Wyndham says none of its hotels are permitted to charge for toll-free or credit card calls. However, the Wyndham Miami charges 95 cents for a toll-free call, but the hotel doesn't profit from it. It is passing on an access charge of the local phone company, says Wyndham Worldwide spokeswoman Evy Apostolatos.
Hyatt's policy for its North American hotels "is to charge for in-room access for toll-free calls," says Vice President Katie Meyer. "The actual charge may vary for a number of reasons, including different state mandates on access fees and competitive landscape of a market."
Many travelers find in-room phone charges easy to avoid, mainly by sticking to their unlimited-use cellphone plans. But laundry charges may be tougher to dodge, particularly if a trip needs to be extended.
"Some hotels are literally taking their customers to the cleaners," Sommer says. While Sommer says he usually packs enough clothes, he's sometimes needed laundry service when extending a business trip or soiling clothing. He estimates that he spent under $100 on hotel laundry last year.
USA TODAY's 20-hotel survey found some of the cheapest rates — $2 for a man's shirt and $11.50 for a suit — at the Radisson Gateway Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The Radisson Boston and the Wyndham San Jose in California have the lowest rate for cleaning a skirt — $6.50. The New York Waldorf-Astoria has the highest rates for laundry: $17 for a shirt, $32 for a suit and $20 for a skirt. It's $10 extra for a pleated skirt. Laundry charges vary at Wyndham, because laundry at most hotels is done by outside companies that charge different rates in different cities, Apostolatos says.
Customers can try to argue their way out of the fees. "Hotel incidental charges are something I fight," says Mike Bach, a consultant in Livingston, Texas. Some hotel chains will waive the fees for elite members of their frequent-stay programs, he says.
That's something that Hyatt is considering, Meyer says. It's doing "very intensive research" to "determine what combination of features and benefits is of greatest value to our high-frequency travelers," she says — including studying whether certain fees should be waived for Hyatt's most frequent guests.
Sommer, who stayed at Marriott hotels 214 nights last year, says that a hotel chain's most frequent guests should be charged nothing for handling packages or making toll-free calls.
"If there has to be a charge," Sommer says, "don't charge your bread-and-butter customers."