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Do travel companies charge too many junk fees?

Stoon/Shutterstock
Stoon/Shutterstock
Susan Jay regrets picking up the phone to make a call from Harrah’s Atlantic City. But she says she had no choice. Her cell phone wasn’t getting a clear signal.

When Jay checked out, she discovered three unexpected charges — one for $26 and two for $45.

Yep, you guessed it. Harrah’s charged her about $5 a minute for the phone calls, an unconscionable markup.

“After a heated discussion with the billing department, they removed the five-minute call for $26,” she says. But that left her with a $90 bill. And the casino wouldn’t budge.

“It’s not enough,” she says.

From Jay’s perspective, these charges are a pure money grab.

We can do the math if you want. The cost of providing phone service is negligible. Even with a 100 percent markup, a reasonable hotel guest shouldn’t expect to pay more than a few cents a minute at today’s rates. Most budget hotels offer “free” local calls for guests, which is to say, they include phone calls in the cost of a room (remember, nothing is really “free”). Some hotels even offer unlimited domestic calls.

So what is Harrah’s phone charge? Is it a junk fee or legitimate?

There are many well-meaning people — some of them reading this now — who would describe this as a legitimate fee, and free-market capitalism at its finest. Harrah’s is charging what the market will bear for phone services at its hotels, and if that means marking up its phone bills 3,000 percent, God bless the USA.

I take a different view.

Jay had every reason to believe her phone calls would be included in the cost of her room. After all, many casinos charge mandatory “resort” fees that include amenities that used to be charged a la carte.

It can be a little confusing — not unlike the tourist who flies once a year and feels broadsided by a baggage fee. For two generations, luggage was part of the airfare. And now it’s being “unbundled,” or removed from the base fare, with practically no notification (and no, saying “some fees apply” is not ample notice).

My view of junk fees — and, by the way, I’m right about this — is far more inclusive. If a fee isn’t adequately disclosed, can’t be adequately explained and generates enough outrage, let’s call it what it is: junk.

Back in 2010, I wrote a story about good airline fees. Yes, they do exist. Fees for optional Wi-Fi service or special gourmet meals come to mind.

To consumers, the rest are trash. Companies charge them because they can.

Here are the questions I ask before dispatching a questionable fee to the junk yard.

Does the fee in any way relate to the cost? Fees for confirmed seat reservations are a good example of junkiness. Giving a customer a confirmed reservation next to their three-year-old costs the airline practically zero. So why charge $15 for it? Because they can. That’s worse than garbage — it’s predatory garbage.

Is the fee applied consistently? Baggage fees are maddening to customers because they appear to be in no way related to the actual cost of transporting their luggage. For example, on fee-obsessed US Airways, my regulation-size carry-on bag costs nothing if I take it on the plane and stow it in the overhead compartment. Put it in the cargo hold, and I pay $25. If it’s my second bag, it costs $35, and if it’s my third bag it costs $125 — for the exact same bag. Unless, of course, I carry the right credit card, and then it’s “free.” What nonsense!

Does the fee give you something you didn’t have before? If a fee adds an amenity like in-flight Wi-Fi that wasn’t part of the traditional airline ticket, then it passes the junk smell test. But if it simply takes something away that was part of the deal, like a $90 fee to print out your boarding pass, then it’s crap.

I can already hear some of you say, “No, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t have to pay for a boarding pass or a checked bag. The dividing line between a junk fee and a legitimate fee is choice.”

Not really.

See, what’s “optional” to you may be “mandatory” to someone else. If I have to bring luggage on a plane or make a phone call from my hotel, then I’m going to get slammed with outrageous fees. I don’t really have a choice. You may think I do, but I don’t.

So, to say someone had a “choice” about bringing a bag or making a call — well, that’s applying travel industry logic to the problem of fees.

I won’t let you do that.

Alas, the travel industry is happy to take your money all the same, which is exactly what happened to Jay. She appealed to Harrah’s in writing, and received a terse form letter that said, “A decision was made that action on their behalf is not merited in the matter,” and apologizing “for any disappointment.”

Something tells me these meaningless form responses and the junk fees that inspire them will continue until guests like Jay take their business elsewhere.

Do travel companies charge too many junk fees?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • polexia_rogue

    did she call a number outside of the Atlantic City area? if so she needs to just pay her bill.d
    hotels have landlines and landlines do not have the same “unlimited-ness” as cell phones. case in point; my parents did not want to pay extra for “long distance access” on their landline so as the result my parents (in San Francisco) CANNOT CALL my grandma in LA.- two cities in the same state.

    i have road tripped across many states and seen many hotel phones they all say “if calling outside the immediate local area, a fee will ensue”.

    now if she WAS calling someone in atlantic city then consider my post null and void.

  • mythsayer

    $5 a minute though? The issue here is the cost per minute, not that there was one.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I must respectfully disagree on so many levels I barely know where to begin.

    Was the fee disclosed? Every hotel that I have been to has the phone rates prominently listed on the phone itself or an indicator where the rate information can be found. It boggles the mind that someone would claim that they didn’t know that there might be a phone charge for using a hotel room phone. And hotel phones, much like mini-bars are known to be notoriously expensive. I used to stay at a cheap Holiday Inn in Southern Cal. The rate was $1+ per minute. And this was around 2002. It’s like claiming you didn’t know that room service was expensive.

