I’ve only seen one hotel ever claim that your room rate doesn’t cover use of the bathroom mirror or TV in the room, and that this was covered by a resort fee instead. But when I flagged the stupidity, the hotel addressed it.
Maybe the second-most egregious resort fee I’ve come across belongs to Hilton’s Hotel Del Coronado which charges a $50 per night resort fee. Here’s how they describe the included benefits,
Daily Mandatory Charge will be added to the room rate and includes: Internet access; beach yoga, sculpt-tone, & meditation classes; Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, & YouTube streaming; discount tickets for USS Midway, San Diego Zoo, & whale watching. Also includes $15 Historical Preservation Fund charge.
According to an agent at the hotel, they no longer offer the ‘Sculpt Tone’ or the ‘Meditation’ classes (they stopped offering them in the summer). So you get these free, but they don’t exist. The Beach Yoga class is one hour offered once per day (at 10 a.m.). According to a Hilton spokesperson that’s good enough: “The hotel confirmed they offer a selection of fitness classes so guests have the flexibility to choose the class that best fits their schedule.” I guess, that is, as long as the guest’s schedule is flexible at 10 a.m.
Hotel del Coronado does not actually provide “Netflex, Hulu, Pandora & YouTube streaming” – the resort fee covers use of the in-room TV to stream their own content.
I asked Hilton about the mandatory $15 Historical Preservation Fund donation and they declined to answer. It’s not clear to me whether this program is actually getting donations for each guest on property. It’s a government program which receives about $120 million in annual federal appropriations, matched 40% with state dollars. If I had to guess the hotel is under a requirement or agreement with a government body to donate, perhaps related to zoning or permitting and the hotel lists this mandatory expense as a ‘benefit’.
For all of Marriott’s faults – and their resort fees are still egregious – their hotels are only allowed to impose them on guests when the property has an above-average likelihood to recommend score and when the package of ‘benefits’ have a retail value at least four times as high as the fee itself. I specifically asked about any such requirements, and a Hilton spokesperson told me, “Decisions about mandatory fees are made by ownership and management at a property level.”
The spokesperson sums up Hilton’s position, when I asked them whether Hotel del Coronado was in compliance with any rules the chain has for such charges:
These fees, which are charged at a small number of our properties globally, are meant to enable additional value for our guests by offering a bundle of amenities and services that align to a property’s unique features, and can enhance the guest’s stay.
An in-room TV does, I suppose, enhance a guest’s stay. Although I’m not sure it really “align[s]” with the “property’s unique features.”