Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
On occasion, it seems as if airlines and hotels have several executives dedicated to the invention of new, disgraceful fees.
Recently, for example, I wrote about the hotel that charged a guest $1.59 for having a safe in his room. A safe he never used.
I wonder, though, whether this pales in comparison with an unusual fee charged by a very upscale hotel in San Francisco.
Please imagine you go to breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel in the posher parts of this wealthy city.
Please imagine you're enjoying your breakfast, even though it's costing you at least $50 per person.
Now please try and imagine getting your check and noticing that you've been charged an additional $30 for sitting at your table too long.
You see, when a convention came to town, the Fairmont wanted to prevent its Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar from enduring long, languid breakfasts where, who knows, business talk turns to other things. Which turns to more other things.
So it slapped a $30 fee on those who lingered for more than 90 minutes.
I confess I've rarely had a breakfast that lasted more than 90 minutes. Not even a breakfast I've enjoyed. Then again, this fee is $30 per hour. So, presumably, even if you linger but order more food, you'll still be charged this parking fee (for your bottom on the restaurant's chairs).
The San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of one entrepreneur who thought it all a little unfair(mont) and decided to have breakfast in his office instead.
Paul Tormey, the Fairmont's General Manager, offered his explanation to the Chronicle:
It is only for the three days of the convention. So we have a minimum spending rule and a time frame, otherwise they linger and tie up the tables turning the restaurant into a big meeting room and the servers and our other customers would suffer.
I wonder, though, whether such a charge takes away from the essential hoity-toitiness of the hotel. Isn't the whole point of fancy hotels that you can lounge and linger without lifting a finger? Especially when two eggs your style with house potatoes, toast and your choice of bacon, ham or sausage will set you back $21.
It appears, though, that the presence of conventions makes pricing a little unconventional.
Some will say this is just the essence of supply and demand. If you have high demand, you can demand a lot of money.
There may be some truth to this. It may well be that some customers, knowing a convention is in town, will simply expect higher pricing, just as Elton John fans expect higher pricing at his concerts.
Yet whenever hospitality veers toward the inhospitable, my scalp begins to twitch. Raise your prices, yes. But charging people rent for lingering? That may seem mean-spirited.
Not so long ago, I went to a local restaurant that greets customers with a little sign on the host stand.
It tells customers with early reservations to consider that there are people who have booked later tables and to ensure that they leave promptly. It wasn't heartwarming.
It's a difficult area, isn't it? The restaurant wants to turn tables over without making it too obvious. The customer, though, doesn't want to be rushed and may want to savor a little dessert wine.
There's something a touch unattractive, though, about being told to spend a minimum of $50 per person, before tax and compulsory service charge and then being told to skedaddle or pay even more.
I suspect, though, that some with reservations will not have followed the annoyed entrepreneur's lead.
They were on expenses, after all.