    Did the OP perform even the smallest bit of homework? Perhaps calling “0” to ask whether there was a charge and if so how much?

    The article further complains about lack of choice.

    See, what’s “optional” to you may be “mandatory” to someone else. If I have
    to bring luggage on a plane or make a phone call from my hotel, then
    I’m going to get slammed with outrageous fees. I don’t really have a
    choice. You may think I do, but I don’t,

    Mandatory? Really? How about walking outside and giving your cell a try? Did she inquire whether there was a pay phone? Travel (hotels, airports, etc.) is one of the few places that a payphone is likely to be found. Pay phones are infinitely cheaper than hotel phones. How about having the other person call you? I have yet to see a hotel which charges for incoming guest calls. Last year a client called me while I was out of town. We needed to have an emergency conference call with an investment group. A cell phone was not appropriate. Instead of me initiating the call and paying the outrageous phone charges, I had the client call me at my hotel. Free.

    A comparison with luggage fees doesn’t work for two major reasons. 1)There is no tradition of always including phone service in the room rate, some do, some don’t and 2) its painfully easy to avoid a phone charge. Admittedly on a long trip, not checking bags might be a pain, but in today’s everyone-has-a-cell-phone world, hotel phone charges are as easy to avoid as mini-bar charges.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Ok. I’m ranting today.

    The $90 charge to print a boarding pass is a money grab. Why? Its not so much the cost but that it’s a fee designed to take advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge or misfortune (e.g. you lost your boarding pass).

    That’s a very different class of fee than in-room phone charges, mini-bar charges, hotel pay-per-view charges, room service. Those are charges that generally occur because you made a stone cold sober decision to avail yourself of convenience or goodies that you know are expensive.

    You don’t need to watch pay-per-view. You don’t need to get a snickers bar from the mini-bar, and the chances of you needing to use your in-room phone are remote. Now, it’s convenient to raid the mini-bar, nicer to watch a movie on a 42 inch screen, order room service, and make your phone calls from your bed in your pajamas, but those are all extras. If they’re too expensive, leave them alone. Order a pizza, read a book, don’t take the minibar key, and get a stack of quarters for the payphone.

  • $16635417

    Also, some fees are designed to modify consumer behavior. For example, Spirit’s $100 bag fee at the gate is less about grabbing $100 at departure time and more about having customers pre-pay at time of booking or check in, for considerably less money.

  • sirwired

    While I agree that long-distance phone calls shouldn’t be free, a markup of AT LEAST 10,000% is beyond “steep” and well into “Bwahahahahahahah!!!! We hate our customers!” territory! I know my employer pays about one cent a minute for domestic long distance; even if Harrah’s gets a horrible deal, it can’t be more than three cents or so.

    That said, I’ve NEVER seen a hotel phone that doesn’t warn you right on the phone that all calls will be charged at Operator-Assisted LD rates and you should dial an outside operator to find out what those rates are.

    I always carry a calling card with me (an ancient MCI calling card that never expires and charges me 3 cents a minute until I exhaust it) for precisely these kinds of situations.

  • EdB

    I agree with everything you said in your post, but this one had me scratching my head,

    “A cell phone was not appropriate.”

    How is a call on a cell phone not appropriate? The quality of calls these days on cellphone, VoIP (i.e. Vontage), and landline are such that I doubt anyone could really tell the difference. About the only place I can see it inappropriate to use the cellphone is when you make the call from the bathroom (something someone at my work seems to think is fine – they have turned a stall into an extension of their office).

  • EdB

    I agree the rate is the real issue here. But because of this statement, “When Jay checked out, she discovered three unexpected charges”, it makes it sounds like she thought they would be free and that is what it seems people are getting hung up on (no pun intended).

  • John Baker

    I agree with most of what you said (and you said it better than I could have). As a society, we seem to have confused the difference between WANT and NEED. We want instant gratification on everything. She may have needed to communicate with someone but she wanted to communicate right then (instead of walking outside for a cellphone signal). I need to get my clothes to my vacation but I want to put them under the plane (as to planning ahead and shipping them etc).

    Under Chris’s definition, everything should be included and I don’t agree with that.

  • KaraJones

    Exactly. I was about to mention calling cards , too. It’s the absolute easiest way around this particular situation. You can still use the hotel phone, you can still make the call in your underwear, and it’s cheap.
    And I, also, have never seen a hotel phone (or a hotel amenity page sitting in the room) that doesn’t spell out the phone charges.
    So, unless the OP’s calls were to another phone in Atlantic City (in which case the calls should have been free), she knew better and had options.
    That doesn’t make it right for Harrah’s to charge that kind of markup, but that’s not the point in question here.

  • Cybrsk8r

    But I’d be careful. Don’t assume the hotel won’t try to boar-hog you for that call to the 800 number on the calling card.

  • Justin

    I hate to sound coarse here. However, “A fool and their money are soon parted”.

    Everlasting piece of advice: Never assume, Always ask.

