Connecticut Better Business Bureau warns vacationers to ask plenty of questions before booking a hotel vacation stay.
In a variation of fees imposed by airlines for extra baggage and in-flight meals, some vacationers are being charged between $10 and $30 a night for “resort fees” for internet access, use of gym facilities, newspapers, a safe in their rooms and more, regardless of whether they use these amenities or not. The fees are typically neither disclosed nor included in the checkout price on online travel booking sites.
Resort fees fall under a business model known as “drip pricing,” as described on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website:
“Drip pricing is a pricing technique in which firms advertise only part of a product’s price and reveal other charges later as the customer goes through the buying process. The additional charges can be mandatory charges, such as hotel resort fees, or fees for optional upgrades and add-ons. Drip pricing is used by many types of firms, including internet sellers, automobile dealers, financial institutions, and rental car companies.”
In some cases, the additional per-night fees were never mentioned at all or appeared separate from the quoted reservation price in online booking sites, and, according to the FTC, other consumers “…complained they did not know that they would be required to pay resort fees in addition to the quoted hotel room rate,” and only found out when they checked out of the hotel.
The FTC has sent a warning letter to 22 hotel operators, warning them that they may be engaging in deceptive advertising by not including mandatory resort fees when they quote a price.
Connecticut BBB offers the following advice to avoid undisclosed hotel resort fees:
Carefully read terms and conditions – When booking online, look for fine print which may disclose whether additional fees may be added to the per-night cost of the hotel room.
Contact the hotel in advance – After you have done your comparison shopping online, call the hotel directly to find out what additional fees may apply, and whether they can be waived if the amenities are not used.
Reconfirm upon check-in – Bring a copy of your booking receipt when you check-in and verify the total cost of your booking. It is much easier than trying to negotiate when you are in a rush to get to the airport when checking-out. If you are told that additional charges will be placed on your credit card, make sure the hotel customer service representative or manager understands your concerns and makes a note in your file if you wish to opt-out.
File a complaint – If you feel that the hotel failed to disclose mandatory fees, you may file a complaint at http://www.bbb.org, or with the FTC.