Broadsided by a resort fee at the Westgate — can you help me get a refund?

By | January 6th, 2017

Tamara Myers booked and paid for a room for her mother at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino. But when her mother arrived, she had to pay an additional mandatory “resort” fee. Can we get her a refund?

Question: I recently paid for my mother’s hotel reservation through Trivago for a hotel in Las Vegas, which she needed while her 88-year-old brother was in the hospital. Trivago’s site directed me to Otel.com, where after doing my due diligence, I reserved and paid for her hotel room at the Westgate Las Vegas.

The total for nine nights was $415. When my mother arrived at the Westgate, she was informed that she was required to pay a resort fee of $34 a day. This was listed nowhere on Trivago or Otel’s sites. The other sites I researched showed the resort fee. Otel did not!

My mother is 79 years old and, by the grace of God, had her credit card to cover this additional unexpected expense, which I ultimately ended up paying. There has been no assistance from Otel in resolving this matter, and Trivago does not have a phone number to reach them.

If there is to be an additional fee added to the hotel cost, this should be listed on the page where you research and pay for the hotel. This is deceptive and unscrupulous. Can you help? — Tamara Myers, Indianapolis


Answer: I’m sorry for the distress this caused your mother while visiting her brother in the hospital, and I couldn’t agree more that resort fees are one of the most annoying ploys in the hotel industry today.

Related story:   My husband died — can I get a refund from Spirit Airlines?

These fees purport to cover “amenities” like Wi-Fi and use of the hotel pool, but their real purpose is to allow hotels to advertise artificially low rates. This problem is particularly egregious in Las Vegas, which is why websites like this one have popped up, that list resort fees for all of the hotels there.

But in this case, the fact that several other hotel booking sites mentioned the resort fee, should have been your clue to contact the hotel directly for confirmation.

And in fact, when we checked the Otel website, there was an asterisk and reference to a resort fee under hotel information on the booking page, although no mention of the amount of the fee.

You could have appealed this sleight-of-hand directly to Westgate. We list the names, number and addresses of all the timeshare companies on our site.

We contacted the companies on your behalf, but also got the silent treatment. That’s disturbing. A consumer-centric business should be willing to engage its customers in a dialogue.

My advice? Dispute the resort fee on your credit card. That’s a proven tactic for removing these nuisance fees.



  • sirwired

    The problem with a credit-card dispute is that it’ll be the hotel that’s receiving (and rejecting) the dispute, even though the 3rd-party booking site was the source of the lack of disclosure. (Assuming the hotel provides adequate disclosure on their own booking system.)

  • AAGK

    A credit card dispute is not appropriate where the fee is disclosed, even as a footnote. Moreover, mom checked-in after the hotel told her of the fee. A consumer should dispute a charge that violates its rights vis a vis the card issuer, pursuant to the FCBA, etc. The dispute process is not intended to reward cardholder carelessness.

  • Bill___A

    Resort fees should be illegal. Plain and simple. Anyone who charges them should be prosecuted for misleading the customer. If it is mandatory and not a government required tax, it needs to be disclosed in the room rate, not in some asterisk enabled footnote. I have zero tolerance for anyone charging resort fees.

    And just as an FYI, being an elderly person lends little to this case. It is every bit as unacceptable regardless of how old you are or how old your brother is. I don’t know why these things are “thrown in”.

  • sirwired

    I heartily agree with you; I think they should be illegal. That will not, however, fix the immediate problem of this woman getting a refund for them. The credit card dispute is simply unlikely to work.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I completely disagree that this was “cardholder carelessness”. An asterisk is not a disclosure of fees. These fees were flat-out not disclosed. Consumers shouldn’t have to dig that deep to find out how much something is going to cost. Fees should be disclosed UP FRONT at the time of purchase.

    As for checking in after disclosure at the desk – it’s wrong to penalize the traveler for this. It is not always possible to find other acceptable accommodations, especially in a city that is prone to conventions. To expect a traveler to simply not stay there, when they are in a distant city and may not have access to any other place to sleep, is inappropriate.

    And while I know others think that the fact that she was elderly shouldn’t play into this, I also disagree with that: a woman in her 80’s in a strange city to see a sick relative is not the same thing as an able-bodied business traveler who can hop in his rental car and go find another hotel.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I agree they should be illegal. And I agree that an asterisk is not an appropriate disclosure.

