When Mehmet Ertem’s favorite hotel was reflagged as a Hilton, it promised to be be better than ever. Instead, Ertem found a surprise on his bill — and it was anything but an improvement.
Ertem’s story is a cautionary tale about hotels in the laissez-faire era of almost completely unchecked capitalism. But it’s also a reminder of how individual customers can win in the end, as long as they’re paying attention.
The object of Ertem’s scorn? The erstwhile Bridge Hotel in Boca Raton, Fla., rebranded as a Hilton property after a renovation in 2012. Turns out they did more than upgrade the hotel. They added several unwanted fees, too. Worse, the hotel was less than forthcoming in its disclosure, according to Ertem.
So when Ertem asked for a room rate through the hotel’s site, and it quoted him a $309 nightly rate, he believed he would pay $309 a night.
Not so fast.
Just below the initial quote, in the fine print, he spotted two mandatory charges: one for a “resort fee” and one for a parking charge.
“If they had quoted $350 plus taxes per night, I would gladly have made that reservation,” he says. “But I will certainly not go there for the quoted price of $309 plus $22 plus $10 plus taxes, just because it makes me feel like I am being manipulated.”
That’s a common sentiment among hotel guests. Rather than review the evils of resort fees — and there are many — let me just point to our extensive archive of resort fee articles.
Resort fees are the epitome of junk fees, as are mandatory parking fees. Junk, junk, junk.
But Ertem didn’t just exit the site. He also sent an email to Jennifer Graham, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, expressing his displeasure. I think you’ll find the response interesting:
Thank you for your email and for allowing us to respond to your concerns. I’m sorry that you felt manipulated with our resort fee and overnight parking charge. This is something that we try and let guests know upfront and with full disclosure prior to booking on all booking channels.
In our hotel our parking is very limited and thus we have a nightly $10 parking fee which is very competitive with the other hotels in our waterfront area.
Our nightly resort fee offers a great value for guests staying at the resort and includes high speed Wi-Fi, two complimentary drinks daily, bike rentals, and beach chairs and umbrellas. I know you mentioned looking at the Delray Sands and you will find that they also charge a resort fee of $25 dollars daily which doesn’t offer as many amenities as ours.
Seriously? I don’t even know where to start.
You don’t try to disclose. You either do or don’t. Hilton didn’t.
Parking is limited so we charge a mandatory a fee? What the hell kind of logic is that? If I want to park in one of the Hilton’s spaces, I should be able to choose to pay the daily parking rate — not have it automatically tacked on to my bill.
But the final argument is the real showstopper: But we give you so much for this mandatory rate. Never mind that you may not use it. Oh yeah, and one of our competitors does it too, so that makes it right.
This is so absurd, it can’t be defended. In fact, I don’t think the hotel even believes what it’s saying.
Hilton agreed to waive Ertem’s resort fees on his next visit, but declined to comp his parking. There’s no telling if he’ll take the hotel up on its offer, but something tells me he won’t. If it lied about its rates once, what’s to stop it from doing so again?