Nineties 2, Electric Boogaloo: The Return of the V-Chip
Plus: Why I don't lose sleep over the "entitlements crisis"
As you might expect, I noted with interest the “junk fees” section of President Biden’s State of the Union address. The president declared:
We’re going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill. Those fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.
We — the idea that cable, internet and cellphone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider — give me a break.
We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events and make companies disclose all the fees upfront.
And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging $50 round trip for a family just to be able to sit together. Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage.
Resort fees have been a hobbyhorse of mine for some time. They’re irksome because they’re not really fees at all — while they nominally cover the cost of additional amenities like pools and spas, you have to pay them whether or not you actually use the amenities, and as the president noted, they’re increasingly charged at non-resort hotels that aren’t even especially amenitized.1 Having a “resort fee” is just a way of breaking the room rate up into multiple parts, which makes it hard to compare competing hotels’ rates against each other or figure out what the real total price of a hotel stay is.
So I think it’s a good idea for the government to prohibit this non-transparent pricing practice and force hotels to price in a way that makes clear what the price actually is.
I’ve seen some people suggest this idea is too small to be worthy of presidential policymaking:
Obviously, resort fees are not the great political issue of our time. But in other contexts, such as health care, conservatives have embraced price transparency as an important part of making markets work well.
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