When you book a stay at a decent hotel, you probably expect a few things to be included up front — a good cup of coffee, an extra towel or two, maybe even access to some gym equipment.
But what about some of the fancier hotels, like the ones you’ve paid an arm and a leg for? You expect to be pampered a bit, right?
Well, if you think everything’s included at those places, think again!
Enter the pool chair fee…
You’ve spent the last year saving up and researching the best prices for the most beautiful resorts so you can finally kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor for a few days.
You arrive at your destination, settle in, and head to the pool – only to be told that you have to pay an additional fee to get a decent spot poolside.
You’ve got to be kidding, right?
Resort fees are big business nowadays, especially at major destinations like Las Vegas, Hawaii, and the Bahamas.
Most resorts even offer online reservations so you can reserve your chair of choice, in your spot of choice, so you’re not left camping out with just your lonely souvenir beach towel.
Well, that sounds reasonable—until you get your weekend tab.
For a busy summer weekend or holiday, you may be looking at upwards of a hundred bucks for that chair – possibly more.
USA Today highlights some of the current costs for a poolside spot. And it’s enough to make you never want to swim again.
A Bahamas resort offers a lounge chair at its Grotto pool for two on a holiday weekend for $150, but you do get an umbrella to share.
A resort spa in Arizona? $20-$40 a day to sit poolside. Oh, you want to sit next to your spouse or BFF? Make that $90 to reserve two spots seated together.
But this is a really special spot because it comes with “upgraded water,” popcorn, and a concierge who will come and turn your chair in or out of the sun!
In fact, one befuddled traveler says it’s actually become “beyond the point of crazy.”
On a recent trip to Vegas, he found crowds of people fighting for the “free” poolside spots, while the reserved ones sat unoccupied because no one wanted to pay for them.
MGM’s online sales pitch for Vegas casino resorts? “Treat yourself to reserved seating, where you can take a break from the pool and return to your seat anytime for the day.” Yeah, for an extra hundred or so dollars during the course of your stay!
So unless that chair comes with a Cabana boy who’s going to hand-feed me spiked grapes, I think I’ll pass on that extra $30 (or more) a day for this “exclusive” service.
Not just a seat at the pool
However, extra fees aren’t applied just for a coveted spot by the pool.
The poolside reservation fee is often in addition to a standard resort fee which supposedly covers amenities that should already be included in your stay.
These resort fees can range from $25-$50 a night, on top of the several hundred dollars you’re already paying to stay at a luxury hotel.
The Points Guy recounts a recent trip to Hawaii where he was given a list of all the wonderful items his daily resort fee would cover.
The “complementary beverage” on arrival? A plastic cup full of pineapple juice at check-in.
Two free reusable water bottles for your stay? They were made of flimsy plastic and one of them broke the second he tried to open it. It probably wasn’t even “upgraded” water.
Well, at least the “afternoon Hawaiian culture happy hour” sounded nice. But no one mentioned it when he arrived, and he saw no Hawaiian culture or happiness in the afternoon except for another plastic cup of pineapple juice.
And the “free” beach chairs? They were folding lawn chairs which he had to lug five blocks to the beach by himself.
The point is, any good hotel has a good marketing firm behind them, so most of the time you’re not going to get anything close to the star treatment – and you’ll still have to pay the resort fee.
So what’s the deal?
Of course, these fees help bring in additional revenue for the hotel.
We’re not knocking the American capitalist dream, but for what you’re already paying, wouldn’t you expect a little bit more for all the “more” they’re charging you?
Hotels say they’re not trying to gouge anyone and that the fees help keep up the quality services they provide.
But there’s another side to it.
These resorts are popular, and at peak season, there are lots of complaints from guests when they can’t find a seat by the pool.
So they rationalize the extra fees as a way to offset the supply and demand of convenience for everyone who stays with them.
Here’s where you, the consumer, have to be your own advocate.
Resorts are legally supposed to notify you of extra fees prior to check-in, and this includes when you book through a third-party online.
If you don’t see any additional charges when you book, it’s worthwhile to call and check anyways because luxury hotels almost always charge something on top of the regular rate.
If you’re a rewards member, some of the amenities associated with resort fees are often included for free, so do your homework and take advantage of the points you earned when you went to that conference in Buffalo during a snowstorm last year.
Additionally, you may not even get to enjoy some of the extras you’ve paid for.
For example, a tropical storm means your pool time is a no-go, but don’t think they’ll waive your resort fee out of the kindness of their hearts – unless you stand your ground.
So, if you get spotty Wi-Fi, are promised the lounge chair of your dreams but they accidentally overbook, and your reusable water bottle leaks pineapple juice all over you, you do have the right to ask that your fee be refunded – because you did not receive the promised amenities that your fee covered.
You may have to request that you speak with a supervisor. And remember, these resorts claim the whole resort fee thing is to keep guests happy and complaints down, so remind them of that.
They don’t like guest complaints, especially in this day of social media reviews and people who like to post about all the wonderful things they’re doing while you’re stuck at work.
But there’s a caveat – always be professional and polite.
Even supervisors have supervisors, and they have to answer to the big brother figureheads in corporate. Chances are, if you’re dissatisfied, they’ll make it right—but they won’t go out of their way if you’re being a jerk.
Finally, always read the fine print when you’re booking your stay, and if you have any questions about what you’re really getting for your resort fee, give the hotel a call. (Yes, talk, not email…on the phone…with a real, live person.)
These resorts are always trying to outdo each other to grab your attention, but keep in mind that luxury means more money out of your pockets.
Convenience has a price, so know what you’re getting into before you’re met with sticker shock at check-out.
And then, after you’ve done all your homework, go relax and enjoy your well-deserved vacation…and say hello to the Cabana boy for me.
What do you think of all these ridiculous resort fees? Have you ever been charged for amenities that weren’t what you expected?
Please leave us your comments!