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Hotels checking in on frenzy of extra fees

January 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Consumers face additional fees from airlines to banks, and now hotels are checking in on the fee frenzy.

Frequent traveler Karon Gibson is fed up with hotel fees.

"I don't think it's fair sometimes, because you're already paying pretty high fees for hotel rooms," she said.

She's been hit with fees to use the safe in her hotel room, resort fees even if she didn't use the gym or pool, fees to receive a fax, and most outrageously, she says she was charged with a daily parking fee when she didn't even have a car.

"I was pretty upset about that," she said.

She was upset because she checked into a hotel and checked out with a much higher bill than she expected.

This is happening to more and more travelers. A new study estimates hotels are expected to collect a record high of $1.8 billion from extra fees and surcharges this year. That's up $100 million in a year.

"I find people are extremely mad about the situation," said Ian Ford, a travel expert with Undercover Tourist.

Ford says he's seen fees at two-star hotels to luxury hotels, and they cover quite a range of costly charges like restocking fees ranging from $5 to $15 for just opening the mini bar and not even taking anything out.

You can also be hit with a bellman charge of $8 even if you carry your own luggage, as well as a $3.90 energy charge for using the air conditioning. There can also be a $3.50 fee per coffee capsule you use in your room.

"They're passing on a cost. Whatever it is, sometimes it's a little more expensive than the actual cost, but they have to cover some of their other overhead," explained Joe McInerney with the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Experts say if you want to avoid fees, keep these tips in mind.

Try calling the hotel when you make your reservation and ask about extra charges, or check on the hotel website. You can join a hotel loyalty program, which sometimes gives its members a break on the fees. Also, if you don't like a fee, try negotiating before you check in and tell the hotel you're going to stay elsewhere if it won't budge.

"Hotels are charging fees for things that used to be free simply because they can. It's a new revenue stream and the consumer hasn't complained yet," said Ford.

Make sure to check your bill carefully when you check out. It's easier to dispute a fee while you're still at the hotel. That's what Gibson did, and she got the parking charge removed from her bill.