible, though.

    1. Difficult?  Not even.  Sure the hotels have to keep all the various tax tables updated and link them to the correct hotels, but that is easy enough to do.  Marriott always presents the total including taxes, before you give your credit card.  They do state “taxes subject to change” but they are usually correct. There is absolutely no reason why the total, including all taxes, cannot be quoted when you make the reservation.

    2. Actually, not difficult at all.  As a travel agent, I use various vendors to book hotels, and many are third party wholesalers.  When they quote me a price, it is INCLUSIVE of all taxes and fees, unless a fee is payable to the hotel directly upon checkin (resort fees – which then are listed separately, with total included).  Then I can shop among all with the confidence I need to make the suggestions the client will aprreciate. NO REASON the online sites can’t do the same.

  12. My theory is people just like to vote contrary on these poles for no reason. At this point in the poling there are 19 people who have voted that hotels should NOT quote an all in rate on hotel rooms. Really?  

    I don’t see any comments supporting NOT including all required fees when quoting a price, one of those 19, please enlighten me on your rational. 

    1. Your theory is flawed. Read my initial post. 

      I voted against forcing hotels to quote a fee that includes mandated government taxes.  The hotel is of course perfectfly free to do so, but shouldn’t be forced by the government.

      By contrast, any hotel originated mandatory fee, e.g. resort fee, energy surcharge, etc. should be included in the base fee that is initially presented to the public. I would support the government enforcing should a rule.

    2. See my post from earlier this AM. I am all for including mandatory hotel based fees (such as resort fees) in the rate. I prefer to have taxes NOT included in the quoted rate, but still fully disclosed in the booking process. 

      1. If taxes were equal across the board, I’d agree.  But they need to be shown even if broken out when booking.  It makes it much easier to avoid, whenever possible, cities that have stadium taxes and other nonsense jacking up a room rate 20% or more.

      2. Why do you prefer to have taxes not included? Do you prefer to have things more difficult when you purchase things? I can understand goods we purchase that are subject to sales tax (though I prefer the VAT system where those prices are included) but when you have something like airline taxes and hotel taxes which VARY TREMENDOUSLY why would not want to know what your end cost will be up front? 

        I can only assume you really drank the koolaid and believe the government is trying to ‘hide’ taxes. 

        1. Never assume, that’s a great rule in life. I am far from a koolaid drinker, I just prefer that we are more aware of the taxes that we are paying.

          I am also a fairly intelligent person. If I see something advertised for $1 and I know the tax rate is 5%, I can quickly estimate that I’ll probably pay $1.05. It really is not that difficult. I can do larger more complex numbers as well. 

          As far as hotels and airline tickets go. If I see three airlines quoting three different fares for the same itinerary and taxes and government fees were not included, the least expensive fare will have the cheapest end cost. (If price was my motivation.) If the price then was not to my liking, I would be able to simply not continue the purchase and blame it on the taxes…not the airline.

          Same principle for hotels, if the $99 cost became inflated to $129 due to various government entities taxing that room, I would be able to choose to NOT click the reserve button if if I so choose…and blame it on the tax.

  13. I strongly believe that all travel related industries should provide a complete total of what it will cost for their product at the time it is reserved or paid for.  With current technology, there is no reason why a hotel room or rental car or cruise or plane ticket or etc price cannot be quoted in full at the time of reservation.  It doesn’t mater if it is a hotel room in Timbuktu or a rental car in Kenya, the provider knows exactly what your taxes and fees are at the time you click or call them.  I feel most who won’t provide a total don’t want to give you the total total becaue it allows them to add in additional charges, fees, whatever to the service you are purchasing and then they are covered by some vague statement about “additional fees and taxes may apply.”

    The mandatory resort fees and now the mandatory parking fees that are popping up are just not right.  If it is mandatory it is part of the price and should not be quoted separately or added after you arrive.  If there will be a choice between including everything or not in the displayed price, I would prefer that these be included without exception.

