Marriott Resort Charges Elites A Cash Co-Pay For Breakfast, Complimentary Doesn’t Mean Free

Marriott offers complimentary breakfast at most of its brands to Platinum elites and higher. Hoewver they don’t really say what breakfast means. And some hotels have figured out that the terms and conditions of the Bonvoy program don’t actually define ‘complimentary’ so they interpret it to mean “charged to the customer, but just for less money.” The Tribute Portfolio Royal Palm South Beach Miami is one of those hotels.

Reader Steve shares his experience at the Royal Palm South Beach,

The Royal Palm South Beach Miami also state explicitly on their breakfast voucher that gratuity is not included and the Royal Palm is not a cheap hotel. Room run as much as $800/night.

..I’m lifetime Titanium not that it matters except that to note that they said it would cost me $150 (later reduced to $100) for an upgrade to a suite.

Notice how they’ll only let you order juice or coffee, too?

The CEO of this hotel’s management group says guests need to be trained to tip more, so he doesn’t have to raise wages. It’s no surprise his hotel finds a way to squeeze a few extra dollars out of a guest.

It would be really helpful for Marriott to be more explicit in its terms about what’s actually required of hotels, though I take their not doing so as strategic ambiguity. Many hotels will be more generous that the minimum that some properties figure out they can get away with. But they do let properties get away with a lot, because Marriott’s key motivation is keeping owners happy – and part of paying fees to Marriott.

In contrast, though, Hyatt is clear both about what breakfast means and that the cost of breakfast means the actual cost that might be charged to a guest (emphasis mine):

Globalists will receive daily complimentary full breakfast (which includes one entrée or standard breakfast buffet, juice, and coffee, as well as tax, gratuity and service charges) for each registered guest in the room, up to a maximum of two (2) adults and two (2) children.

Tax and gratuity is part of the cost of having breakfast so for a breakfast to be considered complimentary guests must not be expected to pay cash out of pocket to eat it. But the Royal Palm South Beach Miami has figured out a way to charge elite guests a cash co-pay for their ‘free’ breakfast.

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,

    Lots of agonizing about breakfast lately. Kinda sad IMHO (lifetime Titanium and Diamond Hilton but roll with whatever I get and don’t act entitled like so many on here). One thing that gets me is that you keep posting Hyatt “includes tip”. I understand a comped breakfast and agree there should be no tax on a “free” breakfast but do you REALLY not leave a tip for the server? You have no idea if the hotel gives them anything. Frankly, I leave a better tip when I get something comped. For example, if I’m at a Caesar’s property and they comp me a meal (happens a good bit at my level) or if I use my Reward Credits to pay for the meal I always leave 25-30% of what would have been the cost for the server. That is just the right thing to do. Are you telling me Hyatt Globalist that get a free breakfast in the hotel restaurant can’t leave a $5 bill for the server? REALLY? SMH!

  2. When is someone going to sue? Look how Marriott caved to the Pennsylvania attorney general. How is the breakfast situation not worse?

  3. Experienced travelers should avoid staying at the Miami Royal Palm South Beach hotel, a Marriott Tribute Portfolio property, because they squeeze their valued guests but not their orange juice.

  4. I’m about to be seven years in toward Lifetime Platinum but considering just how badly Marriott has worsened their treatment of loyal guests in the past five years I can’t help but wonder if my goal is remotely worthwhile.

  5. biggest mistake was chasing LT status of Marriott instead of Hyatt’s. LTP looks like its going to leak more “benefits” maybe lounger & earlier “late checkout”.

  6. Perhaps the servers need to be labeled independent contractors and the line on charge slips now marked as tip should be labeled payroll.

  7. Marriott has completely abandoned their most loyal customers. We stood by them through the pandemic and now that they are making billions of dollars of profit, they’ve decided they can now turn their back on us…over something like a simple breakfast. I am one year out from lifetime Titanium, but, would rather focus on getting my Hyatt Globalist. Hyatt still gets what it means to reward customer loyalty. Marriott has forgotten about us.

  8. I’m Marriott titanium. Was staying at the Atlanta airport Westin. When checking in I asked if breakfast was included he said no, that they are a franchise and not required to. So now I’d like to ask if there’s a way to know up front what hotels are corporate owned. I’m also lifetime platinum and wasn’t once upgraded this year. Maybe looking for Hyatt match going into 2023.

