Things That Tick Me Off: Vegas “Resort Fees”

220px-NYNY2010220px-Wi-Fi_Logo.svgYes, it is time for another installment of “Things that Tick Me Off,” the category where I allow myself that chance to vent about something that is so annoying that I must vent to retain my sanity. Over the years, I have complained about the mounting fees on planes and hotels (here and here). A particular pet peeve is the fact that high-end hotels routinely charge for wi-fi while lower priced hotels do not. When I stayed overnight in Vegas, I encountered the latest scam by hotels – a bait and switch made possible by sites like Expedia. I stayed at the New York, New York hotel and it was my first encounter with the “resort charge” for “free wi-fi.” This followed an equally misleading notation about the Renaissance Hotel which not only did not provide free wi-fi in the room but my stay included the “disappearance” of my fitbit watch for good measure. When I travel, I often leave notes for myself in the future and anyone who may be interested. So here it is.

I had to book my hotel on the fly last week and specifically searched for “free wi-fi” among the better hotels. Expedia listed the hotel as “free wi-fi.” In fairness to Expedia, there was a small notation about a “resort fee.” After booking the non-refundable room and showing up at New York, New York, I was told that the resort fee is the cost of the free wi-fi. At $25 dollars, that made it one of the more expensive such charges. To make matters worse, it was incredibly and maddeningly slow despite the assurance of high-speed wi-fi. I fail to understand why Expedia allows hotels to list themselves as free wi-fi when they admit to charging for the service as a “resort fee.” It is merely a change in nomenclature and suddenly New York, New York can compete with honest hotels that actually supply wi-fi. It is really not the money. I largely travel on expense accounts or covered travel paid by others. However, it irks me to see these various charges. If the hotel wants to simply add the added cost to each room, so be it. Consumers can then easily compare hotels. After all, everyone is paying the resort fee since we were not given the choice. Instead, the room is made to look cheaper than it is while the “free” service is obviously not free.

200px-Expedia_logo.svgExpedia also allowed Renaissance to claim free wi-fi when it is only offered free wifi in the lobby of the hotel. It also somehow gave the hotel four stars which is rather hard to believe. A significant space in the bathroom shower was occupied by a large institutional looking disability/elderly seat attached to the wall and the bathroom had a foul odor like mold and sewage. The location was on a dark corner off the strip that was a bit creepy. We left at a run the next morning. However, shortly after leaving, I realized that I left my fitbit watch on the bedside table. I immediately called the hotel and was put through to security. Within minutes, the security manage informed me that the watch was gone. Simply gone. Poof. I have often marveled at how hotels disclaim any items that disappear in your room even when the only people in your room are the hotel’s own employees. Obviously, I was absent-minded to leave the fitbit watch in the room but one could hope that such obviously forgotten items would not be immediately claimed as swag. Then again I suppose what is briefly forgotten in Vegas stays in Vegas. I am out a fitbit which is not a huge deal but the stay at Renaissance is something I would not wish on anyone.

In the end, I felt a bit miffed at Expedia on its star rankings and facilitation of these misrepresentations on such things as wi-fi. I did stay at a hotel that I would recommend however for what it is worth. For my speech and the hiking at Zion, I stayed at the St. George Courtyard. I have always found Courtyards to be reasonably priced, clean, and honest. Free wi-fi was actually free. The staff was hugely helpful and friendly. No frills to be sure but we left with an entirely positive experience, including staff that seemed to have the sense of humor missing with folks at New York, New York.

IMG_0597Of course the greatest recommendation from the trip is a long visit to Zion National Park which is better than advertised and has no hidden fees. It is truly the grandest level of accommodation that you could possibly hope for in a vacation.

So that is my rave. Take it for what it is worth . . . there is no blog fee for this free advice.

48 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off: Vegas “Resort Fees”

  1. Things that tick me off, paying a convenience fee to print your own tickets from a ticket broker like TicketMaser.

  2. A newspaper in Nevada came to the motel where I do house cleaning and inquired about fees. We had to be mum. What you people do in your hotels is your own business. Privacy. Mums the word. Unless you are a Brit and then that might mean mom is the word.

  3. No sympathy here. About 7 years ago, drove from LA, and every 10 mi, The Orleans advertised on billboards along I-15, “$29.95 rooms, Sun-Thursday” [very small print, “depending upon availability’] Sounded great.

    Get to the Front Desk. No Rooms at $29.95, because, “we don’t need to make any available!..the room is $95.00. U want the room or not?”

    “$95.00! OK. I guess” [it was 8 pm, and we were exhausted]

    “So that is $120…$95 plus the resort fee”

    “What is the resort fee for?”

    “Soap, towels, sheets on the bed”

    The whole advertising was an interstate fraud, but, Hey, Jonathan, it is Vegas where EVERYTHING is a fraud.

    Today, we use our smart phone to shop around before we pick a hot. Use Hotels.com, Expedia, etc. Get the best price, THEN call the front desk and get a better price.

    But, look at it from their side. Airlines compete on price, but it is not the price you pay. You pay extra for mandated taxes and the costs they charge when you board, e.g., now carry-on is extra. But, look on the bright side–you got an INSIDE seat

  4. These resort fees infuriate me as well. It is the same thing the airlines did before they were required, by law, to present their prices as complete.

    Regarding things disappearing. I just stayed at the Memphis Downtown Sheraton. Besides a ridiculously long line upon arrival, it was a good stay. We had stopped at a Waffle House for the experience of eating at a southern institution. Notable was a sign on the door that said “Registered Firearms Only”) I picked up a souvenir Waffle House Mug.

    Upon checking out, I realized I had left the Mug. I called the hotel to let them know. The person in the that department said they would go to the room and check, and they would call me right back. They call never came. I called the next day, a different person said they would talk to to the person I talked to the day before and call me back. The call never came. The item was clearly there. Only their staff had access to it. What happened to it? And to your FitBit? Once you leave something at a hotel, it is my experience it it gone. Gone, gone. And clearly in the hands of the hotel staff.

    There are exceptions. I recently stayed at the Le Meridien Cambridge. I had left an important notarized document on the shared copier/scanner in the business center. I got a call from the staff the next day letting me know they found it and would I like them to send it to me. They put this original document in the mail and I received it two days later. A notable exception and one that was duly noted.

  5. That business about not being able to help with a left item is the one that gets me. My favorite was the car rental company, Avis. I was traveling a lot of work and one time forgot something in the car. I called from the airport and was told there was no way they could tell which car I had rented so they couldn’t help me find the item. I reminded them that they had no trouble figuring out which was my car if I didn’t have it filled all the way with fuel and billing my cc later. This got me no where. Apparently some employee theft is considered part of the compensation package, beats having to pay a living wage I guess.

  6. Jonathan, Here is the text of a blog post of mine -http://lorenberg.wordpress.com – from a couple of years ago on the same point.

    I sometimes wonder if those in the travel industry think we are that stupid or that we don’t pay attention. A couple of cases on point from our just concluded Hawaii trip. First rental cars. The Base Rate for our rental car was $475.00 but, are you ready, there were the following extra charges; Veh. reg. Fee &Weight Tax $12.10, Concession Recov Fee $52.77, Rent Tax Surcharge $33.00, Customer Facility Chg $49.50 and finally Sales Tax $22.49 for a total in extras of $169.86 or 36% of the Base Rate. Apart from the sales tax who knows what some of those terms mean but I suspect they are for items like rent. But think about it, when you go to the mall and make a purchase the merchant doesn’t give you price and then add on surcharges for things like rent, utilities or other costs. Why can’t the rental car companies quit the charade and tell us up front what it costs. I didn’t name the company as they are all the same.

    Now for the resorts – again I will not name the guilty party as they all do the same things. First we have the “Resort Fee” of $30.00 per day which included $25.00 per day for self-parking, yes it cost that amount for you to park your car. I was told that valet parking was $30.00 per day and I inquired if that meant an additional $5.00 above the self-parking fee but was told no, valet parking was an additional $30.00 per day or $55.00 per day to park. Hell, you can park in midtown Manhattan for less than that. And of course the valet’s had the closest parking leaving us paying customers to walk the furthest and in some cases upstairs. Now I just have a systemic problem with the “Resort Fee” concept. It seems to me that the basic items covered by this fee – like parking – should be included in the base room rent. Once again tell us what it costs and quit thinking that we are too stupid to figure out that things like the “Resort Fee” are just an additional rent. Oh, by the way I am Lifetime Platinum with this entity so did not have to pay it but Internet access was an additional $14.95 per day. No wonder guests were sitting by the Starbucks in the complex – Starbucks had free Wi-Fi access.

    So there you have it – someone bitching about having to spend twelve days in Hawaii. No, the golf was great, the weather was perfect and as I write this I am in my normal mild depression – happens every time I leave paradise. So Maybe I am being a little picky if so let me know.

  7. I often travel using points, and the thing that irks me about resort fees is that usually you can’t use points to pay them. A fee of $25 isn’t too bad, but I have seen resort fees as high as $95. Ouch. The way fees are charged does make it a bit trickier to navigate. One of my first questions when considering a hotel now is, what is the resort fee and what do you get for it? If the resort fee includes parking, breakfast and wifi for everyone in the room, then I’m a little less peeved.

  8. A few years ago, my elderly parents stayed in the Meridian in Miami. The hotel charged them $60+ for a couple of local calls and one to Jacksonville. When I found out, I called the manage and simply asked him why the hotel would thieve $60+ from two elderly patrons who are obviously not on an expense account and how he felt about it. He replied that it was standard practice. I told him I had the time and I would spend some of it smearing his hotel in the newspapers and media. He took off the charge.

    Thanks for the blog. Going public is the only defense against this thievery, and it is thievery.

  9. So the big banks and Wall Street rip the country off by the trillions and buy our politicians and we’re worried about extra fees? No wonder they get away with it.

  10. I totally agree with the resort fee ripoff. Sometimes cheap hotels are actually better than more expensive ones, and more honest. I left an iPod Nano in a modestly priced hotel in Moab. It took me a week to realize I left it. When we got home there was a voice mail on our home phone about the nano left in our room. They sent it to me no charge.

  11. It is not exactly thievery, it is more describable as fraud.

    There had better be the information of what you are going be charged for the services, and the fact that you cannot opt out of the services by staying there, or it is simple fraud.
    FTC sure, some kind of class action maybe, small claims by mail?
    Somehow this continuing illegality should be addressable.

  12. Good morning gentleman. It’s been a while. I would like to point out something from the point of view of the less fortunate. I read how these hidden fees etc. tick you off and rightfully so. It occurs to me that this is an even worse situation for those Americans who are financially on the edge and yet still find the need or the ability to travel. Their money is often their own money and their travel must be carefully planned. Added, hidden fees can be the difference between eating on their trip or not for such folks.

    Admittedly, most people who are really strapped will likely choose a lower priced, more straightforward option than the Renaissance (though after hearing of the conditions there; perhaps not so much) but America is blessed with a veritable cornucopia of choices as well as income levels so at some point(s) the axis intersect and issues can occur at almost any level.

    Legally; it would seem that hidden fees are false advertising which in my mind equates to fraud.
    Under Tort Law it would seem to be a breach of an implied contract created by the facility when they advertised their rates and you when you rented the room based on that advertisement.

    Politically; this is an example of the arrogance of the privileged class as manifested in a Fascist State or other Authoritarian State where there is a definite line between wealthy and poor and not asking the price is a demonstration of one’s absolute confidence in their wealth. Added fees; No problem.
    This also serves to intimidate the lower classes who; as I say; must know ahead of time the costs involved in everything they do.

    Am I incorrect; do you think?

    PS. Greetings Prof. I see you have been a busy person. Your name pops up all over the place. Bully Sir. keep up the good fight.

  13. Rule The First at my house. Never use a ticket or hotel broker. I always deal directly with the vendor, including calling the hotel reservation desk myself and talk to a human being. I do use the online services such as Expedia to scope out competitive prices before calling customer service, but don’t use them for actual transactions. Takes extra time, but has worked out well so far. Agree about the Courtyard. My experiences with them have always been positive–so far at least.

