Hotels rival the cable companies when it comes to deceptive pricing.
In many cases, they advertise prices that leave out not just taxes but mandatory fees that should be shown as part of the per-night prices.
Usually, these are so-called resort fees, daily charges that cover amenities like pools, gyms and wi-fi service. The problem is that guests don’t have the opportunity to opt out of these charges. You may never use any of those amenities, but you can’t not pay for them.
Hidden fees are also one of President Joe Biden’s targets. That’s a smart play by the president because while the Republicans might disagree with him on pretty much everything else, it’s a bad political look to argue in favor of hidden fees that consumers generally hate.
In October Biden spoke about hidden fees broadly, specifically calling out hotels.
“One of the key things I’ve asked the [Competition Council] to take on was the unfair hidden fees known as “junk fees” that are taking real money — real money — out of your pockets, real money out of the pockets of American families,” he said.
“Things like, as been mentioned, surprise banking overdraft fees, excessive credit card late fees, hidden hotel booking fees, or those huge termination charges to stop you from switching cable and internet plans to a better deal. Surprise charges that companies sneak into bills because they can.”
Image source: Marriott/TheStreet
How ‘Hidden’ Resort Fees Work
Normally, when you book a hotel room, the booking platform shows a per-night price. If there are mandatory resort fees on top of that initial number, you generally don’t see the full price until you reach the checkout screen.
In some cases, you don’t even pay the resort fee when you book and pay in advance. Sometimes, you ostensibly can pay in full for your room, only to arrive at the hotel and find out you’re not really paid up because you have to pay these daily added fees.
Biden addressed resort fees during his State of the Union speech.
“We’re going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill. Those fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts,” Biden said during the address.
No actual legislation has been passed to force hotels to make any changes, but Biden has ratcheted up public awareness of this practice.
Marriott has made changes that the president will celebrate — but the hotel chain did not do so for benevolent reasons.
Marriott Moves to Full-Price Disclosure
Marriott later this month will make a large change to how it displays prices, according to a new report from View From the Wing.
“The first and most prominent price for a hotel that Marriott displays will be the price inclusive of resort or destination fees, so when you search the Marriott website you won’t be duped into thinking a hotel is cheaper than it is, only to see disclosure of a higher price at checkout,” the website reported.
“The change will occur starting in mid-May, expected between May 15 and 23.”
Marriott made this move because it legally had to. The hotel chain in 2021 settled a lawsuit over resort fees filed by the state of Pennsylvania. That agreement required the company to make this change.
“All rate displays have to include the total price of a reservation — and it has to be the most prominently displayed price. Call-center agents have to quote prices inclusive of fees, too,” the website added.
This change applies only to Marriott channels. Third-party sites like the ones under the Booking Holdings (BKNG) – Get Free Report umbrella will still continue to show prices in ways that do not equal Marriott’s new transparency standards.