      1. I did not state JUST travel industries should quote a complete total. 

        I was answering the specific question and extending it to other travel related things.  There is no simple tax rate for travel services as many others have pointed out here.  It is not possible to do like you do when you purchase something where you live and you know what the tax rate is and add in that simple calculation so you know what you will pay.  

        I think the European way of including the tax in the presented price of everything is a good way of preventing surprises when you pay.  If it say 5 euro on the tag, that’s what you pay.  Not 5 euro plus 5% or whatever the tax rate is.

  14. I could not vote again. Here’s why.

    There’s a big difference between an Advertised price  and a Full Price Quote prior to purchase.

    The whole BS that has been shoved down the throat of airlines is about ADVERTISED prices – the price you should see at first glance. Airlines can really only advertise TOTAL prices which includes all taxes. They can breakdown the total price into their components LATER in the process.

    In the past, airlines could ADVERTISE total fares without Gov’t fees & taxes. Note that they had to add their own MANDATORY fee and surcharges into the ADVERTISED total fare. The only thing they could leave out were monies they collected on behalf of the government.

    If we are saying that all vendors must advertise only TOTAL PRICES first before we break them down, then that’s close to impossible. What if a vendor does business (has presence) in multiple states and had an advertisement in the internet. How could it add all the different State, Municipality, City taxes on its advertised price? It would have to ask the viewer to enter where they need to have the item shipped first before they can advertise. Very stupid …

    IMO, the rule should be the ADVERTISED PRICE must be the total price including any mandatory fees at a minimum but NOT NECESSARILY those that are collected by the vendor for the Government. What goes to Uncle Sam and other governments may be detailed later.

    The vendor should always be able to advertise a price as $xxx + TAX where TAX is money collected and remitted to the gov’t.

    1. Agreed.  Consumers are long accustomed to adding taxes to the price of goods and/or services. There is no consumer confusion here that justified government intervention.

      However, private fees are a different animal all together

      1. Yes, this is only true with regards to GOODS, which are generally taxed at the purchasers local tax rate, which is known. Hotels and airlines and rental cars are all services. 

        Can the average consumer tell you the tax rate for a San Francisco hotel room is? How about the airport tax for a trip from San Francisco to New York? NO. Could you even figure this out without a ton of research? 

        I see your answer is basically just keep government out of business. I see how that has worked for the average consumer with airline deregulation. 

        1. But if you saw narrowed your choice down to two hotels in San Fran with a $20 difference, would not the difference still be about $20 (slightly more) in the end after the taxes?

          Nothing wrong with quoting a room rate without taxes, just quote me the taxes on said room before I click the “reserve” button.

        2. “I see how that has worked for the average consumer with airline deregulation.”

          Yes, deregulation has given us lower prices so that regular folks can fly instead of a privileged few.  If you prefer the time when it you need to mortgage your first born child to be able to afford an airline ticket, I can’t help that.

          “I see your answer is basically just keep government out of business.”

          Not at all.  Again, you need to read closer.  My solution is that government intervention is appropriate to the extent that consumer’s need protection.  When consumers do not need protection, the market is a better determiner.

          Your problem is that if you don’t agree 100 percent, you are unable to concede that we actually do agree on some points.

    2. If your logic were to hold true, gas stations should be allowed to advertise gas prices without the Federal and State excise taxes in their price. These taxes/fees are mandatory and are required by law to be in the displayed price.  

      The difference here Tony is that we aren’t talking about all vendors, we’re talking about travel related items or hotels specifically. If you stay at a hotel, it doesn’t matter if you’re from San Francisco or Saskatewan the total hotel price is going to be the same since it will charge you the tax rate for the property location. There is no reason not to quote the fee inclusive of taxes and fees other than to show a lower rate to entice (or in some cases to be read as to trick) consumers. 
      The same applies for Rental Cars, airlines because you will almost always be taxed based on where the service takes place, not on where you reside.  

