Why Do Hotels Still Charge for Internet?

So this week I’m on vacation in Orlando (never been to Disney World until now). The hotel is called the Buena Vista Palace and is located right outside the theme parks. I found the hotel via Priceline.com and thought it was a good deal until I got nickel and dimed to death upon arrival. I’m not sure who to be annoyed at more: Priceline for not including specific, applicable information that any visitor would want to know beforehand, or the hotel, which has a backwards approach to the term “convenience.”

At the registration desk we were handed a little booklet with the following written at the top:

“We make things a little easier. The Buena Vista Hotel & Spa has eliminated several incidental charges in favor of a daily Resort fee ($12 plus tax) which includes:”

The booklet then goes on to explain the additional services included (more on that later). For those unfamiliar with Priceline, it’s an online travel/vacation service that allows you to get discounts by purchasing airline tickets, hotel, rental car, etc. together in one package. You get a better deal by packaging everything together and paying in advance.

But nowadays using online travel sites such as Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity (the list goes on) is getting to be pretty popular. So what can a hotel do to circumvent the discount savvy vacationer? Answer: surprise them with a mandatory “Resort fee” all in the name of convenience.

But it gets worse. For making “things a little easier” as the hotel purports, the Resort fee does NOT include Internet access. That luxury, in 2007, costs $10 a day. In the last few years, I’ve stayed at half a dozen hotels where Internet has been included, and I naively assumed that free Internet in a hotel room was to be the norm in this day and age.

Priceline’s description of the hotel didn’t help much either. It apparently just states if a hotel does or does not have Internet but doesn’t think the consumer needs to be bothered with the details of the potential cost.

So what does a Resort fee get you? I’ll list the claim followed by the reality:

Claim: “Cyber Cafe (24 hour access) located on the first floor of the Main building.”

Reality: Four computer kiosks with no chairs.

Claim: “Two (2) bottled waters, provided daily in your room.”

Reality: We used the first two on the first day and expected to see two more that evening. Housekeeping came and went while we were out and about but did not leave new waters. I called room service in the evening, and they agreed to bring us our bottled waters. For some reason, it took them nearly a half hour to deliver water.

Claim: “Unlimited self parking.”

Reality: This could be true, for all I know. But the point of staying at a hotel this close to theme parks is to avoid renting a car. We walk everywhere or take free shuttles.

Claim: “In-room Showtime, and other select cable channels.”

Reality: Showtime is included but the number of channels overall is less than what I’ve found at other hotels.

Claim: “Daily membership to the Fitness Center.”

Reality: Wow, you mean I don’t have to pay extra to use a treadmill?

Will this ruin our vacation? No, of course not. It’s just annoying and will set us back a couple hundred bucks. My wife and I joke that we never thought the day would come when we’d pay $22 a day for water and internet!

The bottom line: If Priceline (or other travel sites) really want consumers to save, this kind of information should be bolded and obvious. And if hotels want repeat customers (especially tech savvy ones), then they should offer free internet and no surprise mandatory charges.