Traveling on business? Get ready for absurd new hotel fees

It's very tempting to get beyond videoconferencing and see your customers, clients and co-workers in person. There may, however, be new annoyances since you last traveled.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

One fee covers your in-room safe and your mini-fridge. No, not for any items that might be inside. Just for the pure existence of a mini-fridge in your room.

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If you have one more eight-Zoom day, you'll quit your job and zoom off to Tahiti.

If you have any more back-to-back-to-back Microsoft Teams meetings, you'll ululate for three days straight.

And what about all those clients, customers and co-workers whom you haven't seen for years? Surely you'd like to get together with them and do the normal businessy human things you used to.

Airlines realize that business travel will return only slightly more quickly than economy seats wide enough for the average human.

Hotels, however, have taken it upon themselves to prepare in the sort of way airlines have loved for so very long.

With sneaky, irritating and sometimes plainly offensive fees.

The most familiar, of course, is the resort fee. This might roughly be described as a small grift from the hotel -- I'm sorry, I mean small gift -- because it provides you with things such as a gym. Or, perhaps, no gym at all.

I have stayed in a Miami hotel that charged a $25 a night resort fee and offered literally no amenities other than a room and a human being on reception.

You might think that the pandemic would have encouraged hotels to dampen such instincts.

You might also think a mongoose is the perfect domestic pet. 

One of the more egregious recent hotel fees was that concocted by the Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas. Not only did it insist on a $19.95 per night resort fee, but it added a $3.95 energy fee. Yes, daily. Regardless of whether you even turned the lights on or not.

It's hard to forget, too, the Motif Hotel in Seattle. Its website explained that its $20 a night destination fee -- yes, a fee just for getting there -- covered your vanity mirror, your in-room safe and your mini-fridge.

No, not for any items that might be inside. Just for the pure existence of a mini-fridge in your room.

But now the Wall Street Journal reports that the fee-for-all is becoming even more inventive. Or, depending on your perspective, absurd.

It seems that MCR hotels, the fourth-largest US hotel owner, is operating a test. It's charging extra for, well, quite a lot of things that used to come under the category of "normal things I expect in a hotel."

Using the gym, for example. Or leaping into the swimming pool at certain times of day. I believe they call that dynamic diving. Especially if it's $25 for a dip on a Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps you occasionally enjoy the decency of a hotel letting you check in early so that you can enjoy your destination before you fall asleep. Well, at an experimenting MCR hotel, that decency will cost you $20.

Tyler Morse, MCR's CEO, offered this explanation: "Not every guest wants every product, and they don't want to pay for something they were never going to use anyway."

This is true. It's also true that guests don't necessarily believe amenities are there to be assessed by how much they're used. It feels like going to someone's house and they charge you for using their restroom. We are, after all, talking about the hospitality business.

How far, indeed, does this go? A tap water fee? Oh, I'm not kidding. It's not as if airlines haven't tried charging for water.

Naturally, MCR says its policy means room rates have been reduced. But that's exactly the sort of strategy heard from airlines as they began to charge more for baggage and even an aisle seat in row 27.

Airfares haven't gone up in 25 years. Gosh, but profits from baggage fees -- taxed more leniently -- really have shot up.

Of course hotels don't always have things easy. Times have been hard. Moreover, they don't pay their essential employees much and they're startled when, as of late, they can't hire employees.

Why, a guest at a Texas Marriott hotel recently claimed they were checked into a dirty room because the hotel didn't have enough housekeeping staff.

MCR's Morse told the Journal that, when airlines introduced baggage fees, customers finally accepted it as the norm.

Perhaps that's because they had no choice -- unless they were flying a rarity like Southwest Airlines.

The real problem, of course, for the business traveler is that these fees are often presented in a somewhat underhand manner. To navigate the nuances takes time, a luxury many business travelers don't have.

Soon, perhaps, some hotels will parade their new no-fees policy.

It may not be a terrible idea.

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