    Here we have a piece of caveat emptor (buyer beware). Assumed, but didn’t ask, now stuck with the charge. Sorry, but while the fees may be outrageous, all the headache was avoidable with a few minutes of due diligence. ASKING!

  • Justin

    +1.

    Pay to play charges A.K.A luxuries of convenience.

  • Justin

    No one in their right mind defends the rates charged. The problem belies the woman assumed and never asked. It’d be one argument if misled. She simply assumed and now bears the cost.

  • Justin

    Maybe a Sprint User. Shakes head. I have Sprint and the coverage is oft less than stellar. I’ll plead the 5th on why I’m still a customer.

  • Alan Gore

    “Pretend the hotel phone is radioactive” is one of the oldest pieces of travel advice there is.

    For people in the OP’s situation, the best alternative is Skype. It will install on any smartphone and can be used anywhere you have WiFi. So in her situation, and assuming no room WiFi, a trek down to the lobby could have avoided all of those fees.

  • ChBot

    $26 for a 5 minutes call is steep (you could almost have called to the moon for that price), but I didn’t read in the article what the $90 were for and therefore can’t determine if she was right to fume about it !

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Just a comment on the comments. I think it’s great that so many of you take the time to read the fine print and do all the smart things that good travelers ought to do. But can’t we agree that those of us who don’t know any better deserve some compassion? Don’t they need someone to stand up for them when no one else will?

  • mythsayer

    Attorneys like their landlines for conferences, etc. Courts “require” you to call in a landline if you do a telephonic appearance although I don’t know anyone who follows that rule religiously. The legal field is convinced your phone WILL drop at the worst time (and I have had it happen so it’s not just paranoia I’m sure).

  • Extramail

    I’m just glad the hotel asks you if you want the mini-bar key nowadays. It wasn’t too long ago that there were all kinds of complaints about finding mini-bar charges on the bill at checkout and having no dispute power. And, who can forget the pressure sensitive mini bars that charged if you just jostled an item in the mini-bar and didn’t even take anything out? If there are ways to charge a “guest” a fee, then hotels, airlines, etc., etc. will find it.

  • mythsayer

    Just pointing out that a hotel minibar pricing structure doesn’t have a markup like, no do movies. $5 a min is like 1000% ( seriously telling me the hotel doesn’t a ld package)? If the fee was disclosed, I agree, she’s an idiot for making the calls but I have to disagree with what Clark carver farrow said below… I just stayed at the Sheraton in San Diego two night ago and there were no phone charges listed on the phone. I don’t remember seeing that anytime recently. If the charges weeding the book, that’s sneaky. I actually do read those hotel info books but I bet most don’t and that’s just a charge that is meant to really gouge. I agree she owes money though and should prob just let this go.

  • EdB

    I’m a Sprint subscriber too, but it is for the data, not voice. I have 1500 shared minutes but in a heavy month, use maybe 400.

    All carriers have dead spots. My personal experience with Sprint is I have had problems getting coverage in my travels. But each person’s experience will vary.

  • omgstfualready

    I cannot stand up for someone that didn’t bother to take the time to stand up for themselves.

  • EdB

    And I have had landline calls get cut off too. Odds are, unless you are calling within the same exchange area, your call is going over a wireless connection somewhere along the line.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I can. That’s why I’m here – to help those who can’t help themselves.

  • mythsayer

    In this case I agree 100%. Hotels stick this info in those books and people don’t always read them and I think if a charge isn’t semi reasonable on its face ($1 a minute or so, which is still steep but not insane), it should be in signs ON the phone, not hidden away. A hidden charge of this markup is nothing more than a money grab. I’m assuming the fees weren’t posted on the phone. If they were, I’d say she shouldn’t have used it.

  • omgstfualready

    Can’t or won’t?

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I can’t read minds. I have to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would do the same for you if you ever came to me for help.

  • William_Leeper

    I know of a high end hotel here in Arkansas that charges $.50 for room to room calls, $1.00/minute for local calls, and $5.00/minute for long distance. It’s a pure rip off. I could possible even understand the room to room fee if the operator had to transfer the calls, but it is direct dial. I have personally stayed there, and the cheapest room is $195/night, you get 1 bed, 1 toilet, 1 Shower (no tub), and a TV that might work if you are lucky.

  • EdB

    Sounds like she did try to stand up for herself. She was able to get one of the 3 charges removed. I’m guessing she came to Chris to try to get so assistance in getting the othe two charges reduced when her efforts failed.

  • Mel65

    The additional $90 was for two additional calls at $45 per…. Harrah’s only removed the 5 minute $26 call.

  • jerryatric

    Could not agree more. Travel extensively & in almost all cases rates are posted for phone use. At the very least, a simple, quick call to the front desk would have been in order IF no prices posted.
    If they were long distance calls, then she’s completely off base!

  • Extramail

    Chris,
    Just read your article on USA Today about the travel industry gouging families. It’s funny that just a couple of weeks ago my adult children and I were discussing planning a family vacation for next summer so the cousins could get together. Our decision was that they are all going to come to my house (which is a reasonable driving distance for both of their families) and we are going to explore my city and all that it has to offer. About the only “junk” fees I’ll have to pay are the guest passes for our neighborhood pool for their families and that is only right because my neighbors have paid p.o.a. dues for the maintenance of the pool and my kids have not. What a novel idea! Take that travel industry!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s just evil.

