Room service breakfast at a hotel.
One thing that irks me about staying in hotels is how they always seem to try and sucker you. First, it started with outrageously overpriced phone calls but then technology advanced and people were able to use their own cell phones. Then, it was the mini bar but even charging $5 for a small pack of M&Ms, hotels couldn’t make money so they got rid of those.

Now, one of the ways that many hotels try to deceive you is by adding a delivery fee to your room service bill and then providing à blank line to add even more gratuity. Instead of stating that it’s an extra tip, they just pass it off like a tip is not included. The confusing part is that not all hotels are the same. Some don’t pass the delivery fee on to the server as a tip and some do. Heck, I’m not even entirely sure if any of them pass the whole gratuity on to the delivery worker as well.

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I know what you’re probably thinking: Who orders room service any more? And you’re right – not as many people do now as they did in the old days. I rarely do, for a number of reasons:

-The food is way over-priced
-The food is generally not very good
-It’s not a local experience
-You’re not supporting small businesses

I almost always go to a local restaurant or use a food delivery app instead of room service. Of course, there are issues with them too. Often, the delivery can take too long, which is no bueno when you have hungry little kids to feed.

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But recently, I had a dining credit to use at a hotel and I almost always sign for the bill but I was on a call so my wife signed. When I later saw the receipt on the table, I asked if she’d tipped. She said, “Yes, 20% like you always do.”

Yes, I do almost always tip 20% in a restaurant if the service is good but I don’t on in-room dining because the tip is usually included, it’s just disguised. Natalie asked why there is a blank line for gratuity and then they ask you to total up your bill? Good question.

There shouldn’t be a gratuity line if it’s already included in the delivery fee. It’s a scam and hotels need to be more transparent with their guests. If they continue to do this, room service is going to end up like phone calls and mini bars. Extinct.

There is, of course, something else hotels do that no one likes: the dreaded resort fee (or as some hotels call it, a “destination fee”) which is even worse but that’s a whole other story.  KEEP READING: Should You Tip on Takeout?


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17 Comments On "Is Your Hotel Scamming You? How to Spot This Hidden Room Service Fee"
  1. Earl B.|

    Is your hotel scamming you? Two words: “Resort Fee.”

    1. Johnny Jet|


    2. H N|

      Was at 1 hotel in south beach miami does this and it is ridiculous

  2. Linda|


  3. Trish|

    Another mini-bar scam is if you even touch or move a mini-bar item either on a cabinet or in the fridge they will charge you without noting what item was consumed. Recently at the Venetian I was charged for two bottles of water that we did drink and then $10 for unspecified items because I had moved the holder where the water was sitting in order to wipe up ice that had melted onto the cabinet. The holder was somehow attached to the cabinet with a cable so it was impossible to wipe up underneath it. Apparently that was construed as my having used some mini-bar item. I only saw this after check out so didn’t have the energy to go back and fight them on it – also probably something they count on.

  4. null|

    The resort fees irk me to no end. You’re often charged for services that you’re not going to use- the gym, lousy hotel internet, etc. I purposely look for hotels that do not have them.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      It’s a total scam

  5. Dan Nainan|

    At the otherwise wonderful Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, they tried to charge me $150 for alcohol that they said I drank from the minibar. Only problem: I don’t drink.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Happened to me too and often at other hotels but thankfully most minibars are gone

  6. Bob A|

    Don’t forget to mention that some hotels charge a daily parking
    fee (unless you stay a minimum number of days) even if you do not have a car. Example: Marriott Residence Inn, West Springfield, MA where
    off-site parking is not reasonably possible.

  7. Ali Song|

    In Vegas NYC and most places I go now I tell the hotel to remove the mini bar I was so tired of wasting my time arguing fees from items I never used touched and being charged just by looking at an item is the new trend … Call the hotel tell them you are recovering alcoholic or you are allergic to all the items in the mini bar or ask them to remove the stockade fridge with an empty on for your “medicine’ you need refrigerated … basically tell them to remove the whole mini bar and all its items ….

  8. Caroline Mah|

    I paid in full
    for my 4 days and 3 nights package including return transfers, hotel and return flight to Kissimere, Florida. I stayed at Ramada Hotel in Nov.2000. I have access to free shuttle bus to see Magic Kingdom. Upon arrival, I was told that I have to pay the daily resort fee of $3 U.S. I told the Manager that I already paid in full for the whole package but he insist that I have to, otherwise I cannot stay. The resort fee was never written in the travel brochure nor was my travel agent inform. As a frequent solo traveler, I never ran into this dilemma. Upon my return back to Canada, I managed to find the headquarter of Ramada chains. I written them my written complaint of this unjustified resort fee. Their headquarter responded back to me stating that the Ramada where I stayed, was fined because it was against their policy. I got reimbursed. Beware of resort fee scams.

  9. Lynn|

    I was charged $50 for a spa at a Cape Cod hotel. I did not use the spa. I told the hotel. They said the charge is because it is available to use. Really sleazy. Didn’t go back to that one.

  10. Distant Traveler|

    Hotels shams; much like scams, raising their rates in summer to ‘astronomical heights’. Is that not much the same as pharmaceuticals raising their prices ‘just because’? In most all rooms I find some kind of ‘negative’, like not vacuumed, or cleaned well, broken this or that, etc. Even in the best of hotels. I have stayed in an only motel in a small town which had better beds, service, satellite connectivity, etc. than many larger places in populated communities.

  11. Marilynn Mika Spencer|

    About the service fees and tips: In California, the law is that service fees are the property of the hotel (which may share some if it with the staff if it wants) and tips/gratuities are the property of the server, delivery person, or other staff who provides a service. But as this article shows, guests generally don’t notice or don’t know about the difference. Hotels that impose a service fee are likely getting money the guest intended for the employee. Hotels would be more honest if they just upped their prices a bit.

    The one that *really* infuriates me is restaurants that add a percentage to the check with the excuse that it’s to cover “increased labor costs” when what that percentage really does is preserve the owners profits. Implying the employees are already getting extra money induces the guest *not* to leave a tip because the employee supposedly got a raise. Wages don’t keep up with inflation, even here in California. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour – just $15,080 per year. It hasn’t been raised since 2009. Analysts generally agree a living wage is between $$17 and $25 per hour for most employees. Worse, the federal minimum wage for employees who earn tips is $2.13 per hour. Seriously! States can pass higher minimum wages but still in 2023, only 30 states have higher minimum wages.

  12. ol' Doc|

    Yea, reference the labor surcharge scam, El Torito Mexican Restaurant chain does this for several years now. Fine. I like their food, but this labor surcharge should be included in the cost of doing business. So, I pay this charge ( I think it is 2% or 3% ), but refuse to include ANY tip. In the bottom line, it actually saves me $$ because their tip would have been about 5% to 10%. Cheap? I don’t care. My line of work, nobody ever gives me a tip to do my job.

  13. Shopaddict88|

    I had never heard of a daily parking fee charged for no car! I often ask them to clear the minibar so no ‘accidental charges’ especially when they have one that is sensored with item movement! I had no idea the delivery fee in room service could also include gratuity! with kids often we like to get room service for breakfast and share (sometimes reasonably priced options are there) -will have to ask about it next time!

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