Free nights are not really free with Marriott Bonvoy. That is because the hotel conglomerate allows individual hotels to tack on fees to award stays. But you’ve really got to watch for the hidden fees, as some travelers recently discovered at the Sheraton Puerto Rico.
“Bonvoy Rewards Service Fee” Was A Mistake, Says Marriott
View From The Wing notes that the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino had been tacking on two fees to Marriott Bonvoy redemptions:
- Destination Fee
- 18% of the daily rate for revenue guests or $30 per day on Bonvoy redemption stays
- Marriott Bonvoy Rewards Service Fee
- Another $3.30
Both fees are specious, but there a couple problems with the second fee in particular. First, it did not appear to be disclosed during initial booking. Second, it runs afoul of Marriott’s own terms and conditions (§3.2.e), which states that a Bonvoy redemption “includes…room tax/service charge.” Apparently not at the Sheraton Puerto Rico…
View From The Wing reached out to Marriott who responded initially that the hotel had removed the fee then added that it really was never a Bonvoy service fee at all, but was instead mislabeled taxes on the destination fee.
It is true that the tax on casino hotels in Puerto Rico is 11%, which is the $3.30.
Even so, it seems plausible that someone had to code in that label, doesn’t it? Plus, other hotels in Puerto Rico do not appear to be adding the same tax, even when charing a destination fee. More broadly, that fine line between a destination fee and prohibited “service charge” is so invisible I cannot see it.
The takeaway is that you should watch your folio closely for unintended charges and bogus fees. And the taxes on top of fees for “free” stays is really getting burdensome and a problem that goes beyond just Marriott.
I find it difficult to believe this was an innocent mistake – why label government taxes a “service fee?” Why create a billing code that doesn’t otherwise exist? Even so, while the problem may be resolved at the Sheraton Puerto Rico, the issue of hidden fees remain a big problem and a blight on the U.S. hotel industry.
As I’ve argued for over a decade, it is time to mandate all-in pricing for hotels and resorts so that consumers immediately understand the price they are actually being asked to pay for their stay.
image: Sheraton Puerto Rico
Marriott has lost all creditability and goodwill among its members. I don’t believe anything they say until I prove it either way during a stay in real-time.
Mislabeled. They meant to label it “Nickle and Dime Courtesy Fee” instead.
Those wacky people at Marriott, what will they think of next?
There is a very easy fix for these scam fees. Simply do not stay at those properties. If they have zero guests they will definitely rethink their scam tactics.
That only works if (1) these are disclosed at the time of booking and (2) people pay attention. The entire point of these kinds of charges is to avoid getting noticed and take advantage of less-than-savvy consumers. The better solution is legislation requiring Matt’s suggestion.
For the sake of argument, if the hotel is required to charge an 11% tax but the Sheraton has been collecting the tax as a fee on point redemptions that means the hotel has conceivably not paid the taxes due to the government. It’s worth noting that none of the other hotels, Marriott and Hyatt, appear to be charging an 11% tax in addition to all the other taxes and fees.
The fees are for the enormous privilege of having the biggest casino on the island.
This is the same hotel that cancelled our reservation, never notified us, and then claimed it was our responsibility to double check we were still booked on a routine basis… What?
I only found out they cancelled our reservation when I called about something else and they couldn’t find me in their system. This place is awful at best and scammers at worst.
Sadly, this property is managed directly by Marriott, not a rogue franchisee. I criticize Marriott a lot but 95% of the problems are at properties managed by the franchisee or the franchisee’s operator.
When its available I book at that hotel a rate that has a daily resort credit. One time during check in they changed the rate to one with breakfast and insisted that it was better for me. I dont know why they did that but it appears this prooerty likes to play games.