      Additionally, there is far more complexity in hotel and lodging tax then there is for individual sales tax. State and local sales tax rate is generally known by consumers but hotel and lodging, airport fees, rental car fees are far more complex and less standard. So while your Cost + tax scenario is okay for GOODS , it makes zero sense for these travel service related items. 

      Additionally, just because we deal with local goods one way doesn’t mean we have to deal with other taxible items   If you really believe that the government is trying to enforce this to HIDE taxes, you have more problems than can be dealt with on a public forum. 

      1. The gasoline example was already discussed lengthily before.
        That said, personally, I couldn’t care less if gas stations only advertised the price that goes into their pockets and adds a “+ TAX” disclosure.
        BEFORE I pump they will have to show me the tax and total price anyway. NO big deal to me.

        The key is the meaning of ADVERTISING.
        For a gas station it is the large sign that you can see before you pull over.
        They still have to disclose the TOTAL PRICE before you pump – I suppose on the pump itself.
        This is no different than the CASH/CREDIT price I see on the pump itself.

        1. All your answers allow airlines to continue to hide the true cost of their travel and advertise the lowest possible prices making prices more difficult to compare. This is 100% in favor of airlines and TAs like you, which is why you advocate for a broken system. 

          1. Why is it so difficult to compare? If the same bicycle is $20 cheaper at Target vs. Wal Mart next door, the taxes won’t suddenly make it more expensive at Target. Nothing is being hidden from you.

          2. I’m not a TA.  In fact, I’m one of the harshest critics of TAs.  The gasoline example is flawed.  IF the gas was advertised at $1.00+ tax per gallon, you would have pumped the gas before you were presented the full cost.  There is no way to decline the purchase after its in your tank.  Thus consumer’s need protection.  However, if the consumer can decline the purchase after being presented with the full cost, i.e. base cost plus government taxes, I’m good.

          3. What if the sign at the road said $2.50/gal and when you got to the pump, before you started pumping you saw the price with tax was $3.50? You would have the option to not buy if you so chose. (I’m sure you would get used to that fairly quickly as well.)

            Maybe I’m missing something, but at what point in the airline example did anyone ever have to pay government fees and taxes AFTER purchasing the airfare?  (Except for those countries that collect taxes at the airport.)

          4. And that (taxes collected in the airport) just happened to me.

            As I departed the Philippines (after my fantastic beach vacation), there was a booth with a lady collecting ~$17.50 for airport departure tax.

            Should airlines disclose this to all passengers buying tickets with outbound flights from that country?

          5. Yes, but supposed the $3.50 price is never displayed.  Suppose the pump said $2.50 plus 31.417 percent tax.  It would be maddening to figure out the total amount you are paying before you begin pumping.   So gas is one of the few items that needs to be all inclusive.  By contrast, most goods an

          6. I agree it should be displayed at the pump so when you are pumping you know your final total. 

            I would have no issue with only the base rate being displayed prominently on the roadside sign.

          7. No sure why you feel you have to be harsh about TA’s.  It’s not like they are lawyers 🙂 But a ticketing agent knows more than you do about fares and how to work them. Also, we do probono work, too. Just helped someone today on this site get money back.

          8. Because it is maddingly infuriating that many TAs seem genetically hard wired to simply refuse to acknowledge that there just might be a situation when doing it yourself is the best course.

            For example, I found a fare on for $29.00 one way from SFO to LAX with one day advance purchase.

            At the time I was EXP with American Airlines and had been flying that particular route for over ten years.  As an EXP I was entitled to a complimentary space available upgrade to first class.  By avoiding certain times, I received my
            upgrade 100% of the time.

            I didn’t know my return date so I didn’t book it. My old travel agent charged $25.00 flat rate for a ticket. Unless he could find a first class ticket for $4.00, his superior skills and knowledge were useless in that particular booking.

