Several years ago I was in Havana and a boy about 10 years old stopped me in the street and asked, “Hey, mister, how about a shoe shine? Only a dollar.”
I agreed, and he shined my shoes. At the end he said, “That’s two dollars.”
“I thought you said a shoe shine was ONE dollar,” I replied.
Without missing a beat, he said, “It is. Per shoe.”
Sometimes I think that if that boy ever made it to the US, he has a great future in the hotel services industry.
Because if the airlines are infamous for pioneering the adding on of fees for “extras” that were formerly free and/or taken for granted, like meals, checked bags, carry-on bags (Spirit), leg room, paper tickets, phone reservations and the like, the hotel services industry has flown with the concept and strewn hidden fees virtually everywhere.
Just walking into your hotel room is like playing a video game where your immediate vicinity is loaded with minefields to avoid. Only in this case the minefields include the “free” water bottle, “complimentary” welcome fruit basket, “free” cookie, etc., – all of which, you learn upon checking-out– were added to your bill! And if you actually look at the bill before you pay it and object, “Hey, you didn’t say you were charging for these things,” the hotel’s answer is, “Hey, we didn’t say we weren’t.”
I daresay the day isn’t far off when you’ll enter a hotel room wearing your Google Glass and run an app that simulates those infra-red goggles the military uses, only instead of spotting explosives, it’ll expose the hidden charges as you walk around the room: “Water bottle -$5. Opening mini-bar – $25. Shampoo: $3. Transporting towel to the pool area: $8.”
Having to put your guard up the second you arrive and be ever-vigilant about having your pockets picked at every turn seems anathema to the whole experience, and is especially egregious in what’s known as the hospitality business. Hospitality implies friendliness, cordiality and warmth, a place where you can relax and be taken care of, not taken to the cleaners. When you reserve a room, you should be entering a social compact, not entering an adversarial relationship called “Match Wits With Captain Sir Charge.”
It’s like the opposite of those late-night infomercials whose trademark phrase is “And that’s not all!” Only instead of throwing in extra ginsu knives, back-scratchers and whatnot for no extra charge, the hotels quote you a price and proceed to take away amenities you assumed were included. According to the AP article, some hotels not only charge for late check-out, now some are charging for early check-out. What possible cost the hotel incurs by you leaving your room early is a head-scratcher, unless they’re billing you for all the snacks you would’ve consumed in your room and been charged for if you stayed.
When it comes to piling on fees, resort hotels can even be accused of “double dipping.” Upon arrival, you’re often met by a friendly, smiling staff handing you a welcome cocktail. Because it’s a resort and you’ve already paid quite handsomely to be there, you take it for granted that it’s included in the experience. Likewise, the spa, health club, beach umbrellas, lounge chairs, pool… in short, everything that makes the resort a resort and justifies their high rates. Only, none of it is. More and more, it’s tacked onto your bill as a separate “resort fee” – typically $65 or so per day. Even worse, you’re charged for these amenities whether or not you use ‘em.
Phone bills are also notorious for padding in extra fees, but at least they’re incomprehensible, disguised as “FCC-something-or-other” so it’s hard to take umbrage. But being charged an “18% administrative fee” for the hotel re-stocking the can of Coca-Cola you took from your room’s mini-bar, for which you’ve already paid $5.00, is a rip-off everybody can understand.
We’ve come a long way from the days of “The customer is always right.” These days, more and more companies seem intent on replacing “customer service” with “customer service charges.”