Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
When is the advertised rate for a hotel not the advertised rate?
Pretty much all the time.
Hotels have been getting away with one particular trick for so long that it appears they have more fun finding new names for it than anything else.
It first struck me in Miami.
My bill was suddenly adorned with a so-called Resort Fee.
I had one tiny issue with this.
There was no resort.
The hotel was very pleasant, but had no additional facilities. It didn't even serve breakfast.
Yet here was a $25 a night fee blessing my bill.
Was the hotel charging me for the fact that the beach and the ocean weren't far away?
The practice, though, has far outgrown places that might even claim the idea of offering some sort of resort experience.
Why, New York hotels are positively leaping onto the nightly-fee-for-nothing bandwagon.
At the Westin New York, for example, there's a Destination Fee. $25 a night, presumably for having made it to your destination.
The Marriott Marquis enjoys the same epithet and fee. Yet it gives you "US15 Fresh Bites credit/enhanced Internet/1 tour ticket and more."
I wonder how many people are desperate to use a Fresh Bites Credit, which is merely an enticement to spend more on no-doubt extremely fresh bites.
The Hilton New York Midtown, though, gets even more creative.
It exclaims: "Daily Mandatory Charge will be added to the room rate and includes: Urban Destination Charge with premium guest internet access (3 devices); daily $15 beverage credit in Lobby Lounge or Bridges Bar; daily $10 food credit in Herb N' Kitchen (grab and go only); local and toll-free calls."
Yes, free local and toll-free calls. Because you're desperate to use that hotel phone, aren't you? Everyone does. Landlines are in, right?
And all for $25 per room per night. Whether you like it or not.
I ask you. Urban Destination Charge.
So country hotels would have a Countryside Destination Charge?
Might there be an Exurb Destination Charge too?
I contacted Hilton to ask about this creative addition.
A spokeswoman told me: "Hilton is testing the urban destination fee at two New York City properties. The fee is for amenities and services that we believe enhance the guest experience."
I hate to be pedantic, but shouldn't any charge that is mandatory be part of the guest experience known as the room rate?
And, seriously, free local and 1-800 phone calls? This is some sort of heightening of the guest experience?
What these fees actually do is allow hotels to charge more and attempt to avoid sharing that revenue with, say, a travel agent.
Some hotels like to call it a Facilities Fee. Some try other words.
When it comes to New York City, ResortFeeChecker.com tells me there are at least 51 hotels in on the gouging.
Take New York's Roger Hotel. I used to eat there at least three nights a week when I lived in Manhattan. Its site tells me it charges a $33 so-called Facility Fee. When I clicked on the full price breakdown, I was told it was $36.
In some ways, I'm disappointed these hotels haven't been even more creative with the nomenclature.
How about a Checking In Wearing Shorts Charge?
Or a Stains On Your Shirt Charge?
Or a That's Not Your Spouse Charge?
Or why can't they just be honest and call it the We Really Want To Annoy The Hell Out Of You While You Stay With Us Fee?
You'd think that someone might want to take a look at this obvious and extremely irritating subterfuge.
The site Kill Resort Fees, founded last year by Lauren Wolfe, tries to galvanize action against this manifest gouging.
She offers several suggestions for not paying the charge. These include "Refuse To Pay" and "Sue In Small Claims Court."
Wolfe, who's a Doctor of Jurisprudence, explains that it's tourists who are targeted most by these fees. They may only visit once. So who cares about them?
Still, you might also stop to wonder whether this is yet another reason to use Airbnb.
I confess I've increasingly done so.
I've generally had good experiences with Airbnb in quite a few cities.
Not one host has tried to charge me for arriving at their house. Or for, ahem, enhanced internet.
And I always thought hotels were in the hospitality business.
Mind you, I once thought that about airlines too.