Hotel industry, listen up: Your annoying fees are infuriating guests.
The traveling public overwhelmingly thinks they’re dishonest, so while customers seem to grin and bear it, they feel ripped off. And if hotel executives aren’t careful, these fees are going to hurt the bottom line the end.
Sure, I understand properties charging fees are running businesses, and fees are raking in billions in profits, according to a study last year, authored by Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor for the NYU School of Professional Studies and the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. But the traveling public is starting to get wise to these shenanigans, and the acrimony being created now by charging ridiculous fees will result in lost business.
The Worry Over Fees
Fees make for quick, easy, and addicting profits guests are begrudgingly paying for, but once the hotel cycle moves into negative territory, those guests will look elsewhere. Plus, fees are simply dishonest. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be hiding them. Resorts with fees are like pharmaceutical commercials: They offer up a miracle cure, but the fine print reveals you’ll suffer from night terrors, irritability and indigestion. Well, that doesn’t seem so great after all.
Here is where you cite the airlines. They’ve successfully manipulated customers into accepting fees as due course. In fact, they are seeing higher satisfaction rates in 10 years as people have accepted their fee fate, according to J.D. Power. That’s a red herring and a trap you shouldn’t fall prey to. We need airlines in a way we do not need your specific fee charging hotel. They will, and are, going elsewhere to avoid your fees; though they still must typically take a plane to get there. For the record, I hate those fees too, but as a frequent traveler I typically avoid them.
Fees We Hate
Here are some of the fees people are angry over: resort fee, early-check-in fee, late-check-out fee, fitness fee, housekeeping fee, package delivery fee, in-room-safe fee, porter charge fee and mandatory parking fee—levied even when you don’t have a car.
Insane and obnoxious; these fees are simply wrong. It particularly offends me when a resort has the word ‘resort’ in it and then charges a fee to use the features they sold you on in the first place. As a guest, I am coming there because you are a resort and it’s offensive to charge me more money because I am coming to your property for the explicit reason you built the place. It's more aggravating when I am attending a conference at a resort and am forced to pay the fee for the ‘resort’ I will never use. You can’t have it both ways!
I have actually gotten people to avoid hotels where I have been subject to resort fees. Yes, you got my $25 per day, but it cost you several thousand dollars because I got your potential customers to go elsewhere. Sorry, you deserved it.
Most frustrating is how properties bundle in stuff no one needs or cares about. It's an embarrassing attempt to make us feel like we’re getting a good deal. We’re not. Caesars Entertainment, for example, bundles in outgoing faxes, newspaper, toll-free calls and a notary in their fee. Sounds amazing in 1996, not 2016. Then again, I have lost count of the times when I am at a craps table in Las Vegas and suddenly realize I need to get stuff notarized.
Of course you can dismiss me, but not Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, who is suggesting Congress draft legislation regarding fees. She calls them “a deceptive and unfair trade practice,” as she is seeing a significant rise in complaints. She is right on with that assessment.
Ramirez is calling for legislation against them, while the AHLA defends them as saying they are transparent during the booking process.
Whether they are transparent or not, they are there to hide the true cost of a hotel room. That is wrong. Hotels that have fees of the nature listed above— especially resort fees—are playing a psychological mind game against their customers. They know people will perceive those rooms to be less expensive then they truthfully are and banking on a subconscious reaction to book and overlook. This is the hospitality industry, not the psychological warfare institute.
That’s the real issue here: being dishonest with guests and making them feel like there are being nickel and dimed. You create acrimony in an attempt to scrape a few more dollars from your guest’s wallets. Lame.
I urge hotels to drop dumb fees immediately and compete in a way that improves the customer experience. That will allow you to promote premium pricing to generate well-earned profits, not one that incites guest anger the second they check in.
Do I have it all wrong, or maybe I nailed it? Let me know at [email protected] or on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn.
Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.