Do hotels charge for 'complimentary' items? - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Do hotels charge for 'complimentary' items?

Updated: July 2, 2012 04:49 PM EDT
© iStockphoto.com / Oktay Ortakcioglu © iStockphoto.com / Oktay Ortakcioglu


By Christopher Elliott

 

The surcharge seemed like nothing to Andy Fixman -- a "trivial amount" he says. But it meant everything to him.

Actually, it should to every hotel guest.

Fixman, an engineer based in Seattle, found an item in the fine print of his bill at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver, where he stayed recently. His daily edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper was "complimentary," it said.

"If I refuse the newspaper delivery, a credit of between $1 and $2 a day would be applied to my account, depending on the day of the week," he says. "This one really annoys me."

Huh?

If something is free, then refusing it shouldn't result in any credit. Because, you know, it was free.

The hotel seemed to be engaging in a little clever wordplay. What it actually should have said was, "We're charging you between $1 and $2 per night, depending on the day of the week, for the newspaper. (It actually costs us far less, because we buy the newspapers in bulk and distribute them ourselves.) If you don't want it, fine. We'll give you a credit."

Daniel Burrus, author of the book Flash Foresight, says it's fine print at its finest.

"They know that the vast majority [of guests] will never read the additional fee section and if you are an aging baby boomer, it's likely that you won't even be able to see the small type much less read it," he says. "Airlines and their baggage fees are well-known examples."

That's where, ahem, sites like this come into play.

"Thanks to social media, it is very easy to spread the word about a non-disclosed fee and create a minor revolt that can often spread to major newspapers and network television," he says.

I asked Starwood (www.starwoodhotels.com), which owns the Westin brand, for its side of the story. Helen Horsham-Bertels, the company's senior director for consumer affairs, told me the verbiage Fixman shared with me is printed on his bill, also known as folio.

"Upon checking in, guests receive their key packet, on which the verbiage below is communicated," she says. "The folio is more of a reminder that if the guest had in fact refused the newspaper, the credit would be applied to the bill, as stated on the key package packet."

But what about the wording -- specifically, the "complimentary" part?

"We understand from the guest's remarks that the word 'complimentary' may have been the concern," she says.

Look, I don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill, as my mother likes to say. And Starwood is a squeaky-clean brand, when it comes to customer service. But this one really annoys me, too.

Customers want businesses to give it to 'em straight. That's why people are so upset when they encounter "gotcha" fees on their airline tickets and wireless phone bills. They feel as if they aren't getting the whole picture, that somehow the company is trying to pull a fast one.

It only took a few years for airlines to go from customer service leaders to laggards. The same catastrophe is within easy reach of any industry, including hotels. (And once you're there, recovery is all but impossible.)

I hope this fee is an aberration. Starwood, for its part, say it has already contacted the hotel and recommended removing the word "complimentary" from its fine print.

 

 

Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.



View the original "That's Ridiculous! Where Does the Clever Hotel Wordplay Cross the Line?" story at www.frommers.com 
  • More NewsMore>>

  • East Palestine football players raise awareness about ALS

    East Palestine football players raise awareness about ALS

    One local high school football team took the ALS ice bucket challenge to new heights Thursday night.More >>
    One local high school football team took the ALS ice bucket challenge to new heights Thursday night.More >>
  • A helping hand for local veterans

    A helping hand for local veterans

    Saturday, August 23 2014 12:02 PM EDT2014-08-23 16:02:15 GMT
    VIENNA, Ohio- Members of the community are raising money to help meet the needs of wounded soldiers and disabled veterans locally. The first annual Freedom Warrior Golf Outing drew hundreds of people together for the cause Friday.More >>
    VIENNA, Ohio- Members of the community are raising money to help meet the needs of wounded soldiers and disabled veterans locally. The first annual Freedom Warrior Golf Outing drew hundreds of people together for the cause Friday.More >>
  • Youngstown residents gather to stop cycle of violence

    Youngstown residents gather to stop cycle of violence

    Saturday, August 23 2014 11:30 AM EDT2014-08-23 15:30:05 GMT
    Youngstown's latest homicide, the shooting death of 17 year old Shawn Cortez, has residents gathering to take back their city from violence.On Friday members of the Food 4 Your Soul ministries offered up prayers for peace while serving up food. They are reaching out to young people, in an effort to stop the cycle of violence in Youngstown."I don't want our children to be fearful when they go to school. They just need to know that there's good resources.. There's good people who are hear for t...More >>
    Youngstown's latest homicide, the shooting death of 17 year old Shawn Cortez, has residents gathering to take back their city from violence.On Friday members of the Food 4 Your Soul ministries offered up prayers for peace while serving up food. They are reaching out to young people, in an effort to stop the cycle of violence in Youngstown."I don't want our children to be fearful when they go to school. They just need to know that there's good resources.. There's good people who are hear for t...More >>
Content provided by
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
  • Recently Featured DestinationsMore>>

  • San Jose, Costa Rica

    San Jose, Costa Rica

    San José enjoys springlike temperatures year-round and its location in the Central Valley makes it both stunning and convenient as a base of exploration.More >>
    San José enjoys springlike temperatures year-round and its location in the Central Valley makes it both stunning and convenient as a base of exploration.More >>
  • Martha's Vineyard

    Martha's Vineyard

    New England sea captains' houses, ice cream shops, lighthouses and pristine beaches ... Martha's Vineyard is a picturesque island indeed.More >>
    New England sea captains' houses, ice cream shops, lighthouses and pristine beaches ... Martha's Vineyard is a picturesque island indeed.More >>
  • Cayman Islands

    Cayman Islands

    Ringed by coral reefs and pristine azure waters, the three islands that comprise the Cayman Islands are a marine paradise in the western Caribbean.More >>
    Ringed by coral reefs and pristine azure waters, the three islands that comprise the Cayman Islands are a marine paradise in the western Caribbean.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms