Calling BS On Excessive Resort Fees

I have no problem with resort fees.  They’re pretty standard in most hotels that offer amenities these days.  So, it makes sense that a hotel with a giant water park would charge resort fees for your stay.  Still, after a recent booking, I still walked away mad.

I wasn’t upset that they charged for a resort fee.  But a couple of things in particular got to me.  So, I decided to call them out on it on social media.

Resort Fees At Our Favorite Water Park

We’ve stayed at a nearby water park for several years.  We love it.  The kids have a great time.  They run around all day and never get bored.  We join them and have fun playing with them and relaxing.

We decided to book a trip during the kid’s mid-winter break, coming up in February.  I did some research on rates and found one that was basically identical to what we paid last year.  It averaged $156 per night.  Last year our average was $152 per night.

Still, when I got my confirmation e-mail, I was surprised to see that the amount due was listed as quite a bit higher than the $8 I was expecting for our two night stay.  It was over $20 different.

I knew something had to be different.  I pulled out an itemized receipt and noticed that the likely culprit was the resort fee.  The receipt from last year listed this as $19.99 per night.  When I used our numbers and started playing with numbers, the final total came up with a nightly fee of $25.99.

They raised the price $6 per night.  That’s 30%.

My Complaints About The Resort Fee

So, I took to social media.  My complaint was politely worded, but it let them know that I was pretty unhappy about two elements:

  1. The large increase – I felt a 30% increase was excessive from one season to the next.  Furthermore, some quick Google searches showed that in 2011, the resort fee was a much more modest $9.99. So, the pattern of large increases is not new.
  2. The fact that it was hidden – Nowhere on their website does it list the actual amount of the resort fee.  Their confirmation e-mail lists the charge for your room and then a single line ‘Taxes and Fees’.  Only by using last year’s receipt to get the detail on the taxes was I able to back into the actual fee.  I felt this was sneaky.

Their Response And My Counterpoints

They wrote back to me within 24 hours.  They were very polite and I was happy that they responded.  Below I’ll outline their points, as well as my eventual counterpoints.

  1. The resort fee has stayed the same since 2014 – OK.  I understand that increases are normal in the mb-2016-12-complaintindustry.  That’s fine with me.
  2. They called the increase ‘slight’ – I pointed out that I have not had a 30% increase in salary since 2014 and guessed that most people, including their own staff, also have not.  I know that it’s ‘only’ $6 per night, but from a percentage increase perspective, 30% is not slight.
  3. The resort fee covers the use of wi-fi – I was fine with this.  I’ve used their wi-fi and it’s never dropped, had weak signal, or been intrusive.  So I am happy to pay for this.
  4. The resort fee covers towels and life jackets – When you’re at the water park, you go through towels constantly.  The kids climb in and out of the pool and you are drying off each time, requiring lots of towels.  They’re constantly wheeling away bins of used towels and bringing new ones.  And, they provide life jackets that the kids can wear which is great.  Again, I completely saw the value here.
  5. The resort fee covers….parking – This is where I started rolling my eyes a bit.  The resorts are not in densely urban areas.  They’re on pretty large swaths of land that have the required number of parking spots to accommodate everyone, even when at full capacity.  I feel that maintaining their parking lots was an overhead item.  It’s definitely something I would pay for as a resort or luxury fee.
  6. The resort fee covers access to a newspaper – I vaguely recall getting a copy of some newspaper outside my door.  I’m sure that most people would gladly forego this if it meant a lower fee.
  7. The resort fee covers access to the fitness center – I’m neutral on this.  I guess I can see how someone might have a particular thing that they want to do.  But, honestly, most of the time we’re there, any calories we are burning are done in the water park.
  8. The resort fee covers in room coffee – OK, I guess so though I usually go down to the Dunkin Donuts and get coffee, and judging by the lines, I’m guessing this is probably something most people do.
  9. The resort provides access to fax machines and local calls – This is the one that got my eyes rolling to the back of my head.  Fax machines?  Local calls?  Really. Don’t tell me that fax machines are used anywhere close to regularly!  And for local calls, I’m guessing that most guests have cell phones and would be just fine to use them.  If either of these services are really amentities, I suggested that most guests would prefer a la carte pricing.

The Real Reason For Resort Fees

The bottom line is that resort fees seems a pretty easy way to pad the bottom line.  I know for a fact that we do not use $52 worth of services above, nor I’m sure do any guests.  I’m guessing it’s probably 10% of that at most.  It’s a pretty simple way for them to keep rate increases smaller but still collect more revenue. Sounds similar to another practice that masks price increases.

