Like skateboards and scooters, California has launched another fast-spreading fad: hotel energy surcharges. What started as a reaction to the energy crisis in California has caught on around the country. Major chains such as Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, and Wyndham are adding surcharges of $2, $2.50, even $3 per day to help them cope with what everyone hopes will be a temporary surge in energy costs.
What's a planner to do? You might think about not paying.
“I put energy surcharges in the same category as resort fees and coffee fees,” says James Goldberg, a partner with Goldberg & Associates PLLC, Washington, D.C. “Any fee that is mandatory in nature and applied post-amounts to an increase in room rate and, in my opinion and from a legal standpoint, that amounts to a breach of contract.” He advises planners to talk with someone in a decision-making position, such as a director of sales or general manager, and tell them you won't pay the surcharge.
“If the hotel says, ‘Our system won't allow us to delete the charge,’ say, ‘Fine. Reduce the room rate by the same amount,’” says Goldberg.
He advises planners to add two provisions to theirto prevent future surcharges and fees for any reason:
A provision stating that no fees will be incurred unless they are disclosed to and agreed upon by the planner.
A provision that says that the hotels will not apply any policies to the meeting that haven't been disclosed to and agreed upon by the planner.
The first should cover the full range of fees a hotel might apply. The second, he says, will help you avoid “policy statements that contain those little gems that end up costing you money.”