  15. This also comes under “personsal responsibility.”  Checking into a hotel and not asking the fees is naive.
    BIG word of advice. When checking out, scrutinize your bill for every fee!!
    My family checked into a hotel in LA; five rooms; we stayed a week.. My daughter, who lives in LA, parked her car inside the hotel garage as a visit, once.
    Fortunately I checked out first. They charged me a DAILY FEE for parking at the hotel garage. NOT ONLY THAT…they put the same charge on each of five rooms. 
    I was fuming and asked for the manager. I practically yelled at him, and demanded those charges be deleted.  With a “Oops, sorry,” of course he had to do it.
    Wonder how many others got scammed?

  16. “If they own an un-staffed parking area, there is little overhead cost;”
    Absolutely untrue
    There was the cost to create it, insurance, security, upkeep, the mortgage or rent attributable to the portion of the property. If there are alternative, i.e. street parking, then the guest can take advantage of those.

    I do agree that a mandatory parking charge is wrong, but consider, when you fold it into the base price, that’s exactly what you are doing,

    1. It’s not the same as a sold good like food.  The parking lot is a capital cost. Aside from building the lot itself, it’s hard to put a price on it, like you can put on food.  Security is patrolling more than just the parking area.  We re-sealed the lot every other year and anticipated re-surfacing it every 5 years. Insurance was negligible.  I know this as I used to manage a facility where we commissioned and build a parking structure.  After the initial cost, there was very little overhead cost related to parking other than capital expenditures where are no different than those related to hotel hallways or maintenance rooms.  What I am trying to say is the cost of the parking lot does not change whether or not a guest uses it. So why charge extra, unless you are in a high demand parking area where everyone else charges too.
      What my problem is, is when a hotel offers $X a night, then tacks on the parking fee after you arrive.  Especially when it’s mandatory.  I wish I remembered the hotel in Wisconsin that did that, that was many years ago.
      Yes I realize it’s mandatory if it’s folded into the price, but at least I know the price in advance, and that’s all that I ask.

        1. So once the property recoups the capital cost, is the parking fee reduced or eliminated altogether?  Anyone heard of that EVER happening?

          1. I don’t have a problem with a hotel making a profit, but the issue here is the parking fee.  Once the parking lot construction fees have been recouped, and the annual maintenance for it recovered, why keep charging such high fees?  $30 and up per day seems very excessive. 

          2. You didn’t answer the last question – – were the amounts you stated for parking at a hotel you are staying at or for just parking in a general lot?

            Regarding whether the hotel should charge less than the other lots, are people who are not staying at the hotel allowed to park in the hotel parking lot?  If yes, then it would make sense to base the price on  what other lots in the area charge.  If not, then the charge should be based on what is a good value for the customer since they are already patronizing the hotel.

  17. Including all taxes and fees has made airline ticket shopping much more rational;  but for those who would like to know just how those taxes and fees break down in detail, you should use the ITA ticket pricing software (ITA just bought by Google, and it may change therefore).  You cannot purchase a ticket on the ITA web site, but you get a detailed list of all the extra taxes and fees, down to the nickel, when you get a price quote.  Being retired, and having the time, I often checked out this site, just to see how much of the extra money went where and to whom.  Still useful for that, but there is not way of questioning those charges and getting them removed, so it is all for fun, or to be a more informed customer.

    1. I’ve been using this site for years…maybe this is why I am having difficulty sympathizing with the “include all taxes in quote” crowd. ITA really itemizes it nicely. 

      I generally use their site and then go to the airline’s website directly…no surprises.

  18. I agree all fees should be included.

    I was just researching hotels in Memphis not long ago (for an article) and ran across one of the better known hotels there with a litany of complaints but the one that stood out to me was one about fees.

