This Marriott Tacks On An Undisclosed 4% Extra Fee For The Lightbulbs In Your Room

The Fort Wayne, Indiana Fairfield Inn by Marriott is billing guests a surprise “energy surcharge” that appears to be 4% of the room rate.

This surcharge isn’t disclosed to customers when booking their room. The Marriott website only informs of government taxes and fees, not hotel-imposed additional charges.

The reader who shared it relays being “told it was to replace lightbulbs and pay for energy efficiency improvements.” When pressed, the front desk offered to remove the charge.

Hyatt doesn’t allow this practice and cracked down on the Chicago hotel that was trying it. However an independent property in Vegas was first to make news for an electricity surcharge earlier this year.

These sorts of charges are despicable on several levels:

  • They are disingenuous because this is not a tax or optional charge, it’s a cost that you must pay if you stay in the room and that makes it part of the rate.

  • This is fraudulent since the only purpose of charging separately, rather than including it in the rate, is to mislead consumers.

  • It’s possibly actionable because it is drip pricing, since the room costs more than what consumers are originally quoted.

At some point we have to ask: what does the room rate even cover if it doesn’t include the lightbulbs in the room?

There’s clearly no relationship between the energy surcharge and the cost of power incurred by the room – there can’t be since the surcharge is a percentage of the room rate, surely guests don’t keep the lights on more on nights when the hotel charges more for the room. That makes it seem ripe for a lawsuit along the lines of the class action settlement with British Airways, because fuel surcharges weren’t related to the cost of fuel.

If we don’t keep careful watch over hotels right now practices like this are going to expand.

I reached out to Marriott to learn their policy on these kinds of surcharges and a spokesperson confirms, “Energy surcharges are not permitted.” I’ve let them know about this property’s practices so hopefully this will be ended – and guests that have been improperly charged refunded.

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. They’ll probably charge anything they can get away with. For business travelers, as I’m one. We don’t really care. Business expenses are deductible or expensable. Since it’s a Fairfield Inn, that should amount to around $5. Try that here at Ritz Carlton @ Laguna $1395 a night, or at the Royal Hawaiian @$500 a night. That’s not going to fly.

  2. With all the nickel and dime issues created by Marriott properties, how about we just restore Starwood Hotels so we do not have to worry about what awaits us at Marriott? During my years of heavy travel for business and leisure, I never endured such ghastly, anti-customer experience hotels with Starwood or Fairmont (nee Canadian Pacific).

    Perhaps Marriott would be more comfortable just operating hotels in Russia..?

  3. When is someone going to sue Marriott on a class-action basis for all the rogue properties? What about the dozens or hundreds or thousands of guests who were charged this fee? Will 100% of them get a refund?

  4. We probably say this once per week, but it is long past time for regulation requiring price transparency in hotel bookings. Hotels should be required to publish the total price (inclusive of all taxes and mandatory fees) anywhere prices are found.

  5. OMG. Guess I need to start traveling with light bulbs to avoid the fee and replace them myself.
    Would love to see some legal action on this one…

  6. Whether Marriott permits charges like this or not is irrelevant. Any charge that isn’t disclosed as part of the reservation is fraudulent. Furthermore if this is their practice then it’s likely criminally fraudulent.

    I suggest a call to the District Attorney in for the City or County where this property is located. They will probably blow it off, but at least one can try.

  7. “Yes, there is a suite available during your entire stay. But, I can’t just upgrade you to a suite for seven days.” Buddy, you don’t have to. I moved my stay to the Mandarin Oriental and receive a corner suite with a stunning view.

    As a multi-year Ambassador Elite, I can tell you that it doesn’t mean Jack (Snap) to the property owners. Having experienced how it really is and having now heard it from Marriott’s CEO, I find no meaningful value in tier status. It is a mirage in the desert . . . water in the distance beckoning. But, when we get there, there’s no water to drink. When the reality of it all finally set in, it was sobering. Needless to say, I’m done with them. But, to be fair, it’s not just Marriott — it’s all of them. Plan accordingly.

  8. Wow, thanks for pointing this out. I actually stayed there in June and receive final bill via email. I was extremely busy and didn’t look at it closely, noticed now that there is an energy surcharge on it. I’m calling asap to have it refunded.

  9. Sofitel New York is charging a more than $30 “utilities” fee on top of a $25 something destination fee per day!

  10. I’m doing a 2 night stay at the SeaTac Residence on on Marriot free night certificates, and it’s charging me $4 for taxes and fees. Not that much for my personal stay, but it’s pretty ridiculous since I don’t pay any fees on Hyatt and IHG certificates.

  11. When I travel I bring my own lightbulbs to avoid such charges. I keep them in my suitcase next to my towels and shampoo. Can never be too careful!

  12. These practices are being done so without the companies awareness (I.e. Marriott & Hyatt). it’s the individual management hoteliers that run the one off hotels which are practicing this behavior. The major lodging companies that franchise their brand/name don’t condone this tactic.

  13. You call your credit card company and claim there is a false charge on the bill and you want it challenged. If enuf people do that, it will force the Hotel
    to rethink this criminal fraud because they will have to defend each challenge. Also, file complaints with BBB and State Consumer Affairs Commisions.

  14. I’m grateful for the heads-up for this perfidy. It will be my pleasure to avoid this property like one of various forms of plague. A pox and palsy on the owner and senior leadership responsible for attempting such skullduggery!

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