What If Other Businesses Surprised You With the Equivalent of Resort Fees?

“O ne charge I did not expect to see on my folio at check out was a $25 per day resort fee. Of course, I immediately questioned the charge, asking them what exactly it included”, wrote Angelina Aucello of Just Another Points Traveler when she stayed at a hotel property in California, according to this trip report which she wrote. “The friendly front desk agent went on to tell me it included an “array of benefits” including wifi, a daily hosted wine hour, a newspaper, in-room robes, etc. Not for nothing, but the benefits described are standard offerings at a Kimpton. Again, I was super annoyed.”

Not for nothing? Can you tell that she is from the New York metropolitan area — specifically in New Jersey?!?

Angelina was almost the latest hotel guest to fall prey to the surprise resort fee — almost — but she adamantly and steadfastly talked her way out of it, saving herself $100.00 plus tax in the process: “Although it was a friendly exchange (stern), It was a rather long and awkward conversation to be had. In general, confrontation is not my forte, but believed it was worth the fight because $100 is not pocket change to me.”

While most hotel and resort properties usually do not hide resort fees during the booking process, they also do not exactly emphasize the resort fee either, as evidenced in this particular lawsuit which alleges that the daily resort fee of one hotel property in Las Vegas was hidden from the room rate at the time of booking the reservation.

It can be especially insulting if what is included in the resort fees are amenities you already can enjoy at no extra charge as an elite level status member of a frequent guest loyalty program — such as occurred with Angelina.

I then thought to myself: what if other businesses surprised you with the equivalent of resort fees?

Airlines

I think I found a mistake fare — only $200.00 round-trip for premium class airfare between Newark and Singapore. Excellent! Let me book that…

…what?!? A carrier-imposed surcharge of $4,525.00? So my total airfare is actually $4,725.00?!?

Fortunately — for now, anyway — you know what will be the total cost of your airfare when you shop for it, thanks to the Total Cost Airfare Rule which became effective on Thursday, January 26, 2012; but that rule would be reversed with the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 if many airlines had it their way.

The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 defines “base airfare” to mean the cost of passenger air transportation — excluding government-imposed taxes and fees; and defines “covered entity” as an air carrier — including an indirect air carrier, foreign carrier, ticket agent, or other person offering to sell tickets for passenger air transportation or a tour or tour component that must be purchased with air transportation.

What does this mean for you? It means that the airlines want to go back to enticing you with unbelievably low airfares which could emulate mistake fares — only to surprise you with a plethora of fees when you are ready to book your ticket. One onerous fee — the “carrier-imposed surcharge” — is basically a change in airline vernacular from its predecessor: the fuel surcharge, which is essentially similar to the airline version of the resort fee in the lodging industry…

…and to complicate matters, those low airfares could be confused with mistake fares, which the airlines want increased protection from their exposure — and here are seven reasons as to why the death of mistake fares might not happen despite a change in policy from the Department of Transportation of the United States.

Internet and Television Retailers

Hmm…wow…only two dollars for that cable for my tablet? Excellent! I will just add that to my shopping cart…

…what’s this — a $25.00 fee for shipping and handling?!?

Wait a minute…the total cost of that cable is $27.00? Yep.

Again, there is a sort of “bait and switch” going on here. I can understand shipping, as costs to ship a product can tend to be expensive — but what the heck is “handling”? Does the warehouse employee juggle the cable around for a few minutes? Is it the time and materials needed to package the product before it is shipped? Is a handling the offspring of a full-grown hand?!?

I have long suspected that “handling” is another way to tack on a cost to a product without fully understanding what it entails while charging a “low low price” to entice you into buying it.

Even on television, that product which slices, dices, roasts, broasts, boils and broils for only $19.95 — enter the quick but low mumbles of “plus shipping and handling” — becomes significantly more expensive; and often the cost of shipping and handling is not revealed in the “infomercial.”

In fact — more often than not — you have a money-back guarantee on that product, which probably was little more than junk that did not work as advertised anyway; and you can return for any reason and get a full refund with no questions asked…

…minus the charge for shipping and handling, of course.

Is “handling” a euphemism for an empty or inflated charge — similar to a resort fee?

Supermarkets

“…milk…steak…orange juice…condoms…lettuce…tomatoes…bacon…motor oil…cookies…pretzels…bread — that will be $117.81 including tax. Will that be paper or plastic?”

“…but the total reads $142.81. Why?”

“That is our shopping fee.”

“For what?!?”

“We charge extra for use of the shopping cart; free access to Wi-Fi; 15 minutes in the health spa down the street; free conditioned air; and an energy surcharge.”

“…but I did not use most of that stuff.”

“Sorry, sir — everyone who shops here at the Lyin’ Lion is required to pay that shopping fee.”

Well — I finally found at least one industry which actually does not post an inexplicable surcharge to your final bill…

…at least, not at this time, anyway.

Summary

Carrier-imposed surcharges, handling charges, resort fees — these are three of what I consider to be vague garbage fees which companies tack on to justify charging you more for something you either never intended to purchase or use

…or have you accept paying for that charge without really knowing for what exactly you are paying.

They are also used to “unbundle” the cost of a product or service — either to avoid paying taxes on that portion of it; or to offer discounts on only the base charge but not the fee portion. Pretty crafty, eh?

I have no problem with companies profiting as much as they can from consumers — as long as they receive perceived value from the company in return. I still believe that transparency is important to build trust with customers; for if customers do not trust you, then they will be hesitant to remain customers. This article — written by me earlier this week — alludes to the relationship pertaining to transparency versus trust. Unfortunately, it is not only companies within the travel industry who practice what could be considered questionable — albeit legal — tactics to extract more money from you; and I am completely against resort fees and other similar types of charges because they do not provide value to the customer when purchasing a product or service.

Unfortunately, charges such as resort fees will not disappear anytime soon — and here is why

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “What If Other Businesses Surprised You With the Equivalent of Resort Fees?”

  1. Jason says:

    This happens every single day in this country…sales tax is not included on anything. How is that different?

    When you go to many other countries, the price on the menu is the actual price you pay. Wish that was the same here.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      It is not different in my opinion, Jason. I believe that sales tax should be included in the cost of goods and services.

  2. BothofUs2 says:

    I recently switched from sprint to t-mobile. On the final bill Sprint assessed me a $50 early termination fee, which I was aware of. They also assessed ‘taxes and fees’ on the early termination fee. Multiple calls and some heated discussions with Sprint could not remove the $13 something dollars of taxes and fees I was paying them on top of the early termination fee.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Mobile communications and cable television companies are some of the worst when it comes to charging random fees, BothofUs2 — but you never see or hear about them in their advertisements…

  3. Angelina says:

    Thanks for this post. The resort fee and lack of transparency in the hotel industry is just a fraction of the problem in America. You’re right, every industry out there is looking to “milk” the consumer, and it’s sad that people are afraid to stand up for themselves. I agree with your previous post, if people keep willingly (or blindly) paying these types of fees, they’re going nowhere. It wouldn’t surprise me if your imaginative supermarket example went into effect in due time either.

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