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Beware the Hotel Phone

Dear Rudy,

I've been a flight attendant for almost 33 years, so I've spent A LOT of time on the road. I take my laptop with me and use an 800 number to connect to my ISP while on layovers.

It used to be that 800 numbers were free, and local calls were a flat rate per call. Recently, however, many hotels have changed their policies regarding 800 numbers: They give you a few minutes free, then start charging ten cents per minute. Usually we're not told about this policy upon check-in. Sometimes there's a notice in the room advising of the charges, but frequently there's either no mention at all, or worse yet, it's noted on a tiny card that's buried among ads for pizza delivery.

A couple nights ago, for example, I had a hotel layover and spent about three hours on my airline's private web site checking passenger loads, weather, staffing, gate information, etc. The next day at checkout, the desk clerk informed me that I had room charges. Since I'd paid for my room service in cash the previous night, I figured there was an error. Nuh-uh. I was charged $22 and change for 800 calls. Seems hotel policy was to give you 20 minutes gratis, and then the per-minute rate kicked in. The desk clerk claimed there was a notice posted in the rooms, but I sure didn't see it, and it certainly wasn't on the night stand with the phone.

Telephone fees are a great revenue source for hotels. Many road warriors travel with laptops and pay these exorbitant charges for 800 calls. And that's not to mention those "connection fees." I once made the mistake of calling my sister long distance from a hotel phone and was charged $5 just to connect, in addition to a grossly inflated per-minute rate. Hotels are robbing customers and getting away with it.

Thanks for listening!




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