A reader has a reservation for a Miami hotel. At check-in she learns about undisclosed hotel fees: a resort fee and a parking fee. The reservation does not mention any of those fees, it shows only the room rate and taxes. She asks us whether hotels can charge fees on top of the room price.
The short answer is: Yes. Hotels have virtually unnoticed followed in the footsteps of airlines by "unbundling" services. In the case of fees, however, they don't always refer to concrete services.
When they do, they often cite local phone calls, internet access, pool (and/or pool towel) access, gym access, the use of an in-room coffee maker, etc.
But what is a resort fee actually? Some hotels try to avoid the question by renaming it as a destination or an urban fee. However, the question remains anyway.
If the services would be really unbundled, you would have the possibility to opt out. For example, you could use your own phone or internet subscription. You don't use the pool. Like at home you could run outside rather than using the gym. And you don't drink coffee. In those cases you would not have to pay the concomitant fees.
Undisclosed hotel fees
The most annoying aspect is that usually, you will not find out about the fees until check-in. Often you cannot find anywhere on the hotel's website whether it charges fees and if it does, which. And once you are at check-in, you are usually too late to cancel your reservation.
Until a few years ago you could usually cancel until 6:00 pm on the day of arrival. However, many hotels changed that such that you now need to cancel 2 or 3 days before arrival. If you fail to do so, the hotel will charge at least the first night to your credit card.
Artificially low room rates
The reason why hotels don't disclose the fees, is that they want to advertise with artificially low room rates. Therefore, it is convenient for hotels to hide part of the price by charging fees that cannot be found on the website.
If you don't want to be surprised by unexpected fees, you can ask the hotel whether they charge any fees before you book. The best way to do it is by email, so that you can print the response. If you do not need the services they charge for, you can ask to waive the fees.
Check the internet on hidden fees
Depending on the response you can decide to go on with the reservation or to resort (pun not intended) to another hotel. In the latter case it would be good to inform the hotel of your choice to make it aware of the consequences of fees.
In case of a resort fee you may want to check on the internet whether the hotel can be found on ResortFeeChecker.com. It is always good to know in advance whether a hotel charges undisclosed fees. If it does, you have at least the option to book another hotel.
Related: "Hotel cancelation policies worsened"
Tags: hotel fees, "unbundled" room rates