Chocolate Pillow | Charging for extras in hotels, right or wrong?
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Charging for extras in hotels, right or wrong?

23 Aug Charging for extras in hotels, right or wrong?

On a recent edition of the Hotel Inspector (UK – channel 5), hospitality businesswoman and member of the Charles Forte hotel dynasty Alex Polizzi, quite blatantly advised a hotelier to start charging for extras and stop giving them away for free. Now you may be thinking about things like wi-fi and parking, but Ms Polizzi went a step further than these, stating to charge for extra towels, tea and coffee, and even extra soap and shower gel. As a step further, the hotelier was advised to reduce the amount of soaps, tea, coffee etc being put in the rooms. I sat in horror as this strategy was revealed, hardly able to comprehend what was being advised.

Now, I am all for a hotel making profit, as that is the whole idea of any business. The problem with this hotel was that it was costing the owner around £16 per night for the room cleaning, maintenance etc, but she was selling at around £14 per night. The majority of her business was coach parties. Now to me, the simple solution here would be to up the room rate by £3 a night and at least make £1 per night on the room. On top of this reduce the amount of tea and coffee and shampoos, or change to a cheaper supplier; charging for extras would be nowhere on my radar.

Many hotels will charge for items such as wi-fi as per a Which? Magazine article in December 2011 which showed the following chain charges:

Wi-fi cost per hour
Among those who did charge, the most expensive chain-wide charge was made by Barcelo, at £6.50, just ahead of Hilton, and Hilton by Doubletree at £6.

However, rates varied within chains, so although most Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels charge less than £5 an hour, some charge up to £10.

After the chains providing free wi-fi, the cheapest chain-wide charge was £3.85 at Accor, which has the Ibis, Mercure and Novotel brands.

Daily wi-fi charges
Rates for 24-hour wi-fi access ranged from £3 at Premier Inn to £18 at some Days Inn properties, although 85% of Days Inn properties offer it free.

The highest group-wide 24-hour charge was £15 at Barcelo, Hilton and Doubletree by Hilton.

Now these charges may seem excessive to some, after all we live in a world of free wi-fi hotspots and cloud Internet services; and I for one hate charged wi-fi. I do not believe that wi-fi should be chargeable, particularly within such large brands who have the capital and turnover to absorb these charges with little effect on multi million pound finances. To me it is charging for something that is a guests expectation as free of charge. If you have to charge because you cannot cover the cost, then amend your room rate to absorb this overall cost for everyone. I work for De Vere group, and wi-fi is free throughout all their properties ( as far as I am aware). The group remains financially sound, and many people use it. The advantage of it being free is that many more people use the service, which has an immediate splash page promoting the De Vere Brand, and when signed in, you get directed firstly to the De Vere homepage; this in turn is fantastic marketing of the brand, and is of little inconvenience to a guest (it is generally expected that they will see De Vere stuff immediately upon logging on, after all they are in a De Vere property).

Other items recommended to be charged for, as mentioned previously, were extra towels, extra soaps, and extra tea and coffee. Now, this may seem harsh to some, but the situation got a bit worse, with the hotelier being told that ‘if people are here for four days, they can use the same towels for four days. If they then want new towels, charge them’. Needless to say I nearly fell out of bed and into a seizure of opposition to what I was hearing.

I understand people advising on making profit, but I firmly believe that this was the wrong way to go around it. I had for a while been a supporter of Alex and her methods, but I fell out of favour with her last night and definitely was put off ever going to her hotel if these are the practices she recommends. As a guest it is expected that I would at least get my sheets and towels changed once within the four days I was there, and at the very least that I would not be charged for doing so!

There was another point made regarding charging for tea and coffee, and the hotel implemented a charge of 50p for more tea and coffee in the room, along with reducing the amount of tea and coffee put in the room (I will agree that having about 10 coffee and 10 tea is excessive in a room!). Now 50p is not much, and she had made about £2 after a few days of implementing it, so there was money to be made by doing this. But I disagree with this too, despite understanding why it was implemented. My issue is that it has become standardised to almost everyone, that tea and coffee are free of charge in hotel bedrooms. The other main concern is that personally, if you charge me for extra tea and coffee, which are such a minimal cost amenity, then you have just subconsciously told me that you are only interested in my money.

There was another issue raised regarding portion sizes at dinner. Now everywhere you look or go to, portion sizes are different along with prices. The portion you provide needs to match your price, and according to all reports, the hotel in question did good homemade food in big portions. I do not have an issue with this and salute her for providing a good hearty and filling English pub grub meal to her guests. But I agree she could reduce the portions and save a few pounds per course!

No comment was really made regarding the breakfast, but I have my tuppence to say on this matter too. How you serve breakfast is important, particularly if you are a smaller establishment watching the pennies. Many hotels operate a buffet-style service for breakfast, a hearty all-you-can-eat endeavour that everyone happily dives in to. The main problem here is that if you watch carefully, your wastage of food increases, and sometimes quite massively. I have seen these buffets on days after weddings etc, when people have been drinking heavily and fancy a full fry-up the end up with eyes bigger than their belly. This means they pile plates with sausages, bacon, beans, mushrooms etc… Three quarters of which is then thrown away as waste food because they only ate one of the four sausages and one of the five rashers of bacon. There is a message here… If there is a lot of wastage, try switching to a plated, measured portion service. You will see your wastage drop, and in some cases very significantly. Personally, I prefer plated service – a buffet seems impersonal and I have no idea how long the food has been sat there! Plus I do not mind waiting for a plated breakfast, but hate waiting for a buffet to be replenished. Okay it may make your staff work harder, but hard grind is good for the soul (or so my grandpa told me!) – your result would be reduce wastage leading to reduce cost, without an increase in staffing cost if done correctly!

I for one would never dream of charging for extras such as towels, soaps or teas and coffees, as these to me form fundamental parts of the guest expectation. By charging for these ‘essentials’, as that is how guests will see them, you are potentially alienating the guest. I agree with reduced portions and reduced provision of soaps etc, but if you charge me for these items, you will not see me come back to your hotel! Oh, and let’s just hope you never try to charge me for wi-fi!

That’s my thoughts, but what are yours? Leave a comment to tell me where to go, or tell me you agree.

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Matt Shiells-Jones
matt@chocolatepillow.com

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'



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