If you think mandatory resort fees represent the free market at its best, please don’t read this post.
If you think adequate disclosure means telling the customer a final price at check-out, do not scroll down.
If you think customers must read every line of the fine print, no matter how carefully hidden, then this article will only frustrate you.
Still here? Well, you’ve been warned.
Kathryn Ary’s case is more than a necessary reminder of how evil mandatory resort fees are. It also underscores how complicit online travel agencies can be in hiding the true cost of hotel accommodations.
“My husband and I booked a hotel in Miami last month using Hotwire Hot Rate,” she says. They were given a room at the Turnberry Isle.
“There was no resort fee disclosed,” she says. “I even called Hotwire to confirm that there was not a resort fee before booking. On their website, I saw other Hot Rate deals that said ‘This hotel typically charges a resort fee of X dollars per day,’ but the booking we chose did not have this disclaimer.”
But guess what? There was a resort fee: A mandatory $25 per day fee, plus $3.25 in taxes on the resort fee.
“Is it legal for the Turnberry Isle to charge us a resort fee if it was not disclosed by Hotwire?” she asks.
Also, can I get her a refund?
She complained to Hotwire, and here’s what it had to say:
I understand you have concerns about the resort fee. I would be willing to provide information regarding this matter.
On the “Search Results” page for Hotwire hotels you will see the base rate (i.e., the nightly room rate before tax recovery charges and fees). On the next page — before you make any commitment to buy — you will see the total cost for your stay including all tax recovery charges and fees.
Please note each hotel may also have its own charges — for example, parking (which can run $10-$25 or more, depending on the city), resort fees, convention fees and energy charges. You will be required to pay any such fees directly to the hotel (usually at check-out time). Once you complete a hotel reservation, I recommend you contact the hotel directly to inquire about any additional charges.
If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or call us at 1-866- Hotwire (468-9473). Thank you for choosing Hotwire.
I checked the Hotwire page for Turnberry. At the bottom of the page, in greyed-out type, it notes:
You’ll be asked to pay the following charges at the hotel:
Resort fee: USD 25.00 per accommodation, per night
So something must have gone terribly wrong here, both when Ary booked a “Hot” rate and when she called to ask about the resort fee.
Ary says Hotwire’s attitude is indifferent, at best.
When I called to complain, I was transferred to someone to give me a case number. He said that I should hear back in 5-10 days.
After 12+ business days I emailed to check in. I got an email back saying Hotwire hot rates are not refundable (not to mention that the stay is in the past and he didn’t bother to read the email).
Then I called and I’m told the case number back end system isn’t working, and can I call back another time?
I ask to speak with a manager and I’m placed on hold for 30+ minutes until I hang up. I call back and they say the case is resolved because an email was sent while I was on hold.
The worst customer service I’ve ever received!
Why is Hotwire doing this? Because it can.
Why is Turnberry doing this? Because it can.
If this isn’t deceptive, then I don’t know what is. Hotwire has the technology to fold any mandatory fee into its rates. It doesn’t because it’s more profitable to keep you thinking you have a deal.
But to Ary’s question: Is this legal?
Yes, but it shouldn’t be. There ought to be a law against this kind of misleading pricing. But in terms of advocating for Ary, I’m afraid my hands are tied. She’s right, but Hotwire has managed to write itself an unethical contract that covers its immoral behavior.