Out-of-control tip culture meets summer travel: Are you ready for a $19 daily charge for staff tips and $50 'check-in fee'?
- Tipping is becoming commonplace across more services and venues.
- The rise of unexpected gratuity charges and other fees might affect your summer travel plans.
Take The Montague on the Gardens, a four-star hotel in London.
On top of a nightly charge of as much as £918, or about $1142, the hotel charges guests a daily £15, or $19, service fee.
The fee — which a guest can request to be removed — is "a payment that recognises and rewards all employees for exceeding expectations, and the entire amount is shared equally between the team," the hotel's FAQ says.
This is just one example of the kind of charge hotels and resorts are adding to customers' bills. Tacking on vague fees during both the booking process and at the end of a stay is becoming commonplace. It often seems as if the surprise of the charge, rather than the amount, is what perturbs customers.
"Why not just increase their rates," questioned one Trip Advisor user about The Montague's charge. "Personally I would have told them where they could stuff their service charge and walked."
The Dreamcatcher DW in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is another hotel that charges an undisclosed $15 a night "hotel fee."
Alexa Moore, a TikTok travel influencer, told Insider she was more than happy to pay the fee, which she was informed about prior to booking, during a stay this past May. She added that there was no explanation of what the fee covered.
The Dreamcatcher DW said the $15 fee is for the use of beach chairs, unlimited tea and coffee, and high-speed wifi and noted it's transparent about what the fee includes when a guest asks.
In some cases, unexpected fees are cropping up outside of gratuity or tipping charges, like at the Hanalei Bay Resort, which offers short term rentals and time shares, on the Kauai island of Hawaii. The resort charges customers a $50 convenience fee just for checking in.
"The $50 check in fee is the weird one," said one Trip Advisor user. "I've never experienced that and wondered if it was now common practice."
"We do have a $50 check-in fee that started at the beginning of this year," a spokesperson for Hanalei Bay Resort told Insider. "When they book on all of the third-party websites it does say, and also we tell apartment owners to advise guests of the fee."
The Montague on the Garden and The Dreamcatcher DW did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
More general resort fees that are tacked onto customer bills are not new. They are often positioned as a means of covering the cost of the amenities at a given hotel.
Eric Hrubant, the CEO and founder New York-based travel agency CIRE Travel, described them as a "clever marketing" move, because they allow hotels to get their rooms to show up in search results for a given budget, despite exceeding this budget once the resort fees are added to the total.
"It's a way to win the online wars," Hrubant told Insider. "Hotels can get away with saying 'our base rate is $200,' but then when you look at the total price, it can be $300 or $350."
Hrubant says that resort fees started to become standard in major cities in 2018, functioning as an ancillary fee that can "gouge clients."
However, travelers aren't always using hotel amenities like a pool or a gym — and in the case of someone travelling for work, they might not use them at all.
Henrik Helgesen, a California-based tech worker, was shocked after encountering a trio of unexpected charges added to his bill during a four-night stay at a conference resort in Arizona, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Two of those charges were related to tipping — a $10 bellman gratuity charge, a daily $3 charge for maid gratuity — and the third was a $22 credit card processing fee, according to the WSJ.
"I was like, what the hell's all this stuff?" he told the Journal, adding that he did not use the bell service and had already left a cash tip for cleaning.
The increased prevalence of tipping prompts could be related to employers wanting to circumvent paying higher wages themselves.
Regardless of the exact cause, tipping fatigue is beginning to settle into the general American populace — even that self-checkout machine at the airport now prompts costumers for an extra dollar or two.
Update: June 6, 2023 — This story has been updated with a statement from Dreamcatcher DW to explain its hotel fee.
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