It Gets Worse: Hotels Now Stacking “Venue Fees” on Top of Resort Fees

Venue fees are the latest scam charge, and they’re popping up even at hotels that already charge guests a resort fee.

Resort Fees are a Way to Make Rooms Look Cheaper Than They Really Are

Resort fees are poorly disclosed. Marriott is being sued over them by Washington DC and Hilton is being sued by Nebraska. Yet Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson says they’re good for you.

“Resort fees” are extra charges, on top of a room rate, that aren’t optional. In other words they’re part of the price of a room, but the hotel advertises a lower price instead. That’s deceptive. Indeed it’s designed to deceive.

Las Vegas Has Reached the Height of Resort Fee Absurdity

Las Vegas hotels are finding that resort fees make it difficult to reduce the cost of stays low enough to fill all their rooms (and generate revenue from gambling and entertainment). That’s hurting their businesses. Yet MGM has pushed resort fees up over $50 a night at 4 of their hotels, though the CEO of Caesars says these fees could become ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Park MGM Charges Venue Fees in Addition to Resort Fees

Venue Fees are a New, Even More Absurd Charge

I used to think that “urban destination charges” (resort fees at hotels that aren’t even resorts) and Marriott charging resort fees on ‘free’ award stays was the height of absurdity. However now pay venue fees on drinks. The drink has a price, there’s tax on top, and then a service fee is added too.

At $1.90 “this charge you’re seeing is a venue fee..It is not only applied for table service, but for bar service as well, and is being applied to every check in the venue.”

Sahara Las Vegas (the former SLS) has run ‘no resort fee’ promotions but charges them anyway through the back door with this same technique of venue fees,

Sahara Las Vegas, which returned to the Strip last week after a disastrous run as SLS Las Vegas, is also charging a service fee at its bars. A receipt from The Foundry shared to Twitter shows a $14.00 cocktail ballooning to $16.80 after a mandatory 15 percent gratuity and five percent service charge.

After Venue Fees, What Fees Are Next?

Karl Marx said history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. If venue fees is hotels repeating the resort fee as tragedy, can the farce be far behind?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary,

    Is “venue fee” your wording? Your link to the MGM website is coming up with a 404. The other quotes you are using use “service charge”. Either way, a service charge on top of a gratuity warrants a WTF?

    This Vegas stuff is just weird. It used to be that rooms and F&B were cheap to get you to come and gamble, because that’s where the money was made, and people were more or less willing to lose it. My understanding is that gaming revenue must be down, hence’ the push to fleece customers off the gaming tables.

  2. I think that a bar fee equals a tip. If I have to pay an extra bar or drink few on top of taxes the the bartender or server is not getting a tip

  3. @Rami

    Just to rub salt into the wound: One quote from Gary shows a “gratuity” *and* “service charge” on the bar tab.

  4. This is why I have not been back to Las vegas, Reno.or Tahoe. Since 2011… Deception is the norm for the hotels there. …… OBVIOUSLY THERE Is. A required Need for disclosure of ALL fees by law required by the fed. Gov.. When you book the room…Plenty of gambling here in Ct. mass. ,ny and Rhode island instead of rip off hotels in Nevada etc. .

  5. @ Gary — I no longer go to Vegas because cigarette smoke. If I want to breathe cigarette smoke all day, I can go hang out with my mother. She feeds me without any fees.

  6. I used to book “throw away” nights at MGM resorts just to keep Hyatt Diamond (err–Globalist….stupidest name ever) status. Sometimes even stayed in the room if we felt like it…..But resort and other junk fees made our occasional weekend getaway/dinner/gamble not worth the fuss. When the cost/benefit analysis is out of whack–Vegas loses the opportunity to gain the incremental revenue we’d bring. Good riddance…..

    Now, we’ll simply book an occasional stay at a local Hyatt House or Hyatt Place when the price is right……we’ll watch a bit of TV, sit by the pool….buy a few beers from the hotel. And guess what?—-they appreciate the business!

