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.