“You are clearly missing the big picture”

My recent critique of the phrase “for your convenience” in the hospitality industry brought out angry hotel managers, who insisted they were providing a convenience to their guests and that I was all wrong.

One them is Patrick Mansfield, who sent me a lengthy rebuttal. “Although you may be mostly right on several points,” he noted, “you are clearly missing the big picture.”

A closer look at Mansfield’s points reveals more about the misunderstanding between guests and their hotels than it does about my flawless argument. I am right, of course, but Mansfield’s comments show we have a long way to go before the hotel industry knows this irrefutable fact.

For those of you just tuning in, here’s what you missed. A few weeks ago, I penned a USA Today column in which I cautioned hotel guests that if they heard the words “for your convenience,” it’s really a warning. The story also posted on this site, where we also had an interesting discussion.

Historically, the lodging schemes range from a benign half-truth, like signs that promise your hotel isn’t changing your towels “for your convenience,” to outright howlers, like the convenience of a hefty parking fee added to your bill.

There’s plenty of evidence to show these practices are on the rise. A recent NYU study concluded that hotel fees and surcharges in the U.S. increased $100 million last year to a record $2.55 billion. And there are stories — too many stories — about the properties cloaking their fees in convenient language.

Mansfield, who described himself as a 33-year industry veteran, took issue with that premise.

“Have you ever bought a car?” he demanded. “Have you ever visited the theater? Have you ever taken a plane ride? Have you ever bought a bottled beverage with a deposit required? Welcome to the good old USA! Fees, taxes and other convenience charges are everywhere. First, and foremost, we live in the USA and we are a capitalistic society. The almighty dollar sings.”

Ah, so everyone else has “convenience” surcharges — so why not the hotel industry? Besides, it’s the patriotic thing to do.

Wrong and wrong. Just because car dealerships, theaters, and your regional Coca-Cola bottler have fees doesn’t make them right. And it’s not American. It’s actually anti-American.

Americans have a reputation for what-you-see-is-what-you-get plain-spokenness and honesty. They don’t nickel and dime. To even suggest that this is capitalistic is patently offensive.

Mansfield argued that guests need to pay for what they use.

Exercise was important enough by the public, so a gym is added to a hotel. Cold winters are sometimes boring, so an indoor pool is added to a hotel.

People have the need to stay in touch with the world, so Wi-Fi is added.

All “for your convenience.”

Can you name any of your examples that are “free”? Neither can I.

So, who is to pay for these extra steps the business is needing to do to stay competitive? Their guests and patrons bear the burden. It’s never the guests’ fault, but the cost passed on is what the market will bear. If the cost is too much, the business may fail and close. I have seen this first hand.

Um, no.

Sure, a new pool or exercise facility costs money, but you don’t pay for it with a fee that’s added at the last minute. That’s deceptive. Instead, you bake the cost into the price of the room. That’s the honest way to do it, and that’s what guests expect.

If you can’t turn a profit by charging an honest price, you probably shouldn’t be managing a hotel.

Mansfield also bristled at the example I cited, in which I complained about the signs urging guests to leave their towels on the rack for their “convenience.” I wondered if they didn’t actually mean “for our convenience.”

“May I ask what percentage of your reading public uses one set of towels per day?” he asked. “The laundry expense for a family of four must be enormous. And how often do you change your own personal linens on the bed? If you answered every day, I commend you on the paycheck you earn each week. I am clearly in the wrong profession. ”

How does this change anything? The fact remains that the hotel benefits more than the guest when people reuse their towels. So, asking, “Whose convenience is it really?” is fair, and his answer about consuming resources isn’t really relevant.

But let’s go there for a minute. I happen to be from a family of four, and on some days we reuse towels, and on some days we don’t. Running the laundry is the cost of doing business. If hoteliers can’t factor the expense of this into their operations, maybe they shouldn’t be in the hospitality business.

“I must stop here,” says Mansfield. “Hotels, theatres, airlines, phone companies, car dealerships, barbers, grocery stores all have fees and taxes that are needing to be passed on to their patrons. Please mention if you write an article in the future that the best way to not be ripped off is to do your research before traveling or purchasing a vehicle or any purchase at all. You completely missed that an informed patron is rarely going to be ripped off.”

On this we can agree: Informed consumers are far less likely to get ripped off. But even Mansfield admits it’s “rarely” but not “never.” And that bothers me. In my former home state of Florida, every car dealership has a mandatory “dealership fee” that adds more than $700 to the cost of a new car. It’s a junk fee, of course. My former home town of Orlando is the mandatory resort fee capital of the world. You may not have a choice about paying one of these outrageous fees.

Hotels and other businesses are lying with these extra fees. They’re making their product look cheaper than it actually is, but then forcing you to pay more. Sure, there may be a way of avoiding the surcharges, but not always. (Think airline luggage fees. Who travels without baggage?)

I found rebuttals from hoteliers like Mansfield and others who took the time to write to be incredibly disingenuous. They know the truth. They’re not facing the facts when they say they’re doing this for guests. They’re actually doing it for themselves. And they’re lying when they claim it’s being done for your convenience.

They aren’t getting the big picture.

And when I hear that phrase — “for your convenience” — I run for the hills. You should, too.

Fees and surcharges are

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

This is an encore presentation.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.