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.

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  • Marc

    Another funny thing is… the more expensive the hotel, the more likely they are to charge for internet, etc.

    The Ritz Carlton and the J. Willard Marriott both charge but Marriott’s Fairfield Inn and Courtyard typically don’t.

  • J

    We just got back from a trip to Rome where we paid a *fortune* for a fancy hotel that we expected to be full-service and which clearly stated that it had wi-fi throughout the hotel which we foolishly assumed was free. Aside from asking for $60 for a breakfast of toast, coffee and juice (!!!) internet access cost a $12/hr!!! Here’s a tip for everyone out there: Holiday Inn Express. I have stayed in a few and they are invariably clean, with new furniture, comfy beds and bedding and ALWAYS include free wi-fi and breakfast buffet.

  • Darcy

    Hysterical. It’s outrageous that a hotel doesn’t have the basic sense to include these small convenience features and has to cheap out. For *ucks sake, it costs $50/month for cable internet, and $50 for a router. These shits charge people > $80/night, and they can’t make basic wireless internet access available.

    It’s like being charged for the use of headphones for an in flight movie. Leaves you with a really bad taste in your mouth.

  • edward

    Here in the UK, I’ve stayed at 4* hotels that charged £20 a day ($40) for internet…and that’s not even in room. I’ve also stayed at magnificent hotels that offer free in-room internet, with free wi-fi in the lobby. (Malmaison, I’m looking gratefully at you!).

  • http://www.antigamer.com PENIX

    Why? Because they can get away with it.

  • homes

    You are CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP.
    You want everything for free.
    Your saving already with Priceline
    how much more do you have to save?
    Because of people like you business cant
    make a buck.

  • Bob Caswell

    @homes: I’m proud to be the reason “business can’t make a buck.” Sadly, though, my thoughts and actions won’t amount to much in the multi-billion dollar hotel industry.

    To everyone else, thanks for the great comments!

  • The Cool Sister

    I love the extremely-jaded-but-still-struggling small business owner’s comment. There’s a reason you feel that way and I’ll give you a hint. Consumers are like fans. Even the bimbos in Hollywood manage to figure out they are supposed to thank them. Think about it.

  • reflections

    Even Backpacker hostels do better than that, tho Oz does have a big Backpacker scene. Free breakfast and CHEAP internet. $1 AUD per hour.

    Fuck Rome and the snob cities of the world. Even if I was wealthy I would never throw money away as ridiculously as $60 for a piece of toast. My toast is free and so is my bacon biatch, taste even sweeter now.

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