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Is There Any Way Around Those Hidden (And Not Hidden) Hotel Fees?

September 2, 2014 at 2:50 PM | by | Comment (1)

The minibar menu is a good place to start for finding out what's NOT free in your hotel room

Our former front desk guy has given valuable tips on effectively complaining to the front desk when something goes wrong. Now, he's got a few tips on getting around those pesky hotel fees that pop up from out of nowhere on your bill.

Hotels have been notorious for offering "convenient" products and services, then finding a way to tack on the extra charges to your hotel bill before you leave. According to a recent report, those fees will total up to $2.25 billion for hotels in the U.S. for this year alone.

While some fees and surcharges are unavoidable, i.e. the infamous Javits Convention Center tax in NYC and state and municipal taxes, there are other fees that aren't always clearly marked, like that daily newspaper charge that is actually optional or the pool towel fee that isn't listed anywhere except in small print at the bottom of a sign far away from the pool entrance.

Here are some ways to ensure you avoid these fees and if they are unfairly charged, how to get them removed:

1. PAY ATTENTION TO THE FINE PRINT: Fees, whether they are resort fees, newspaper fees, amenity fees, are stated somewhere--just not as visibly as we would like. It is important that we carefully read the websites, folios, and confirmations to ensure that for the price you are paying, you are getting exactly what you asked for. Nowadays, hotelsí keycard holders have a fine print about a $1 fee for a newspaper. This is typical of many hotels today and unless you really do want to read a hard copy of the NY Times or USA Today, make sure you "opt-out" of this fee. It may only be $1, but itís the principle! Why pay for something you are not using? Websites often display hotel room rates with a + +. Pay attention to these to seemingly innocuous arithmetic signs. They meanÖTHERE IS MORE TO PAY. The signs typically signal additional municipal, city, state and federal taxes. Oftentimes, these are not avoidable but when they account for more than 15%, can really put a dent and even break the holiday bank budget.

2. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS: We hotel people oftentimes think that a lot of the information about our hotel is self-explanatory but unfortunately, not everything is so black and white. When guests get excited about simple things like "free toothbrushes", it is because they have been stiffed with a "nominal" fee before. Guests should not feel ashamed to ask, "Is this complimentary?" or "Does it come with the room?" This not only puts the guest at ease but also allows the hotel to ensure that if there is a discrepancy on the bill, the guest was clearly informed ahead of time.

3. BE CAREFUL ABOUT IN-ROOM AMENITIES: Many guests think that once you pay for the hotel room, you have paid for everything in the hotel room. NOT TRUE. No, you cannot take the bathrobe home and no, the Voss water on the nightstand is (usually) not complimentary. However, hotels are realizing that while not everything is complimentary in the room, they need to better highlight what is fee and what isnít. For example, hotels are now putting tags on water bottles that are complimentary and those that are not. More often than not, these bottles are replenished so you can get your daily dose of free water in the room. Conversely, hotels have been known to "creatively" display candy and chips that almost look free but are not! Make sure you look for an amenity rate card in or around the mini-bar and make sure you understand which amenities are for free consumption and which are not. If it is still confusing, see point No. 2 above ☺

4. BOOK PACKAGES AND LOOK FOR DEALS ON HOTEL WEBSITES: Hotels do realize that their "fees" are a bit over the top at times so they will offr incentives to minimize these costs through package deals. Whether through third-party websites such as Expedia, Hotel Tonight or operator websites such as Marriott or Starwood, there are deals to be made and with those deals, the ability to get some of these "for free" amenities thrown in such as a welcome drink, complimentary airport transfers or free Wi-Fi (this should really be free anyways).

If you've only used what you have paid for, but STILL get stiffed with a bunch of ridiculous charges, what should you do? Should you shrivel up in a ball of shame and accept the charges? Or stand up for what you believe in and fight to take these charges off? Well, a little bit of both actually.

Hotels have become pretty good at reading guest lies. Like, "I didnít mean to watch that $29.99 adult movie" or "My travel agent didnít tell me that I have to pay additional room tax?" So guests should be more calculating about what they are actually arguing about. Thatís not to say that $1 for a newspaper is not a relevant argument but make sure that you genuinely didnít read the newspaper. And definitely don't hold the crumpled up USA Today in your hand when you are asking for the charges to be taken off).

Hotels will more often than not take off the charges that a guest truly did not receive the services for. When it comes to charges such as a resort fee, airport transfer charges, Wi-Fi charges, a hotel expects that a guest has done their homework and understands what services are free and what are not. Sadly, this is the reality for the hotel business and the more grand the service is, like an airport transfer, the less likely the charges will be removed.

Nonetheless, you should not pay for ANY service or product that you did not use--like parking, minibar, in-room safe etc. You have a right to claim back any charges for these amenities if you did not use them.

As mentioned before, you should ask any number of questions so that you have peace of mind about your final bill. If a hotel is smart, taking off genuine charges that should not be on the bill will ensure a more long-term customer than upsetting one (and many more) for life over a dispute.

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Is honesty the best policy?

Where is the line between being honest with your guests and holding their hands? Letting them know what's complimentary and what incurs a charge would be a simple matter to include in your hotel app or hotel website room info page.

However I would have thought it common sense that you can't just take the towels and the bathrobes form the room. Why don't they take the TV and the pillows as well? ;-)

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