Hilton New York Has the Dumbest Hotel Fee I’ve Ever Seen

Hotels frequent charge ‘resort fees’. This is a deceptive marketing practice. It’s a non-optional charge, in other words it is part of the room rate. The hotel quotes you one price but actually charges you another. But it’s common practice in the industry and despite occasional noises from the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general little is done about it.

Even honest hoteliers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they add the fee they’re being underhanded. If they don’t add the fee they are at a disadvantage relative to competitors who hide part of the rate (since their hotel would look more expensive when customers compare). Most say they wish that resort fees didn’t exist, but since they do they have no choice.

What’s truly deserving of derision is a hotel that introduces a new kind of resort fee into a market where they didn’t previously exist. So the title for either the dumbest fee, or the most underhanded management, goes to the Hilton New York (formally now ‘New York Hilton Midtown’, renamed in 2013 on its 50th anniversary).

They can’t really call the Hilton New York a resort. So they have an “Urban Destination Charge.”

Urban Destination Charge with premium guest internet access (3 devices); $15 beverage credit in Lobby Lounge or Bridges Bar; $10 food credit in Herb N’ Kitchen (grab and go only); local and toll-free calls.

You get premium internet, of course elites get this anyway (and elites don’t get the charge waived). Plus free and local calls for people who don’t travel with their cell phone.

The $15 beverage credit in the lobby lounge is more or less a come on to get you to drink in the lounge, I check into plenty of hotels that offer a free appetizer or dessert with dinner or a free cocktail to get you spending money. I love that the $10 food credit in the place that replaced the hotel’s room service specifies that it can only be used for grab and go, heaven forbid you should eat there when spending your credit as a guest of the hotel.

And by the way the food and beverage credit is reportedly once per stay and not a daily credit.

Here’s the thing. The New York Hilton Midtown is the largest hotel in New York with over 2000 rooms. This isn’t a rogue franchise sticking it to guests. This is Hilton itself. Hilton says that the lyrics to John Lennon’s Imagine were composed here. This hotel was a leader in the elimination of room service. Apparently Hilton uses the property to imagine ways to squeeze the guest.

Resorts have resort charges. Now urban destinations have urban destination charges. Soon La Quinta’s will have Dennys surcharges. They might as well just call it “YQ” when fuel prices went down and it no longer made sense for airlines to have fuel surcharges they started calling the fees “carrier-imposed surcharges,” they stopped pretending the fees were for anything and describe simply who insists on being paid.

Your rate is no longer your rate, since it doesn’t capture the hotel-imposed surcharges.

(HT: Neil E.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Honestly @Daniel my jaw was on the floor and I didn’t even know what to ask. If you’d like to suggest a question I could use I’d happily reach out…

  2. Good grief! How long before we’ll be seeing “Suburban” and “Rural” destination charges? How about an “Interstate Proximity” fee?

    Am I just giving them ideas?

  3. @Gary – Had to pick my jaw up off the floor, too. I guess you can ask how Diamonds go about receiving their “free” premium internet access at this hotel since the fee is forced.

  4. Le Parker Meridien and The Lexington NYC have been doing that for quite a while now… “destination fee” instead of “resort fee”, but still a complete rip-off.

  5. Even hotels that aren’t resorts per se, add the fee because they can. Case in point…when looking for smaller, non-casino, off-strip properties in Las Vegas, I noticed that properties add the mandatory resort fee as well. Is the Embassy Suites on Paradise Rd. (between UNLV and the Convention Center) in the same category as those on Las Vegas Blvd.? What additional services do these smaller properties provide or have available compared to traditional/real resorts? These additional ‘add-ons’ is the reason I stay away.

  6. They need to stop nickel and diming guests with these half ass fees. Charging for wifi when guests with status get’s wifi free smells like a class action lawsuit. Think this over a little better Hilton, and all you other hotel chains who want to extort guests with additional fees.

  7. Also, it’s worth noting that, by having a mandatory charge for premium internet, you not only have destroyed the benefit of free premium internet for Diamonds, but you’ve also destroyed the benefit of free regular internet for direct booking with Hilton, irrespective of status.

    In fact, there is now no longer any such thing as premium internet at this hotel. If everyone gets it because they’re paying for it, then it is, by default, the regular internet.

