Resort Fee Scams: How to Beat Them
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Check out at the Boulders, a luxury resort in Carefree, Ariz., and you are in for a surprise: every day there is a $30 resort fee and that covers telephone, parking, Internet and spa access.
The fee is not optional. It is a mandatory burden tacked onto every guest's bill.
The Boulders is not alone. Across America and beyond, an ever growing army of resorts nick guests for resort fees of $20 and higher per night, usually for the same bundle of services: bad WiFi, the inroom telephone you will never use, parking (even if you don't drive), pool towels, access to a gym, delivery of a newspaper you probably do not open, and, well, the kinds of things you rightly expect at a high-end hotel.
Call this a sharply divided fight. On the one side are guests who - pretty much universally - bitterly decry the daily upcharge. On the other side are hoteliers who, off the record, also pretty much universally say they despise the resort fee, but they charge it because if they did not, they would boost their rates by the same amount and would therefore jump out at a higher price point than competitors who charge lower room rates. Everybody does it, they say with a wink and a shrug.
But know that - with pluck and grit - you sometimes can get out of paying those fees.
This is becoming a must-have skill, because resort fees are even starting to show up at big city hotels. The Roger Hotel, near Grand Central in Manhattan charges $22 per night, for instance. The fees also have begun showing up at hotels in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in other big cities where accommodations have little that is resort-like about them.
The big question: Is this legal?
The answer: maybe not. The Federal Trade Commission, a year ago, fired a warning shot when it told 22 hotel operators that they may be in violation of the law for "providing a deceptively low estimate of what consumers can expect to pay for their hotel rooms."
The FTC pointed a large finger at resort fees: "One common complaint consumers raised involved mandatory fees hotels charge for amenities such as newspapers, use of onsite exercise or pool facilities, or Internet access, sometimes referred to as 'resort fees.' These mandatory fees can be as high as $30 per night, a sum that could certainly affect consumer purchasing decisions."
Note: the FTC is not saying hotels cannot charge for such things. What it is saying is that charges have to be clearly disclosed, and frequently resort fees are anything but. Many hotels bury the fees in the fine print of room taxes and other items nobody really reads.