  7. I started going to Vegas annually for a convention when the Paris advertised no resort fees and meant it. Since the return of resort fees, I stay elsewhere and only visit every 2-3 years. If Vegas doesn’t offer value, I’ll go other places.

  8. No desire to go to Las Vegas. It’s like going back to the 1960’s when it comes to smoking. Resort and other fees make it even less desirable, even as a base to see nearby attractions in Nevada.

  9. @Gene – Since when did Vegas allow smoking? Besides, it’s not tobacco they’re smoking there these days.

  10. The thing is a $16.80 cocktail is not, prima facie, extortionate in a big city. It angers customers only when the fees are broken out.

    I’m totally on the customer’s side here and I actually think there is a win-win.
    * Bars: charge $17 all-in. That will be more than you get with all fee nonsense.
    * Customers: pay $17, easy to calculate, nothing more to disclose. That’s the price of a cocktail at the bar, end of story.

  11. My last trip to Vegas was 2012. I was visiting fairly often until 2008 but got tired of cabs ripping you off and everyone having their hands out.

    It seems like most American companies have run out of ways to increase revenue and profits through sales, etc and instead are just tacking surcharges on bills. Sad. While I can afford to travel I’m not willing to pay these fees.

  12. Unless this goes directly to the service staff, I don’t see how the majority of people will tip on top of this.

    I get that it isn’t the server’s fault their company charges it, but perhaps an irate wait staff will be heard more clearly than kids like me on airline blogs.

  13. My guess is that this is going to staff because of poor tipping in many of the bars. I am usually getting my room free in Vegas, Tahoe, Tunica, New Orleans or Biloxi and can’t remember the last time if I was charged a resort fee although I do remember them saying I would be. Drinks are usually “free” if you’re gambling but I’ve seen a LOT of cheap ass people in the casinos who are angry because they’ve lost money not bother to tip the wait staff but for every one who doesn’t, there are usually those who win who DO tip so I would imagine it levels out. In the regular bars, you can use your comp dollars to pay for drinks so again, I’m guessing the wait staff has been getting shorted so management came up with this to up the wages. I don’t care for it, never have cared for a “mandatory” tip. PAY YOUR EMPLOYEES. I’ve talked to many waitresses over the years and most of them are making between $300-$500 per day serving drinks in the casinos so I don’t think that is a bad amount for unskilled labor, realistically, half the country wants flat salary and half want tips for wait staff/bartenders, etc. I think in the bigger cities tips are preferred because they can make much, much more but in smaller towns, a flat salary is preferred because $2.50 an hour plus tips in the middle of nowhere Alabama isn’t even minimum wage when you add up the tips at the end of their shift. I can say that I generally bring a large stack of 1,5, 10 bills to a casino trip so that I can have cash to tip appropriately and I expect to tip…but I don’t expect to be extorted out of money and would reconsider if I felt I was getting hit with a bunch of ridiculous fees.

  14. “Venue fee” , “service charge” … doesn’t matter. In the U.S., I normally tip 20% if the service if reasonably good. If there is a fee, I consider it part of the tip. I’ll leave the difference if it’s less than 20%, and will tell the server what I am doing. If there is any pushback, well… that’s MY policy.

  15. @Jason

    You’re quite right on this. If you back out a 20% tip and 10% entertainment tax (which is paid on food and alcohol in restaurants) from $16.80, you get a $13 base rate on the cocktail, which in this day and age for a craft cocktail is actually a deal. These days I see closer to $14-$16 for the median base price.

    And I do think that craft cocktail bars in particular are in a position to experiment with this sort of flat fee model. If I’m ordering off of a cocktail menu without modification, I don’t expect to tip as much as I would say somebody who is taking my preferences and coming up with something on the spot and demonstrating some skill.

    I think as customers we hate these add on fees even if the end result is the same because it feels like a bait and switch. And to me, I actually find it insulting. Because the shop just said to me, we don’t think you are willing to pay what our product is actually worth, so we’re going to mislead you about the total cost.

