Hotel Wi-Fi Fees - What a Scam!

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Hotel Wi-Fi Fees - What a Scam!

Post by rogerwimmer » Sun Mar 27, 2011 5:51 pm

Doc: Interesting that vehicle dealers, in many cases, no longer provide a complimentary tank of gas after a car purchase. This prompts me to ask your opinion of hotels that charge for Wi-Fi. Is it a "necessity?" For example, hotels don't charge for water or electricity. Some say Wi-Fi is comparable. What are your thoughts? - Anonymous

Anon: First, I don't think Internet access can be considered a necessity similar to water or electricity since not all people want or need Internet access. However, you aren't the only person questioning why hotels (and motels) charge for Wi-Fi. Just take a look at the number of references about the topic in this search. In several references, you'll see that a recent survey by J.D. Power found that the number one complaint about hotels is Wi-Fi fees. Let's take a look at what's going on.

The cost of providing Wi-Fi for customers in any environment (hotel, coffee shop, etc.) is very low. The hardware (router) is about $50 and the Internet subscription for the location is low, probably about $50 per month. So, a hotel's costs are about $650 per year, or about $54 per month. If the hotel charges $10 for Wi-Fi access, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that their costs are covered by six customers. Every customer after that is 100% profit. Now that, my friend, is a scam.

In many locations, Wi-Fi is provided free to encourage customers to visit the location and/or to stay longer, such as Starbucks. However, some hotels use Wi-Fi fees as a revenue stream, and it's an obvious attempt (scam?) to get the most money from guests. Because costs are so low, any location that charges a fee for Wi-Fi access makes about 100% profit on the fee. That's ridiculous.

One main reason some hotels have a Wi-Fi fee is that they can no longer gouge customers for telephone use since most people use cell phones. The hotels had to find a new scam to steal money from customers, and Wi-Fi access is it.

Not all hotels and motels charge for Wi-Fi access, just the locations that try to gouge customers. The fees will continue until enough customers complain, or book rooms at hotels that provide free Wi-Fi. In the meantime, there are a few things you might want to consider.

1. Check the hotel's website before you make a reservation. Choose only those with free Wi-Fi.

2. If you can't find a hotel with free Wi-Fi, call the hotel and say that you'd like to make a reservation and would like to know if they will waive the fee. Be convincing because many will waive the fee. An alternative that I have used when I can't find a free Wi-Fi hotel is to call a hotel that I know has a fee and, after talking about a room reservation for a while, I say, "OK, I'd like to reserve the room (pause), but I forgot something. Do you have free Wi-Fi?" (No.) "Well, in that case, I don't want to reserve a room. I'll find another hotel that provides free Wi-Fi." When I have done this, the person at the hotel has waived the fee. (Note: If you use this "threat," you have to be prepared to look elsewhere if the employee doesn't waive the Wi-Fi fee.)

3. Sometimes you may not find a free Wi-Fi hotel. In some cases, there may be many free Wi-Fi hotspots near the hotel. There are many Wi-Fi locators on the Internet – click here.

4. In other cases, you may able to find another router nearby, but be careful because many are owned by morons whose sole purpose is to steal information from people who sign on.

5. Finally, if you don't have a choice and have to pay a Wi-Fi fee, see if you can get the fee deducted when you check out. Tell the hotel checkout person that you won't ever stay at the hotel again because of the Wi-Fi fee. You may find that the fee will be deducted from your bill.

I hope that helps.

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Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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