Did this or will this stop us from going?  No.  Did my complaning about it change anything?  Of course not. But did it feel good to do the research and at least call them out on it?  It sure did!

Readers, what do you think?  Are resort fees a necessary evil that we shouldn’t think about?  Or should we call the ‘resorts’ out on them?  Have you ever complained or spoken up about the amount of fees charged?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

I May Never Buy A GE Appliance Again

For years, I’ve followed the trials and tribulations of the front loading washing machine issues surrounding mold and mildew.  Why?  Because the GE  front loading washer that we have has been plagued with these issues since we bought it in 2007.

At the time, I thought it was great.  The community where we moved had some of the highest water rates in the area, so it was a HUGE win to save money on the water bill with the new type of machine that used significantly less water.

The honeymoon quickly wore off.

Moldy Gasket

When we first got our machine, we did what any sensible person would do and closed the door when it wasn’t in use.  Sound, reasonable, right?  Well, we quickly found out that was a bad idea when the rubber gasket around the door started getting covered in mildew.

So, we started keeping the door open.  Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and that gasket continued to get mildew and such on it until around 2011 when it finally started to fall apart and we had it replaced.

Second Gasket

The second gasket lasted about three years before it finally started breaking down as well.  Through keeping the door open, we didn’t get the buildup of bunk, but having a door open all the time is not exactly the look of a nice clean laundry room.

Third Gasket

The newest gasket we have has developed a small leak.  Just a little puddle to clean up off the floor that I’m sure will

Where our machine belongs Image from Morguefile courtesy of johnwollring
Where our machine belongs
Image from Morguefile courtesy of johnwollring

likely grow.  But, for now it’s ‘manageable’.  Or is it?  I mean, here we are looking at something that most reasonable people would probably not put up with, but these hunks of junks have lowered the bar so much, that wiping up a puddle is considered acceptable.  Unreal.

The Soap Drawer

The latest is that the drawer that you pull out to fill up the soap, bleach, and fabric softener now gets mildew all over it.  For quite a while, leaving the drawer pulled out slightly would keep things OK here, but now, not so much.  Now, we actually go through the trouble of taking the drawer completely out most nights when we’re done with wash.  Even with this, mildew still develops and I have to clean not only the drawer, but the surrounding plastic on the inside of the machine,  about every 2-3 months.

Scary Part About Our GE Front Loading Washer

You want to know the real scary part of all this?  It’s not that we have to keep the door open and pull out the drawer and scrub the entire thing every three months.  You’d think that’s bad enough, but the real scary part is that we’re only keeping the areas clean that we have access to.  I’m not stupid enough to believe for a second that the inside of this machine isn’t caked with mildew in places that we can’t get to.

And it’s a wonder that I have skin eczema.

Insult To Injury

On top of everything, GE won’t step up to fix the issue.  Amazingly, a couple of companies were sued and settled lawsuits.  Maytag and Whirlpool were the ones that come to mind.

GE not only refused to acknowledge any problem. Plus, they actually managed to convince someone that there were not widespread problems with their machines.  There’s simply no way that can be true.  You can’t tell me that our machine is just an outlier.  That’s bologna.

So, I’m hard pressed to think that I’ll ever buy a GE appliance again.  They built a crappy product, they refused to stand behind it (I did contact them), they somehow managed to skirt blame.  They are very low on my list.  At some point this pile of junk will either stop working or I’ll decide I’ve had enough with the mildew.  Then, we’ll end up getting something else.  When that happens, I can tell you what brand of washer we WON’T be bringing into the house.

Readers, have any of you participated in the front loading washing machine lawsuit?  Have you had any experience, good, bad or otherwise, with these types of machines?

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The School Supply List And Gratefulness

My wife had with a conversation friend, that quite frankly, rubbed me (and her) a little bit the wrong way.

They talked about the school supply list that was sent home, which contains a list of supplies that each parent is asked to get and send in.  Many of the items are shared between kids in the classroom, while some are kept individually.  I think this proportion changes as the kids get older.

My wife was a little taken aback at one point.  The other mom kind of laughed and said, “Well, you don’t really have to sendmb-2016-09-list anything in.  They’re just suggestions, and really, the school is supposed to make sure everything is supplied.”

Here’s the thing, actually a few things.

Schools Aren’t Sitting On Cash

Our district, like many in Michigan, and probably many across the country, doesn’t get an excess of money.  Back in the days when the Great Recession hit the country, Michigan had already been in one for several years.   The Great Recession battered an economy that had already been taken to the woodshed.  The state cut school funding levels many times, and the amount per pupil that is distributed is still at or below levels from the early 2000’s.  This doesn’t even factor in inflation, which probably puts them back to levels over 20 years ago or pretty close.