  8. You do know there are plenty of other hotel properties in NYC that do the same thing, so it’s not just Hilton. The Westin Times Square and the Westin Grand Central now both have a similar “urban destination” charge (or whatever term they’re using) that are just as much of a rip off.

  9. This hotel also charges for any “outside deliveries”, Postmates, Seamless, etc. I disputed the $10 charge at checkout, and tipped the bellman quite well, but how tacky.
    –JRL

  10. This should be stopped at the Government level. We need to ask our representatives to have a legislation where the prices for hotel rooms are clear to everyone and not allow these BS fees that are always hidden.

  11. Just one minor correction. Hilton Midtown is not corporate owned. Hilton Worldwide (corporate) spun off all of their owned real estate over a year ago into a separate entity. This hotel as part of that transaction and is owned by Park Hotels & Resorts. It is, however, still managed by Hilton (and not a third-party operator). Your point is the same but a distinction nonetheless. I don’t have details on hand, but Marriott does the same for many of its urban properties as well.

  12. @Justin Ross: Many hotels charge for deliveries to the property. This is very common in places like Miami where people from South America going on vacation buy lots of stuff online and ask the packages to be delivered at the hotel so they have it when they arrive. I had friends that were charged a fortune simply for the hotel to receive their packages and have them delivered to their rooms. Outrageous!!! Now, there are hotels and hotels. My parents usually stay at the Four Seasons and once my mom asked the concierge where she could find a UPS/Fedex store to send an envelope to my house. Not only they did the entire shipping for her but they did not charge a dime. You get what you pay for.

  13. Are all the New York City Hilton properties doing this? We got an excellent rate at the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown for a winter trip and I don’t see any notice of an “Location Fee.”

    Charging for receiving packages is called drayage and it’s a very, very old fee. Few hotels do it; the worst hotel for this used to be the Chicago Hyatt.

  14. W Times Square just added some random fee. $25. I have stayed here many times but this is the first time I’m seeing it.

  15. I don’t think the post included the cost of the fee- $25. It’s unclear if that’s per day or per stay, but it looks like per stay.

  16. I was just looking for a hotel in NYC and all the Marriott’s have the same BS charge. Just add it to the room rate and be done with it. Enough with the smoke and mirrors.

  17. What is a “Dennys surcharge” at a La Quinta? Are all La Quinta Inns affiliated with Denny’s restaurants?

  18. Wow so ridiculous.
    Good job Gary for pointing this out.
    This unethical practice of collecting “destination” charges needs to stop.

  19. I handle expense reports for a Large Corporation. I’ve seen Resort Fee, Destination Fee, Amenities Fee, Hospitality Fee… We advise our employees to verify any mandatory fees before confirming reservations.

  20. I just got this hotel on one of Hotwire’s Hot Rate deals. The description did not show any resort fee so I was surprised to get the the Hilton. I’ve emailed Hotwire and they basically said – sorry we only do our best to inform you of fees. I’ll be contacting Hilton this week to (1) check to see if this fee can be waived and (2) get more information on the credits. I will report back.

  21. I wonder if this fee is subject to hotel taxes. If not, it could present a tax dodge of greater proportion than charging for checked bags as a separate item rather than bundling it into the cost for an airline ticket.

  22. 1) do aggregator sites include these fees? If they don’t (and start) I imagine they will start going away quickly.

    2) I’ve had some success disputing ridiculous hotel/car/etc fees with my credit card. Even if you don’t prevail it wastes hours of their time justifying the charges in writing to the card issuer. If enough people do it things will change.

  23. Isn’t this an example of how the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world rise? They took a model that had taken advantage of its customer base for years (in this case taxis and hotels) and said “no more”. Of course now the hotels and taxis are swatting back (mostly in the courtroom/city hall)…but I believe it’s too late (and I do HOPE it’s too late). What I don’t understand is that hotels still believe they’re in the right and that they aren’t siphoning off more potential customers with patronizing charges like this one. I know a hotel customer and an Airbnb customer may be looking for different experiences, but at what point do hotels drive a particular percentage of those who prefer the “hotel” experience to the “Airbnb” experience because of stupidity such as this? I’ve been in a lot of hotels and a lot of Airbnbs and I’ve never had to pay for internet in the latter.

