Washington, D.C. is Suing to Stop Ridiculous Resort Fee Pricing Practice
“Resort fees” are some bullshit.
If you’ve booked a hotel in the last few years, you’ve probably encountered the dreaded resort fee. If not, this is how it works: Your hotel room rate is quoted at, say, $150 per night. But in addition to taxes, the hotel tacks on a “resort fee,” maybe $20, maybe $35, which it says covers your use of various amenities — the pool, the gym, the landline telephone, what have you.
There are some much-detested fee practices I am prepared to defend, such as airline fees for the first checked bag. But for an additional fee to be defensible, it has to be truly additional: You need to have the option of declining the feature and not paying the fee. A resort fee doesn’t work like that: It’s charged whether or not you use any of the amenities the fee purports to cover. Since it’s a mandatory charge, it’s an integral part of the room rate and should be quoted as such; otherwise, the hotel is misleading you about the price at which it will rent you a room.
Now, the District of Columbia is suing Marriott over exactly this issue, saying Marriott’s resort fees violate the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Marriott is the largest hotel operator in America, but it’s hardly the only offender on the resort fee front — in fact, Marriott’s properties within the District do not charge the fees, and D.C.’s suit is over how Marriott discloses its rates at properties located elsewhere to consumerslocated the District. But the fees have come to a number of non-Marriott properties in Washington, including the Grand Hyatt.
Of course, there aren’t a lot of resorts in D.C. But resorts had such success with the fee gambit in markets like Las Vegas and Hawaii that hotels started tacking such fees onto rates at non-resort properties in major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington. In cities, the fees are called “destination fees,” and without lush pools to point to, hotel operators have had to get creative in their claims about what the fees are for.
In the case of the Grand Hyatt New York, your $30 daily destination fee includes the opportunity to tour the hotel’s roof, from which you can see the Chrysler Building, located across the street. It also gets you a book of coupons for discounted food at Grand Central Terminal. At the Park Central Hotel San Francisco, a Marriott property, your $44.46 daily destination fee entitles you to free notary services and a $5 discount on a hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus tour.