Published: April 16, 2010 at 4:14 AMI agree about the fees, I hate them and hotels should be upfront about them. However, there doesn't need to be law about it. Hotels would just find another way around it, plus, who would regulate it and what punishments would there be?
I check TripAdvisor before every reservation.
Published: April 16, 2010 at 5:26 AMI have a different opinion on parking. It is rude. While fees are present in the resorts and beach towns(Daytona, etc here in FL) they arent everywhere. I checked many non-resort properties in Orlando and there were no parking fees, or they were hidden in the price of the room.
I just booked at Royal Pacific at USF and the self park fee was $15 per nite! Again, as Robert indicated, most times I stay on USF property the parking lot has plenty of room. I think it is just a very unprofessional way at trying to squeeze every dime from a tourist when they visit.
Published: April 16, 2010 at 7:37 AMi stayed at the Hilton in Canada (the one with a view of the falls) and we were charged a parking fee. The thing that bugs me is that we were asked if we had a car and said no we will be walking. The fee was eventually taken off :)
Published: April 16, 2010 at 8:02 AMI've been on the road a whole lot in the past 10 years for work and play. from the Travelodge to the Four Seasons, you name the chain, and chances are I've stayed in one of their hotels at least once. Here are some observations from a road warrior. I'll stay with the three biggies.
Internet. IMHO, most hotels that charge over $100 a night should have free internet access, period... with either an ethernet port or a wireless network. In this wireless phone age, people use the internet in hotels more than they use the phone. The only reason I use the phone usually to call the front desk. I don't want it for anything else. I do however want internet. You will find that a lot of $80 a night hotels advertise free internet, and it's a real selling point. I really don't mind staying in a comfortable and well taken care of Fairfield or Comfort Inn that gives me free breakfast and free internet, and doesn't charge for all the little stuff on top of the room rate
Parking...I expect some parking fees in a "high traffic" place. Tourist destinations in season and large cities in particular have those labels. Anywhere else, free parking is expected. However, in some places it's gotten to the point where parking can add as much as 50% to your night stay. A prime example is downtown Chicago. I was there a couple of months ago and stayed downtown for the weekend. I payed $125/night for the room at Embassy Suites by Navy Pier (superb hotel by the way, highly recommended). However, I chose to drive rather than fly, so my cost to park the car? 50 bucks a night for valet, unlimited access. If you wanted the cheaper parking price, it was $45 with once daily access. Embassy wasn't unique...all the downtown Chicago hotels charge that much. In cases with fees like that though, I definitely think that they should at least be posted right beside the room rate instead of buried in the information section because of the amount of cost they can add to the stay. In the case of downtown Chicago, I would have been financially and time-wise better off flying for a couple of hours and taking cabs.
Resort Fees. If the resort is top notch and offers a lot of good complimentary services, than I don't have a problem with it. If there is a good in house sitter service/kids activities, or a really nice pool area, or a good complimentary daily meal...no problem, as long as it isn't an exorbitant amount of money on top of the rate. All hotels are different though. Example, complimentary internet or parking could be part of the resort fee instead of the separate fee, hence Robert's reasoning for wanting a standard.
It all comes down to expectations with this stuff. Hotels have to stay competitive with their rates, but they all price differently according to their market and target audience in order to stay competitive because they don't want to give the impression of "unreasonably more expensive", although they may not have been anyway. Many people today have a tendency to look at the price of something rather than it's value, and hotels have to strike that balance in a market with no rules.
In my case, I've stayed in scores of hotels of all prices and sizes, and I've come to this conclusion through my experience. I want certain things in a hotel depending on it's purpose, and I don't want to be gouged or nickel and dimed wih upcharges. I am however, willing to pay a little more on the rate for a better stay, because I value my time just much as I do my money.
Published: April 16, 2010 at 11:03 AMI strongly disagree with the thought of hiding taxes in any product or service, especially hotel room charges. These taxes, and all taxes, need to be out in the open. Dark taxes are already hidden within many consumer products and services, gasoline, tobacco, alcohol and a myriad of industries that lacked the clout to fight congressional hidden fees. I can see some value in your other points, but I always prefer to let the free market decide.