  9. &RetiredGambler:
    You obviously know nothing of Hyatt so why suggest? When you leave a tip for the server, it is always removed and covered by Hyatt.
    Tipping culture just gets crazier. People think we should tip when we are told it’s not a tipping situation.
    It’s good for you that you come here to toot your own horn, but you just sound ignorant to me.

  10. Then there’s the even more dishonest practice of a property using the Marriott-supplied vouchers that expressly say tip is included but then ask guests to sign a receipt with a blank line for the tip.

    Then again, what do you expect when Marriott doesn’t even know its own program. The breakfast benefit at legacy SPG properties and resorts from legacy Marriott brands is a restaurant breakfast. Meanwhile, the “continental breakfast” that the Marriott-supplied vouchers cover is actually the benefit for non-resort legacy Marriott properties with a closed club lounge or no club lounge. It’s an entirely different provision of the Bonvoy program. Yet, Marriott doesn’t seem to know or care.

    Same for the wireless internet replacement benefit at properties charging a resort or destination fee that includes wifi. All Bonvoy members and not just elites are supposed to get a replacement. Why is this so hard for Marriott to enforce given it is explicitly defined?

  11. @Fathiss – first of all I agree tipping is a horrible practice but it is the norm. I spent 2 weeks in Italy recently and you didn’t tip at all for many services. Even for meals there was no tip line on the credit card receipt and it was considered good practice to leave around 10% in cash on the table (although if you didn’t folio at all that was OK also – I just wanted to go with the local best practice).

    My question to you – if the breakfast is $25 and you decide to leave $10 (40%) since it was otherwise free and the server did great is Hyatt going to reimburse you? I would always leave cash, even there, regardless of whether tip was included or not since ai don’t know the limit on tip amount allowed and also have no way of knowing if my server got it.

    Obviously you do you but I feel good with my practice. I worked in college as a server and bartender plus my daughter has worked as a server so I’m more sympathetic to their situation than many and also not cheap and looking to minimize tips.

  12. Recently stayed at the Elliott Park hotel in Minneapolis. My free breakfast cost $20+. My “free” breakfast was $8.00 off a regular breakfast (unless I wanted a yogurt parfait). Breakfast was $18.00 plus $6.00 for coffee and tax and tip. Even with the $8.00 discount, my portion was over $20.

  13. I have a question. What is the cost basis on which the hotel is collecting tax? On what amount? The amount they would ordinarily be charging a non complimentary guest or the amount that Marriott is paying them for the complimentary breakfast? Why would the hotel collect tax to pay the municipality? Is it there believe that it is their civic duty or perhaps this is a money making proposition. I would like to determine the cost basis used to charge tax and the amount actually paid to the government. If Marriott is paying a reduced amount for the breakfast is the guest paying tax on the full amount? Is the hotel pocketing the difference?

  14. And you Hyatt folks believe that the staff gets the tips on the tip line for complimentary breakfast? Tip $100 for your breakfast then, and make the servers really happy….

  15. Retired gambler, this is not our problem and not our responsibity
    When we’ve earned a free meal with status or otherwise, free means free. The hotel should be paying that tip, and if not, well, the servers know whom to blame. “But they need the money more than you do!”. Sure. Sure, but the homeless or orphaned need the help more, so when it comes to philanthropy, I’ll dole out appropriately.

    Re this shitty hotel, I’m quite happy to leave them a 3 star review and would encourage others to do the same. My understanding is that this is a tactic that affects the bottom line of hotel owners and managers so hopefully they’ll be persuaded to stop being assholes.

  16. This is precisely why I’m done with Marriott when my Ambassador status expires at the end of 2023. Their program is a complete fraud. You get absoluttely nothing but lip service by spending your hard earned money at Marriott. I asked to get a simple shaving kit each of my 124 stays this past year. My request was accomodated exactly ZERO times. Oh, how many times was I given a complimentary room upgrade? ZERO times! I could go on and on but I have much better things to do with my time. Forget the worthless Bonvoy program and take your money where they do what they promise.

