Back in March I wrote about the JW Marriott Los Cabos charging award guests an extra $30 per night fee to stay, calling it “the most Marriott Bonvoy thing ever.”
This flat fee was described as a ‘service charge’. Paid rate guests pay a service charge of 10% of their room rate, and with paid rates under $300 service charges are lower for guests paying cash than those paying with points.
When I first asked Marriott about this I was told that these service charges were typical for resorts in Mexico, and that award guests weren’t being targeted despite unfortunate language on Marriott’s website that made it appear otherwise. I pushed back.
- Claiming there is ‘no service charge specifically for redemption stays’ isn’t quite right since there’s no flat $30 charge applied to paid bookings, which are billed 10% of paid rate.
- That’s beside the point, since service charges (or any fee that is a percentage of room rate) – as opposed to resort fees – are supposed to be included with award stays. Bonvoy program terms item 3.2.e states that free night redemption “includes.. room tax/service charge.”
Credit: JW Marriott Los Cabos
Marriott told the property to cut it out. They “look[ed] into whether this practice existed at other properties in the company’s portfolio.” And they committed to “communicate with [Bonvoy] members who were impacted by such charges and intend to address the situation.”
It took four months, but Marriott has return to the issue and solved it. They’ve shared,
[A] few months ago, it was discovered one hotel had created a fund financed through a service charge on all stays including redemptions. All money raised was paid directly to associates as a gratuity except for property executives. A thorough review revealed two other properties with similar service charges. At each property, the service charges were rescinded to comply with Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions. The service charge for paid stays remains.
Members who booked redemption stays at the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa, Courtyard Nassau Downtown/Junkanoo Beach and Westin Cozumel during the period when service charges were imposed for redemption stays are now being notified in an email that they are eligible for a refund and how to apply for it.
Saying the money was for employees maybe is supposed to make guests feel guilty, and not seek a refund? Mandatory guest tips – outside the U.S. even! – are all well and good, but:
- Hotel employees should be taken care of by the hotel
- The hotel is receiving payment from Marriott that is meant to be inclusive of service charges.
- If they’re taking that reimbursement and not sharing a portion with staff, then the hotel is a bad actor
- And if the hotel is underpaying their staff, they should fix that.
I did flag that the Renaissance La Concha was doing the same thing, so I’m following up to learn why this hotel wasn’t included in the service charge refund process.
That hotel still has its $30 a day fee for award stays up on its website, while paid night guests do not get chargeed $30 and are billed 18% instead. It’s the exact same thing. Except this property calls it a resort fee instead of a service charge. I’m curious to learn if that’s why they’re allowed to continue to do this (Marriott lets hotels hit award guests with resort fees, unlike Hilton or Hyatt).