Published: April 16, 2010 at 12:25 PMI guess I just expect to pay when going on vacation. I never really look at what they are charging extra for. They are in the business in making money, and it seems that they know what they can get away with. The only way to stop these extra fees is to complain to the management and then stop using that hotel. When we have had a horrible experience with a place not only do we let them know when we are leaving (not in a screaming hateful way), but we also send the management a letter or email once home that we will not recommend their place to any family or friends. I don't mind paying the "extras" as long as the resort is clean, staff pleasant and helpful, and our needs are met. From what I have seen though, is that usually you pay for what you want. I have stayed at the dirt cheap hotels all the way to some of the most expensive. The more you pay, the more pleasant the experience (usually).
The only extra feature we have paid is for room service. When exhausted from the fun of the day, it is always nice to have a meal delievered to your room.
Published: April 16, 2010 at 1:03 PMI've paid pet fees in the past, and I actually expected to have to pay them, so that's no big deal. I have also paid parking fees in Chicago, which ended up being pretty expensive. I'm pretty sure it was $45, now that I think about it. That's the only fee I've had to really pay in the last year.
Other than a situation like that, I'm just making sure the place I'm staying is affordable, clean, and in a decent area when I'm on vacation, especially to theme parks, because I don't expect to be there much anyway. I will look for free wireless internet, but it's not a deal-breaker.
Published: April 16, 2010 at 1:21 PMHotel fees really aggravate me. If it is a fee for services at a hotel then it should be rolled into the room charge. If I am staying at a room that is $80 a night and I get charged $20 for hotel fees then the charge should just be $100. At least with parking and internet they are fees that you may or may not use. You have no choice with the hotel fees.
I do agree however that showing parking fees should be required by law
Published: April 16, 2010 at 7:50 PMOne fee I was charged while staying off-site near Walt Disney World that you didn't list was for shuttle bus service to the parks. I drove and didn't use their service but was charged anyway. Also charged for and not used were room safe and resort fee (never used pool, etc.).
Published: April 16, 2010 at 9:29 PMI have never heard of having to pay for parking while staying at a hotel. It sounds crazy to me. It would make sense though to have any fees that there might be upfront so that people know about them when making reservations.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 4:40 AMI travel a lot on business, Robert, and suggest that you try Hilton and its HHonors program with the 10 hotel chains that make up the program. Why?
I have yet to find the Hampton Inn that charges for parking, breakfast is included, and internet access is free! Embassy Suites offer huge rooms, cooked-to-order breakfast, manager's reception and other amenities appealing to the business traveler. Homewood Suites, as another example -- no parking charge, free internet access, two-room mini-suites with kitchenette, full size 'fridges and dishes/glasses, hot breakfast every morning and light meals Monday thru Thursday evenings. Doubletree -- chocolate chip cookies on check-in.
Ironically, Hilton hotels themselves are where you routinely find the most fees. But they're usually well located for business travelers on expense accounts, who are more inclined to pay the fees without kvetching.
My favorite example of a perfect confluence of Hilton? The King Street metro area in Alexandria, VA (inside the DC Beltway). There you'll find a full-up Hilton, an Embassy Suites and a Hampton Inn, all within a block of each other -- one for business, one for casual travel, and one for vacationers -- and all within an easy walk to the metro station as well as the restaurants and delights of Old Town Alexandria!
I have to admit, I haven't tried the Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria brands, but once I hit HHonors Diamond, it might be more tempting than I can resist...
Sorry for the long, effusive Hilton commercial, but I just wanted to point out a good alternative for you.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 5:50 AMJust what we need more laws and expansion of our already massive government.
Your proposal is ridiculous and shame on you for suggesting the need for government intervention. If you don't like the way Sheraton and Starwood conduct their business, then stop patronizing them. Act like an empowered consumer, not whiner who thinks legislation is the solution to the problem.
In fact, go a step further and bring your concern to the general manager or corporate office. If you can't find any mention about parking and Internet fees on their web site, then you have an good argument for getting those charges reversed. If enough customers complain, then the hotel will likely respond.
Since when is paying for Internet service mandatory during a stay? At every hotel I've stayed that charges, it's optional. -Eric Gieszl
Published: April 17, 2010 at 6:19 AM$14 for self parking? That's wonderful, especially for those of us who fly into Anaheim, then take the Disneyland bus to our hotel! No car, but $14 a night anyway! Rip. Off.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 8:39 AMI remain amused by anti-government zealots who proclaim that all the world's ills can be solved by informed, empowered consumers... then oppose efforts to inform and empower them.