  17. Aw geez I feel so bad for someone who gets to stay in $800/night hotels and doesn’t get free breakfast and ALSO has to tip the unwashed scrubs that serve them. Next thing you know they’ll be asking him to treat housekeeping like they’re real people. Merry Christmas?

  18. What does the tax code say about how much a hotel should collect in taxes on a breakfast for which it charges no money?

  19. Can you imagine his flight over? TSA probably didn’t even give him platinum status with his liquids and might have even had to follow the same rules as everyone else. What a ripoff! He should have been flown to his destination in a private jet with a personal chef and masseuse. What a tragedy.

  20. @Adam

    If you win a night completely free at a nice hotel, are you not going to tip the guy who brings your suitcases to the room $5-$10 just because you won a free night?

  21. @Retired Gambler: As far as I know, it’s not a “free” breakfast in a literal sense of the word “free.” While there may be no charge to the guess, most or all of the programs pay the property a specific amount of money for the breakfast. In the case of Hyatt and IHG, the terms and conditions say TIP and TAX are covered. Period.

  22. I have no idea why Gary seems to think a hotel should foot the tip of their patrons, status or otherwise. Just because Hyatt does it? And I think others bring up a good point. At what point would Hyatt not remove your tip and covered it? What if I am there now and as a good holiday gesture tip $100? Will Hyatt cover that? I highly doubt any tip makes its way to the servers. But regardless, who cares? Tip your servers.

    And we can all rag on Marriott but Hilton is just as bad. Their FB program is a joke and everywhere I stay there I am basically subsidizing their credit 5-10 bucks. And it’s constant breakage having to remind them to use it.

    For all the crap people on this blog give Marriott, everyone seems to have LT status. Whether due to Starwood or obtained through Marriott why keep going back if you don’t like it?

  23. And for all you cheap souls who say free = free or in other words heaven forbid if I have to open my wallet as moths might fly out, if you have a free dinner at a restaurant, does that include tip? Absolutely not! But what if restaurant x does include it? Should all restaurants be expected to.

    A free breakfast doesn’t mean no tip needed. Just because Hyatt does it doesn’t mean all should. Like I mentioned earlier, I HIGHLY doubt any tip is transferred to the server.

    Gary do you have any friends not GMs and lowly servers at Hyatt you could ask?

  24. Dr. Westbrook:

    > If you win a night completely free at a nice hotel, are you not going
    > to tip the guy who brings your suitcases to the room $5-$10 just
    > because you won a free night?

    I wouldn’t ask someone to bring my suitcase(s) to my room, because I’m fully able to do that myself. If I wasn’t able for some reason and had to make this request, I’d tip the person.

    And I admit there are other situations in which a tip is still warranted… for instance, if I use a buy-one-get-one-free entree coupon at a restaurant, I’m gonna tip on the full amount because that’s typically explicitly requested on the coupon and it’s clear the restaurant is not gonna chip in (though they should!)

    But the sooner our f’ed up tipping culture in the U.S. is upended, the better. Excepting a small segment of folks who are making out really well, it’s overall really shitty in so many ways.

  25. I realize that I may as well be spitting in the wind BUT if the hotel is located in the United States and its operational language is English, the prevailing definition of “complimentary” must apply. Had I been snagged in this deranged contortion of verbiage, I likely would have sued, if for no other reason than to aid my dear departed paternal grandmother in her heavenly confines to shake it all. She taught English, completed the New York Times Sunday crossword IN INK, co-authored multiple children’s books and taught herself Ancient Greek just so that she could provide her clergyman spouse a custom translation of the New Testament (yes, all true). Per Merrian-Webster, “complimentary”: “given FREE as a courtesy or favor” I mean, I must ask: which syllable of “free” leaves the proprietor confused?

  26. @Shawn and everyone else defending the hotel: The COMPLIMENTARY breakfast voucher that Marriott supplies every property in North America literally says tip and tax is included. Properties not using this voucher are deliberately cheating. Every voucher has a property specific code on it.

  27. “Hoewver they don’t really say what breakfast means.”

    Don’t you even run a spellchecker before pressing the send button

  28. There are liars here stating that they are working on lifetime Titanium status. That ended with the SPG merger.
    Now, the highest lifetime status is Platinum.
    I am Titanium, but will never be higher lifetime than Platinum.
    Don’t believe me? Call your Marriott Titanium number.

