Ed Perkins on Travel: Enough with the fees, already

Ed Perkins on Travel: Enough with the fees, already



You've already encountered the dismal "resort" fees, but how about additional "venue," "gratuity," "service," "urban," "facility," and even "coronavirus" fees? I've written for many years that in the travel business, nothing catches on faster than a bad idea, so I suppose I should be surprised that it's taken so long for a laundry list of mandatory fees to infiltrate the hotel and restaurant businesses. All of those fees, added to the nominal price of a hotel room, restaurant meal, or bar drink, are documented in the blogosphere. Some appear to have originated in Las Vegas, but if history is any guide, you'll see them spread quickly to other prime visitor destinations.

The basic idea of mandatory fees is simple: To make a room, meal, drink, or whatever appear to cost less than it really does. Thus, the central and only purpose is deception, pure and simple. The folks who impose these fees try to drum up reasonable-sounding names and excuses for them, but that doesn't change the basic aim of deception.

The idea started with airlines: When the price of fuel increased, instead of raising fares, they added mandatory "fuel surcharges," posting low-ball fares to which the fees were added later during the purchase process. And—surprise—they retained those fees even after the price of fuel dropped. Fortunately for consumers, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) and many corresponding foreign agencies ruled that airlines must show the full price, from the get-go, of any air ticket, including the total of base fare, airline-added fees, and government fees. That "full-fare advertising rule" has been of major benefit to travelers.

But the DoT has jurisdiction over only airlines. Price advertising by hotel, restaurant, rental car, cruise, tour, and other travel suppliers is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and individual states. The FTC, noted for moving at glacial speed on any issue, did conclude that mandatory resort fees are, in fact, deceptive; it issued a "tut, tut" letter to hotels, and has done nothing since. The net result is that nobody requires honest price advertising in any travel segment except airlines, and airlines are trying to undo the full-fare advertising rule. Clearly, it's time to fix that egregious problem.

I don't do politics in these columns, but regardless of your viewpoint, you probably realize that the current administration does not favor any new consumer regulations. Instead, it's trying to get rid of some already in place. So my proposed fix will have to wait.

But when the time comes, my proposition, which goes beyond just travel, is simple: A national WYSIWYP requirement—What You See is What You Pay—for all price advertising on consumer goods and services in interstate commerce. That means, simply, that any advertised or featured, posted, or tagged price is buyable: That's the full amount you pay at a checkout counter or when you hit a "buy" button, with no added taxes or fees at the time of purchase, no required extra-cost ancillary goods or services, no subsequent mandatory charges, and not just one of multiple "easy payments."

Folks who oppose consumer protections are fond of labeling all regulations as "job killing," but I don't propose anything that will kill any jobs. Honest, all-up price advertising doesn't kill any jobs or increase any company's cost of doing business. It just requires them to modify their advertising policy to include price components they already know and have available. The only potential problem with WYSIWYP price advertising arises with sales taxes, which vary state-by-state and within large metro areas. I have no doubt that problem could be resolved.

Meanwhile, until we get some relief, your only defense to the proliferation of mandatory fees is to vote with your dollars, where you can. Try to avoid patronizing places that assess those fees, and tell management why you're doing so. It isn't much, but you can at least get your voice heard.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Need to get away?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines will soon require customers to answer questions about whether they've experienced symptoms of COVID-19, or been in contact with someone who has, as part of the check-in process. Starting in mid-July, the Atlanta-based airline said, passengers will be required to fill out a health acknowledgment form. Passengers also must agree to face mask requirements during travel. ...

As we've had to postpone our travels because of the pandemic, I believe a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be good medicine. Here's one of my favorite European memories—a reminder of the fun that awaits us at the other end of this crisis.

  • Updated

Heading north on the Maricopa Highway toward Wheeler Gorge Campground in Southern California, I was finally comfortable behind the wheel of the 25-foot-long RV. I'd gotten accustomed to the rental's hulking mass, adjusted to its vague steering and learned to ignore the clanging cutlery and cooking implements, which registered their noisy protests from the kitchen cupboards whenever the road ...

The main type of travel during the re-opening period will be "visiting friends and relatives," or VFR, in industry jargon, one of the three big travel groups the industry uses. (The others are leisure travel and business travel, in case you cared.) So say the industry "experts." Although I don't know when the country will be truly "re-opened," even if it isn't yet, many of you will be traveling with kids or arranging for kids to travel fairly soon. Here's a checklist of arrangements you need to consider.

  • Updated

PARIS - As the Eiffel Tower gradually reopens from an extended shutdown, an essential segment of the summer tourist trade will be missing: Americans touching down in Paris on lucrative trans-Atlantic flights. Voyagers from New York, Houston or Los Angeles will have to hold off on their overseas vacations after European Union governments extended a travel ban from Wednesday, deeming the U.S. ...

Based out of Sydney, Australia, the contemporary Christian group Hillsong Young & Free has a new album coming out later this summer. But on July 10, they’ll release not one, but two new singles: “World Outside Your Window” and “As I Am.” Pastor and youth leader Laura Toggs is one of the members of the Grammy-nominated group. She says she enjoys staying in touch with their fans on social media via the band’s accounts (user handle @youngandfree) along with her own personal accounts (@lauratoggs). Now 33, the musician says she feels “young at heart.” The married mother of two says that she loves to travel but there was one trip that stands out. “My husband proposed to me in Italy with all my family there,” Toggs said. “That will forever take the cake as the best vacation memory.”

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alert

Breaking News