Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
May I apologize in advance?
I'm going to return one more time to the subject of hotel fees because, oh, this is going to hurt.
Yesterday, I mentioned that Marriott International is being sued by the District of Columbia for what the District--and I suspect one or two hotel customers--regards as "straight-forward price deception."
Yes, we're talking about those resort fees which suddenly get slapped on your final bill and represent little to nothing of what the hotel has given you.
Other than an additional gratuitous charge, that is.
When I contacted Marriott, its spokesman insisted the company didn't comment on pending litigation.
However, earlier this week the chain's CEO, Arne Sorenson, gave an interview to LinkedIn in which he defended the practice in ways that some might find a touch galling.
Of course we've got resort fees in the hotel industry. You've got baggage fees in the airline space. None of us as consumers necessarily love it. What we've tried to do is to be very clear about our disclosure.
The Caustic Chapel of the Concerned might sniff that baggage fees are actually optional, while resort fees are startlingly compulsory.
It's just that when you click on the price of the room, you don't realize that there's an added resort fee--sometimes until you check out.
Marriott, of course, isn't alone in the resort fee annoyance. Its attitude, however, might make customers' nerve-endings twitch with rage.
Sorenson remarked that the first resort fees were "probably a decade ago," as if customers should simply shut up and be used to them by now.
Then he revealed Marriott's kind-hearted thinking on the subject:
Yes, of course they were financially driven in some respects.
The Clinical Chapel of the Cynical might translate this as:
Yes, of course we thought it was a brilliantly sneaky way of making more money without having to offer customers any extras at all. Don't you just love it?
But wait. Sorenson continued:
They [resort fees] were also a way of saying "let's fold in the waterfront paddleboard rental or the bike rental or other things."
Which Marriott decided to charge you for, whether you used them or not. It's as if your airline decided to charge you for the glass of wine you never had.
Sorenson claimed that Marriott always intended to disclose these fees fairly and deliver value to the customers.
What value would that be? The whole reason customers are incensed with these fees is that they represent no value whatsoever. It's just an extra charge for the room.
Sorenson insisted these fees are "well disclosed." It's just that they're not rolled into the price of the room, so that you can be conned into believing the room is cheaper than it is.
He conceded that not all customers see the benefit of these fees. Most do, he insisted.
I pause for your deep sighing, teeth-gnashing, and raucous gurgling.
Sorenson said that in most of his company's hotels, this is the approach:
We ought to have a package of things that ought to be included in that resort or destination that is a multiple of the cost of the fee [...] in many hotels that may include food and beverage credit which is sometimes equal to, if not more than, the fee itself.
This reeks of generosity.
Though the Chapel of the Confounded Consciousness might snort that this is what it actually means:
We'll charge people for stuff they probably won't use. Even if they use the food and beverage credit, we can make sure that it's never enough for what they might actually want to eat or drink, so they'll have to give us even more money.
Why can't these hotels simply be honest about the actual cost? Why annoy your customers, something that seems antithetical to the concept of hospitality?
It's as if you invite your friends to stay the weekend and, when they arrive, charge them $50 for using your Wi-Fi.
I've saved the final stain on your Marriott carpet until last.
For Sorenson concluded:
I don't think [resort fees are] going away. I do think we want to make sure that we deliver value for them. And you can only do that in some markets and in some hotels.
Ah, so for the rest, Marriott will keep taking money for what many customers might define as nothing--or, perhaps, stuff that you normally expect as standard in hotels?
No, no. There will, apparently be some suburban hotels that don't charge resort fees. Somewhere.
I can feel your abject relief from here.