  • Justin

    I mirror your sentiment. Coverage is very spotty in areas.
    I, too, keep sprint for the truly unlimited data and have the same plan of 1500 shared minutes. Unlimited data is of course limited by usability and traffic during peak hours of the day. Still, 3g unlimited works most times for me.

  • Mel65

    I wish we had a photo of the phone in the hotel room display. If the amount charged per minute is clearly visible, then the OP needs to suck it up. *IF* however, it’s one of those vague “calls may incur additional charges” without being specific, I’d have more sympathy because if I saw that I’d think “well it can’t be more than a dollar or two for a call.”

  • tomjuno

    I’m with Chris on this. Many of those who comment of this website’s threads seem to be seasoned travellers who have, with time, been confronted by every twist and turn the travel industry has thrown at them. They’ve learned how to protect themselves. But there are many more who’re just occasional travellers coming up against vague, unclear, not-fully-disclosed rules of the game. I used to travel a helluva lot, and regarded myself as an old pro at it. But there was a time a few years ago when i didn’t travel at all. And when I got back into it, I was astounded by the new twists and turns that had been added to the bloodsport. It took me a little while to get up to speed. So I can sympathize with the innocent naifs going on their first vacation in several years. It’s getting so – I’m sure I’ve said this before – you need to travel nowadays with a team of contract lawyers.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My understanding is that once the signal hits the tower its the same as a landline, but you might get interference from the cell phone to the tower.

  • Justin

    Mr. Elliott,

    You are a consumer asset, even if resolutions aren’t always possible. I know from seeking your help with U.S. Airways.

    However, consumers do bear responsibility for asking questions. Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) applies to the woman’s story. She didn’t ask, but assumed, a reasonable rate exists.

    Two minutes of ringing the front desk saves ages of headaches. The exception here is if the matter was a life threatening emergency. From the story, the emergency scenario appears absent in favor of “want”.

    Huge difference between wanting and needing to make a call. She wanted to call and now pays to play.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Lol. The first time I saw that was at the Venetian in Vegas. I was like, what the heck. The way to dispute a mini-bar charge is to join the loyalty program. It becomes much easier to the front desk clerk to resolve a dispute in your favor.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You’re right. At some hotels, even a “free” 800# gets charged after like 60 minutes. I assume that’s to get money from the calling card people.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Radioactive. That’s priceless. I love it.

  • EdB

    Being a digital signal these days, the type of interference you used to get with the analog phones isn’t an issue. But I could see the rule about no cellphone being put in place pre-digial and just never getting updated as the technology improved.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would agree with you to the extent that something is not “adequately” disclosed to a regular person, not a Flyertalk road warrior.

    I knew about hotel room charges as a 15 year old sheltered geek living on a tiny island. Its hard to imagine that this isn’t common knowledge

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Or low signal strength. At my house I get truly terrible reception. No call lasts for more then five minutes before being dropped.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’m glad you liked that story, which is about how the travel industry preys on families. Good for you for outsmarting them!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I wouldn’t touch Sprint with your ten foot pole. My parents in the Virgin Islands get better reception when roaming with their Verizon phone than with their locally obtained Sprint phone.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It wasn’t appropriate because I had a weak signal strength and I was brokering a very large deal that was critical to the client’s continued viability. I needed to hear ever word with clarity and not be distracted by reception issues or chancing a dropped call.

  • emanon256

    I hate those mini bars, I’ve often been randomly charged, but only once had a hotel fight me on it. On several occasions they have had to send someone to verify the mini bar was fully stocked, but it always ended in my favor. I have not seen a hotel in a long time that offers a key.

  • emanon256

    I was at a Days Inn once that charged me $2 a call and $0.50 a minute for 1-800 numbers. This was not disclosed on the phone. I have not stayed at a Days Inn since, and never will again.

  • Nikki

    When I first started working in hotels some years ago, most hotels had relevant phone information (cost per min, cost for 800 calls, etc) on the phone itself. The last several years, I’ve worked for hotels that have free local and long distance calls – and those hotels were not landline-based, they received their service from VoIP companies (some through local cable, others through Vonage). Strangely enough, I only saw the free local/LD through the budget to moderate-priced hotels; I never saw that in the high-end hotels. Even the industry magazines now have advertisements for VoIP service over landlines – something that would have been unheard of in the past.

    If the OP has been used to staying in places that have free local and LD, then it may explain her assumption that any calls she made from her room could have been free or not so high-priced. In the places I worked in that did charge for calls, there was always some kind of sticker on the phone, or a cardboard display nearby that said as much. The industry standard used to be that the calls were at the AT&T rate plus a 15-20% hotel surcharge. But $90 for phone calls? Whew. That’s definitely a junk fee – screwing the guest without even a 2-drink minimum.

    I agree with the people that have said that the OP should have taken the moment to call the front desk or go outside with her cell phone. A little proactive work on the OP’s part could have saved her a lot of headaches.

  • emanon256

    I did that last month. I was at an independent hotel, with expensive phone service in the rooms, no cell service, and paid WiFI, but WiFi was free in the lobby. I went to the lobby and used Skype.