    Seems the rate you are quoted at the desk isn’t exactly the final cost when you go to pay.  A traveler found himself stuck in Memphis with a dead phone and a dead car and needed to stay the night on short notice so he was kind of stuck and ended up paying quite a bit more than he was told when he checked in.  When he asked the desk clerk why he wasn’t told of all the fees when he was inquiring about the room rate, he was told, “We don’t have to tell you about those.”  

    One fee in particular was a $12 a night “amenity fee”.  When he asked what that covered, the excuses ran the gauntlet of, “A newspaper, bottled water, free breakfast and free internet.”  He asked them about this and still didn’t get far, “If these things are free, why am I paying for them?”

    I thought that was a pretty fair question.

    1. It wouldn’t be the Peabody, would it?  I stayed there twice in 2007; I booked both stays in advance on Expedia before I knew not to use Expedia.   It really was a good deal for a pre-paid room, but…
      The first time I had a horrible room, no desk lamp, broken showerhead, just a neglected room in need of major repair.  When I asked to be moved I was told, “Not at the rate you paid.”  I even offered to pay to be upgraded and was told I could not upgrade because I booked through Expedia.  At least at checkout I had no bill.
      Second stay (I booked it before the first stay), I was presented with a bill at checkout for taxes and fees of $45 a night.  I told them I pre-paid and was told these are additional fees not covered by Expedia, some of which included breakfast which was quoted by Expedia as included.  I got nowhere with the hotel or Expedia. 
      Funny thing is I had a relative stay too, who booked through the hotel.  They had a great experience and no surprise fees.  So I still blame Expedia.  But I think they hotel could have done better too.

      1. To bed honest, while your question is certainly expected, I’d rather not say.  Given I’m preparing to go there for an article, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers.

        Also, I take complaints with a grain of salt always.  It doesn’t matter what you do to please someone, there will always be someone you just can’t please.

        I thought, though, the complaint about being nickeled and dimed to death was a valid one.  The poster compared it to renting a car – and we ALL know what that’s like.

  19. I believe all mandatory charges should be shown, including taxes.  The tax can vary by location within a city, so this information is still needed to make an informed decision.

    As far as national advertising goes, I defy anyone to show me a chain that quotes a single price for every facility in the entire country.  The taxes at a single property won’t vary depending on where you live; they depend only on where the property is located.

    Of course, the case could be made that this should be the norm for practically every transaction of any type, not just the travel industry.  The only exception would be online or mail-order sales, where the total price can’t be advertised nationally simply because of the plethora of tax rates (ranging from zero to over 14%).  Of course, in this case the tax rate will be the same regardless of the vendor, and the whole purpose is to allow for price comparisons, so no harm is done except to people too stupid to realize there is tax to be added.

  20. The writer who experienced the amenity charge and was told the justification for the gym, spa, and internet charge was that they were available, reminds me of the story where one fellow, when experiencing the same charge and justification, counter charged the manager for pleasure with his wife.
    Manager: “I had nothing to do with your wife… I didn’t even speak to her during her stay.”
    Traveler:  “But I’m still charging you because she was available and if you didn’t take advantage of that, you still should be charged.”

  21. Why this TOTAL PRICE ADVERTISING is nonsense. At least to me.

    Here’s one easy example.
    Delta sells airline tickets for travel between New York (JFK) and Venice (VCE), Italy.
    Since Delta is partnered in a TransAtlantic Joint Venure with AirFrance, KLM and Alitalia; then it can route the passenger in multiple ways. For example:

    (a) nonstop JFK to VCE or v.v.
    (b) JFK – Paris (CDG) – VCE or v.v. together with Air France
    (c) JFK-Amsterdam (AMS) – VCE or v.v. together with KLM
    (d) JFK – Rome (FCO) – VCE or v.v. together with Alitalia

    So let’s day Delta has a certain U booking class weekday fare with a base of $409 Roundtrip.
    Delta also charges a fuel sucharge (YQ) of $496 Roundtrip.
    So all in all Delta pockets 409 + 496 = $905 on its U class weekday fare.