    I DISAGREE that the fact that she was elderly is not important to the story. An elderly woman in a distant city to visit a sick relative is not the same thing as a business or vacation traveler. Most people in that age group have mobility issues, and/or the normal mental decline that comes with age. To expect someone like that, in that situation, to suddenly learn of the fee at check in, and then say “oh, well then, I’m not staying here” and go find other accommodations is simply unreasonable. This is an important part of this story, IMO.

  • David___1

    There is a second reason for a resort fee beyond the ability to advertise an artificially low rate, it’s the option to reduce the revenue sharing with the third party sites. I have no idea what the arrangements are, but let’s, for the sake of an example, say they are revenue sharing at 10%. So, if the cost were advertised at $200, the hotel keeps $180 and pays $20 to the third party site. But let’s say there’s a $30 resort fee and a $170 room charge. Ignoring the deceptive practice for a minute, that same 10% fee to the third party site has them receiving $17 and hotel now gets $183. Yeah, $3 doesn’t sound like much, but if you are a Las Vegas hotel with 1000 rooms it adds up to a lot over a year.

  • Annie M

    Just went directly to the Otel site for this hotel. This is right underneath the rates in the hotel description – what did she miss? It says The Resort Fee Inclusions Are:

    Hotel Information
    Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
    is a historical hotel, convention center, and casino located in Las
    Vegas, Nevada. In the immediate vicinity of the hotel there are
    Adventure Dom, Las Vegas Strip, and Guinness World of Records Museum.
    It is a 3 star hotel suitable for both leisure and business travelers.

    *
    Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino Resort as a reminder, for all
    new bookings confirmed as of August 5, 2015, forward. The Resort fee
    inclusions are listed below:
     Wireless Internet access for 3 devices throughout the resort (excluding the convention center)
     Complimentary local and 800 calls (excludes international)
     Complimentary access to the New State of the Art Cardio Fitness center for two adults
     Bounce back offer for a future stay at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
     Complimentary USA today newspaper (pickup at Paradise Gift Shop)
     Special Daily offers and Discounts
     Bounceback Coupons for Future Stays

    * Westgate Las Vegas Re…

  • AAGK

    I agree with many of your points, especially re: check in after a res was paid and that use of “careless” may seem overly broad. However any dispute about the prominence of a contract term is better suited for a judge, if the merchant doesn’t budge, and not usually the proper subject for a credit card dispute. There is a lot of overlap but it is my responsibility to follow that asterisk, even though I don’t feel like it.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And again I disagree. When I buy something online, I have a right to know how much it costs when I buy it! It is completely unacceptable to make me go digging into fine print or follow up on footnotes to find out how much something is going to cost…especially when I have to pay for most of it up front.

    It is NOT my responsibility to “follow that asterisk”. There is no other product I can think of that can be sold online, especially sold non-refundable, in which the entire price for the product doesn’t have to be disclosed right when I buy it. I can think of no other product that I have to “follow an asterisk” to find out how much it’s going to cost me to use that product…and if I don’t follow that asterisk and buy it at the price quoted, and then learn later that it’s going to cost much more, I’m stuck having to either pay that additional money, or lose what I paid for the product to begin with.

    It should be illegal. Simple as that.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And where does it say how much that resort fee is?

    It does NOT make it clear that there is going to be an additional charge. And it certainly doesn’t have a dollar figure there, does it? What it does say is what’s included in the Resort Fee, but if someone is not familiar with this resort fee scam, that could easily be read as “this is what’s included in what you paid for this resort”. Nowhere does it say “there are additional fees that are going to be charged when you check in, and these are what they cover”. Not clear AT ALL.

  • AAGK

    I don’t have this problem bc I don’t buy something if I don’t know the price. If I’m too lazy to follow the asterisk, then I pick a different merchant.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. I think it’s entirely unfair to call this “laziness”. The very fact that you follow Christopher’s blog indicates that you are a traveler who is more informed than most. But we shouldn’t HAVE to follow a blog or read trade journals to be able to, as consumers, buy something online and not get surprised with huge unexpected fees.

    Not everyone knows about the “resort fee” scam. Not everyone is a frequent traveler that would be exposed to that. And in this case, the fact that this is an elderly woman visiting a sick brother becomes even more important: this is likely not someone who travels all that often, or would have been exposed to these scammy fees before. So why should she be expected to follow a asterisk with some very confusingly-written fine-print mumbo jumbo, which doesn’t even say how much additional she’s going to have to pay?

