Over the last year, hotel booking practices have been in the spotlight as a number of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have pushed to crack down on the types of hidden fees that can crop up when one sees the initial low price spike when it is time to pay.
After President Joseph Biden pledged to crack down on hotels and booking sites that do not “reduce or eliminate hidden fees, charges, and add-ons” in October 2022, major chains such as Marriott (MAR) – Get Free Report and Hyatt (H) – Get Free Report have both committed to displaying the final fee outright. In August 2023, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also filed a lawsuit accusing travel platform Booking.com (BKNG) – Get Free Report of “omitting mandatory fees from the advertised room rate.”
While the negative attention to what is often called “junk fees” has pressured most hotels to bring down or fully eliminate them when it comes to the main room rate, some travelers have observed them crop up in sneaky new ways — Christopher Elliott, who founded the traveler advocacy group Travelers United, described one instance of someone checking into a Chicago hotel and finding that $25 per day were added to the bill for parking at the end of stay.
Almost every hotel will charge an extra fee for parking one’s car.
‘Somewhere along the line, the parking fee became required…’
“When Sira Mas checked into a boutique hotel in Chicago recently, she found a $25 per night fee on her bill for parking but she didn’t have a car,” Elliott wrote in a USA Today column.
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While the hotel removed the fee once Mas brought it up with a manager, this type of “assumption” that one will need parking can either be directly part of the hotel’s booking system in cities where the majority of visitors come by car or a business strategy that relies on a certain number of car-free travelers not noticing the fee at the end of the trip.
“For years, hotels have added parking charges to all of their guest folios only after verifying they came by car,” Elliott wrote. “But somewhere along the line, the parking fees became required – whether you drove there or not.”
Expect to see more ‘you could have used it but didn’t’ hotel fees
Some of the steepest hotel fees are, predictably, in dense cities such as San Francisco and New York. According to an estimate with data from ResortFeeChecker.com, the average parking fee in the latter city can exceed $100 a night but is less likely to be automatically included given the lower number of visitors who drive in.
But another traveler that had come to Elliott said that she had a Los Angeles hotel insist that a parking fee when she didn’t have a car was not a mistake but a “mandatory fee” part of the hotel’s policy — one that, according to Elliott, is starting to replace resort fees as a hidden source of profit for the hotel industry.
“Hotels are charging a mandatory parking fee using the same reasoning [as a resort or amenity fee],” Elliott explained. “You could have used the parking spot, but you didn’t.”