The basic tendency of all free markets is quickly to become unfree. Businesses will use every angle available to them to undermine or eliminate competition. That's the basic nature of competition. You try to eliminiate the other guy. In business, this happens when companies try to lock customers into long-term contracts, so that they can't switch to a competitor offering a better deal in the future. Or when a business sells you on the great features it offers, the locks your data into proprietary formats, so you can't easily switch to a competitor. Or when businesses lure you with an up-front price, then hide the real cost of their product through hidden fees you don't learn about until you've committed.
With hotel fees, any hotel that started listing a "true price" upfront would be putting itself at a huge disadvantage against those hotels which do not, since its room rates consistently would appear higher than its competitors. So, for the most part, they don't.
Ironically, if hotels were forced by some outside authority (such as government) to list the true price up front, I think two things would happen: First, "true prices" would decrease. Hotels now don't have to compete on the prices of things such as parking and resort fees, since these costs are hidden to prospective customers. But if they had to be included in an up-front true price, consumers would see them before booking, creating an incentive for hotels to keep them as low as possible - something that doesn't happen now.
Second, with lower true prices and cost certainty, since consumers would know that they wouldn't be hit with hidden fees, more people would book more hotel rooms.
See the irony? Because of competitive pressure, hotels hide fees, which hurts consumers *and* ends up hurting the hotels in the long run. It's a classic Prisoner's Dilemma, and it happens all the time in business.
So what we need is some way for people to come together and decide, collectively, not to do this anymore. Well, we have a process that can do just that. It's government. It's not some seperate, evil thing. It's simply the way that people in a civil society work together to make collective decisions about the rules under which they'll all live and work together.
Such as: hotels have to tell you their real price up front, before you book.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 11:40 AMRobert:
As someone who works at a resort hotel (with an indoor water park, which is what I do), I have to disagree with your point of view.
I won't speak much to parking or resort fees, as I've never worked for a hotel that charged them, other than to say that the idea that hotels don't have to compete with each other on this because the customer may not know the price up front is plain wrong. Trust me when I say that any good hotel operator knows EVERY price point that the competition is charging, all the way down to their Sunday Buffet price.
To my knowledge, there's only one industry in the States that generally includes taxes in their advertised prices (Movie Theaters). While I'm sure that there are many business that do, it is not common practice. If I go to buy a Computer, on sale at Best Buy for $999.99, I know instintively that I'm going to be paying more thank 1,000 to walk away with the computer. Those taxes and other government levies are beyond my control as a business operator. We provide a resort experience for $189, and then the government does what it does.
As far as Internet Access goes, I think that it should be free everywhere too, but the decision is rarely up to the actual operator of the hotel. I used to work for a Sheraton, and it was a Starwood specification to charge for Internet. We were required by our franchise agreement to charge. You're obviously more likely to see this type of charge in a business hotel, where business travelers will pay for it, and expense it back. I think though, that its a standard that's slowly changing.
In general, you have to keep in mind that the lodging industry is being much more widely hit than the amusement park industry. The number of hotels that are being foreclosed on each week, or owners and investors just walking away from the loan giving the property back to the bank is just staggering. The small segment of the industry that I work in straddles both Amusement & Theme Parks and Hotels, so I know many people in both industries, and many people out of work. I can say, very succinctly, though, that there are a lot more of my hotel friends out on the street than park friends.
I also have to side (less zealot-like though) with the other commenters that say that government intervention isn't the way to go. I disagree with you, and think that free market economies work when there is healthy competition.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 12:34 PMI'm very much on the side of the free market, and what Robert is suggesting doesn't necessarily violate the sanctity of the free market. It doesn't dictate price or terms...only that the price and terms are made more easily available to the consumer. If a hotel is going to charge for or offer for an extra fee internet, parking, resort fees, etc...on top of the rate, then it should all be right there for the customer to see before they press "book now" or authorize a charge. This does nothing more than empower the consumer more by giving them quick easy access to charges before they pay for them. Some hotels do a great job of providing the info during the booking process, although they don't advertise the rate as such. The problem, as Robert said, is that there isn't a level playing field for hotels to do that sort of thing. While one tries to be upfront with their prices and include, others can come darn near close to the line of false advertising by giving you a room with a bed for cheap, and then upcharging for everything else by lumping it into a fee. It's a good reason why I highly recommend a quick search on one of the customer review sites such as Trip Advisor to read about your choice before you book, or in some cases even our own Theme Park Insider. Customers who've been hosed will not hesitate to tell you about it, and in many cases the managers of those hotels are active on the boards with addressing concerns and complaints.
