Westin In Houston Demands Guests Pay Extra To Replace Their Room’s Windows

The Westin Houston Medical Center adds a ‘sustainability fee’ onto guest bills. You’re supposed to accept a hidden add-on, that turns out to be a charge for building maintenance, because it’s impolite to question anything framed as ‘for the environment’.

One hotel employee described it as being “equivalent to a ‘resort fee.'”

The hotel’s General Manager, though, says it’s really an extra charge for the hotel’s maintenance.

The hotel’s historic 1954 structure is over 80 years old and was not designed with modern systems and materials.

The Environmental Fee is used for expenses that increase the overall efficiency of the building, including items such as electricity and water usage management systems to limit wasted resources. The fee also applies to costs such as installation and replacement of energy efficient window systems. Separate from the building maintenance, the fee is also used towards utilizing local suppliers.

The hotel adds this fee because it’s an old building. The money they’re charging you is so they can replace the windows and buy systems to limit your use of water and electricity.

  • Systems that save them water and electricity are cost-saving devices which mean they spend less money, yet somehow are an excuse to charge you more.

  • And old buildings, actively trying to spend less per guest, would usually charge lower rates not impose hidden extra charges on top of the published room rate.

But don’t you care about the planet? Yes, and cynical ploys to charge guests more for a product in the name of the environment worry me because they minimize real risk to the planet and dull us all to the risks that we actually should be paying attention to. Charging bonus sustainability fees is bad for the environment for the “little boy who cried wolf” reasoning we all learned as children.

The other thing that offends me about this explanation is the careless math and that Marriott hotels are run by people who cannot do math. A 1954 structure is not over 80 years old…

And even if it was? It doesn’t date to the era of Texas Independence. It’s not an historic landmark. It’s just an old building that the hotel’s owners want to charge guests more for, without being honest enough to include it in the room rate.

Whether it’s tacking on an unexplained ‘sustainability fee’ or a lightbulb fee or even an extra charge to cover a hotel’s property tax debt Marriott fails to stop its hotels from engaging in drip pricing.

To be sure the chain nods to environmental consciousness in denying daily housekeeping and using cheap wall-mounted toiletries that often lack tamper protection. But what they’re really doing is taking 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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. What’s next? A depreciation fund to replace the carpets and mattresses when they wear out? A building is supposed to be fully depreciated in 39 years in the US, and they should plan to refurbish and capitalize improvements over a similar period. Not sure why they can’t include that in room rates.

  2. As long as business travelers get their costs covered through expense reports and don’t even bother looking at the line items for bullshit charges, this type of behavior will continue.

  3. So, now guests are expected to contribute towards a hotel’s capital expense fund, in addition to the hotel rate? This is getting out of control.

  4. I’m surprised the Westin is that old, actually. The Shamrock Hotel, which was a little bit south of the TMC, was built in ’48 or ’49 and got torn down in the mid-80s. Since Westin clearly can’t do math correctly, I would be skeptical of when they say that building was built.

  5. This is total BS and customers should boycott this property until the management gets the message loud and clear. Another glorious example of Marriott not reigning in property management and franchisees when and where such blatant extra charges occur. The Marriott brand is being destroyed by incompetent management and over zealous bean counters!

  6. The State Cost Recovery Fee on that receipt is usually intended to cover TX’s franchise tax, but the perfectly round rate of 4% of gross revenue is much more than TX’s actual franchise tax (which is a fraction of a percent on the margin), which makes me wonder if some of that cost should also have been rolled into the room rate.

    (Though businesses are allowed to charge a State Cost Recovery Fee to cover franchise tax, the entire notion is a bit bizarre. Hotel rooms in states with a corporate income tax don’t charge that as a separate line item!)

  7. @MissMarinose: Wait !!! Someone tore down the Shamrock?????

    I guess I haven’t been there in awhile.

  8. They would have done better burying this expense in the general room charge. I suppose there could be a water charge when you use the toilet or shower, but we haven’t quite reached that point yet.

  9. Years ago, I was working for an Australian businessman in Shenzhen.

    His first night in China, at a chain called the Vienna Hotel, the ceiling in his room collapsed, destroying a lot of his gadgets.

    The next morning, I rushed over there help translate his requests to the manager; however, the manager blamed him for placing his things below the ceiling.

    That moment in time augured some really wonderful encounters in the subsequent months.

  10. I am waiting for this Marriott property to add a Vikane® sulfuryl fluoride bedbug fumigator and pest management treatment fee.

    Sulfuryl fluoride is a structural and commodity fumigant used to control a wide variety of pests, including termites, powder post beetles, old house borers, bedbugs, carpet beetles, moths, cockroaches, rats, and mice. Nervous System And Respiratory Irritation Overexposure to high levels of sulfuryl fluoride can result in nose and throat irritation and nausea. At high concentrations (such as those used during the fumigation) it can cause excess fluid in the lungs, sleepiness, pneumonia, and convulsions. These symptoms would be expected to appear within 8 hours after such an exposure. In the unlikely event you experience these symptoms in the building that has been recently fumigated, you should leave immediately.

  11. Just another made up “bean counter” fee. Easy solution – do not book a room at any of their properties. I don’t and won’t. There are many other places to stay – I will patronize them.

  12. We go to MD Anderson quite a bit–stayed at the Westin once and was very unimpressed. Much prefer the Marriott next door or the new IHG Intercontinental, which is lovely.

  13. Marriott’s business model:
    $300 Room Rate.
    $18 Taxes and government fees
    $40 Resort … I mean destination fee.
    $60 parking
    $10 internet recovery fee
    $7 bedsheet fee
    $5 towel fee
    $2 per flush
    $1 each time you turn on a night
    $9 A/C fee in summer
    $7 heat fee in winter
    $3.50 fresh air fee for opening window in spring
    $10 to talk to reception desk
    $5 phone fee, even if you dont use it
    $.50 carpet fee (per sq ft)

  14. Mon, is the in room coffee and tea included in the resort/destination fee, or will that be at check-out???
    Wasn’t sure if you included it in your revised Marriott business model.

  15. Usually when a hotel nickels and dimes me or deceives me, I just increase their costs of hosting me. And negative google reviews and trip advisor reviews and social media can work wonders.

  16. What a crock of s***. Do the guests get a credit back when the hotel owner gets his energy efficiency tax credits, or accelerated depreciation on capital expenses or the utility company rebates? The hotel property owner pays for the capex improvements…yet Marriott as the management company collects the fee?? Seems like it is going straight into Marriott’s pocket.

  17. The Holiday Inn University Area and the companion Holiday Inn Express in Statesboro, GA charges $5.00/night as a “service charge”. In my opinion, it’s a bait and switch. The charge is only shown just before one presses the “Book” button that this charge appears. Thus, the room rate appears cheaper than competing hotels until… I wrote IHG a letter and, after a month, have yet to hear back. “Buh bye” Holiday Inn

  18. Only ONE way to deal with this kind of malarkey- BOYCOTT it.
    I am associated with a private company that owns 57 top notch hotels. Average room price is about $950. We do not charge for use of the minibars, laundry, dry cleaning, pick up or drop off at airports (in a Bentley yet). You get what you pay for. Our overall occupancy rate right at 98.3%. If prospective guests find our prices too high, we will gladly drive you to the nearest Motel6!

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