Nightmare on Hotel Street

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This is starting to feel like a horror movie, where just when you think the fee-and-surcharge monster is dead, it it comes back to life for one more swipe at hotel guests. And once again, hotel guests are beating it back with lawsuits that may not be lethal, but definitely have the potential to inflict damage on the bottom lines of hotels that charge these mandatory fees and surcharges. According to USAToday:

    Some chains are settling class-action lawsuits that allege the extra fees weren't fair because customers weren't told about them in advance. Customers get coupons for discounts off their next stay. Attorneys get big fees.

The article says those being charged include the nine-hotel Station Casinos in Las Vegas, which has already proposed a settlement; Stardust, Tropicana, and Circus-Circus, Las Vegas; Starwood (one energy surcharge suit settled, two resort fee suits pending); and Hilton (offering coupons to settle). Even some states are suing; Missouri got a $50,000 settlement check from Marriott recently after the state attorney general went after the chain, the article says. In an interesting sidenote, it says that Wyndham had so few takers on its $15 coupons from a 2002 settlement over energy surcharges that the company had enough left over from the $1.5 million set-aside to donate it to charity.

Planners, you really don't want your attendees to get nickle-and-dimed for everything from electricity to minibar restocking, do you? Here's a clause that can help. And here's more legal advice on the matter.

I'm sure the hotel industry's rationale toward instituting these fees hasn't changed since I first reported on it back in 2001--basically, that it's easier to take down the fees/surcharges when the crisis (energy costs, I guess hotel minibar restocking labor spikes?) has passed than it is to lower rates once they've been raised to absorb the temporary higher costs. But as hotels continue to shovel out the settlement shekels and legal fees, I can't help but channel Dr. Phil and say, "So, how's that working for you?"

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