But no one told me about the resort fee!

Question: I’ve been booking hotel rooms through Hotwire recently, and I’ve been quite pleased with the site — until now. The last hotel charged a $25 per night resort fee, which included the “use of the spa.”

This was mandatory, even though we didn’t plan to use the spa, and had not been disclosed in the Hotwire booking process. I tried calling Hotwire about this and they simply kept saying, “It’s in our terms and conditions that hotels may charge separate fees for parking and resort fees.”

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

I understand that parking often constitutes an extra charge, but failing to disclose substantial, mandatory resort fees seems inappropriate. In theory, they could have tacked on $100 a night or more to our nonrefundable reservation, and we would have had no recourse. What do you think? — Sonja Johnson, San Francisco

Answer: The hotel shouldn’t charge you a mandatory “resort” fee. It shouldn’t charge anyone a resort fee, for that matter.

Resort fees are wrong on so many levels; it’s hard to know where to begin. A room rate should include all mandatory charges except maybe taxes (and I would argue that it ought to include taxes as well, but I digress). Resort fees — which are charged by some independent hotels for the use of anything from an exercise facility to beach towels — add anywhere from $10 to $30 to the per-night cost of your room.

If a hotel charged extra for towels or the gym that would be fine. But some resorts force every guest to pay these fees, effectively raising the cost of each room — and raising the hotel’s revenues, too. This is fundamentally dishonest, even when it’s disclosed in the fine print of your reservation by the hotel or by your travel agent. It must either be part of the room rate or be an optional fee. There are no two ways about this.

I believe either these hotels, or the online travel agents who sell their products and enable their immoral behavior, will find themselves on the losing end of a court case if they don’t stop.

Hotwire’s actions add yet another wrinkle to this scam. A site like Hotwire, with its immense buying power, has the leverage to force hotels to include all mandatory fees in its room rate. Yet if you read its terms of use it’s clear that it won’t. “Hotwire rates do not include special fees charged by hotels upon checkout (e.g., energy charges, convention fees, resort fees, parking fees),” it notes. “Customers will be required to pay these fees directly to the hotels at checkout time.”

(Incidentally, Hotwire isn’t alone. Its other competitor, Priceline, has a similar policy.)

It gets worse. Because Hotwire is what’s known as an “opaque” site — meaning that you don’t learn the name of your hotel until you’ve paid for it — you’re out of luck if you end up with a resort-fee property. So you’re right: Hotwire could have quoted a $69 a night fee, but the hotel might have theoretically charged a $100-a-night resort fee, and you would have had to pay for it.

If Hotwire didn’t offer to change your reservation, you might have disputed the charge on your credit card. I know of at least one traveler who persuaded his credit card company to reverse a resort-fee charge that hadn’t been adequately disclosed.

I contacted Hotwire on your behalf, and it removed the resort fee from your bill.

(Photo of a generic resort which may or may not charge a resort fee by williamcho/Flickr Creative Commons)

2 thoughts on “But no one told me about the resort fee!

  1. Actually I used priceline to book a hotel in Austin, TX and this particular hotel demanded the 15.00 per night ‘resort fee’ in advance or they wouldn’t permit us to check in.  In addition, what was booked as a 3 star was barely a one, with grungy carpets that stunk (we couldn’t walk around barefoot, or as we learned our first night, our feet were completely black), dirty, mildewed bathtub, and beds with questionable stains.  They permitted various loud and drunken parties to rent the facilities in the lobby at all hours, and when my spouse attempted to use the wifi in the car because we were unable to receive a signal anywhere in our room, he was subjected to demands to leave the property and treated like a criminal, despite showing them his ID and room key.  I was disgusted, and will never use ANY website again that is not transparent about the choice of accommodations and all associated fees.

  2. This is ridiculous. Hotwire knows the amount of the resort fee ahead of time, but refuses to disclose it before you make the non-refundable payment! I just purchased a 2-star room for four nights (NOT a resort level) and Hotwire told me AFTER making the payment that an additional $24 will be collected by the hotel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: