NEW YORK (MainStreet) A mandatory fee for a "free" breakfast. Minibar "restocking fees." Early check-in fees.
The list goes on, Hotels, in the past few years, have become intoxicated by silly greed pills that have prompted them to pile on fees that unsuspecting (and docile) travelers pay.
Know this: dig your feet in and in a loud voice at checkout question the silly fees, and they will come off.
For instance, publicist Richard Laermer said that what fries him are early check-in fees charged, he said, by a growing number of Los Angeles and Manhattan hotels. When the official check-in is 4 p.m., show up at 1 p.m. and it's increasingly likely that, yes, the hotel can accommodate you but at a price - sometimes $20, occasionally as high as $50.
Other travelers said that these fees have become a norm in Las Vegas.
Note the illogic of the greed: the room is available, it's empty. Why charge at all? Because, apparently, some hotels believe this is found money that should not be ignored.
In Laermer's case, incidentally, he said he never pays those upcharges and almost always gets the room early anyway. How? He sweet talks the clerk, throws in that he is a regular visitor to XYZ, and, said Laermer, he is never turned down.
Paige Ring, the shopping editor at alphacityguides.com, has a yet more outlandish charge: the minibar restocking fee. She explained: "We all know that the Toblerone in the mini-bar is going to cost 12 bucks, but what most people don't know is there's often a restocking fee to put a new one in, essentially boosting that price to $17-plus at some hotels."
Word of advice: ignore the minibar. That's a fast track to savings and, unfortunately, not all hotels will waive the "restocking fee" when a guest protests, Surely, paying $5 to restock a $5 item you just paid $15 for is a clearcut case of adding insult to injury.
Blogger April Thompson, who posts at AbsoluteTravelAddict.com, pointed to hotel WiFi charges - as high as $25 per day, frequently for tediously slow connectivity - as her pet peeve of a stupid charge.
But Thompson offered a workaround: join the hotel loyalty program and WiFi may be free. That's true at Kimpton, Fairmont, Omni and Wyndham, among others.
Business coach Jennifer Martin said she hates getting charged for USA Today - now $2 per day. "Since when I travel on business I rarely have time to keep up with my e-mails, being charged for a newspaper I don't want is offensive." Her tip: howl at checkout. Most hotels will reverse the charge.
Kat Brooks - an author who has traveled extensively with Mr. Pish, the traveling terrier - said the charge she hates is $5, sometimes as much as $15, for use of the in-room safe - "whether I used it or not."
She added: "If you did not use the safe, you could have the fee removed, but they aren't really upfront about that."
Ring also shined a critical light on "resort fees" - typically $20 and up per day. For what?
"Hotels claim these cover the amenities such as health clubs and even bottled water," said Ring.
She added: "Some hotel front desks have the ability to waive the fees, especially if you explain that you won't be using any of the facilities. I've had a couple of South Beach hotels waive the fee since I was there for business and wouldn't be using the beach facilities."
Sometimes you have to dig in to beat the bogus charges. Roswell, Georgia attorney John J. Scroggins said that he stayed at a Memphis hotel that slapped a $9 "Service Fee" on top of the room charges. When he asked at the front desk, the clerk refused to delete it.
So Scroggins called a manager who told him the $9 was for the "free" breakfast and also for maid service.
Scroggins counterpointed that a $9 breakfast is not "free" and also a clean room is an expectation of any hotel guest. "Then he told me it was for a gratuity for hotel staff," said Scorggins. "I told him I preferred to handle my own gratuities, and he told me that this was a standard charge of a high end hotel."
Scroggins said it took him three phone calls but, finally, he got credited for the $9.
Why are hotels doing this? A big reason is that they have been seduced by TripAdvisor and, when competitive hotels are priced, nobody wants to lead the pack. A way to score better is to price the room as low as possible - and make up for it with the growing list of add on fees.
Yes, that is playing guests for suckers - but protest and, usually, most of the silly fees will vanish.
And you can always do what Scroggins did: he excoriated the Memphis hotel by name on TripAdvisor, which brings it all full circle.
--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet