A few days ago, I wrote about an article in the New York Times which cited increased hostility among hotel guests being hit with additional internet charges. You can read the article and accompanying comments here.
One of the comments came from Luke Mellors of the Dorchester Hotel in London. He was one of the individuals interviewed in the original NYT article, and I thank him for weighing in on the other side of this debate, and appreciate his willingness to explain his position. While I agree with him on some concepts, there is still much to respectfully disagree on.
First of all, Mr. Mellors is dead-on right when he says that it's all about value. Whatever it is we are purchasing, for whatever price, we expect value for our expenditure. Our expectations are different when we spend $100 than when we spend $500, but regardless of our price point we still expect value.
I have never been to the Dorchester, but understand that it is quite a lovely hotel. Mr. Mellor's is correct in that there is a cost in providing and maintaining internet access, and that it is reasonable to pass that cost on to your clientele. I do, however, take issue with Mr. Mellor's assertion that it is unfair to pass that cost on to the majority of hotel guests who he claims neither want nor need that service. The concept of choosing amenities and then passing the cost onto the hotel guest is a long established principle in the hospitality business. I don't want, nor need, the hotel mini-bar in my room. In fact, I know very few people who actually use it. Yet, the hotel has determined that it is an amenity that they wish to provide, and pass the attendant costs on to its guest. I feel the same way about the swimming pool, and quite frequently the television as well.
It's not a matter of unfairness at all. It's a matter of the hotel determining which amenities are important to provide and then amortizing the cost of that amenity into its rate structure. In this instance, it's a mattering of deciding that providing internet access to hotel guests at no additional fee important. The Dorchester says that this is not an important fee-free amenity to provide to guests. Which would be fine, except that this determination is based on the opinion that less than 50% of hotel guests use the internet service. This cannot be viewed as supporting the position that less that 50% of guests wish that this service was provided. On the contrary, it merely establishes that less than 50% of the Dorchester's guests are willing to pay the approximately $33 (U.S.) daily fee for internet access.
Mr. Mellors next brags about the hotel's E-Butler service, which, I might add, sounds mighty fine. He says that while the hotel has chosen to charge for internet service, they provide this free E-Butler service to ensure that guest technology needs are met. FREE? This is not a free service. I thought that we had already established that there are no free services. It's all passed on to the consumer in some way, shape or form, either in the daily cost of internet services, or in an increased room charge. So please don't insult me by bragging about this free service. And while we're at it, why is it fair for me to pay an increased room charge for idiots who don't know how to configure their laptop. Especially, and this is using the hotel's logic, less than 50% of guests want internet services, and one cannot only imagine an even smaller percentage of guests need the services of an E-Butler. (NOTE: It sounds like a great idea for a conference or event, but I find it strains credibility for the hotel to pass on the cost for a service such as this to all guests.)
I think what we are seeing, on an increasing basis, is business travelers who want to know what the bottom line will be for their hotel stay. They don't want to be hit with all sorts of add-on charges. I think everyone realizes that their is no such thing as a free lunch, but is it to much to ask for a hotel that markets itself as a business hotel, to include business amenities as part of the standard room rate. I don't think that's to much to ask, and from what occupancies rates are showing, there are a whole lot of people staying at hotels that agree with the concept.