It isn’t a question of if, but when, hotel resort fees will be banned by law.
But how will hotels replace the money they lose when they have to drop these unfair and deceptive fees?
If you said, “Invent a new fee,” then let me introduce you to Ken Ascher, who encountered an interesting new surcharge when he stayed at a Hilton last year. Ascher contacted me immediately for help and also posted his problem to a popular site for frequent air travelers.
Although the problem was quickly resolved, a bigger question looms: Is this the future of the post resort-fee hotel stay?
Ascher stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Albuquerque, N.M., airport, for one night. When he checked out, he discovered a “hospitality surcharge” added to the total bill.
Hmm. A fee for being hospitable? That’s interesting.
“I asked the hotel desk manager why they add an extra fee for the unadvertised Hilton hospitality surcharge,” he says. “The manager said it is for the TV monitor in the lobby displaying flight departure data and the lights in the hotel.”
“I can now appreciate the Motel 6 commercial saying, ‘We’ll leave the light on for you,’” he says. “He also said this extra surcharge was the only surcharge he could remove and asked if I wanted this extra surcharge removed. I said, ‘Yes, please.’
Here’s another interesting thing: On Ascher’s bill, the fee was listed as a “tax.”
“But it’s not a tax,” he says. “I believe that’s false and deceptive advertising.”
This Hilton Garden Inn adds the line item “hospitality surcharge” but advertises this fee as a mandatory tax on the Hilton Worldwide website.
Before I checked out, I spent an extra 30 minutes to research and bring to the managers’ attention their billing issue. After the correction, I requested an adjusted invoice so I could pay.
Due to the time burden to correct their billing, I had to rush to the airport to make my flight. The Hilton Worldwide website fails to reveal a material fact when they list a “hospitality surcharge” as a mandatory tax.
A little research revealed that at least two other Hilton properties, and possibly more, charged a “hospitality” fee. I contacted Hilton to find out more about the fee.
In response, Hilton quietly dropped the fee.
Ascher believes the hotel got off easy. “I would estimate thousands of other Hilton guests were scammed and should be entitled to a refund,” he says.
But this isn’t about a couple of thousands of $3.78 charges; it’s about future revenue opportunities for the hotel industry. The possibilities are endless. How about a mandatory “friendliness” fee or “service” fee? A “concierge” fee, maybe?
Combining the non-negotiability of a tax with the opaqueness of a resort fee is a real winner, if you’re a profit-hungry hotel with a broken moral compass. It may be the next thing, when it comes to hotel fees and ancillary revenue opportunities.
And it may be, unless we say otherwise.