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Travelers complain of 'sneaky' hotel charges

Nickel and diming and dollaring

From Laura Rowley
CNNfn Correspondent

(CNN) -- U.S. hotels are expected to rake in $23 billion dollars in profits this year -- $1 billion or more of it in charges some travelers consider unfair.

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently identified a dozen areas where hotels are raising prices or charging fees for the first time, a practice generating $1 billion annually.

"It really exploded within the last two or three years," said Bjorn Hanson, a lodging consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. "And the dollar amount being charged for some services has increased dramatically."

You might pay $5 to $15 to use that puny room with two treadmills that passes for a gym. You might get charged even if you didn't use it, as was the case with Bill McCoy, executive editor of Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel.

"One of the sneakiest little charges happened when I was in a hotel in Orlando," McCoy recalled. "I was only there overnight -- checked in late at night, left the next morning -- and was charged $10 for what they called a 'facilities usage fee.'

"When I asked what that was, the person at the front desk said, 'That's for the gym and the pool and things like that.' I said, 'I wasn't here long enough to use those things.'"

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Also watch out for the fax coming from the home office. "I had a stay where the fax charges were about 50 percent more than the cost of my room," Hanson recalled.

"It's kind of a 'bleeding from a hundred different paper cuts' phenomenon," McCoy added. "There's a bottle of water by your night table, and you think, 'Oh, this is nice.' You drink it, and the hotel charges you $4 for it."

In some cases, there's even a charge to clean the night stand. Several CNN staffers recently stayed at a West Virginia hotel that charged $23 for room service. But there was one little catch: They didn't eat in their rooms. That fee was for cleaning the rooms.

"That's the exception," Hanson said. "(T)hose are receiving the most unfavorable reactions from guests."

Hotels will back down if a traveler protests, Hanson said. For example, Hanson said, he knocked a $200 fax charge down to $50 by making his displeasure known.

Many luxury hotels are steering clear of high fees. At the Four Seasons in Manhattan, for example, you can get coffee and Danish for breakfast and work it off in the health club for no extra charge.

Just be prepared to pay a room rate that starts at $565 a night.


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