The airlines started it, this business of adding extra fees to travel, for baggage and the like. But hotels, The Associated Press reported this week, are signing on to this gouge-the-customer game. This year, hotels are going to take in over $2 billion in add-on fees, some of them covering things that guests likely wouldn't dream of seeing on a bill.
Should Congress step in? Most emphatically. Whatever happened to all those consumer advocates on Capitol Hill? Perhaps they're getting their rooms comped.
At the Liberty Hotel in Boston, a cold can of Coke from the minibar runs $5. That's outrageous, but not unheard of. But here's the kicker: There's an 18 percent "administrative fee" for a hotel worker to put another can of Coke in the minibar.
Somebody call Paul Revere or find someone to organize a Boston Coke Party.
And at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, it costs guests – now that's funny – a "personal use fee" of $25 a day if they put their own soda or water in the room minibar.
The last straw: Tips are no longer optional in many places. They're just added to the bill.
If guests ship something to a hotel in advance of a visit, some charge $10 to $25 just to receive the package.
One professor at a New York hospitality school warns that hotel visitors need to be extra attentive to the fine print in whatever they sign when they check in. Not that it does much good. Like airlines, hotels have convenience going for them. Don't like that check-in and check-out fee? Fine, pal, head out in the driving rain and go find yourself another hotel miles down the road, but you'll pay the same fees there, of course.
When pricing hits gouging, it's time for regulators to step in. Consumers who need to travel and have to have places to stay can't do much other than to throw up their hands and pay it. But Congress has a right, and in fact a duty, to protect them.