By: David M. Brudney
Member of Laguna Strategic Advisors

I have long been a proponent for hotels discontinuing drip pricing or hidden fees, rather instead building some or all of those ubiquitous fees into the room rate. Like many, perhaps even most guests faced with the check out bill, I resent being nickeled-and-dimed or being charged for facilities, services and amenities for which I never used nor cared.

“Resort fees” can range from $10 to $60 or more today. They can include access to a fitness center, spa, pool, and business center and daily copies of USA Today. Some properties’ fees may include Internet/Wi-Fi in-room, valet parking only, in-room safe, mini-bar, and bottled water. And let’s not forget the bed tax on top.

But hotel drip pricing practices have nothing to apologize for given all the new airline not-so-hidden fees. Oh, my word. My wife Karen and I booked a round-trip flight San Diego to Denver on very short notice to attend a funeral. We thought we had paid extra for seats with extra legroom.

Now I don’t fly as much as I used to so I’m probably coming across here as a real novice, someone really out of touch. Our seat assignments were for row six – – this aircraft had no first class – – but as we boarded I noticed a sign that read, “Extra leg room seats, rows 1-5.” We found our seats, and sure enough, they were the same short-on-leg-room seats found in most economy sections. When I asked why we paid an extra fee and wound up sitting in regular economy seats, I was told that every seat carried a fee – – all the way to the back of the plane’s last row, in fact, where passengers were charged $7.

We had already paid an extra fee for checking in our one piece of luggage. All passengers with any carry on luggage were charged even bigger fees. And those extra charges didn’t stop there. Forget about the complimentary pretzels or peanuts and soft drinks in-flight. Flight attendants came up the aisle with carts loaded with snacks and beverages, but the only “free” item was a small paper cup of water – – offered only after the attendant had pushed non-complimentary bottled water. The cheapest item on the cart was a bag of Chex Mix for $3.

Given the fees for check-in luggage, carry-on baggage, charges for all food and beverage, plus a fee for every seat on the plane, I had some anxiety about using the rest rooms! Would I have to swipe my credit card or would it take quarters?

If management of any airline had a think tank on ways in which they could optimize charging fees to customers on their planes, they could not have come up with anything more to add on our flight.

Yes, hotel operators seek any and all ways to add to the total spend and optimize revenues when and wherever possible. But from what we experienced on that flight to Denver, what would be comparable in a hotel would be a charge each time a guest would use an elevator, the shower, and/or turning on the TV.

Let’s hope that hotels never follow this lead by the airline industry.

I’m reminded of the story of a senior citizen couple traveling without a hotel reservation, getting late at night, searching for a motel where they can get a few hours sleep. Finally, they come across an upscale resort, checked in and went straight to their room.

Upon checking out next morning, the room clerk hit them with a charge of $450 plus tax.

Guest: “$450 plus tax? We only slept in the room for a few hours!”

Clerk: “I realize that, sir, but that price includes all of our world class facilities and amenities including access to our world class spa & fitness center.”

Guest: “That’s fine, but we did not use your spa & fitness center.”

Clerk: “But the point, sir, is you could have.”

Guest: “Still $450 plus tax?”

Clerk: “Yes, sir. It also includes use of our award-winning 30,000 square foot conference center.”

Guest: “But we didn’t use your conference center.”

Clerk: “But again, sir. You could have.”

Guest: “And you’re still charging me $450 plus tax?”

Clerk: “Yes, sir. Did I fail to mention our resort features one of the most renowned signature restaurants in California?”

Guest: “But we didn’t dine in your restaurant. We went straight to bed.”

Clerk: “Once again, sir, you could have!”

Reluctantly, the guest writes out a check and gives it to the clerk.

Clerk: “Sir, there must be some mistake here. You’ve written a check for the amount of only $200.”

Guest: “That’s correct. $200 for the room and I’m charging you $250 for sleeping with my wife.”

Clerk: “Sleeping with your wife? But sir, I most definitely did not!”

Guest: “Yes, but you could have.”

If anyone wants to know the name of that airline, just send me an email.

As Published