Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


When I hear of companies nickel-and-diming, there's one thing that upsets me.

It's the image of the meeting in which some sniveling little manager came up with the idea of a brand new way to shove a sneaky hand inside their customers' wallets while smiling in their faces.

Airlines have become experts at this.

Hotels aren't always far behind. One of my glorious favorites is practiced by hotels in Miami Beach. They charge you a resort fee even when -- at least in some cases  -- there seems to be no resort at all.

Now the Hilton Hotels Group is experimenting with its own interesting charge.

In a select -- very select -- number of its hotels, Hilton is charging customers $50 when they cancel a booking. Yes, for any cancellation.

This feels less than charming. There might be all sorts of reasons for canceling a hotel booking. It seems, though, that reasons don't matter here. Just pay up.

You might wonder that this isn't a move designed to create warm feelings among customers. Hilton may have thought about this by declaring that its Hilton Honors loyalty members are exempt. 

(I wonder if, in the future, there will be gradations of charges depending how loyal a customer you are.)

I foresee a slight problem. Hotels don't enjoy quite the same captive markets as do airlines.

It often seems that when your plane lands and the captain tells you that he knows you have a choice of airlines, that isn't terribly true. Routes seem to have been divided up quite nicely, so that your choices are relatively limited.

When you choose a hotel, however, there are not only many more options, but there's also Airbnb.

Sometimes, hotels have to remember what they're selling. In theory, they can offer more warmth, service and comfort than your average Airbnb.

Instead, here's a hotel group that's wondering whether it's better just to come across as a cold-hearted business.

Indeed Chris Silcock, an executive vice-president with Hilton Worldwide lauded these new fees to the New York Times by saying they were "lower than airline fees."

This is true.

It's also akin to saying that cutting your toenails on a bus is preferable to biting them off.

Of course, part of the hotels' chilly miffedness comes from the emergence of various websites that monitor everything hotels are doing and offer you better deals that might involve canceling your current reservation.

Nickel-and-diming is very often a dangerous strategy. Phone companies know this, but there don't seem to be enough of them for consumers to have a sufficiently large choice.

Perhaps it will be the same with hotel chains. As they consolidate -- witness Marriott's purchase of the Starwood Group -- they'll institute such annoying tweaks with cheery regularity.

But will customers still want to book with cheery regularity? Or will they find ever more choices on Airbnb and in boutique hotels that haven't yet been swallowed by whales?

If Hilton's experiment is extended to all its properties, will other chains follow suit -- as so many airlines did when the petty thieving began?

Or will some be inspired to realize that making customers feel good has a long-term value?

Somehow, wining-and-diming just doesn't have a pleasant ring to it.