How Marriott’s W Dallas Hotel Is Shortchanging Bonvoy Members – And Its Own Staff

The W Dallas – Victory hotel offers Bonvoy Platinum members and above a $15 per person breakfast credit as its way of satisfying the chain’s requirement to honor ‘continental breakfast’. A bagel, cream cheese, and juice costs.. $16.

A year ago the hotel was quoting $30 per person breakfast credit in the restaurant, this guest was told $15. That’s not even what’s striking about this check, though let’s do the math.

Here’s the $30 breakfast credit ($15 apiece for two people) taken off the folio. Bagel, cream cheese and juice with tax and mandatory service charge comes to $20.43. If that is all you ordered – no fruit or coffee, even – you’d still be out money on your free breakfast.

What’s confusing is that the service charge on the bill presumably covers service. Most guests would assume they do not need to tip on top. After all, the obligatory service charge is for a percentage (18%) which – naming aside – would easily be confused with the tip.

Unfortunately, as challenging as tipping etiquette can be, ‘service charge’ etiquette is worse. You have to investigate whether the service charge actually goes to the employee or not. Under California law a mandatory charge which appears as though it would be for staff must go to staff though some hotels still flaunt this. Not so for the W Dallas – Victory.

According to staff at the hotel, “HR had a meeting with everyone to go over the new fee last week.” It “is not a gratuity” and instead goes towards:

  • New employee training
  • Broken dishes/servingware
  • Hotel and restaurant owners
  • Returned food (spoilage)
  • Small % to waitstaff

You know what else is supposed to cover onboarding, dishware, labor costs, and profit? The published menu price.

You’re charged 18% more than the actual published price of what you order, and then likely assume it covers the tip. You should add another, say, 18% – 20% on top of the 18%. But since many won’t, not asking the question, this service charge almost certainly leads to lower tips even as it leads to higher profits. Other guests will tip less when they’re charged more for the same thing. In other words, it’s not just the guest being cheated it’s the employees too.

The price on the menu should be the price charged. Even publishing “+18% service charge” and forcing guests to do math with every order is absurd. Though here’s the menu online, no mandatory service charge disclosed. Actually, the printed menus are interesting. Outside of Sunday brunch the fee is not disclosed at all. If you’re going to charge it, you darned well need to disclose it.

The Saturday breakfast menu doesn’t disclose the service fee. The brunch cocktails menu says “a 18% service charge is included on all customers bills” (sic). Note that it does not say it is added, only that it is included (in the menu price?). Large parties (4 or more during the week, 5 on the Sunday brunch menu) add a 20% mandatory service charge. Both fees are called service charges! And outside of Sunday brunch, it’s only for large parties. The hotel is adding a fee that not only isn’t disclosed, but that the menu implies shouldn’t be charged at all (for groups smaller than 4).

The sort of service charge added by the W Dallas – Victory used to be de rigueur for hotel room service orders, and it was awkward because you didn’t know ‘does the service charge cover the tip?’ and so you’re getting fleeced when adding an additional tip, or are you being chintzy if you leave that off? Spreading the practice to the basic restaurant is gauche, if not outright fraud.

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, 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: fraud indeed. This kind of “resort fee” morph is going rampant.

    At ‘Wicked Tina’ (a mediocre seafood restaurant frequented by tourists) in Myrtle Beach, SC they add a $3.50 “operations fee” to your bill without your consent.

  2. Need laws NOW to prevent this stupidity. All prices must be completely all inclusive.

  3. Whenever I see “service charge” on a restaurant or room service bill, I read that as a mandatory tip which I’m fine with, assuming it’s been disclosed in advance. So, I wouldn’t leave a tip in these instances. If the waiter/waitress mentions it, they can take off the “service charge” from the bill, give me the updated bill, and I will give them the 18-20% tip instead.

    Frustrating when restaurants are tacking on all sorts of fees to cover their overhead costs versus just increasing the prices on their menu.

  4. the unemployment rate in Dallas is 3.4%. why would an in-demand service worker chose to work at such venue?

  5. This is how the law typically operates – any mandatory service charge is collected by the owner of the establishment, and distributed to the worker however they wish. Gratuities written on the tip line have to go to the servers, whether individually or in a pooled manner, without managers or owners participate in the pool.

    Here’s the thing: If the owner decides to use tipped wage, and the distributed tips do not cover enough to meet minimum wage, then the owner needs to make up the difference. Even with that said, if there’s too much shenanigan, people leave.

