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Resort Fees in Top Hotels

Towels at the pool, a paper outside the door, a coffeemaker in the room—these perks are included in the room rate quoted to a hotel guest, right? Not at some top hotels and resorts. These days, guests are often confronted with an extra charge, called a resort fee, to pay for amenities they assumed would be covered—and that they may not even use.

These fees, usually $10 to $20 per day, are increasingly popping up on bills. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Maui levies a $15-a-day fee for "complimentary" transportation to the beach, golf discounts, and the "privilege" of charging meals to your room.

What if you walk to the beach, hate golf, and eat in town? You still pay.

Likewise, at the Wigwam Resort near Phoenix, you pay a $12 daily fee for parking, croquet, bike rental, shuttles to the mall, and maid service. The Oregon Coast's Westin Salishan hits guests with a $7.50-a-day charge for parking, golf, coffee, and tennis.

Hotels often don't bring up the fee when you make your reservation; they wait until you check in. When VIA called the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and inquired about room rates, the fee wasn't mentioned.

Unfair? A New York City law firm has filed class-action suits against Starwood (owner of Sheraton and Westin) and Marriott International, which owns the Ritz-Carlton hotels.

"I can almost guarantee if you call for the rate at a Starwood or Marriott, they won't tell you about the resort fees unless you ask," says Peter Morgenstern, the lawyer representing the plaintiff in both cases. "That's what we believe is fraudulent and misleading. Imagine driving to a gas station that advertises it's selling gas for $1.50 a gallon and then being told when you go to pay that there's a $5 pump fee?"

Starwood and Marriott both refused to comment.

Morgenstern thinks the suits will prompt hotels to drop the fees or at least mention them when quoting room rates. Meanwhile, when you book a room, ask if you have to pay extra for the key.

Photography by Macduff Everton/Corbis

This article was first published in July 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.