Unscrupulous Hotel Fees

by Terry Ward 
Posted Jun 14th 2010 03:52 PMUpdated Sep 1st 2010 05:08 PM

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If you've gotten on an airplane any time in the last year or so, you are well aware that things that were once free (checked bags and blankets, for example) now come at a price. As annoying as we find them, the fees have earned enormous profits for the airlines, so it's no surprise that hotels are following suit and are increasingly using add-on fees to bump up their bottom lines. Those few bucks here and there for a late checkout or valet parking will earn the hotel industry a whopping $1.7 billion in 2010 according to a new study by Bjorn Hanson, a clinical professor at New York University. Even more astonishing is what you might find yourself getting charged for. Did you help yourself to an overpriced snack from the mini bar in your room? Be prepared for a re-stocking fee. Tipped the bellboy for carrying your bag? When you see the porterage fee added to your bill at check out, you'll wonder why you bothered. Read on for a list of the most unscrupulous hotel fees.

10. Internet Usage

Today's travelers usually come with computer in tow (even if they aren't on the road for business) and hotels know it. Which means guests are routinely charged in-room Internet access fees that border on extortion. In Europe, rates can soar upwards of $30 per day, and even in the US you're looking at somewhere between $10 and $25 per day to surf the web and check email. Another irk? Hotels that charge that daily rate per device instead of per room, doubling the fee if you both bring a laptop.

9. Resort Fees
Things that hotel guests once took for granted as being included in room rates (think pool towels) are increasingly being listed among the amenities covered in those much maligned "resort fees." You're most likely to see the compulsory charge listed separately on your bill at beach and mountain resorts. So why aren't they just wrapped into the overall room rate? It's just one more way for hotels to charge an extra $15 to $30 per day-or more. The kicker? Even when the mandatory resort fee includes gym and Internet access, saying you don't plan to use either won't usually help you get out of paying.

8. Porterage Fee
When you turn your luggage over to the bellhop, it's expected that you will slip a tip into his hand as well. Now, imagine checking out and seeing that you have been charged a porterage fee. And some hotels are tacking on the fee even if you have politely refused the bellman's services and carried your own bags. Porterage fees are especially likely to show up on your bill if you're part of group booking that's been given a specially negotiated rate.

7. Valet Parking
What ever happened to the good old days of self-parking for a few dollars a day? In major cities from Miami to San Francisco valet-only parking at luxury hotels is becoming more and more the standard, costing guests anywhere from $20 to $50 per night. Valets try to soften the blow by saying it's "in and out as much as you want." But factor in having to tip every time your car is brought to you, and you're looking at a serious add-on expense to your hotel stay.

6. Energy Surcharges
Be sure to read the fine print when booking hotels through consolidators and discounters, as you're likely to spot slippery surcharges not included in the total price. Among the most irritating of all is the "energy surcharge" being employed at hotels everywhere from Arizona to the Caribbean. The fee can be a couple dollars per room, a per-day/per-person fee, or as much as ten percent of your overall bill and covers things that you would think would be covered by to room rate like running the air conditioning and turning on the lights. These fees were originally created as a way to transfer rising energy costs to hotel guests, but even as costs level out many hotels are slow to remove the extra revenue-generating bonus from your bill.

5. Luggage Storage Fee
The standard check-out at most hotels is 11 a.m., which is great if you are hitting the road early. But if you want to squeeze in a little extra sightseeing time (or maybe an extra dip in the pool), storing your bags with the hotel was a great-and free-option. Until now. Expect to fork over a couple bucks a bag just to toss them in the storage closet, a dismal idea for sure.

4. In-Room Safe Fees
Hotels make it sound more official by calling it a "safe warranty fee," or some such derivation. But all it means is an additional one to three dollars charged to your bill for the honor of having a safe in your room -- whether you lock up your valuables or not. Look for safe charges in the fine print on hotels' websites and, of course, your bill. Often times, guests are told at check-in that if the safe goes unused, the fee will be removed. But if you forget to follow up at check out, you're often out of luck. Budget and mid-range hotel chains are where you're most likely to be hit with these charges.

3. Fitness Center Fees
If your hotel gym has high-end amenities such as sauna facilities or fancy cardio equipment, you're likely to find yourself getting charged for the privilege of your daily work out. Even hotels that didn't formerly charge guests for gym access are finding it's a catchall way to increase earnings. And we're not just talking about a few bucks. Some Las Vegas hotels charge up to $40 per day to use their gyms -- a hefty price to pay for simply wanting to work off one of Sin City's bargain buffet dinners.

2. Mini-Bar Restocking Fee
Mini-bar snacks have always been a wallet-drain. But the extreme mark-up on snacks turns out not to be enough. Now some hotels are equipping the little fridges with sensors that detect if the door has been opened, automatically adding a re-stocking fee to your bill. And that's even if all you did was root around to make space for your own smuggled-in beverage. If you do indulge in one of those tiny $12 cans of nuts, there's a chance your hotel will charge you up to $6 to help cover the intense manual labor involved with sliding a new one into place.

1. Early Check-In Fees
Being able to get into your room earlier than the 3 or 4 p.m. standard check-in time comes in handy if your flight gets in early in the morning (especially if you flew overnight). And like everything that used to be a free perk, you can't count on getting into that room without coughing up some extra cash. Fees add up to anywhere from $20 to $50. The most unscrupulous establishments won't even bother to tell you about the fee until you question it on the bill, by which time the damage is done.
Filed Under: Hotel

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