    But today Delta  cannot legally advertise the U class fare as $905 plus tax.
    It must advertise it as the TOTAL AMOUNT INCLUDING TAX.
    So now Delta has a problem because the TOTAL PRICE is different depending on which route one takes.

    (a) nonstop JFK to VCE  R/T FARE:905   TAX: 79.80   TOTAL: $ 984.80
    (b) JFK – Paris (CDG) – VCE R/T FARE:905   TAX:153.40   TOTAL: $1058.40
    (c) JFK-Amsterdam(AMS)-VCE R/T FARE:905   TAX:119.80   TOTAL: $1024.80
    (d) JFK – Rome (FCO) – VCE R/T FARE:905   TAX:116.60   TOTAL: $1021.60

    Now remember, Delta can mix and match your routing. You can go a different route outbound and inbound with the same base fare, but the TAXES ARE DIFFERENT. Delta cannot simplify its ads. It now must adjust its ads depending on the specifc routing that is available.

    As you can see above, the CONSUMER can easily LEARN that nonstop route has the least tax.
    France’s tax is more than the Netherlands and a lot more than Italy in that order.
    In fact you can see that France charges you another $74.10 for simply transiting their CDG airport.

    I really don’t think Americans are that dumbed down. They can easily appreciate prices displayed in this format:

    MY pocket $ xxx + GOVT’s pocket $yyy = TOTAL out of YOUR pocket $ zzz

    Hotels and other travel providers should be able to follow the same common-sensical advertising rules.

    1. Your example is exactly WHY we need total advertised pricing. Your solution requires a consumer to price 4 separate itineraries to find the lowest price and at a minimum 79.80 is hidden cost of the air travel. 

      What’s wrong with an airline saying Prices From 984.80 instead of saying prices starting from 905+tax? 

      Additionally, your scenario also ignores that fact that that people want to compare costs between airlines. Nobody argues that it isn’t already easy comparing flights on a single airlines website. What if all 4 of those flights were listed by separate carriers. A consumer would have to fully price 4 flights on four carriers to determine which was the cheapest. If prices were required to be quoted as full prices a consumer could see easily that the cheapest was the direct without having to do additional work to see the full price of their flight.

      As I said, the only purpose is to make  prices more opaque and more difficult to research and thus is bad for consumers.

      1. I believe the government regulations do not allow the “taxes from” statement…but it may be not that simple…after all it is a government regulation. I think I recall reading Airtran got hit with a fine about something similar earlier this year.

        As you can probably guess from my other replies, I would be fine with the statement “prices from at $905 plus tax”. 🙂

        1. Nothing says the airline must post EVERY fare from point A to B.  Only that the specific fare advertised or otherwise presented must include taxes.  So they could choose any one of those four fares to advertise, probably the lowest total cost one, and state this is for the specific itinerary and others are available at different prices.  I don’t see a problem with this.

          On the web site, there is no reason they could not have all four listed and let the traveller choose.  If they did not include the taxes at the selection time, they all appear to be the same price and the traveller might end up choosing the most expensive option and never know there were less expensive options.

  22. There is a huge distinction to be made between requiring hotels to disclose their own fees immediately and requiring them to disclose taxes immediately. I have said all along that I strongly oppose mandatory resort fees and feel that those should be required to be rolled into the base rate. When it comes to taxes and fees charged by the government that the property doesn’t pocket, I’m less upset (and to the extent that the taxes make me angry, I blame the government rather than the business).

    Looking at all of the products and services offered for sale, it is by far the exception for an “all-in” price to be quoted up front. Almost every item you buy in a store doesn’t post the price including sales tax, for example. Gasoline, alcohol, and tobacco are the exceptions to some extent, but gasoline is the only item I can think of in which the price on the pump is the final price you pay and includes all taxes. Alcohol and tobacco may have some taxes rolled into the base price, but (at least in places I’m familiar with) you still pay sales tax on top of the posted price.

  23. I think the issue isn’t taxes.  Most hotel web sites make a statement like “Hotel taxes of 8% and local taxes of 7% will be added.”  That should be fine.  What needs to be disclosed, and not in microscopic print, is the “resort” fees and parking fees.

    1. I agree. But this is not consistent with airline pricing under the new rules. Should both be held at the same standard? Should that standard be the norm in the US for most goods and services or the “sin tax” model for gas and cigs?

  24. The hotels will probably claim that they can’t post the total fees on their websites because the taxes and fees are based on where the hotel is located and the website can’t keep track of the ever-changing taxes, etc. being charged in every locale. I am continually amazed at how much taxes are added to a hotel room. It truly is taxation without representation because i don’t live where the taxes are charged.

  25. I voted NO for a reason.  Every state, county and city in the USA has it’s own hotel tax and sales tax, there are over 8,000 sales tax rates in the USA.  How can you include that rate in an advertisement?   The tax on an airline ticket is the same if you buy it in BOS or LAX but the hotel tax is Boston is 14.45% and in LAX it is 15.5%.  But a tax is a TAX that is COLLECTED AND  REMITTED in full to a CITY, COUNTY, STATE, or other GOVERNMENT agency.  It is not a tax imposed on a business that is then passed onto the customer.  Car rentals call “car registration fees” a tax when it is not.

    Fees that are just that “fees” a/k/a  “OTHER REVENUE SOURCES” should be required to be disclosed to the customer as part of the sales price.  Like madatory valet services, parking fees, spa fees, internet fees, lounge fees, etc  If not disclosed the CUSTOMER MUST HAVE THE OPTION TO OPT OUT!

    1. I don’t understand the relevance of the multiple tax jurisdictions.  The hotel is located in one tax jurisdiction so would only have to advertise one tax.

      If the total taxes for the hotel located at 101 Anystreet is 15%, then it would advertise accordingly.  That the taxes is 14% at 201 Anystreet doesn’t matter.

  26. @BC:disqus  I don’t understand how folks like you shop for airline tickets.

    I just sold 3 tickets to Europe (multi-city).

    I gave the customer my suggested itinerary and the complete auto-pricing details as they appeared in my GDS.


    ADT03 1147.00 781.40 1928.40
    *TTL 3441.00 2344.20 5785.20

    100.00 DL NYC M517.00NUC1146.60END ROE1.00AF XT33.40US
    4.80VT102.50GB54.30UB496.00YQ4.50XF JFK4.5
    TX 5.50YC 7.00XY 33.40US 5.00XA 2.50AY 22.40FR 1.30IZ 13.90QW
    1.90EX 13.20HB 11.70IT 1.50MJ 4.80VT 102.50GB 54.30UB
    496.00YQ 4.50XF

    If I get you right, I should have just said it cost you $1928.40 each, period.  But I didn’t. I gave them the WHOLE PICTURE, every detail I can throw at them. Guess what. They bought immediately and I charged them a booking fee.

    The government and most so-called consumer advocates do not know HOW TO DO MY JOB. And, you can’t tell me how a travel agent SHOULD work to help their clients. In my case, I hid nothing. All they got was timely and excellent service.

    I repeat, Americans are NOT STUPID. They can add numbers.

    1. You gave the customer a total that included the taxes (don’t know about baggage fees and other options.)  You did exactly what the law requires the airlines to do.

      You didn’t say the tickets were $1147 each and then after they provided you the credit card say “Oh, there is $781.40 in taxes you also have to pay.”  I bet your clients would have reacted a lot differently if that was the approach you used.  

      1. Mark, I created an itinerary first, auto-priced it, DUMPED the whole output, explained it and said the ticket price was $$$$ and my service fee is $$$ on top of that.

        Since I was NOT ADVERTISING the price, the new total only law does not apply to me. There is no way to advertise a price for complex circle trip like this one, since you only come up with the price after doing a lot of work.

