Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Why do companies charge annoying fees?
Because they think you might get annoyed, but are too lazy to do anything about it.
One of the worst, most painful, most despicable, most galling, most insulting fees is the hotel resort fee.
Somehow, I regularly return to this topic because -- too often -- I stay in hotels that charge resort fees without actually offering any sort of resort.
Recently, Booking.com said it would start charging commissions on these fees.
Now, however, higher powers have become involved.
The Attorney General of the District of Columbia, Karl Racine, has resorted to a lawsuit that seeks to end this practice.
The lawsuit singles out Marriott International and accuses it of "straight-forward price deception."
It offers a blistering depiction of Marriott's business:
For at least the last decade,Marriott has used an unlawful trade practice called 'drip pricing' in advertising its hotel rooms whereby Marriott initially hides a portion of a hotel room's daily rate from consumers. Marriott calls this hidden portion of the room rate a number of terms, including a 'resort fee,' 'amenity fee' and a 'destination fee.' One key effect of this price deception is that consumers shopping for a hotel room on either Marriott's website, or an online travel agency site ('OTA') like Priceline or Expedia, are misled into believing a Marriott hotel room is cheaper than it actually is. Marriott's motive in continuing this deceptive practice is pure profit.
It's odd to think that a global corporation would be moved by pure profit.
Especially one that's supposed to be offering hospitality.
Marriott, though, is surely not alone, either in charging resort fees or in embracing the joys of nickel-and-diming.
Airlines have positively bathed in the practice for a while now and make a lot of nickels in the process.
When it comes to hotels, government agencies have tut-tutted several times. They haven't, however, done anything about them.
This is odd, given that in some hotels the resort fee can actually be bigger than the published cost of the room.
Naturally, I asked Marriott what it thought of the lawsuit. A company spokesman told me:
We don't comment on pending litigation, but we look forward to continuing our discussions with other state AGs.
When you talk with hotel executives, however, they insist that these fees cover such things as WiFi, the fitness center and, on occasion, a bottle of water.
Some might snort that many of these things were once thought a given part of a hotel's offering.
But in the travel business, there are no more givens. Soon, even a seat on a plane or, perhaps, a bed in a hotel room, will be optional and subject to an extra charge.
Unless, that is, a lawsuit such as this can bear fruit.
Racine contends that Marriott deliberately hides these fees for as long as possible during the booking process.
Which leads me to the sad psychology of all this.
Isn't the whole point of a travel experience to leave your customer feeling good?
Why, then, disappoint them from the beginning and breed a little resentment in their souls?
Why annoy them, when you can be open and honest about your prices?
Why not try and impress them with your offering, rather than shake with one hand and use the other to reach into their pockets?
Wouldn't you want to stay in a hotel that loudly advertises: "We charge no stinkin' annoying fees"?
I think I would.