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A New Low in High Hidden Fees

Just when you think that hotels have gone about as far as they can with dishonest mandatory-fee pricing scams, you hear about some hotel that manages to pile it on even higher than usual. This latest revelation comes from a reader in Norway, who reported on how a supposedly “including all fees and taxes” Caribbean hotel stay he bought through Expedia morphed from an advertised price of $86.60 per night to $126.60 per night. Here’s the story.

The base price for the seven-night air-hotel package was $1,553.40. The Expedia price summary noted, “All prices include taxesand fees,” and broke out that portion of the total as $394.83. Of the total, the base hotel rate was $88.60 per night or $606.20 for the week. But when the reader and his family arrived at the hotel, they were greeted by a receptionist bearing a wireless credit-card terminal and demanding an extra $266 before checking into their room. When asked to explain, the receptionist listed a mandatory “environmental” fee of $3 a night ($21 for seven nights), a government tax of 9.5 percent, and a “cleaning” fee of 10.5 percent.

But that math doesn’t compute. The net extra charge for the two add-ons, at 20 percent of $606.20, should amount to $121.24, which, with the $21 environmental fee, would come to a total of $142.24 in extras. “How did that suddenly become $266?” asked the reader, and the receptionist told him that the 20 percent was calculated on the basis of the room’s list price of $175 per night, not the actual rate he paid. 

Feh! That’s a new high in chutzpah, even for an industry renowned for sneaky tricks and deceptions.

The reader’s bad experience didn’t end with the price manipulation, but other misrepresenta-tions—the hotel’s location, the promised view, the room conditions—are all too common with beach destinations. The main conclusion I draw about fees is, simply, enough already!

Governments aren’t doing anything to stop mandatory-fee scams, so it’s time for the big online travel agencies and search engines to step up to the plate and accept their responsibility to display honest total prices. Expedia, Priceline, Kayak, and the rest of them can certainly do this; they already do it for rental cars. One of their small competitors, The Suitest, is already doing it for hotels, and they have no excuse for not doing it for their hotel and resort prices.

We don’t need government rulings. All we need is for the big OTAs and search folks to act like grown-ups and fix the problem.

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