I completely understand where hotels are coming from on some things. There are a lot of hotels out there struggling to stay open right now, and they have to make money somehow. If they want to charge, then they can charge. It doesn't mean I have to buy it, or even stay there if I can find a better deal, but it's obvious that someone is willing to pay for it if they are charging. As I said before though, it's not the roadside hotel at $50 to $80 a night or the little guys that do most of the upcharging and "fees". Rather it's the higher priced but seemingly always full places in the city or tourist areas, or in some cases airport hotels that upcharge for a great deal of the amenities that others don't.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 3:52 PMRobert- Last time I checked it was consumers who in most cases put a business out of business, not the government. Therefore, consumers are in fact the ultimate deciding factor. That's empowerment. Many hotel properties have in fact changed hands or closed due to bad Internet reviews. Again, that's empowerment.
I still don't understand why you didn't bring up your concerns with the manager. I'm used to getting my way and on a similar situation, I'd easily win.
I don't see how rates could be any lower in areas like Anaheim and Orlando. There is already excess inventory and many respectable properties struggle at times. I stayed in a 3-star Orlando hotel for $29/night in December. Lower rates would mean more service cutbacks. Are you ready to do without housekeeping?
Overall, I'm not bothered by the hotel fees you mention. I'm not afraid to make a phone call, if necessary, to inquire about resort fees and Internet charges if I need to know. Of course, I prefer free Internet, and I will often call to verify.
As a frequent traveler I've grown accustomed to what to expect from a 4, 3, 2 and god forbid 1 star properties. Parking fees and Internet charges are to be expected at most 3 and 4 star hotels.
In the end I don't want to have to read a ten-page contract full of disclosures just so I can make a hotel reservation. If you need to know about every possible charge, then you go ahead and do the homework, but for the rest of us, leave us alone.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 4:30 PMActually, gasoline prices also include taxes, which I think makes for a better analogy.
Sales taxes are charged and collected locally, and the rate is the same on all purchases, so residents know what to expect.
But hotel taxes vary wildly by location and I doubt that any TPI reader outside the hospitality industry could name the various tax rates for top markets around the country. Yet it would be trivial for hotels to include these in the "first price" quoted to consumers, since the hotels know what they are. So why don't they?
Same goes for resort fees and other charges levied on all visitors who don't complain long and loudly at the front desk. Why not include those?
Because certain hotels and chains are trying to deceive you into thinking that you're getting a better deal than you are. Which forces others to play the same game. Even though that practice costs everyone in the industry business in the long run.
Yes, you can complain directly to a front desk. And maybe you'll get some fees taken off your bill. But why do we have to live with a system where we all have to play that game? Where we all have to make multiple phone calls to multiple properties to find the true costs of hotel rooms?
Why can't we just go to Hotels.com or Expedia or any other website and see those costs - which the hotels know and could report - first thing, without the rigamarole?
Why? Because of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Yes, consumers have the power to end this. We can do it individually by demanding changes at each front desk we check out from, and wait years and years for the industry to take notice.
Or we can do this quickly, by e-mailing our Congressional representatives and demanding a new ground rule for the industry - namely, that the price you quote us be the price you make us pay.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 10:18 PMI was somewhat aggrivated with the "resort fee" of $15 a day per room at our stay in Orlando last year. I did not know about in advance so it caught me off guard and suddenly made the room that seemed a bargain seem like less of a bargain. I think it should have been an optional charge.... meaning if I did not want to use the resort services such as the bus, then I did not have to pay the fee. Also I do not think that someone who has already paid for a room should also have to pay for parking seperately.... but if you have to, I think it should be made obvious to the customer before they arive so they are not caught by surprise by the extra charge waiting on them.
