Recession fees?

MSNBC recently ran a story on an oft-reported yet totally unacceptable practice of hotels charging “hidden fees” in hotels and resorts.

With a recession looming if not already under way and costs skyrocketing, hotels and airlines “are struggling to squeeze every last cent out of their customers”. Many argue that there is nothing wrong with that except that, all too often, hostelries tend to wrest that money surreptitiously in a number of creative (and crafty) ways. The most obvious and blatant are resort fees, “service” fees, telephone fee, safe fees (irrespective of whether the safe is used or not) valet-parking fees (whether or not a guest parks a car) and a fuel surcharge. More recent additions include towel fees (!), mini-bar stocking fee (once again whether used or not), bellman fee and an improbably named “hospitality” fee. The last arguably epitomizes audacity and chutzpah and does nothing for either the hostelry or the hospitality industry. Presumably, it won’t be long before some establishments slap on a “recession fee” to make a quick buck during the economic downturn.

MSNBC’s report notes that “These days, lawyers are looking at that fine print. In Maulding v. Hilton Hotels, Hilton was forced to settle a class-action suit relating to hidden resort fees at 11 of its resort properties. Wyndham Hotels paid $2.3 million to settle with the state of Florida in 2006 after a five-year investigation showed that it had not adequately disclosed hidden fees. Today, Wyndham discloses all fees nationwide and requires online resellers do the same. Still pending is a lawsuit by James Shulevitz against Arizona‚Äôs Phoenician resort. Shulevitz was forced to pay undisclosed housekeeper and bellman gratuities that, the hotel claims, were appropriate to the guest’s group rate”. The article also says that “hotels are (belatedly) getting better at disclosing fees upfront”.

For most travelers, the solution lies in closely scrutinizing their reservation confirmation for all fees and taxes (some jurisdictions like New York and Houston have very high taxes) and their folios while checking out of their hotel rooms.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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