Last month, I reported on the possible re-emergence of energy fees in the hotel industry. Today, I have some good news for you — and an update from the hotel that allegedly charged the fee to one guest.
Since that story was published, I’ve heard from no other travelers who had to pay a mandatory surcharge to cover their hotel’s energy costs. So the problem appears to be contained for now.
Well, not entirely.
Almost two weeks to the day after the post was published (the feature first appears on Frommers.com, then a few days later on my site and in syndication) I received an email from the general manager of the resort that was said to have charged the fee. He said the Oyster Bay Beach Resort does not force its hotel guests to pay for energy usage, that he had no record of the customer I interviewed. And he claimed I never contacted him.
So today I’m going to do a deep dive into the facts to determine what went wrong — and, most importantly, to find the truth about the Oyster Bay’s fees.
Does Oyster Bay charge its guests for energy usage? Yes.
“We do charge a $12 per day energy surcharge for a two bedroom and $7 for a studio apartment for our timeshare guests and exchangers given the high level of utility costs on the island,” said the manager. “We pay over 42 cents per KWH in St. Maarten and since the water is desalinated also the cost per cubic meter is very high.”
OK, so the guest who had complained about the energy fees was staying in one of its two-bedroom units. In his email to me, he hadn’t drawn a distinction between the hotel and timeshare unit. He just said he was staying at the resort.
But Oyster Bay says it’s an important difference. Timeshare owners are informed about the energy fees in their contracts and when their stay is confirmed. It sent me one of the letters, which does indeed note the existence of a utility fee in the fine print of its confirmation letter. So this guest — if he’s really a guest — should have known about it.
The mystery customer
What about the traveler lodging the complaint, Jack Permadi? Oyster Bay says it could find no record of him. I sent the resort a copy of his email correspondence, and it quickly located his record, although it was under a different name.
I’m always concerned that someone isn’t who they claim to be online, particularly when they’re making a charge like this (no pun intended) against a travel company. In a world or savvy reputation-management companies that try to manipulate search engine results and TripAdvisor reviews, hotels would do almost anything for a good write-up. I’ll have more on that in a second.
You never wrote!
The most baffling of all the accusations was that I hadn’t bothered to ask Oyster Bay about this fee. If I had, I was assured I would have been given a quick reply. A review of my records show that I sent an email to the general manager’s address, contacted Oyster Bay through its Facebook site, which it acknowledged, and then sent another email to its general “in” box, after being referred to it by someone answering its Facebook page.