Lawsuit Alleges Daily Resort Fee Was Hidden From Room Rate at Booking
B enjamin Brin reportedly booked a stay of three nights at The Palazzo casino and hotel property in Las Vegas in June of 2014; but he purportedly claimed that the room rate of $209.00 per night did not include the resort fee of $29.00 per day — so the attorney who represents Brin initiated a class-action lawsuit filed in California which alleges that both The Venetian and The Palazzo hid daily resort fees from customers who booked rooms at those properties on the Las Vegas Strip, according to this article written by Hugo Martin of the Los Angeles Times.
“This rate is not the accurate quote of the nightly cost of the hotel per night,” the lawsuit contends. “Nowhere in the reservation system page, including the price, is the resort fee specified.” It was reportedly not until Brin received a reservation confirmation via e-mail message which indicated that the resort fee would be added to each night of the stay.
The room rate also did not include taxes and fees. Should that be the subject of a lawsuit as well?
I encountered this resort fee garbage when searching for hotel properties at which to stay in Las Vegas last year. I chose the Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino and reviewed my stay here at The Gate. I vehemently dislike resort fees, but I looked at the overall room rate; and after including all taxes and the resort fee of $22.40 per night, the room rate was still a respectable $76.16 — a room rate which I might have considered anyway even if there was no resort fee — although I would have much rather paid the $53.76 that the room should have cost me without the resort fee.
The resort fee included the following hotel services:
- In-room wired internet
- Fitness center access
- In-room coffee
- Two daily bottles of Monte Carlo water
- Daily newspaper
- Complimentary copying and faxing
- Boarding pass printing
- Free local calls
- 800 calls
Only the water, access to the Internet and the printing of my boarding pass were of any interest to me. $22.40 per night for those services is not worth it to me. I can purchase at least 20 gallon jugs of drinking water for less money. Some might argue that access to the Internet — which was high speed — is worth $22.40; but there were some infrequent noticeable lags in the service.
“However, I must say that at least you are clearly warned about the resort fee during the booking process; so you are not surprised with it once you get to the hotel property.” That is what I wrote about the Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino; but what about The Palazzo, which is the subject of the aforementioned lawsuit?
I decided to go through the motions of booking a reservation at The Palazzo. I arbitrarily chose Tuesday, June 2, 2015 for my stay of one night. I found a rate where if I booked early, I can save 15 percent off of my luxury suite — but that rate must be paid in advance; no refunds are permitted; and the reservation cannot be cancelled.
The rate I found started from $339.15 per night. I clicked on See Details; and a window popped up with this information:
Book Early and Save
With our Advance Purchase Rate, make your reservation at least 60 days prior to your arrival date and enjoy 15% savings on your suite.
Hmm…no mention of a resort fee. I then chose Select Offer and found that I could get a luxury suite with a king bed for $339.15.
Although it was in small type, the disclaimer was clearly visible:
Rates do not include a resort fee of $29 plus applicable tax per night, payable upon check-in.
I hovered the cursor over the little grey circle with the i in it, which revealed that the tax was $40.70 and that the total would be $379.85 — but it did not include the resort fee of $29.00, which would bring the total to $408.85.
All right — the type of the disclaimer was indeed rather small. Let us continue in the booking process. I clicked on the Book button, which led me to an area…
…where I could choose to upgrade the room or extend my stay — or both, if I wanted; but there was no mention of the resort fee here.
Without selecting either an upgrade of the room or an extension of my stay, I continued the booking process and arrived at the area where I was to enter information to pay for the room.
There is the disclaimer again pertaining to the resort fee, in small type but clearly visible — at least, to me anyway — but the total does not reflect the inclusion of the room rate, which is where the potential confusion can occur and which ultimately led to the lawsuit.
I clicked on the Terms & Conditions link; and towards the bottom was the following text:
Rates do not include a resort fee of $29 plus applicable tax per night, payable upon check-in. The Resort Fee includes:
Access for two to the fitness facility within the Canyon Ranch SpaClub®, in-suite internet access (WiFi or Ethernet), boarding pass printing, unlimited local and toll-free calls, daily newspaper, a complimentary coffee or tea at Café Presse, and one two-for-one drink coupon for well drinks, domestic beer or wine at any casino bar excluding The Bourbon Room (must be 21 or older to redeem drink coupon).
The Resort Fee is not reflected in the grand total quoted on your reservation. If you have questions about the Resort Fee, please inquire with the Front Desk Agent upon check-in.
In other words, the room rate and tax must be paid in advance; but the resort fee is not paid until I arrive at the hotel property?