    My single best experience was when I took my wife on our second honeymoon. Actually, it was really our first, because when we got married, we were poor and in school, so we could not afford to go anywhere or miss work/school for several days. I called a non-franchise hotel in a resort town and after talking to a clerk, she put me through to the hotel owner himself. I explained what I wanted (five days) and about the twenty-five years belated honeymoon. When we got there, our room had been upgraded to a suite at no charge, and on the coffee table was a large fruit bowl with a bottle of champagne sitting beside it, chilling.

    Sorry about the Fitbit.

  14. Paul, I agree about the cheaper hotels. I frequently stay at a well established mid-range chain hotel. It is always very clean, no extra charges, free wi-fi, free parking and exceptionally pleasant staff. I couldn’t care less that some of them haven’t been updated in twenty years. They always return anything left in the room.

    A couple of months ago I stayed at one of the pricier hotel chains when the entire city was almost 100% booked. I left something in the room and went back to retrieve it later in the afternoon. They not only couldn’t find the item, but they expressed no concern or apologies.

    I’ll take pleasant “outdated” service any day.

  15. Regarding hotels, car rental , airlines , etc. For those of you who name names ….thank you for those who do not…. your advice is not very valuable if you do not specify who did the bad and who did the good

  16. Tom Wisdom wrote: “So the big banks and Wall Street rip the country off by the trillions and buy our politicians and we’re worried about extra fees?”

    Maybe Jonathan Turley should consider a run for office. I would vote for a man who fusses about a $25 resort fee. If he is that way about the small fees, then he will be that way about the big money. We need more of that attitude in government.

    I’ve never had a problem with Wall Street, but bank fees, yes. The real problem, however, are not banks and Wall Street, but the fat cats running big government. The politicians control too much money and buy favors wherever they can. We, the taxpayers, foot the bill.

    I came across yet another story of government abuse on a blog told by the person who did it. He reported that he regularly bought three airline tickets anytime somebody in the office needed to travel somewhere. The rules did not allow them to buy first class tickets, but through buying multiple tickets, he could earn status and get upgraded to first class. He likely was not the only government administrator to do this. I searched a bit and found that an audit of the Defense Department showed that between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department purchased and then left unused approximately 270,000 commercial airline tickets at a total cost of $100 million. The Pentagon never bothered to get a refund for these fully refundable tickets. Of course, we know that buying refundable tickets is more expensive as well. Source for this:
    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2005/04/top-10-examples-of-government-waste

    It seems to be a truism that if the party spending the money did not earn it, they abuse it. No private company would ever survive if it managed its finances this way. The government’s solution is always to raise taxes, but one day that solution will not be enough. We already spend over $200 billion just in interest on debt to China and other countries. That’s more that $600 per every man, woman, and child, and more than $2,000 per taxpayer, just for interest on unnecessary debt.

  17. Just wait, a bill before congress is to allow airlines to post fees without taxes and fees. Which can add about 50% to 70% of the ticketed price.

  18. When it comes to travel, my biggest problem is food, which today is not unlike smoking cigarettes. 1 or 2 won’t hurt you but the cumulative effect of daily smoking will kill you. Restaurants of all stripes serve only contaminated food, tainted with GMO, herbicides, pesticides, trans fats, preservatives, MSG, toxins and bacteria, nevermind the sugar, salt, and fat used to disguise cheap and inferior food. The excess thickness of the American backside these days is 2 inches, about the thickness of a slab of bacon. It’s why auto engineers have lowered seats to gain two inches of headroom. The seat in the last car that I had rented was so low that I needed a booster seat the thickness of a slab of bacon to drive comfortably. Steve Jobs didn’t die of cancer. He died of a contaminated diet, which began more than 30 years earlier when he was still a young man, consisting only of prepared and processed food. Even in his last days we saw him entering restaurants for regular meals. When it came to technology, he was brilliant. When it came to food, well, he just could not resist bellying up to a table where revenge of the minimum wage crowd finally got him. If someone is not aware of the dangers of restaurant food, I can understand patronizing these establishments. But I do not understand how the affluent and the educated, the ones most aware of the dangers in our environment, not just continue to patronize these joints but make no effort to lobby to make changes to improve food. These same people wink when another increased cigarette tax is suggested, but remain silent when it comes to the dangers of food. Or they lobby for full disclosure about resort fees, which can’t kill you, while dining on resort food that will kill you.