  • Justin

    Sprint coverage and service leaves a lot to be desired. Coverage in my area is mediocre. I keep Sprint for the unlimited data, which I tether as a hotspot.

    Seeing I have no usage limits, data comes in handy if traveling, or in the event of storms. I.E. I lived in Houston during Ike and the internet was offline for a few weeks.

    P.S. “Or low signal strength. At my house I get truly terrible reception. No call lasts for more then five minutes before being dropped.”

    Who is your provider? You don’t sound very happy with your current level of service.

  • Justin

    You stay here why? Surely, better choices exist, though we are referring to Arkansas. The LEAST favorite state I have visited in the U.S. Kansas takes second place.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I do not expect anyone to read the fine print. That’s why they hire me :)

    I find it telling that at no point in the story does the OP state that she believed that the phone charges were included in the room rate. So my conjecture is she knew that there was a charge, but she figured it wouldn’t be too expensive. She figured wrong.

    If I’m right, then ultimately, what’s she asking for is a break, which is fundamentally different in my mind than someone who has been wronged. I have no problem with asking for a break, because they screwed up. That’s about compassion, which is a good thing.

    But if the discussion is about fault, then the fault squarely lies with the OP.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Skype is good. Google Voice in conjunction with any of the associated 3rd party apps like Talkatone is free. I use that at my house. Its great to be able to use my smartphone at home.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I checked into a hotel at 11pm. Checked out at 6am. Found a minibar charge. This was the old ones which required manual inspection. It took the front desk clerk a moment to realize that the charge couldn’t be mine as there was no inspection between those hours.

  • emanon256

    Actually I use Google Voice and Talkatone on my iPad to make calls all the time, didn’t even think about that when I was replying and didn’t have my iPad with me on that recent trip. The only problem I have run into is that some clients conference phone systems are now rejecting Google VOice calls which annoys me, and in those cases I have to use cellular or Skype.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Nah. I’m just in a dead spot here. Verizon works wonders everywhere else and I’m rarely home. Using wireless took care of the problem.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s good to know.

  • emanon256

    Yeah, they are way to sensitive I think. I usually check my bill on the TV the night before checkout when they have those, if the TV supports it. One time at the Rennisance Times Square, I got a random charge from the mini bar and went down to dispute it. The person at the desk told me they cleared the charge, and to go ahead and take any one item I want from the mini bar on the house for the inconvenience. Now that’s good service. I had a $17 mini bottle of wine, that according to my wine app can be purchased as a full sized bottle for $8.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you ever stay at a Hyatt Andaz, the entire mini-bar is free except alcohol. Killed my diet.

  • Justin

    Carver,

    If more people read the fine print, you’d be out of a job. The actions of the Op are why you command 200 dollars+ an hour. After the mistake is made, rectification becomes expensive.

    I also agree. She’s asking for a compassionate break on the price. There’s nothing wrong with mea culpa, I’ve made a mistake. The article portrays her actions as benign where this is untrue. The OP didn’t inquire, got hit with an outrageous charge, and now plays naïve.

    Sometimes, a humble I screwed up, can you help goes much further than it wasn’t my fault.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    +1000

    I tell my clients, It’s way cheaper to hire me to do something correctly the first time, then to hire me to fix it after the fact.
    I totally agree. If she did a humble, “my bad”, I think she’d get lots of sympathy from everyone including me.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If not the phone, then usually a triangular card that talks about phone charges. Its usually very well disclosed, especially at a hotel like the Sheraton.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. Unless she was dialing 9-1-1, she didn’t need to make a phone call.

  • Mel65

    Thanks…now I can’t get the song “Radioactive” out of my head.

  • John Keahey

    If someone is not experienced at staying in hotels, etc., then it is understandable that they might not realize that picking up the phone is going to cost dearly. And we don’t know whether the card — usually in regular, not fine, print explaining all this and generally sitting next to the phone — was in that particular room or knocked off the table. But in my experience, which includes hundreds of hotel rooms, the card is always next to the phone, and before I use it, I read it. Sometimes just local and sometimes all domestic calls are free. I would want to know that before picking up the phone. I suspect Susan will know better next time. All this said, I am dismayed by the amount of the fee the hotel charged her if he calls were indeed a few minutes long. Highway robbery.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Oh no! Neither can I!!

    Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive

    WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??

  • bodega3

    I wish someone who has worked at a hotel could explain phone charges. In Hawaii, many hotels give guests free calls locally, free 800 calls and free calls to mainland US(oops, there is that word free :-)). I do know that businesses, with traditional land lines, have been charged by the minute for outgoing calls, but with all the changes in phone services, it makes me wonder why hotel fees for calls at many hotels are so steep.

  • Justin

    I think two issues come into play for landline over cellular.

    1) Cell phones, being wireless, have the potential for interference and “third party snooping”. The weakest link is the point of origin. Cell phone to wireless tower. Not likely, but possible. Consider Wireless internet is insecure with the right technical expertise.

    2) Doctors offices don’t email medical records and require faxes. Again, email is insecure. Landlines offer direct point to point communication. No tower hopping involved. So the odds that a third party is snooping (outside of law enforcement) diminishes.

