Resort fees can be the ultimate buzzkill during your hard-earned vacation. Spending an additional $20 to $30 per night, plus tax, can cancel out whatever good vibes you picked up while relaxing at the pool, especially if the charge covers amenities and services that were once included in the room rate, such as newspapers, in-room coffee, and use of the fitness center. But it’s even more irksome to pay for amenities you’ll likely never need, like fax copies or a notary service.
While many hotels claim their resort fees are mandatory, that’s not true. Guests can take a stand against paying resort surcharges.
Here are a few arguments to make, either at check-in or checkout:
• If a hotel’s resort fee includes services that you didn’t need during your stay, such as the aforementioned faxes and notary service, guests can argue that they didn’t need these services and therefore should not pay them.
• Similarly, if a hotel’s resort fee includes amenities or services that didn’t work well or were not available during their stay, such as slow Internet or a closed fitness center, guests can demand a refund of the fee because the hotel did not deliver on its promise.
• If the resort fee was not made clear to the guest at the time of booking—which is actually a common practice amongst some hotels and third-party booking sites—a guest can ask that the fee be removed by claiming it’s a dishonest and deceptive business practice.
• If the guest is a loyalty program member or a frequent guest, pointing out their continued patronage to the front desk may also result in having the fee wiped, or it could yield a discount in some other area, which would have the same savings effect.
Of course, negotiating with the front desk may not always work for technical reasons. A hotel industry insider Frommer’s talked to revealed that often, a property’s computer system automatically adds the resort fee onto the room rate, making it difficult for the staff at the front desk to issue a refund. If this happens, ask to speak with a manager or another higher-up to work out another refund plan, even if it comes off your other expenditures.
If these tactics don’t work, there are more extreme measures. Lauren Wolfe, a lawyer who founded KillResortFees.com, after being duped by two hotels in Florida, suggests two other “Don’t Pay” alternatives.
The first is to dispute the fee with your credit card company. "No credit card company believes their customers should be subject to such travel scams," says Wolfe.
The second option is to go nuclear—and take the hotel to small claims court. You may have to pay a fee to file the claim, but if your stay was long, you could still come out ahead. That’s because, Wolfe says, most hotels aren’t willing to deal with appearing before judges. “The hotel will most likely just mail you a check and you will never see small claims court,” writes Wolfe on her website. But if you do proceed to a date before the bench, just tell the judge that you bought your hotel stay at a set advertised price but were charged an additional amount once you arrived at the property. Most judges will rule in your favor.
But the easiest way to get out of paying a resort fee speaks the loudest to the industry: Simply don’t book a hotel that charges one.