  6. Just back from Scotland and some restaurants had a service charge on it but they will remove it if asked and then you can leave your own tip. I never tip when I see service charge added as service means helping ior doing work for someone

  7. +1 on the mandatory service charge of 20% being added to large parties (since when is your family of five a large party?). Confusing that they are both called service charges. Service fee on a large group IS the tip. So, yes, it is implied smaller groups don’t get it charged. Also, when charged, I assume it is a tip. Call me cheap, whatever. I am over the tipping culture and pretty much only tip in full-service, sit-down restaurants, even when my employer is paying through the expense account. Sorry, HMS, you don’t get a tip for taking my $16 breakfast burrito order at the airport.

  8. You’re arguing the wrong point. The W is required to offer breakfast. A contintental breakfast costs $20, and the cheapest breakfast option is $15. I’m not sure how much coffee costs, but let us just assume it’s the same $4 as juice. Either way they’re not providing enough credit to cover your breakfast; therefore they’re failing to provide the required elite benefit. Invoke the guarantee and get a $100.

  9. I wonder if the owners, executives, and accountants who come up with and approve these fraudulent fees, service charges, and resort fees would ever consider flying Spirit or Ryan Air…

    My guess is that they’d balk at the endless fees

  10. Those prices are insanity. If I’m staying in Dallas I’ll just go to the local Whataburger for breakfast. I can get a burger and fries for less than just that bagel.

  11. W has always been a brand I have avoided. After a few experiences, I concluded they try to find the most condescending and pretentious customer-facing staff that they can find.

  12. Sure it’s a Franchise Owner who is Patel and looks to hurt the Marriott goodwill for there benefit

  13. We are Americans and currently on an extended trip in Europe. Guess what? The prices on the menu are the prices you pay including tax and employee compensation/wages/healthcare/etc. Rarely there is a service charge, but it is small. Some times we leave an extra something as a token of thanks, but more than that and the servers feel insulted. (Tour guides we tip more.)

    Restaurant prices in the U.S. are out of control because the customers are expected to pay the compensation of the restaurant’s workers plus taxes. And it never disclosed on the menu, or even by custom anymore. Every restaurant makes up it’s own monetary system.

  14. @Andrew: The difference being that, speaking for US carriers, Spirit and such have to not only disclose carrier-imposed fees but include them in the quoted purchase price. They also provide a mechanism to avoid paying them (cumbersome as they may be).

  15. Craig – have you gotten $100 from Marriott invoking that? If so what info did you have to provide?

  16. It isn’t a free market when you can’t realistically comparison shop and the pricing for everything is opaque. See also: healthcare.

  17. I stayed at this hotel about 1 year ago. As a Titanium they comped the breakfast which was very good. If they have gone to this new system, I won’t be back and that’s sad because I was planning to go back. Lots of good hotels in Dallas that don’t play games.

  18. Laws have changed in several states. I know it is the case in CA, WA, and DC, and maybe others.
    Now, employers are required to pay full wages to all personnel including service personnel. The previous reduced minimum wage for tipped personnel no longer exists. In order to compensate for that, the law now allows employers to keep service charges and tips.
    So, to answer the question, yes the hotel is keeping the service charge as the law allows them to.

    Those new minimum wage laws are the first step in eliminating the tipping business.

  19. I pay my 18% for the service, how it’s split is not my problem, nor do I waste a millisecond to investigate it.

    If Texas citizens love deregulation and hate free markets, then its citizens must deal with this. They vote, and this is just a reflection of their stupidity.

  20. If the service charge went to an lgbtq@/€{*| cause that does bare butt drag queen shows for kids it would be ok. But not if it doesn’t of course. I know Gary agrees. Gotta trans the kids w the contagion.

  21. Not saying it’s right or wrong, but what most folks don’t realize is that most positions at hotel restaurants are full wage positions, not the below minimum wage for tipped servers at other non-hotel restaurants.

    Just sharing a data point

  22. Hotels will keep raising prices until they lose customers. Their competition (AirBnB, VRBO…) never offers food, so hotels have an advantage even if they only offer bread and water.

  23. The article is ignorant. That restaurant is Villa Azur, a Miami based destination restaurant. It is run and operated independently by a French group, not by Marriott or the hotel owners

  24. I worked for Hyatt hotels as a room service waiter in college. The than 20% service charge went entirely to the server.

  25. I would never work there and will never stay there. I live in Fort Worth and stay in Dallas often for business. Not staying here EVER again now.

  26. I’m staying at a Courtyard by Marriott in San Diego and my rate includes breakfast. You can only get the smaller size coffee and refills are extra. Water is also extra. Unbelievable.

  27. Just experienced this with them last month. Ordered an average breakfast for me and my guest. Bill was like $70 after the $30 credit. Credit needs to be more, or certain meals should just be included for platinum and above members.

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