  • emanon256

    Oh no!! It wasn’t there until you mentioned it. NOW IT IS!!!

  • Justin

    Verizon has good coverage for the most spot. In my area, it’s a dead zone, like Sprint. I am a Sprint user and a neighbor Verizon. Neither of us have signal for reliable call quality.

    Given the choice, I’d run for Verizon if unlimited data returned. Sprint and Tmobile are the last two companies selling unlimited services.

    Only AT&T and Verizon users grandfathered into old plans keep unlimited packages. Grandfathered users cannot sign new contracts and must purchase unsubsidized handsets.

  • $16635417

    Coincidentally, I was just looking at Las Vegas hotel rates and trying to decipher what comes with the mandatory resort fees. I see a few that have unlimited incoming and outgoing faxes as a resort fee amenity. (We all now how important being able to send and receive faxes at a resort is!)

    I am thinking booking a room at one of those hotels and then print out and bring a copy of “War and Peace”. I’ll ask them to fax it to a few hundred of my closest friends. If anyone would like a copy, please let me know and feel free to send it back as well with notes and questions.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t think that’s true, or if so its very recent. I purchased a subsidized handset this past January and at the time I was on a grandfathered plan without issue. I just switched off that plan a few months ago because it lowered my bill by about $50 each month.

    I will say though that they always gave me a hard sell whenever I popped into the store

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    #1 is never an issue for courts as they are always open to the public except for very limited areas. On average an attorney isn’t concerned about snooping.

    #2. Here, doctor’s offices set up secure systems for you to check medical records online

  • Raven_Altosk

    She couldn’t walk a block to get a signal on her phone?

    Sorry, I think you should file this one under Stupidity Tax and move on to real travel issues.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I was waiting all morning for you to comment.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Not in instances like this. Anyone with half a brain knows that if you dial long distance (lol, what’s that these days?!?) from a hotel phone, you will be bagged.

    And, if you didn’t know, it’s generally ON THE PHONE or in the little book they leave in the room.

  • Hanope

    Payphones still exist?

  • MarkKelling

    My experience is the exact opposite with Sprint. I have been a customer of theirs for over 10 years and have never had reception issues, even when I was in a remote village in Alaska where no one else could get a signal mine was strong enough to at least make calls. My only issue is my phone will not work outside of the United States so when I go to Europe I either rent a phone there or do without.

  • MarkKelling

    Last hotel I stayed at in Hawaii included “free” local and long distance calls to the mainland in their resort fee charge. But that was limited to 30 local calls or one hour total plus one hour total in calls to the mainland per day. Anything beyond that was at standard AT&T rates + $1 a minute. So free can turn into not so free really quickly if you make a lot of calls.

    The fees are so high because they can be.

  • omgstfualready

    And I’d appreciate it and you’d know that I did all within my power to avoid the situation and take responsibility for my own actions.

  • omgstfualready

    No – she could have not put herself in the situation and looked before she leaped.

  • EdB

    That is just not getting into a situation. Standing up for yourself is what you do after getting into a situation. In the OP case, she tried to resolve the issue, standing up for herself. If she had done nothing, then that is not standing up.

    If she had avoided the situation, there would be nothing to stand up to, making your original statement meaningless.

  • MarkKelling

    So how do you define “traditional airline ticket” and at what point in aviation history do you choose as your baseline for that definition?

    All throughout the history of flying passengers around, different things were included by different airlines in different countries as part of the standard items included in your ticket. Sometimes you got an assigned seat automatically when you booked, some you had to wait until you checked in at the airport to get that seat assignment. That is true even today. Some airlines had always included drinks (alcohol and others) at no additional charge. Southwest was actually giving away a full fifth of whatever alcohol you wanted just for flying one of their short flights when they started in Texas. Now many airlines charge for everything except a small cup of water on even long haul flights. Food used to be included, now most airlines charge you extra. Hawaiian still feeds everyone on their flights at no additional charge but give you the option to purchase the better meals. Spirit apparently gives you absolutely nothing without charging you. Should smoking on the plane be allowed again since that was part of “traditional” tickets?

    I really don’t understand why a fee for WiFi is considered OK where a fee to check a 3rd bag is considered bad. In my entire flying history, a 3rd bag was always an extra charge (and no credit cards give you 3 free checked bags per passenger). And there is a cost to the airline to handle your checked bag – the baggage handlers don’t work for free. Is that cost equal to what they charge? In most cases I agree that it is not. The WiFi fee I have seen posted for most airlines, and the Direct TV charge as well, is close to what I pay for a month of service to get the couple hours use I have available to me on a plane. The actual cost bears no relation to what they are charging for even the “OK” fees.

  • $16635417

    People used to get a lei when they arrived in Hawaii too. Sadly, that practice of having a lovely hula girl give you a lei upon arrival in Honolulu is no longer practiced. Now, interestingly enough, the hotel I last stayed at in Honolulu DID give me a goodbye lei upon departure and that was nice. :)

  • Jayne Bailey Holland

    30 years ago, when traveling, EVERYONE knew that hotel phone rates were excessive, to say the least. Now I find most hotels don’t charge anything for local calls. But to assume long distance calls are free in todays world is just naive. True, the little cards that give phone rates are not on the phones anymore, but keep looking, they are often in a room description folder, or in a drawer nearby. This person sounds too young to be at Harrah’s alone.

  • FQTVLR

    I am perplexed not only at the cost but at the fact that Jay had no clue about the cost of the calls. I have not been in a hotel in years (even cheap budget ones) that do not have the cost of calls spelled out in cringe-worthy detail. Yes the cost was too much—highway robbery in fact. But she should have read the information provided at the phone before making the call. And the fees are our fault. We do not rebel enough against them and therefore are stuck with them. Too many to count and rising because we allow it.

  • emanon256

    Actually a lot of business closings, contracts, and such still require a fax with the signature on it. Also, when working on actuals, many clients require that I fax expense recipes to them. I personally support moving to eSignature and electronic submission, but I still shocked at how often I have to send faxes. Fortunately I rarely have to receive them.

  • bodega3

    Or to get long winded people to stop talking :-)

  • omgstfualready

    You win the semantic game. She shouldn’t have the fees/charges/whatever waived because she was too lazy/ignorant/naive to use her mind first. Now Chris gets to clean up for her.

  • emanon256

    I have two theories about unbundling:

    1. People keep demanding to pay less because they don’t use service X, Y, or Z. (This hotel has WiFi, I don’t use it, why should I have to pay the same as every one else. I don’t check a bag, I should get a discount. Etc.) The businesses then charge less, and add a fee. They may not actually be charging less, and the fee may be more than the service. But at least when airlines unbundled baggage fees, there was a drop in the price of tickets, which quickly went back up within a year.

    2. Fees collection for add-ons are not subject to the federal corporate income tax, and are only subject to some state taxes. Add-on fees are also often taxed at a lower rate. So not only are the airlines paying less tax on items they unbundled, but then they come up with more fees they can add, and not pay tax on either.

  • $16635417

    And Wall St. LOVES the fees. Just look up a recent article (Nov.1) in Time magazine about Spirit. (I’d post the link, but it wold get lost in moderation limbo.)

    So many people swear they will never fly them, but someone keeps doing it.

  • MarkKelling

    Which airline lowered its fares when they started charging for bags? Not any one I ever flew.

    The bag fees were added during the days of higher fuel costs and were stated that way by every major airline – bag fees were a “temporary” surcharge to cover the costs of fuel needed to move the bag without raising ticket prices. Well, we all know how “temporary” they were.

  • emanon256

    All of the US legacy carriers did. Someone posted a link to an article about it on here a year or so back and I can’t find it now. The published base fares on all of the legacy carriers doped by around $20 across the board in 2008 when bag fees were introduced. Of course, two or so months later, the base fares all went up by about $20, and keep increasing ever so slightly a few times a year ever since.

    If anyone still has a link to the article with the graph I would appreciate it.

    Sadly, we as flyers almost never get to pay the base fare unless we book a year out and are going to a city where nothing is going on.

  • bodega3

    Any article written by someone outside of the industry could NEVER know as there isn’t one fare for all the thousands of flights out there. Fares change multiple times a day so while someone thought the fares dropped, did they really? Just like when they use to say about a ‘sale fare’ that you were saving x amount of dollars off. I can tell you I knew the lowest fare yesterday and today that savings isn’t off the fare that was there. All of us in the industry don’t take the bite on articles about airfares, because they are always incorrect.

  • emanon256

    If I remember correctly, this was based upon the base published fares. Now about the various fluctuation amongst fare buckets. Just like when Delta announced they are increasing their base published fairs by $10. So all of the buckets jump by $10 across the board, even though S may be available now, and then S is gone and only H is available, S and H are both $10 higher now.

  • bodega3

    I am speaking of published fares. What is one fare now, will be different in some markets in one hour from now as we are due for a fare update at around 3pm pst today. I have seen a fare sale start today, only to find lower fares from the ‘sale’ fare tomorrow. It is all a smoke screen!

  • emanon256

    Ha! Well they are good at fooling me. I keep seeing all of these published fare charts, even the Bureau of Transpiration Statistics publishes historical airfare. But the specific fares are all averaged out I am guessing.

  • Justin

    Advice from someone who just traveled through Europe.
    1) Go to Walmart.com and purchased an unlocked GSM phone. Ideally a smart phone. I got a basic blu jenny, and while worked great, didn’t have android capabilities. I really could have used the GPS function seeing my garmin was hideous.

    2) Buy local sim cards in Europe. Lycamobile is pretty cheap though other providers exist, too. You’ll save a fortune buying sim cards overseas.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    ROTLFLMAO

  • Justin

    Carver,

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57436642-94/verizon-you-can-have-unlimited-data..-just-no-device-subsidies/

    Verizon will not offer subsidies to users grandfathered into unlimited plans. You either keep unlimited and pay full price on device upgrades or sign a contract and lose unlimited.
    I believe A&T runs under the same mantra now, too.

  • Justin

    Carver,
    What about client / attorney confidentiality or business of a sensitive nature? I imagine landlines or secure lines are preferred in these circumstances, if face to face isn’t possible?

