How to Avoid Those Pesky Early and Late Hotel Check-out Fees

Stuart Gustafson

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It seems that many hotel chains have turned to airline tactics by charging ridiculous fees, such as Early Departure and Late Check Out fees. Really? You want to leave the hotel a day early, and they still want to charge you for the room that you won’t be using? Are you going to stand by and let them get away with it?

It’s not hard to recall when purchasing an airline ticket meant that you would be able to reserve a specific seat, check a bag or two, and maybe even have a meal on a long flight (okay, that last one was a long time ago!). But the airlines soon discovered that they could start charging fees for checked baggage, reserving certain seats, providing so-so food for sale, and some are even charging a fee to carry a bag onto the plane.

Well, the hotel industry saw that the airlines were getting away with these new fees, so many of the chains started adding “ancillary fees” to their revenue repertoire! And these new fees are adding up according to NYU Professor Bjorn Hansen who stated in his “Trend Analysis Report” that these ancillary fees are adding up, totaling about $2.25 billion a few years ago—that’s billion with a B!

What are ancillary fees? Essentially, they’re fees that are not associated with the bed or why you’re actually at the hotel in the first place. The Director of Revenue Management for one Hyatt hotel (his name is omitted to protect the guilty) boasted on his LinkedIn profile that he has “… Increased Other Rooms Revenue (RPOR) by +19.7% since 2010 through effective strategic management of other ancillary revenue streams including No Show Revenues, Front Desk Upsells, Group Room Upsells, Early Departure Fees, and Late Cancellation Fees.” So this is clearly something that’s not going away.

As with many “problems,” the recognition of the problem is the first, and possibly the most important, step. So now that you are aware of the problem, what can YOU do about Early Departure (meaning leaving at least a day early than scheduled) and Late Departure (after the posted check-out time, normally noon) Fees? Most lodging chains have a loyalty program that exempts its elite members from these fees. Even if they don’t explicitly exempt you from those fees, all you have to do is flash your elite card and those fees will be gone.

But what if you’re not an elite member or you’re staying at a different hotel? Call before you arrive and explain your situation. Ask if they’re going to charge you an Early Departure fee if you have to check out early. Don’t give up until you finally get the answer you want (remembering, of course, to write down the person’s name and thank him or her for “doing you a favor.") If you can’t get the right answer, let them know that you’ll just have to take your business elsewhere.

If the hotel is hosting a convention during your stay, don’t plan to get any extra considerations; they’re already sold out and their attitude is that you’re lucky to have a room.

The same thing goes for Late Departure Fees. If you know ahead of time that you’ll need to stay in your room past the check-out time, talk to the front desk the day before. Explain the situation, and ask if they could help you out “this one time.”

As a last choice, if you do need to “check out late” because you don’t want to sit at the airport for eight hours, etc., go to the front desk at “Check Out” time and ask them to hold your bags “for later” after you check out of the room. If have not seen any hotels refuse to do that, and it’s always been complementary. If you need to, hand the desk clerk a five dollar bill and say, “Thanks.”

Let’s say that you didn’t do any of the above and you find out after you’ve checked out that they’ve added one of these fees to your bill. What can you do now? Take a look at your reservation that you printed out ahead of time. Does it mention an Early Arrival or a Late Departure Fee? If not, call the hotel directly and ask for the accounting manager. Be polite, but firm, in stating that there was no mention of the fee on your reservation, and that you want the charge reversed.

If the accounting manager says the fee will be reversed, tell that person “Thank You,” and write down his or her name. Then make a note to check your credit card bill to make sure the credit gets applied.

If, however, the answer is “Sorry, that’s our policy,” remind the manager that it wasn’t included on the confirmation of your reservation and that you’ll be contesting the charge with your credit card company. If that doesn’t elicit an “I’ll process the credit” response, hang up. Call back and ask to speak with the General Manager and explain the situation one more time. If that still doesn’t work, contact your credit card company and contest the charge.

One method for getting answers that telephone agents don’t want to give out is to message the company on social media. I have found that when I send a polite message to the business on Facebook, I usually receive a courteous response rather quickly. I don’t blast them publicly; I politely and discreetly contact them so they are the only ones seeing the message. They know that I could just as easily make my request or complaint public, but by keeping it private, they are typically more willing to respond in a manner that has typically satisfied me.

By the way, my email to Hyatt Hotels corporate office asking for clarification on their Early and Late departure Fees has never been answered.

Just because the airline industry has been getting away with fees to pad their bottom line for years doesn’t make it right. And it’s also not right that hotels are doing the same thing.

Do you feel that you should have to carry an elite membership card just to avoid an Early Arrival or a Late Departure Fee?

I don’t think so. There are plenty of lodging choices available, but it’s up to you to include the additional questioning into your decision process for choosing where to stay when you travel.

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Articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about travel, relevant local/regional items, some finance. Always with a slant to ask you to think.

Boise, ID
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