Our Hotel Pet Peeves

My wife and I travel a lot, both for business and pleasure. And like most frequent travelers, we like to gripe from time to time about the sometimes-maddening travel process. And while most of our venom is reserved for the pains of airline travel, we also occasionally have issues with hotels. Here are two of our latest lodging pet peeves:

  • As far as I'm concerned, the resort service fee (also known as guest services fee, amenity fee or other euphemism) is the most counter-productive scheme ever devised by the hotel industry. (The exception, of course, may have been the energy surcharge some hotels tried to impose a few years ago.)

    Of course, I understand the rationale and economics of the fee: It's a way for operators to cover some of their costs; it sometimes ensures a gratutity for hard-working housekeepers; and it helps combat the perception of high room rates. It also completely alienates any guest upon which it is imposed.

    I recently stayed at a resort hotel in the Southwest for a three-day conference. Given that it was still high season, the conference room rate of $195 seemed quite reasonable. However, on top that, each day the folio also listed a $16 resort services fee, a $1.93 tax on the fee and a $2 suite attendant gratuity. Those items, plus $23.50 in taxes on the room, turned a $195 charge into nearly $240.

    What does one get for his or her $17.93 resort fee? High-speed Internet access, local calls up to 60 minutes, free toll-free calls, one pot of coffee daily, the local newspaper (not a national publication such as USA Today favored by most travelers) and entrance to the hotel's athletic club and its new water park facility. Viewed as a list, those items seem to have value, but only if you use them. I don't carry a computer but use a PDA and cellphone, so the telecommunications services were of no use to me. I'm not prone to use the fitness center and, like most people at the hotel, I was there for a meeting and not likely to while away the day in the sunshine on the lazy river attraction at the waterpark.

    On top of that, the hotel — at least the unit I was in — was shabby at best. It was dark, and the furnishings were outdated and in need of repair or replacement. The bedroom TV was a tiny model set high on the wall, like in a hospital. The unit had no hair dryer, personal mirror or safe. As a suite, it had a refrigerator, but it doubled as an honor bar so it was full. There was no microwave.

    Enough complaining. The message is that as much as travelers say they don't want to be nickeled and dimed at a hotel, they also don't want to pay for services and amenities they don't plan to use. Wouldn't it be better (except perhaps for the housekeeper) for the hotel to charge $225 or $230 a night for the room and then tell guests of all the free things they're getting?

  • My wife has a completely different issue with many of you hoteliers. She is a fitness fanatic and often will only stay in hotels with adequate workout facilities. Recently, she was in Kansas City for a meeting, and while the conference hotel had a fitness center (really just an exercise room, she says), the front desk agent told her that it doesn't open until 9 a.m.

    Like my wife, most guests are up and out the door by 8 a.m., so they need to have access to the facility early in the morning. And with the advances in locking systems, there's no reason why these areas can't be accessed by a guest's room key. According to Carolyn, her recent experience, while extreme, wasn't an isolated one. She's been in many hotels where the fitness center opens at 7 or 8 in the morning, still too late for most business travelers looking to work up a sweat before they start their work days. There must be a simple solution to this problem.

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