I first found out about the lawsuit from this comment posted by Ryan Booth in response to this article written by Drew Macomber of Travel Is Free (it is not — with no apologies to George of TravelBloggerBuzz — and please do not ask “who is Drew”, as I dislike using parentheses but felt I had to use them here), which prompted me to post this article because I dislike resort fees even more than I dislike using parentheses and abbreviations.
Do not look for resort fees to disappear anytime soon — the reason which I posted in this article back on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 is that “Hotel fees — like ancillary fees for airlines — will not ‘check out’ anytime soon because people pay them.”
Would you have paid a resort fee of $5.50 per night to have stayed at a Rodeway Inn which charged a room rate of $36.00 per night — or any rate at all? Since when is a Rodeway Inn property considered a resort?!?
As I have said in the past, I am vehemently against companies that use questionable methods and practices to require you to pay extra — such as with resort fees at hotel properties, about which I have been opposed and advocated against for years. If ancillary fees and “junk fees” are clearly disclosed outright and allow the consumer a choice as to whether or not to pay them with no penalty, that is usually legal and fair. When companies sneak these fees into your bill or charge you without warning where you cannot decline, that is unprofessional; inappropriate; a betrayal of trust; possibly illegal; and a reason to not only warn other potential customers about them — but to also report them to the proper consumer agencies and governmental authorities.
According to an article I wrote back on November 28, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission of the United States finally took action against the practice of hotel properties in charging undisclosed mandatory resort fees to its guests. However, a petition was officially launched in early 2013 for the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit mandatory resort fees imposed by hotel properties unless they were added to the quoted room rate — but it unfortunately failed to garner the 100,000 signatures which were needed by February 27, 2013 in order for it to even be considered.
Should the Federal Trade Commission of the United States have pushed further to renounce resort fees as little more than as a scam altogether?
Charging mandatory resort fees after a reservation is booked is a predatory practice that is deceptive at best; and this practice needs to cease and desist immediately. In my opinion, resort fees are a method to artificially offer — and advertise — a lower room rate…
…but you can possibly reduce — or eliminate altogether — resort fees on your next visit to a resort property, as many other frequent fliers have successfully done in the past.
- Do not patronize hotel properties which implement a mandatory resort fee — especially if you will not benefit from it. These properties are typically found in touristy resort areas such as parts of the Caribbean, Orlando, Las Vegas or Hawaii — although they can be found almost anywhere.
- If the hotel property does disclose that a mandatory resort fee is charged and you really want to stay there, contact the management of the property and inform them that you will not stay at their property unless they agree not to charge you the resort fee. Although it may take some effort, be prepared to negotiate, as you might be pleasantly surprised at what you might be able to accomplish as a result; but enter into the negotiations expecting to get nowhere so that you are not disappointed — and have a Plan B, a Plan C and perhaps even a Plan D if you are unsuccessful in your negotiations.
- If you are informed of resort fees for the first time when checking into a hotel property, adamantly refuse to pay it. Walk out of the hotel property if the front desk agent refuses to oblige, or contact the corporate office of the lodging company of which the hotel property is branded to submit an official complaint.
You may also want to consider taking the following steps to help end this deceptive and sneaky practice of hotel properties charging undisclosed mandatory fees:
- Boycott hotel properties which impose undisclosed mandatory fees to its guests. Hit them where it hurts — in terms of reduced revenue. Vote with your feet and choose an alternate hotel property, if available.
- Alert the Federal Trade Commission of the United States of this practice by filing a complaint when reporting hotel properties.
- Spread the word about these rogue hotel properties and their unfair policies to family, friends and colleagues. Encourage them to join you in the boycott, file complaints to the Federal Trade Commission of the United States, and spread the word to their families, friends and colleagues.
There is no reason for you to be forced to pay for something you did not use — let alone be unfairly charged additionally after you already paid for it or reserved it.
Unfortunately — unless you stay at a hotel property located off of the Las Vegas Strip — it is difficult to avoid paying the resort fee charged by hotel and casino properties, as many of them not only charge a resort fee but also disclose them similarly to The Palazzo…
…and yes, I agree that not clearly including the room rate in the total displayed in large bold numbers can be potentially misleading at worst and that the practice of disclosing them should be significantly improved; but with the disclaimers — I found at least two of them — informing the customer that the resort fee is not included in the room rate, I unfortunately do not believe that Benjamin Brin has a case.
The photograph displayed at the top of this article is of the Las Vegas Strip at dusk, facing northward. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.