    Doctors do have online record access to a degree. Hard copies here are still faxed or mailed. Email is out of the question.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Does that mean that its also hard to know whether fares remained the same or increased? I would suspect that all of the fare information is aggrevated somewhere. Of course that’s just a guess.

  • Justin

    The hotel in Paris had a free stocked minibar with soda, water, and juices restocked every three days.

    I’ll never touch a minibar unless it’s complimentary. Looking at the price lists is enough to give one a heart attack. That one dollar bag of M&M’s is like 3 dollars from the minibar.

    I’ll save my snack cravings for later!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Everything I do has attorney/client confidentiality, but unless the client has a reason to suspect industrial espionage, cell phones have long been accepted as appropriate for legal work. Attorney/client privilege is not destroyed by a snoop.

    Consider how much legal business is done in restaurants and other semi-public venues. Its all about likely risk. The likely risk of someone tapping my cell phone is infinitisemal.

  • Justin

    Yes and no. You cannot purchase common sense even if the road of hard knocks teaches us lessons along the way. Children understand the concept that there’s never a substitute for asking.

    Asking is a fundamental basic life skill and isn’t relegated to road warriors. While I might travel a lot, 99% is within the U.S., visiting friends or family.

    I know my strengths and weaknesses. For one, I’m navigationally challenged. I do not hesitate to ask for help when lost. Do I need someone to tell me to ask? Nope, I realize my lack of direction and seek assistance.

    Common sense.

  • Justin

    If only duct tape and glue worked after the fact. I learned a very expensive business lesson 1.5 years ago that cost me significantly. You bet I’ll never repeat the same mistake.

    Preemptive planning goes a long way, as some mistakes even lawyers can’t solve. I walked away losing quite a bit of money sans a partnership agreement, from a partner who did diddly squat and left me holding the workload.

    Lesson gathered, even if doing business with “friends”, nothing trumps having the details in writing! Mistake not made twice!

  • bodega3

    There might be, but when there are hundreds of fares per market, per day, you would have to spend a lot of time doing a historical search. Today there are 433 published fare for SFO to JFK for 26FEB14, but for 22JUN14 there are only 376. You don’t see ads for sale fares like you use to. When we did, we could never figure out what fare basis they came up with to quote the discount as usually they came up with a sale fare for one class of service that they may not have offered a current fare in. The low fare to JFK, as of today, is booked in a different class of service than a sale fare being offered right now from SFO to LAX, using the same carrier for either routing.

  • bodega3

    You would have to be seeing thousands and thousands of fares as there are hundreds per routing to really see the true picture. See my post to Carver. Today for one date there are 433 fares, for another date, there are 376 from SFO to JFK.

  • bodega3

    Amen!

  • bodega3

    Yes, common sense. Would you use your friend’s land line without asking about long distance charges? In our family it is called paying attention and ask questions.

  • $16635417

    2nd qtr 2006 Avg Domestic Fare adjusted for inflation was $391.87. The most recent quarter with data is 1st of 2013 at $378.69. 2nd quarter 2009 it was as low as $325.72. Source is DOT website. I don’t think that includes fees. rita(dot)DOT(dot) gov is the main page. DOT is DOT, (dot)=. I’d post a link but it would get hung up.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Doing research would be horrible. I’m sure AA has historial data for every flight and every fare. That data could be aggregated with United and Southwest (well maybe not, they don’t play nice with outsiders)
    For example, Expertflyer.com has seat availability by fare codes for most domestic airlines. That’s how road warriors know which flight to take to maximize the likelihood of upgrades.
    It seems like if that information is available to the public, I would expect much greater information is available to industry folks.

  • bodega3

    Sadly, I can honestly say that that tells me nothing. But then, it is a taxpayer paid report so I can’t be too surprised!

  • $16635417

    Were you able to find the website?

  • bodega3

    Yes, I did. Having sold tickets that doesn’t tell me anything useful. Does it for you?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Here’s a little tidbit. Its actually MORE important to have all of the paperwork done when dealing with friends. You are more likely to make assumptions because of the relationship, and your friend may be making different assumptions. Family/friend disputes have the potential to be far nastier than simple arms length transactions.

  • Justin

    Carver,

    Rest assured, if a time machine existed, traveling back in time to beat sense into myself is stop number one. A partnership agreement could have saved me lot of money. Instead, I got stuck handling 95% of the work for 50% of the proceeds. No recourse since “Partner” status is arguably transformed into “investor” status without the details in writing.

    Will I make that mistake again? HELL NO. Everything, including the kitchen sink, will be in writing if ever venture into a partnership again.

    Why I even managed to make it in the first place astounds me now. Life of hard knocks.

  • bodega3

    When you sell travel, you get to know fares on certain routes. You know what a decent fare would be for that market and know, especially for leisure travelers if they should buy now or wait. I don’t need a site for that. Corporate travelers need something now, changeable and depending on the corporation, we might have a good contract with a carrier for fares for them. How we book tickets and how online shoppers look for a ticket is completely different.

  • bodega3

    There is a way to look at historical fares, but if you are selling airline tickets for a living, you have a pretty good sense of what fares run for the type of tickets you generally issue.

  • Adam1222

    Dear Susan did have a choice. She could have walked down the hall or outside to make her precious call.