True dat, but phrases like this don’t help: “legitimate resort fees.” There is no such thing.

It is not fare to lump these fees in with airline add-ons, because airline add-ons are actually for something, and if you don’t use that something, there’s no fee. You don’t pay baggage fees, for example, if you have no baggage.

Resort fees are not an add-on, but simply part of the room rate that they want to hide from you for one reason or another. You can’t avoid them they way you can avoid baggage fees. The hotels pretty much created the concept to hide the true cost of the room, and then turned it into a complete scam to get the top search results on places like Priceline and

Here’s the most radical scam I have seen personally:

I searched for a hotel room in a southern town, and I set the options for ranking from cheapest to most expensive. Normally I would choose the cheapest one that has a high score for customer satisfaction with a large number of votes. Miraculously, one of the highest-rated was only $39.95 a night. I figured that’s because it was off-season and they don’t want empty rooms.

I figured wrong.

They just listed that rate to get the top position in the search. When I went to pay, I found that my bill would be more than $200 per night. There’s forty bucks for the room, about twenty bucks for local taxes, and 150 bucks for resort fees.

I ended up staying down the road at a place that was honest about its prices. That place listed a base price twice as high as the scammers, but I ended up paying about half as much – and it’s actually a much nicer place.

By the way, I think they are probably hurting local governments as well as cheating their customers. Many localities place a sales tax on hotels. If the hotel charges me $190 for the room in an area with a 10% tax on hotels, I presume they have to collect $19 tax. If they charge me $40 plus a $150 resort fee, I’m guessing that they only collect $4. (But that’s just me guessing. Coming up with dodges like that used to be a part of my job, so I’m always suspicious.)

My girlfriend has zero tolerance for resort fees and goes full Karen on the poor clerks and assistant managers, insisting that the hotel reveal precisely what the fees are for, then says “OK, we don’t want any of that, so just charge us the base rate.” We have actually run into one honest business that agreed to that, but mostly they just offer some mealy-mouthed crap about how “it doesn’t work that way,” whereupon she forces them to admit out loud that it’s not really a “fee” of any kind, but just part of the base rate.

I don’t have the patience or inclination for such confrontational tactics, but she reminds me that by doing it in front of all the other customers, she’s educating the public to the scam. (I always point out that they would gladly trade that education for checking in ten minutes faster, which they would do if the person ahead of them was not complaining.)


If you are out there and influence the policies of some company like Priceline, I would very much like you to sort by true cost instead of the posted rate. That’s easy to do. Your software already makes that calculation when we click on “choose,” so there is no excuse for your failure to offer that sorting option. The way it is now, I have to click on each individual hotel to get that number, then write it down with my low-tech BIC pen, then repeat as many times as I can until I get weary of the process.