    Look, maybe you’re okay with having to do extra research to know how much MORE something is going to cost you to buy, since it’s wasn’t disclosed when you bought it. But I remain baffled how anyone can think it’s their own responsibility to “follow an asterisk” to learn the true price of something that is being sold to you for less than it actually costs.

    When click “buy”, especially if it’s non-refundable, I should be able know RIGHT THEN how much it costs. Not later, not when I check in, not only after doing research. RIGHT THEN.

  • Bill___A

    There are several situations where the traveler would be at risk of getting fleeced. An elderly person might have one sort of problem, a person in a wheelchair might have another. When I was young and foolish, I thought that businesses were required to be fair, and that particularly ones that cared about their reputations would make sure they were ethical. Resort fees are a very significant proof of this not being true. Even big names in the hospitality industry do it because “everyone else is doing it”.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Don’t dispute the resort fee, dispute the AMOUNT of the resort fee with Otel. They’re the ones who failed to disclose it, they’re the ones who should eat the cost.

  • Bob Curtis

    Credit card dispute is “proven tactic” for removing these fees? Can you show the proof? I am skeptical.

  • joycexyz

    Let’s not call it “laziness,” but lack of curiosity or suspicion. An asterisk means something!

  • The Original Joe S

    Why do you cheapskates keep using 3rd party booking agents? The nickel you save will cause you dollars’ worth of pain. NO SYMPATHY!

  • The Original Joe S

    Pre-pay in VIrginia – they have to come to Virginia’s courts.

  • The Original Joe S

    When you have a LOT of MONEY in your financial institution, they are very likely to side with you.

  • jsn55

    We can go on and on about a ‘resort fee’ and the application thereof. A mandatory fee belongs in the room rate. This is a simple concept. Don’t do business with a hotel charging a resort fee. If it’s undisclosed, refuse to pay it when you check out. Eventually, our politicians will get around to making this kind of fraud illegal.

  • Carrie

    I am curious, how widespread is the resort fee in the travel industry? Are these resort fees mainly in LV? I have had to pay them a few times in LV and it seems to me that the guest does not get much in return for paying this fee.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Another problem with resort fees is the selective way they are charged. We were at a convention and the resort fee was waived for us as a perk, while regular vacation goers were charged (though in fairness, we didn’t use the resort much because of the convention, but still).

  • LonnieC

    Generally, I agree with what you said. However, as regards the asterisk: over many years I have learned that an asterisk usually means something important – more often than not, something against my best interests. Perhaps Chris should start emphasizing that whenever one sees an asterisk, they do whatever is necessary to hunt down whatever it refers to, and understand that reference. I would caution NEVER to sign a document, or pay for an order, that contains an asterisk unless you fully understand what it leads to. Asterisks are almost always not to your benefit.

  • Lee

    They have been appearing at quite a few NYC hotels now – not sure where else.

  • Lee

    If there is a note about there being a fee, sorry, I think it is on the potential guest to check with the hotel as to the amount of the fee; if a place does not disclose it and/or you don’t want to pay it – find another hotel that doesn’t charge this fee.

    I would never stay at a property that charges this fee. I also never use 3rd party booking websites – I always book directly with any accommodation – but, that’s personal choice – I don’t want someone else added to the mix if there is a dispute. I like the one on one – makes it easier all around.

  • Annie M

    This should be a red flag to ask more questions and not assume.

  • AAGK

    You made a lot of interesting assumptions. You misstate everything I wrote. You don’t need to use my posts to reply to. Just state your own opinions. We are not in a debate. You are debating yourself as I don’t take any of the positions you attribute to me.

    Of course no one should have to do research to see a price….. of course companies shouldn’t use “Mumbo jumbo”…. Etc

  • AAGK

    Also, I learned about resort fees when I booked a hotel on an OTA and it stated this hotel will charge you a $30 resort fee upon arrival. I chose to Reserve anyway. It has nothing to do with reading this site. It had to do with reading the 5 words next to the price on my bill.

  • Lindabator

    Vegas, NYC, Hawaii are most likely spots to catch it

  • Lindabator

    they usually waive for conventions, as they know you are probably not using those services, and they know they will make it up on the convention costs anyway

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