Hotel Newspaper 'Fees' Should Rank Low On Buyer Concerns

An unwanted copy of USA Today has prompted a $100,000 lawsuit against Hilton Worldwide, but in terms of targeting what some see as runaway fees in travel bills, it's a bit of a misfire.

A Sacramento man, Rodney Harmon, recently filed a class action lawsuit against the hotel giant in response to the newspaper delivery policy at Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel does not charge 75 cents for guests’ daily USA Today per se. It's not something that will appear on a folio at the end of the stay. Guests who ask the front desk to opt out of the delivery, however, receive a 75-cent credit. Harmon's lawsuit contends that the policy is not spelled out clearly enough.

The lawsuit aside, 75 cents per night might seem a pittance but certainly could be significant if spread across a large hotel program. So, is it something worth negotiating? Probably not. [more] Looking across the major hotel company policies for newspaper delivery--with the exceptions of Hilton, which declined to comment even to clarify its policies across the brands, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which also declined to elaborate on its policies--not many have a similar policy. And even for those that do, the payoff likely is not worth the effort.

"In what is shaping up as a challenging hotel negotiation climate, clients should make sure everything possible is on the table," Advito director of consulting Sean Curley said. "That said, hotel room delivery of newspapers does not represent a significant savings opportunity for corporate clients, due to the minimal cost of the service and the personal preference of travelers that drive that decision."

Increased nickel-and-diming is an oft-lobbed charge aimed at the hotel industry--fees total upwards of $1 billion each year in the United States--but newspaper delivery hardly is a primary culprit. Most hotels still are happy to give away a daily paper for free if guests simply ask, sign up for their rewards program or are willing to walk the few extra steps from their room to the elevator bank.

Still, it's worth reviewing the various company policies, if nothing else to consider the sustainability question. The lawsuit, after all, points out the high energy and emission costs needed to put out a newspaper that travelers might not even read. And for those travelers who want to make sure they still get their daily hard copies, we, who still are in the print business ourselves, would hardly object.

Marriott International: Citing declining newspaper readership, Marriott changed its delivery policy a few years back. If guests want a newspaper delivered at one of the upper upscale properties, they need to tell the front desk or just pick up a free copy in the lobby. There's no delivery at the select-service brands, but copies are free in the lobby.

InterContinental Hotels Group: One of its brands, Hotel Indigo, has the same policy as the Hilton Garden Inn in the lawsuit: Guests can earn a 75-cent credit by opting out of newspaper delivery. At InterContinental hotels, guests are given the option for delivery, which is free, at check-in. Most of the other brands--Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites--offer complimentary newspapers in public areas in the United States, Mexico and Caribbean. In Canada, guests at these hotels get the newspaper delivered to their rooms and can opt out in writing.

Carlson Hotels: At Radisson properties, guests can pick up newspapers for free in public areas, while Business Class guests get The Wall Street Journal delivered to their room as an extra perk. Newspapers also are available for free pickup at Country Inns & Suites properties.

Hyatt Hotels: In general, guests around the world get newspaper delivery, often a choice between international newspapers and local publications. Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency properties in the United States, Canada and Caribbean offer weekday delivery for Gold Passport members and full-week delivery for Elite Hyatt Gold Passport members.