  29. There are liars here stating that they are working on lifetime Titanium status. That ended with the SPG merger.
    Now, the highest lifetime status is Platinum.
    I am Titanium, but will never be higher lifetime than Platinum.
    Don’t believe me? Call your Marriott Titanium number.
    Don’t have the Marriott Titanium number? It’s because you are lying.

  30. Tipping culture has been made worse by square and other stupid payment processors, no matter what you buy, you have to tap multiple times on a screen. It’s annoying. I tip a waiter/waitress at a restaurant, that’s usually it.

  31. I no longer expect breakfast anymore. But what really pissed me off is when they offer me a breakfast voucher for 20$ and coffee and a bagel was like 17$ so I let the rest be for taxes they added the taxes on my bill anyways.

  32. @Tbone Of course franchises ARE required to abide by Marriott’s terms. That’s why they are allowed to use the Westin name. You were being lied to, plain and simple. Whether or not Marriott cares is another story.

    Also note free breakfast at Westin counts as a Welcome Amenity. If you chose 1000 points at checkin then you are not entitled to daily breakfast. Somehow Marriott equates a one-time 1000 point bonus at check-in (worth maybe $6) equivalent to a breakfast for 2 every day of your stay.

  33. I just stayed here with my wife for 4 nights at the beginning of December. We got 2 breakfast coupons each day for the buffet, ordered tea + juice or coffee+juice each, had omlettes from the station as well as the buffet. We were never charged separately for either. We also received a ToGo cup of Hot Tea and Coffee when our breakfast was over.

    The bill the sever brings you is for $0.00 and specifically states 18% service included. This is a resort property, so it can be questionable if the service fee is a tip, so we just tipped $5/person each morning … like we always do.

    We were NOT charged any taxes

  34. Marriott again….your right, they look at the hotel owner as the customer. Marriott is a sub brand anymore. I foresee a day (today probably) when people will refuse to stay at one. It’s a value issue. For the high-end client, getting nickel and dimed is no big deal. But how many of us are there that don’t care about a few bucks here and there? Not many I’m guessing. I don’t care if someone else is paying the bill, but I’m paying the bill. And I don’t live in a $2 Million mansion and get flown around in a private jet with a limo service. So while I enjoy luxury, I also enjoy a good value.

    I don’t stay at one by choice, and I haven’t stayed at one for years. Why? Because when I stay at a hotel, I refused to be nickeled and dimed. The room rate needs to be all inclusive, and breakfast included or excluded depends on the room rate. And tipping? What is that? Pay your people! You can take a hit on your bonus so they can get a good paycheck. I don’t tip at hotels. I expect the hotel to take care of their people. This whole corporate America expecting me to tip so the fat cats at the top can keep wages low, and their profits and bonus’ high is BS. I pay good money so they can pay their people good money.

    I stay at Hilton whenever I can. The properties are nicer and well run.

  35. Could you do an article about how to guests should behave? Many, many guests act like everyone in hotels and at restaurants should be kissing the ground they walk on, then like a child throw a hissy fit when they get what they booked, they aren’t upgraded (I’m talking about non-elite members) and are demeaning to employees. I’ve seen guests yell at bellmen and the front desk team, telling them that they are paying for their rent and paychecks….the sense of common courtesy is two ways, people forget that.

  36. Marriott has been a nickel and dime operation for years now. I am done with them.

    Hilton is moving the same direction. Diamond status means almost nothing at many properties, but is still better than Marriott. For now.

    It is a race to the bottom, folks….

  37. I am Marriot Titanium for many years now and Hyatt Globalist.
    1. The marriott status is a lot easier to obtain with credit cards so I dont expect it to be as good as Hyatt.
    2. In Europe and Asia I never had a problem getting full breakfast included as per marriott T and C. Also usually get a nice room upgrade.
    3, In USA unfortunately I now ALWAYS call the hotel beforehand to check exactly what benefits I will get and I note the name of the person i speak to. If I am not happy with the benefits I dont stay there. I would NEVER stay at the Royal Palm South Beach nor any marriott hotel which skimps on benefits and I suggest everyoen else do the same. Put your money where it counts.

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