When Diana Lee Craig cast off on the Oceania Riviera’s 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruise, there were no surprises. The ship left Miami as scheduled, stopping in San Juan, St. John, Punta Cana and Nassau, before returning to Florida. “When travel companies sell their mailings lists, junk mail becomes an unwanted souvenir”
Elaine Thompson orders a mystery box from an online retailer. But it’s short by two items. Why won’t the retailer replace the missing merchandise?
“This “chunk of junk” isn’t what I thought it would be”
What if they had to give it all back?
Imagine if someone forced airlines, hotels and car rental companies to return every penny they took from you under questionable circumstances. The checked-bag fee, often poorly disclosed. The resort fee billed to your room, whether you used the “free” wireless and unlimited local phone calls or not. The license recovery fees that pay for your rental car’s plates — as if that were optional.
These extras, which most travelers call junk fees, aren’t just expensive annoyances. Vast sectors of the travel industry have made them a cornerstone of their business operations, with airlines leading the way down this ethically troublesome path.
It’s a practice the industry delicately calls “unbundling,” or removing often essential components of a product from the base price to make it look deceptively cheaper.
“You deserve a refund for those junk fees”
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.
“Do travel companies charge too many junk fees?”
Like most travelers, Bette Waterstreet doesn’t expect much when she rents a car. A clean, running vehicle that’s in the same car class she ordered will do just fine. But that’s not what she got when she rented from Thrifty in Ontario, Calif., recently.
“It was a junkmobile,” she says. “Absolutely filthy.”
Does Thrifty owe her anything for the inconvenience?