Several Marriotts Now Tack On An Unexplained ‘Sustainability Fee’

The Hotel Saint Louis, affiliated with the Marriott Autograph Collection brand, is charging a $4.99 per night ‘sustainability fee’ I first saw this reported at One Mile at a Time.

The hotel doesn’t describe the fee on its website, and staff on property reportedly haven’t been able to explain it either. It’s unclear what they’re sustaining… other than the $4.99 itself. They do not even appear to be pretending that tacking on a non-optional fee – drip pricing – somehow benefits the environment.

However this isn’t the only Marriott engaged in the practice. I looked up which group operates the property, and it turns out that Innkeeper Hospitality Services has three other Marriott Autograph Collection hotels. And they all add the same $4.99 per night junk fee.

This is just another indication that Marriott has lost the plot – and almost all control of the owners using its brand for a fee. Whether it’s hotels tacking on undisclosed fees for the lightbulbs in your room or franchisees charging extra to accept Marriott’s own credit cards hotels are getting away with abusing guests and flaunting the chain and it’s only when these properties are shamed online that the company seems to do anything about it.

Sure, Marriott nods to environmental consciousness in denying daily housekeeping and using cheap wall-mounted toiletries that often lack tamper protection. That’s why this April Fool’s post was so believable to many. But at least with these measures there’s a story that they use as cover for why it’s supposed to be better for the environment that they’re cutting costs.

These Marriott hotels, in contrast, take the Human Fund approach – just give them more money, call it a donation to the hotel if you will, and don’t ask any questions.

What’s worse is that these hotels are doing it even as Marriott just settled a claim with Pennsylvania promising to be more transparent in its pricing. They’ve got a lot of work to do to get hotels in line, but if consistent delivery of Bonvoy elite benefits are any indication there’s either lack of will or ability to do so. I even discovered Marriott properties selling rooms out from under the chain on Airbnb.

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. Easy enough to dispute
    You tell the front desk to remove it or you will chargeback
    I can’t see front desk arguing over this

  2. Marriott is not a hotel company. Over 70% of it properties across all brands are operated by franchisees or third-party management companies. Marriott is merely a booking or marketing platform that sells guests to its real customers, the owners.

  3. They are displayed, just not up front. Chargeback won’t work.

    Gary, isn’t this tax evasion? What fees are allowed to skip room tax? Might as well have it all be fees.

    Would dropping a dime to the right tax people do anything?

  4. Sounds like someone should file a complaint with the Missouri attorney general. As he is running for US Senate in a crowded populist Republican primary, this would be a great issue for him.

  5. @swag – lots of company websites discuss sustainability.

    Neither the hotel websites (where customers book) nor the company website (which I had to track down) discuss what the $4.99 per night is supposed to be *for* other than a deceptive fee since it’s non-optional but broken out separate from the room rate.

  6. Next we’ll see an “equity” fee or “white privilege” fee…..think I’m kidding?

  7. The answer, of course, is to make hotels put all mandatory fees in the room rate. That will stop all of this, except for things like a charge for using credit cards.

  8. All “fees” that are not optional and not required by some outside agency (such as taxes) should be illegal. It is really consumer fraud.

  9. Any one who regularly reads the travel blogs and still participates in the hotel loyalty programs deserves to be charged any and all fees charged by the property owners. Move on.

  10. FNT Delta Diamond, it is worth noting that the relationship between Marriott and the independent owners is subject to terms and conditions. Those terms and conditions include a range of standards with which the independent owners must comply, including pricing among many other things. The relationship is far more than a simple referral arrangement that you suggest. It might be worth investigating those terms and conditions and reassessing your position. Offered in the friendliest manner.

  11. Not much different from car rental fees, such as the airport concession fee, arena cost recovery, busing cost recovery, concession fee recovery, energy surcharge, concession fee surcharge, garage recoupment surcharge, license reimbursement, rental contract fee, utility fee charge, etc (all of these are at least listed on the Hertz website). Sometimes, the fees double the initial cost of the rental. On a car rental, the fees are usually disclosed on the contract before they ask you to sign it (although its probably rare that anyone has the time to read and digest every word). But at least the total amount of the rental is usually displayed on the company’s website before you commit to the rental. Regarding sustainability, if a hotel is truly following sustainability principles, their costs should be lower. As other posters mentioned, skipping housekeeping, using refillable shampoo bottles, and even LED lighting all result in cost savings. Same with lights and HVAC that turn off based on motion sensors. And, they could use metered EV chargers, so they don’t charge everyone for the cost of fueling EVs.

  12. Time for Federal regulations ! And I say that as someone who is anti-regulation. Unfortunately, crappy businesses bring it on themselves and ruin the party for those who play nice.

  13. These hotels are going to keep finding it harder and harder to hire employees once people start ripping on the front desk employees due to these fees and housekeeping taking longer to clean due to pissed people trashing rooms more often. Nothing pisses people off more than bait and switch or nickel and diming schemes.

  14. It’s called a sustainability fee because the hotels hope to sustain this deceptive practice as long as possible.

    Wonder what the next bogus fee du jour will be.

  15. I stayed in Rio and there were huge “optional taxes” on the bill. I asked front desk and it was an optional tax on guests for hotel improvements

    I was like REALLY. The amount was fairly sizable like 20 bucks a night

    I said remove it. The desk said no I need to speak to a manager that never seemed to be there in 5 days. Finally got it reversed but it wasn’t easy.

  16. Here’s a lesson for the boy Matthew: it’s “business gone wild” that has hotel customers subjected to these hotel scam fees.

  17. One word – greed.

    Elaboration – any “excuse” that can cover the greed will be used. Greed is the root of almost all that ails us. Power hunger covers the rest.

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