Published: April 17, 2010 at 10:26 PMI don't think they should charge you for things such as internet automatically if your don't need them. I don't think that any hotel has done that to me, but if the hotel was going to charge you for it regardless, I would not like that.
Published: April 18, 2010 at 6:38 AMThese so called "deals" with hidden fees stink. Try staying at any Universal Orlando hotel and you will be hit with hefty parking/internet and more fees that were not quoted in the lower priced room I bargained for. To add insult to injury I had to park quite far from the Portofino Bay on a "service" road with trucks and cars totally WHIZZING. Had to PAY for this excess walk while keeping an eye on my young daughter. Also had to trek through a luncheon event to access the hotel from this road. It was embarassing to boot. Universal lost my loyalty. RIPOFF!!!!
Published: April 18, 2010 at 7:22 AMI've been a Starwood/SPG member for several years. I live in Florida, within driving distance of Walt Disney World and I have an annual pass. It's been a few years since I've stayed in a Disney hotel - I usually go with the Swan and Dolphin when SPG points are plentiful, and when they are not I stay just outside Downtown Disney at the Sheraton Safari. I love not paying for my hotel room, and don't really mind TOO much about the taxes and the fees.
When I book the "Swolphin" online, they do not mention the mandatory $10 per day (or whatever it is these days - might be more now) that gets me 2 bottles of spring water, internet access and access to the fitness room. However I have been given a verbal heads-up about this fee when calling and speaking to a SPG agent to book.
I'm not especially happy about being forced to pay for amenities that I may or may not use. I now have a smartphone to which I can tether my laptop, so I don't really need the internet access. I like arriving in the park with a head start on the ever-shrinking $2.50 bottles of water, but I do not ever make it to the gym while I'm at Disney World, so that's sort of useless. I would like to have the OPTION of consuming - and therefore, paying for - these amenities. Or not. MY choice.
I'm not happy that there is no free parking option at the "Swolphin". But I figure, since I'm not paying for the room, I can afford to valet it.
Published: April 18, 2010 at 2:05 PMIn defense of Universal Orlando they clearly disclose the parking fees on their web site and you should expect to pay for parking at that type of hotel. Also, there is no resort fee, you were charged both sales and local occupancy tax.
I don't understand the "Free Internet" self entitlement people have. The hotel has to pay for the connection, so why shouldn't you? When it's optional then only those who use it pay for it. Free Internet is not really "free" unless the stay at the hotel is as well.
Robert- gas prices are an excellent example, but one of the few where the posted price includes taxes. Go to any retail or grocery store and the shelf price is the price for the product, not the price with tax.
I understand your side, but I don't agree with you since you're asking the hotels to include in their price fees and taxes that they cannot control or keep.
On my recent reservation from Hotels.com the taxes and fees was on the invoice and stated before I confirmed the reservation. So out of curiosity I went to browse the Starwood web site and specifically the Disneyland Anaheim property. I immediately found that it states that Internet is USD 9.95 per day under "Guest Rooms".
While making a reservation it states the price both with and without additional charges & taxes for each room type.
If you proceed to make the reservation there a bold link "Terms & Details" and bold text that says "Click the "Terms & Details" link for more detailed information for each room including taxes, additional hotel charges and terms & conditions."
That page outlines every single tax rate and the additional hotel charges, including the roll away fee you mention.
So what was the point of this entire article and poll when they're already doing what you propose?
Published: April 18, 2010 at 3:41 PMFree internet isn't an entitlement. What I'm saying is that if a $75/night highway roadside Comfort/Hampton/Best Western/Ramada..etc, can offer a free high speed wireless network to it's guests, then there's no reason that the higher end hotels can't do the same. The reason the higher end hotels charge ten bucks or more a night for internet is because they can get away with it. A lot of their customers are typically more affluent or on the company dime and see it as a nuisance charge rather than a bit of a gouge. That's a bit of a generalization, but I don't think I'm far off in that respect.
I understand that it costs a little money to create a wireless network, especially one for a larger hotel. It requires the highest of bandwidth and higher end equipment. What I also understand is that for many, internet service is now more important than the telephone in each room. It's become a necessity for many people on the road. I don't need the hotel phone, I have a cell phone...but I will use the crap out of an internet connection to communicate and for other business purposes. I really don't think I'm alone in that respect. It's just an expectation I have when shopping for a hotel in which to stay.