  19. I agree w/ everything Chuck said. Expedia is a great tool to scout the town. But, 80-90% of the time I then book directly getting a AAA rate, which almost always matches Expedia’s. I’ll book w/ Expedia if I know the hotel and they match the AAA rate. Marriott is the most consistent chain I have used. I was a road warrior for decades. I have stayed in thousands of hotels, motels, and TRAILERS! Oh yes, when you’re in a rural area, any port in the storm.

    Vegas started the resort fees ~10 years ago. They became the norm when the economy tanked. Vegas remains one of the hardest hit cities in this downturn. Resort fees, poor wireless, and no coffee in the room are my pet peeves. However, you do understand the reason. THEY DON’T WANT YOU IN THE ROOM. The money is made in the casino. They’ll gladly give you free coffee or adult beverages in the casino. It sounds like Jonathan is not a gambler. What Vegas has done in the last 20 years is make itself a superb dining and shopping destination. That helps, but the lifeblood of that city is gambling. I’ve made my donations and withdrawals. Anyone who says they always win is a lair. The Hotel @ Mandalay Bay is a nice oasis on the south end of the strip. The Belaggio is a go to place in the middle of the strip. Wynn’s properties on the north end are great. Wynn treats his employees like family. Having worked in the hotel business in college and early in my career, the key is finding hotels who treat their people well. He has longtime employees who can’t say enough about Wynn. There were massive layoffs when the economy tanked. Wynn has NEVER laid off an employee.

    Regarding the watch. That is totally unacceptable. When I worked @ the Drake in Chicago a maid would NEVER pocket anything. We returned property left for free, no shipping charge. I would write the GM of the hotel. You may not get compensated but that’s the info he wants.

  20. JT:

    I use the Wifi.com webpage/app to avoid these fees and find free hot spots. I’m rarely in my room while traveling so it works out for me. When I’m confined to the four walls, I just use my IPhone.

  21. On my last trip I stayed at one place that used the ‘resort price’ and I complained about it publicly so much they took it off the bill. I usually use TripAdvisor to find the places I want to stay because of the reviews. They give me a heads up if something hinky is happening, or the place has something special I should look out for.
    I am planning a big trip for the mid summer and free wifi is a must on all facilities. Like Chuck, I book with the facility directly.

  22. Another pet peeve,18% tax on your room in Chicago. Feeding The Dem Machine. It has a VORACIOUS appetite. When I travelled on business I was always conscious of price even though it was billed, now that it’s my dime, more so.

  23. Hasn’t anybody checked out the Personal Hotspot on your phone? Make sure you have an ample data plan and it connects devices such as iPads or other wifi enabled equipment. That way you don’t have to pay the connection fees at hotels.

  24. As one who has spent more than 4000 nights in hotel rooms throughout my life, I empathize with you Professor; Greatly so.

    I remember, decades ago, when purity in advertising meant that Macy’s, having pants it sold last year for $11.99, was taken to court and plead No Contest when it settled for re-pricing the same pants the following year at $29,99 and marking them 1/2 off.

    That case had much more convoluted dynamics of purity than this one here.

    I had soap the size for munchkins.

    Despise toilet paper as thin as sheets for sleeping amoebas.

    Wish to kill the gremlins who make remote controls work contrary.

    Want to hunt down and tie up the maids who sinister ways including calling my room at 7:30 a.m., to wake me up, so that they can clean it before their 8 o’clock break (regardless of the fact I landed at 4 a.m.).

    Wish to torture the nefarious computer viruses that juxtapose my reservation to have a date of 2041; as the clerk behind the desk says “its not in the computer – and I’m sorry, the entire town is sold out for the ventriloquist convention”.

