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Wisdom for the ages infuses spirited mountain biking and travel adventures fueled by a vegan/plant-based lifestyle.

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yup, only worse…

yup, only worse…

Fee Gouging

Fee Gouging

Incessant tipping and hidden fees are predatory practices that cheapen travel and leisure experiences; I prefer to know the whole cost of a service or purchase up front. As a frequent traveler, I was pretty stoked to learn that New Zealand has a no-tipping policy. This contrasted with my  Vietnam adventure, where daily tipping is practically a full time job; my VBT tour required nearly $1,000 in extra 'suggested gratuity fees'.

‘What I cannot comprehend is the utterly maddening trend of US hotels who are charging 'resort' fees and '3d party booking fees'.

It's refreshing to receive excellent food and services without the added onus of tipping. The Kiwi's are paid a fair rate, are happy to perform their jobs, and they don't need me judging their performance–thank you very much. My masseuse has the same philosophy. A card on her desk reads 'tips are appreciated but not accepted.' I love that. She decides her professional fee and charges me for her service, period. This invites an equal balance of power into our relationship, which leads to loyalty and ease. I've made the same arrangement with other providers, and I think this has created long-term relationships of enrichment for all of us. It certainly is more enjoyable and relaxing for me. I don't spend my self-care and recreation sessions preoccupied with judgment and the calculation of gratuities. Just tell me the exact price of the service or product, and then I will decide if I am willing to pay the price. Cost is an issue only in the absence of value.

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What I cannot comprehend is the utterly maddening trend of US hotels who are charging 'resort' fees and '3d party booking fees'. Sure, super lush places have gotten away with hidden resort fees forever, but fee gouging is now epidemic at more star levels–and the 'amenities' are questionable. I just returned from a three-night family trip to Washington, DC, where I booked multiple rooms via Priceline at a Kimpton hotel. Each room was charged a $40 resort fee per night. When I called to ask what it was for, I was told–rather sheepishly–that the resort fee was for the coffee maker and the safe in the room. I laughed out loud. The nervous guy at reception was mortified trying to explain this to me. While I'm certain my response was polite, I can't imagine the extent of verbal abuse this host must endure on a daily basis trying to defend such nonsense. I could feel his pain.

The funny thing is, when I inspected my room, there was no coffee service; the safe, which was too small to hold an air book, required a credit card to operate. When my sister checked into her room later in the day, they charged her $100 because her room had been booked through 'a third party'. Hotels are now charging guests just to check in? Wow. To top it all off, as consumers we must pay taxes on these outrageous surcharges. According to the New York University School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism these fees go directly to the hotel's bottom line. These phony surcharges will add up to more than three billion dollars of pure profit in 2019.

‘I think the US hotel industry has appropriated the exploitive practice of structured surcharge pioneered by the airlines, and they have gone stark raving mad with it.’

Traveler Beware: US travelers are getting burned in this conflagration of excessive and hidden fees.

Traveler Beware: US travelers are getting burned in this conflagration of excessive and hidden fees.

In April, 2019, I used Booking.com for twenty-one nights in New Zealand and did not have so much as an extra penny added to my arrangements. What gives? I think the US hotel industry has appropriated the exploitive practice of structured surcharge pioneered by the airlines, and they have gone stark raving mad with it.

 Be watchful when booking. On a recent overnight in NYC, I paid a 'mandatory' resort fee of $30 I had not anticipated. I paid it because it was 9 pm, and the reception host demanded it upon arrival. At least this place provided an excellent 'free' breakfast–so I let it slide. On a Hilton reservation I was contemplating online this week it said, in very fine print, 'an additional $75 will be collected at the property.' I deleted the screen.

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I was so incensed by the Kimpton experience that I protested the resort fees as soon as they hit my AMEX account. The credit card folks were sympathetic and accepted my protest; my rep hadn't heard of this practice–not yet.

 This general trend of fee gouging the consumer has got to stop. It is soul-grindingly obnoxious and anxiety inducing for guests. It's taking a real-time emotional toll on dedicated hospitality employees, who already serve diligently in a very demanding industry. I have noticed that hotel staffs are becoming more edgy and sharp-tongued, something I have not experienced as a guest before. At the Kimpton, when I called reception to enquire as to why my booked king bed was a queen, the woman skipped civility altogether, and berated me for questioning my room assignment. And when I asked the reception host to extend my key card by thirty minutes (I had arranged for a late check out the previous day) he begrudgingly acceded to my request, but only after questioning its fidelity; he finished off by loudly admonishing me to 'hurry up' in front of other guests. It was embarrassing for me, but I didn't take it personally. I felt this 'grumpy factor' I was experiencing was a result of low staff morale–people who are consistently in a defensive mode are super stressed. In this newest cultural battle zone, they are the suffering human hearts. I have never posted a review on Yelp before, but I sure did this time–I directed it to management's weak leadership. I think fee gouging is infecting the pleasure of travel and hospitality for everyone–it's a corrosive cultural joy-killer. Think about using your voice, and your credit card, to protest this practice.

I’m going to keep up the travel, but I’m planning to be a more proactive consumer going forward.

I’m going to keep up the travel, but I’m planning to be a more proactive consumer going forward.

I’d love to hear from you—feel free to send your comments to me.

7 Things I Learned This Spring

7 Things I Learned This Spring

Adventure: New Zealand

Adventure: New Zealand