  24. Welcome to the new trump/republican America.

    But feat not, the new tax break will also help the poor corporations struggling to make an honest trillion.

    BTW, you’ll be paying more too for internet now that trump killed net neutrality, of course, provided you’re not dead for lack of health coverage.

  25. Where the Feds should get involved is regulating the price displayed on the online travel sites (which would logically fall under interstate commerce). I don’t really care if the hotel wants to charge a “resort fee” (or other mandatory fee), I just want it to be displayed when I’m comparison shopping. There’s nothing worse than selecting a hotel and then having the rate skyrocket when some additional fee (including things like a surcharge for a second or third person in the room) is tacked on. If I do a search for a room for 2 people for 2 nights, the total mandatory cost — including resort fees — should be displayed. This way, there would be little incentive for hotels to try to hide their true room rates.

    Of course, with a hotelier in the White House, I’m skeptical this would be a legislative priority.

    And, of course, cities like to take on outrageous room taxes on hotels to pay for stadiums and such. It would probably be best for consumers to have the total room price displayed when they shop. But this is generally not how pricing is done in the USA, which has pluses and minuses. I always thought the airlines had a somewhat raw deal having to include taxes in their fare quotes (why airlines and not everyone else?), but I think everyone now likes seeing the final price displayed when they shop. The problem with doing that for hotels is that we might then see hotel taxes resembled rental car taxes (where I often pay more than 25% tax).

  26. “Welcome to the new trump/republican America.”

    Because obviously, resort and other similar fees were completely nonexistent before November of last year.

  27. Mike, there were indeed resort fees before November of last year but dishonesty in general is getting worse around the country. It’s contagious. When the leader of the country is a non-stop liar and con man without penalty it emboldens others to try to get away with outrageous schemes also.

  28. @sadstateofourcountry actually Hiltons PAC supported Clinton in the last election if that tells you anything.

  29. The booking channels deserve a lot of the blame here. Don’t book with a site that doesn’t prominently display all the mandatory fees and taxes. You shouldn’t have to wait till the last page, or worse, when you show up to the hotel, to discover the fees. Perhaps you can do a post on which booking sites are good at this.

  30. I’m surprised you find this unusual. Virtually every FS Marriott/Starwood in NYC has something similar.

    The Westin Grand Central insists that the daily dining credit I’m supposed to get for the mandatoru nightly destination fee cannot be used on checkout day. It’s like they want their guests to feel nickel and dimed.

  31. At least Marriott and Hilton is displaying a note about their “destination fees” when they display their rates. There are hotels in the Beverly Hills/Santa Monica area where there is absolutely no notice about a surcharge when room rates are displayed on their website:

    http://mrcbeverlyhills.com/
    https://www.shuttersonthebeach.com/

    I’ll be sticking to the Peninsula, Four Seasons, and the two Dorchester Collection hotels who don’t impose such bogus fees

  32. @Andrew: “Mike, there were indeed resort fees before November of last year but dishonesty in general is getting worse around the country.”

    Again, you are treating this like it’s a new development – it’s not. We may be more attuned to it now because of our current president, but this sort of dishonesty (and dishonesty in general) has been going on for years.

  33. Hahaha, I knew it would only take a few posts before it was Trump’s fault….
    You people need to move on.

  34. Ummm… wow. I was already stunned when I checked into this hotel for a conference a couple of years ago and it had no room service — which was NOT disclosed on the Hilton website. I asked about that, and was told “oh well, we don’t have it anymore. you can always go out to find something to eat”… ummm.. that defeats the purpose of “room service”, doesn’t it?

    Hilton has been going downhill pretty dramatically in their higher-end properties, from what I can tell… I’m more than happy so far with HGIs, Hamptons, and Home2Suites… even some of the Doubletrees have started going downhill as well too, though.

  35. As a native New Yorker (who was evicted from his NY apartment of 29 years – now in the Midwest), this is SO New York and SO 21st Century America. The greed never stops. It is very telling that I can go to the Western Pacific and get comparable properties to this without this idiocy (and mostly rotten employee attitude) and be treated like gold for a mere fraction of the price. This is why my time here is always very limited and why I take overnight buses and trains, along with self-catering if I have to travel here. I utterly refuse, as a person of modest financial means, to play this game.

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