Two Marriotts Introduce New Employee Protection Surcharge

Surcharges have exploded at Marriott hotels, as well as other chains. Whether it’s fees to cover the light bulbs in your room, extra charges to cover a hotel’s property tax or gotcha charges for paying a bill by credit card (even Marriott’s own credit card).

Still a fee per night that guests now have to pay to protect housekeepers at the Marriott LAX still surprised me. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

Please note – A daily Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance Costs Surcharge-local fee of USD 10.72 plus tax will be added to the room rate.

Marriott’s Renaissance LAX also charges a similar fee, but $8.70 per night. This is justified by a Los Angeles rule requiring:

  • Hotels to provide employees with panic buttons for their safety at work, mostly in case they’re attacked by a guest. Marriott is charging you to protect workers from you.

  • New overtime rules, including written consent from the worker for shifts over 10 hours.

As Ben Schlappig writes,

At 100% occupancy, this fee would amount to nearly $4 million per year, so if that’s really necessary to pay for these panic buttons, then I need to get into the panic button business!

…how exactly was the pre-tax total of $10.72 per night decided? It’s almost like the hotel is trying to make it sound like something very exact so it comes across as a government fee, rather than the hotel using this to pad its bottom line.

These hotels do not believe the safety of their employees is their responsibility. It’s something you have to pay for, in addition to the price of your room. And it’s something you have to pay the hotel to do, since they appear to be charging more than it costs them. In other words, it’s a junk fee designed for deception, to extract more money from guests. It’s a destination fee by another name, but without any benefit to the guest.

Why does Marriott allow this? I suspect that this fee actually isn’t permitted under Marriott’s rules (whether or not they’re enforced). To charge a resort or destination fee a Marriott hotel must have an above-average intent to recommend score and offer benefits to the customer in exchange “with a retail value that is at least four times greater than the destination or resort fee charged.”

If that restriction has any meaning, a hotel can’t just call an add-on fee something else in order to avoid it, and in order to avoid an application fee (e.g. $1500 plus $550 per year after approval).

Nonetheless, guests are the product not the customer, hotels do as they please, or at least have learned to test boundaries since Marriott has been degrading its brand to keep owners happy. Owners free ride on the Marriott name while not contributing to preserve it, and they’ve more or less gotten away with this since the Starwood acquisition in order to keep them in the fold and paying fees. So they think they can get away with most things at this point, whether Marriott ultimately pushes back on this specific charge or not.

Ultimately this is bad for Marriott, because they’ll only be able to earn these fees as long as the brand has value. And it’s bad for Marriott hotels generally because it reduces their differentiation with Airbnb and makes them less competitive. But in the short run it benefits individual hotel properties that appear to offer cheaper rooms when a customer is searching, and because some consumers may not realize how much they’re going to have to pay.

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