CHICAGO (CBS) — New hidden fees charged by hundreds of hotels are stirring outrage for travelers, and the nation’s capital is even suing the world’s largest hotel chain for what it calls “straight-forward price deception.”
“If you don’t look carefully, it’s sticker shock when you check out,” CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg said of the growing practice of hidden “resort fees” and other added fees hotels are tacking on to guests’ bills.
The growing practice of charging guests “resort fees” has prompted the attorney general of Washington, D.C., to file a lawsuit against Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain.
“This is a straight-forward price deception case,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s office said in the lawsuit. “For at least the last decade, Marriott has used an unlawful trade practice called ‘drip pricing’ in advertising its hotel rooms whereby Marriott initially hides a portion of a hotel room’s daily rate from consumers.”
D.C. is seeking a court order to force Marriott to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms.
“We’ll obviously fight it. We think it’s wrong. It’s well-disclosed,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said.
Sorenson defended the practice in a recent interview with Linkedin.
“You’ve got resort fees in the hotel industry, you’ve got baggage fees in the airline space. None of us as consumers necessarily love it,” he said.
While airlines might charge additional fees for things which used to be free – such as checked bags, switching seat assignments or in-flight snacks – but those charges are optional.
Resort fees are mandatory, whether a guest wants the bottled water, WiFi, or fitness center access that are included in those fees.
The Morning Insiders found a $10 per night “destination fee” at the Westin Chicago Northwest in suburban Itasca. Marriott’s website doesn’t list what, if anything, guests receive for that fee.
On top of that, the summary of charges on the Marriott website doesn’t add up, showing a $101.74 charge for one night, $12.29 in taxes and fees, and a total of $124.03. That’s because the destination fee is not included until you click an arrow next to the summary.
“It’s a way for hotels to generate additional revenue,” Greenberg said.
Hotels use such fees so their base prices appear cheaper for travelers searching by cost. An initial search doesn’t mention such fees.
For example, the Radisson Blu charges a $25 “urban fee” which includes amenities like swimming pools. However, the hotel’s indoor swimming pool is closed for maintenance through July 29, so only the outdoor pool is accessible.
Michael Shapiro, a guest at the Radisson Blu, said the hotel should be more up-front about its fees.
“Build it into the price so you know what you’re paying,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Radisson chain said they don’t charge “resort fees,” but did not respond to questions about its “urban fee.”
A Marriott spokesperson said their fees are intended to add value for guests.