I don't quite understand all of the flak given by some on this thread, but I think that a law or regulation is unlikely. That's why hotel review sites are so powerful and recommended. A lot of people simply don't pay attention to the breakdown of a hotel bill. They may get a big surprise if they start taking a look.
Published: April 18, 2010 at 11:02 PMDerek you complete miss the point. Haven't you heard the saying "There's no such thing as a free lunch."
That $75 rate you state for those value hotels might be $70 or $65 if they didn't offer Internet service. The fact is you're still paying for it and it's not free.
Published: April 19, 2010 at 7:38 AM"In defense of Universal Orlando they clearly disclose the parking fees on their web site and you should expect to pay for parking at that type of hotel."
Disney does not charge for parking at their hotels, so no- i do not expect to pay for parking at Universal Orlando hotels.
Full disclosure is just being honest and upfront so people can make decisions armed with all needed info. I have stayed at hotels that charge for parking. Usually in an area where all of the hotels charged a similar fee. I had to check each individual website for the fee b/c none included it. If they had all been upfront with the info, I would have made the same decision as to which hotel to stay in. It just would have taken me less time.
I want to know what I am getting before I get there. I don't want any surprises at check out- especially if I am on a budget. I don't want to get a list from Expedia showing a rate and then click through to book and find out that the price was $50 more per night than expected and then have to start over. I am a regular consumer. I do not work at a hotel. I travel for vacation once or twice a year and on business 2 or 3 times a year. I want FULL DISCLOSURE and honesty.
The hotels that try to deceive people just shoot themselves in the foot. I will not stay at a resort that charges a resort fee or parking automatically. If I get "caught" at one of these, you'd better believe I will not be back. And I will warn away everyone that I know.
Published: April 19, 2010 at 5:36 PMI would hope that the hotels would not make the assumption that you are going to use something and charge you for it regardless. Some people like myself may choose not to use that service if there is an additional charge for it (for example, if your charging for internet.... I can live without the internet while on vacation.... thanks).
Published: April 20, 2010 at 5:56 AMI understand that Eric. The same could be said for several amenities though. Phone, cable, pool and spa, workout room, free breakfast...all would fall within the cost of staying in a hotel and would be factored into the room rate to some extent. The cost of maintaining their network is also factored into the rate, but when broken down, it's probably a rather small piece like anything else, depending on the size of the hotel.
This is 2010 folks. The internet is no longer uncommon or a luxury item worthy of a $10.00 plus extra fee. Most people use it everyday, some people overuse it. Businesses depend on it, and people communicate through it. It's ingrained into our culture, and hotels that offer it for free have an advantage over ones that charge extra for it. Road warriors, and there are a lot of us..use the internet.
It all comes down to simple economics, and in some cases bad business decisions in the form of contracts signed with third party proxy operators, who are employed to build and manage hotel networks for a large chunk of money and the opportunity to track user activity for the purposes of marketing and advertising. The hotel receives a small kickback of revenue. Not all such deals are bad, but they lock hotels into long term contracts, and in the long run end up raising the cost of providing the service in a lot of instances. If you know how to do it and you manage the work yourself, it's not that expensive in the long run, nor difficult to blanket a 5 floor hotel with a sufficient secure wireless internet. The problem is that a lot of people are clueless or intimidated by computers, so they turn to the "experts", who are more than happy to overcharge for providing relatively simple services, which drives up the cost.
Published: April 20, 2010 at 1:19 PMMy personnel favorite is the "engery surcharge" which hasn't been "optional" at any of the Las Vegas hotels we have been at in 3 years. It was imposed by the state or county (I forget which) to encourage engery savings at the resorts. At least that has been the canned answer when I ask "what is that fee for" at the desk when I get my itemized bill for the weekend. If I'm going to charged a flat fee for the energy I use while there I'm going to leave a light on all the time I'm not in the room.
Published: April 21, 2010 at 5:12 PMYou make some great points about what is technically included in the price of a room already! I myself could do without the internet for a weekend or longer if on vacation, but I do realize some people find it harder to do things they need it for without it.