    As for me, I utilize Hotels.com with regularity;
    and then call the specific hotel to try to make a better deal.

    Being a Gold Member (easy to do) gets them to take my call and bend over backwards to lobby upon my behalf.

    Hotels.com uses guest surveys to rate hotels (average of all is 3.9)

    Thank you for noting this;
    and I hope the Hotel Lobby is now pissed off greatly.

    It’s about time they felt what we go through.

    Frustration

  25. Paul:

    I was at a tech seminar on Monday and was told that lawyers overwhelming use smartphones and Apple “I”s in particular. Must be an occupational thing.

  26. I’ve been staying at La Quinta. I once left a jacket behind. I stopped back several days later and picked it up. They don’t automatically send stuff to the person’s home, although they would have sent it to me if I had asked. Guess they’ve had a problem with Mrs. Smith not being on that trip and they don’t want Mr. Smith to get in trouble, they want him to come back.

    Problem: I was staying a week. I reserved the room at one rate and received that rate for the first night only. Subsequent nights were charged a much higher rate. Because of the way the bill is presented, the higher charges weren’t obvious.

  27. mespo – for awhile everyone was on Blackberrys. However, they are becoming dinosaurs. Since the Samsung Galaxy rates better than the iPhone as a smartphone and Android appears to be the better OS, you would think they would go to at least Android, if not Samsung. However, my guess is that most attorney are not tech savvy and all their buying is done by the managing partner or the business manager for the firm. They get some kind of group buy.

  28. BK, When I travelled w/ dogs LaQuinta was my go to place. I sometimes brought my dog on surveillance. Great cover. Trade secret revealed.

  29. Mr Keebler wrote: “Hasn’t anybody checked out the Personal Hotspot on your phone?”

    That’s tough when traveling internationally where data plans are expensive. Wifi in the comfort of your hotel room is a great way to get a break from using up your cellular data plan.

  30. david, We had spotty service in Italy. The only US quality service we had was @ a 5 star place in Rappalo.

  31. Geeze Dave,

    I thought we were talking the US. Now, if you want to talk international. I suggest getting a burner phone to get there so someone has a number to reach you in case of an emergency. And pick up a phone while you’re in a foreign land. I also don’t recommend you take any personal computers that cannot be wiped clean before returning to the US. If you’re not aware HSA has the right to download any and everyone data upon entering the US borders. Just an FYI.

  32. Nick… exactly my thoughts. I have to buy a burner phone and wipe my computer? I don’t think so. I always bring my computer, an external hard drive for media (photos & videos), and I always bring my personal phone. I have been fine with making calls and texting, but the cost for data is very high, so I like the wifi connections at the hotel. I can download maps and use my phone for navigation without using international roaming data.

  33. I suppose you have no problem with police officers downloading your data either? So much for my expectation of privacy if your people that you support get elected.

  34. And don’t forget, anywhere within 100 miles of the US border, you can have your devices searched without your consent. I think this still the law.

  35. Keebler – I personally am against the police downloading data, but I have nothing to worry about anyway.

  36. I really don’t think I have anything to worry about. But in the same breath, why should I surrender one right when the government is taking away other?

  37. Keebler, I was just bustin’ balls. I’m w/ you 100% on our computers being private. We rightfully complain about our erosion of rights in the US. But, I can think of no other country w/ a better record. That said, we are drifting backward toward the abyss.

  38. Mr Keebler

    One way to avoid the concern you have with police downloading your information from your computer, such as you mention at the US border, is to use the Encrypted File System that many operating systems have available.

    I believe you cannot be compelled to provide your password to them.

  39. Actually Darren,

    I do have layers of encryption of my cellphone. After 5 sec of inactivity it locks automatically.

    I recall a person being detained by the HSA, DEA until a password was provided. They were released after the password was hacked.

    Anyone that has ever used a smartphone for banking is a target. That’s one of the problems with turning cellphone in.

  40. to be honest it is much cheaper to call the hotel itself for cheaper rates. Online accommodation are much higher then hotel rates. I worked for hotels for a long time and I would see that people are paying 50-60 dollars more than the hotel’s rate.

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