        The customer saw the complete breakdown first as I posted above. The total price was only one of the items in the breakdown. The customer knew I charged a service fee before I even did the quotes.

        The new law basically wants airlines and agents to tell customers the GRAND TOTAL PRICE ONLY FIRST. Then only after that is disclosed can you display the breakdown. What I did was dump a bunch of numbers at the same time together with the total. The customer got the breakdown from the get go whether he liked to see it or not.

        People should understand the difference between how a travel agent gets and makes a price quote and the way a VENDING MACHINE spits out quotes.

        A TA has to create an itinerary first (by selling seats from airline inventory), then auto-price it, then only can give a price quote (like you saw me do above).

        A vending machine uses a computer to do BRUTE FORCE searching of all possible routes and flights between an origin and destination and prices them AT SOME GIVEN TIME and then stores (caches) the results. What the ONLINE customer sees first is a CACHED option with a price. After the customer clicks select, the vending machine tries to VALIDATE whether that cached option is still valid. If not, then it spits out an error message and shows another set of new results. If the flight option and fare is still valid, it is now ready to be sold.

        So in reality, a human travel agent cannot really advertise a fare for a flight because s/he has not checked the flight earlier and cached the results. Only a vending machine has the computing prowess to do that – search, cache, then validate after selection.

        1. Tony, if I am understanding BC correctly, he wants to compare all options and as you and I know that is next to impossible.  This is what that orgainization by Charlie Leocha doesn’t get.  I just did some tickets to CPH, home from ZRH. The amount of options in flights was staggering now that cosharing is a part of it. It isn’t as easy as consumers think it should be as there are just to darn many airports, airlines that effect the the final price. UA/CO/LH/EI/LX/AC/SK/US times 4-6 segments in all the various options, plus other airline options gets one very dizzy fast.

  27. I think the hotel fees can add up much quicker.  A $20 resort fee a night on a 5 day trip is much worse then a $25 fee for a flight.  So yes, the hotels should be held to the same standard as airlines.

  28. Being the one on the other side of the desk, I am pained every single time I’m having to explain to a guest that my city charges a 13% tax for rooms – only to have the guest turn on me and tell me that I’m full of it. 

    My biggest beef though, is with the hotel websites that tell you the displayed rate is their “best available rate”.  It’s not listed/quoted as the rack rate, which, 9 times out of 10, that’s exactly what that “best available rate” is.  It’s misleading, and makes me wonder what the hotel has to hide.  It also gives us (behind the desk) a hard time because we’re having to explain that “misleading” rate.  Now I could play stupid and make the rate sound like the best thing since sliced bread, but I prefer not to treat any guest like they’re idiots.  The possibility that they could compare that rate to other hotels’ websites is too great.  And personally, if I was that guest, I sure would compare the rates till I found something that didn’t insult my intelligence and my wallet.

    All in one?  Oh yeah, let’s do this.  There are desk clerks around the country that would appreciate one less reason to be screamed at over something they were not responsible for.

  29. It really sucks.  Every business should show the total cost for an item period!

    Funny thing, we went to Puerto Rico for a few days prior to a cruise & I booked a room on the Army base there & was surprised to be hit with extra fees.

    I had previously stayed at rec center hotels on other bases & didn’t get stuck with these add ons.

    Also got a rental vehicle there & had the same add on BS which I don’t remember being on other base rentals.

    Something needs to be done.

  30. I definitely feel an all-inclusive price is the only fair way to price a room.  But I also think the price needs to be broken down somewhere so I can see how much I’m being gouged for.  If I’m being charged for a multitude of things I know I won’t use (pool access, fitness center, newspaper, mini-bar, bottled water, etc.), I’ll look elsewhere.  I resent paying for things I don’t use.  These are optional things that I can easily live without on a trip unlike a piece of baggage on a 7-day trip which should be included in the price.  A piece of checked baggage on anything more than a 2-day trip could hardly be considered an option.

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