  16. I am from the Phoenix area. I used
    to go to Vegas consistently. But once
    the casino hotels started to RIP us off with resort fees-I said screw them. I gamble at the Talking Stick
    Resort in Scottsdale these days. I
    will come back only when the casinos
    decide not to be so greedy. The lights of Vegas don’t shine as bright
    anymore.

  17. Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman charges a resort and service fee too. So bogus. When you check out your eyes can’t believe to total after adding the taxes and these fees to the already high room rate.

  18. I rarely view new laws that by definition restrict our freedoms as the solution, but in this case I think legislation is the only way. These resort fees…and airline surcharges, must be stopped. If it’s not optional, and not a tax, it should be included in the price.

    Until then, boycott all hotels that charge resort fees, and send them an email letting them know you were going to book a stay there, but because of their deceptive resort fees you will not be giving them your business.

  19. Yea those fees are BS but I just got hit with a freaking $68 PLUS $9.52 tax for freaking parking at the Westin St Francis in San Fran. $77.52!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And tax on parking???????????????

  20. At the risk of making some folks angry …:
    1. I hope the law suits against hotels that charge these bogus fees are successful,
    and those hotels get their heads set straight.
    2. I hope people boycott those hotels that charge these fees.
    3. I hope the hotels that charge these fees go broke.
    4. Costs for restaurant food, drinks at bars etc. are beyond anything reasonable.
    5. The tipping business is absolutely crazy. Pay your people !!!
    6. The food is mostly low quality, even if you get tthe ‘best’ they have.
    7. If they charge these fees, I will dsipute them with my credit card company as illegal and
    fraudulent fees.

    Final comment:
    The constant and ubiquitous attempts to exploit people, disguise actual costs, charge extra fees for each and every little detail, and then even come up with fantasy fees as the ones mentioned here, are a disgusting and deceitful attempt to drive the money machine.
    These attempt fly in the face of ANY integrity, ANY reason, and ANY accountability.

    To those hotels:
    If you don’t have the guts to tell people your fee, if you are too much of a coward to say ‘this is what a stay in my hotel is worth’, if you instead abuse the gullibility of your guests and think you can exploit them, then you don’t belong in the market. You belong in jail !

  21. Easy solution for LV – join Caesar’s Rewards and hit at least Diamond level so you don’t pay any resort fees. Only takes 15,000 points which is only $25,000 action if done right (run through a slot machine in one day to get 5000 Tier Credits and 10,000 bonus Tier Credits).

    I have been Diamond for years and gamble a lot more than that. However play a lot of poker which I have positive variance and use stop losses to pretty much ensure no big losses (and some nice wins). Overall between free or highly comped rooms, no resort fees and other perks I project saving $7500-$10,000 a year. Of course I spend over 50 nights in their casino hotels but just letting you know it is possible to avoid fees (and make money on the program) if you know what you are doing

  22. The Las Vegas casinos have got it figured out. If your sucker enough to gamble your money away your stupid enough to fall for any fees or charges the thieves want to add on. Get smart. Stay home.

  23. We were at the ANA Intercontinental in Tokyo a $40 fee per person per day to use the pool plus the cost of the room. This was a pool it was not Wet and Wild water park.

    Had a Stawberry smoothy for $19 plus a 13% service charge and 8% tax. In japan it is a dishonor for them to accept a tip and western hotel employees are instructed to refuse them. But this hotel is not only over charging they are adding a 13% service charge!!!

  24. I believe this is successful in Vegas because they have a regular stream of visitors from out of the country (China, England, etc.) that get there and cannot avoid the fees. I can’t imagine anyone from the California-Arizona-Utah-Nevada area putting up with that.

    I vote with my dollar. We used to enjoy flying to Vegas twice a year and having a low-key vacation, a quick weekend, whatever. We have now stopped going due solely to these ridiculous fees, surcharges, etc. That’s ok- there are plenty of other destinations that are willing to take my money and not insult me with these fees. 🙂

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