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Room Rate A Dream But The Fees Not So Much

Hotels rack their rates with ancillary charges

eTN Staff Writer  Apr 01, 2010

You've probably seen the commercial. A man is settling his bill at a hotel, gawks at an item on the invoice and says something to the effect of, "You charged me $6.95 for water? It says the water is complimentary." The front desk worker replies, "That's complementary with an 'e' - it complements the room."

These days, it's not unheard of for hotels to charge US$15 for a mini-bar diet Coke, US$40 for access to the gym, or US$45 for rush laundry service. But there's good news ahead: the extra charges are expected to decrease by six percent this year as hotels and resorts compete to attract guests.

Hotels are constantly updating charges, so do your research to avoid getting hit with an unexpected fee. Most fees are explained in room handbooks or on the hotel web site, but rarely are they brought to guests' attention, so do your homework. "Before you book, call a reservationist to ask about surcharges, and jot down his or her name," advises Dr. Bjorn Hanson, a professor at NYU's Tisch Center for Hospitality.

Often, third-party web sites are more up-front about hidden fees than hotels' own sites. highlighted a US$30 second-bed charge at a top Seattle hotel, for example. The hotel's web site did not, however.

City hotels typically charge per service, totaling up expenses at the end of your stay. Resorts, on the other hand, often have an umbrella "resort fee" that can range anywhere from US$12 to US$26 per guest, per day. This fee covers the costs for maintenance and services ranging from lawn care to parking. Also, don't assume that all properties under the same brand implement standardized fees. Extra charges are usually tailored to each hotel's needs.

With available amenities changing almost daily, hotels are constantly updating charges - like US$5 per hour for holding bags behind the front desk; US$12 a day for Wi-Fi; and US$1.50 per item for mini-bar restocking - that's in addition to what you pay for the beverage or snack - this is merely the charge to restock the frig. Can you imagine if your grocery store did that?

Many fees can't be removed from your bill, but hotels may be willing to eliminate certain charges, such as the cost of valet parking at resorts. If you're a loyalty-program member or a repeat guest, ask for a daily flat fee for faxes and other services. Finally, make sure to get a statement of your bill the night before checkout. That way, you'll have plenty of time to examine it carefully.

Hotels rack their rates with ancillary charges
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