Point being, while funding levels have steadily been increasing over the last few years, it’s not like districts are swimming in money.

People Can Afford The School Supply List

My wife’s friend can definitely afford to grab the list of supplies and send them in.  They’re not 1%’ers but they’re definitely not hurting.

So, I just can’t understand why they are going to decide to draw the line here.

Supplying Is Helping Others

There are some families who are hurting.  Our district is relatively small from a pupil count perspective.  It covers a pretty big geographic areas that includes a pretty broad mix of economic scales.  Simply put, there are a lot of families that simply do not have the means to supply that list.  Maybe there are some circumstances where refusing to subsidize people who might be too poor to afford to chip in is appropriate, you’ll never convince me that it is justifiable when it comes to children, especially when it’s a pretty nominal amount.

The whole conversation kind of bummed me out and I think actually helped contribute to my recent case of the money blahs.

See, we’d never considered, and even after the conversation my wife had, nor would we ever consider skipping out on the supplies.  My wife and I count as one of our blessings that we can afford this cost.

Would we rather spend the money on something else?  Of course we would.  Who wouldn’t?  But that isn’t the point!

Between the transmission problems on the car and laundry list of things we had done to the camper, we dropped over $1,000 just like that.  Would saving school supplies helped offset the sting of that?  Sure.  But would I ever go there? Not a chance!

In my last post, I talked about how I started to get out my money blahs by taking time to see how blessed we actually are, and I look at the fact that we can contribute the full school supply list as a blessing.  (Well, my son did leave two boxes of tissue on the bus so while it certainly ended up at the school, it may have ended up in a different classroom…but that’s OK *lol*)  We’re directly helping make a positive environment for both of our kids.  Plus, we may even be helping others as well.

Isn’t that worth the cost?  I think so.

My wife never followed up on the conversation as far as I know.  It’s very possible that her friend sent in all the supplies anyway.  Who knows?  Maybe this post is sort of a moot point.  I hope so!

I just wish more people saw their sending the supplies as what it is: A blessing.

Readers, do you have a suggested list of supplies to send to school?  What is your take on the matter?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Parents Can Teach Their Kids Not To Be Rapists When They Grow Up

I was out of the loop on a lot of news stories at the beginning of last week, so the first I heard of the frenzy regarding convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner was a report where his father suggested that even the six month sentence, basically the minimum possible, was too harsh.

I read that story and went backwards, catching up on everything, and my opinion ended up seeming to match the majority, was that Turner got off way too lightly.  Way, WAY too lightly.

The Defense

mb-2016-06-newspapersThe father argued that his son shouldn’t be punished that harshly for an act that took 20 minutes, completely setting aside that the victim, while maybe unable to remember those 20 minutes, has to live now with what happened every single day for the rest of her life.  Yeah, even six years, which I think was the maximum sentence, is too light.

The dad making his statement is what I couldn’t got over, and it got me to wondering if better parenting could have maybe prevented the whole thing from happening.  I started comparing it against the context of my own life, and three different events struck me that ended up giving me my answer.

I present these three events.  Note, they are given in reverse chronological order.

Event 1: A Drunken Frat Party, roughly 1995

I went to a pretty small college. One of the big things to do when people wanted to go out on the weekends was go to one of the fraternity parties.  I was never in a frat but I was close to a lot of members of one of the houses, so when they had a party, I decided I’d go.  I don’t remember the specifics of who I went with or what, but at a certain point of the night, as often happens, I found that I was feeling pretty good.

No, I’ll take that back.  I was drunk.  (But feeling good)

I ended up in a room with a few people, including a girl that I had seen around and said hi to on a few occasions but that I definitely wasn’t close with.  Somehow, we started flirting and it was going well.  At a certain point, probably by some unspoken rule, the other people in the room filtered out.  It was just us left.

We started kissing and making out a little.  I was always a pretty shy and nervous guy, and this type of thing just didn’t happen all that often.  So, I remember thinking that this was going well.  In fact, it seemed to be going REALLY well.  In fact, I probably could have gone over, engaged the lock on the door, and continued on.

But I didn’t.

Because as I had these thoughts, I also had a realization that, like me, this girl was not exactly sober.  She was probably less sober than I was, and I was, well, not sober at all.  So, it occurred to me that, as much fun as I was having and as much fun as she was exhibiting that she was having, there was just too much alcohol involved.  Anything that happened after that would be a bad idea.  I knew that I’d be taking advantage of her.

I stopped.  Yes, I, a guy, stopped things.  And I didn’t just stop things and walk out, because I think a part of me knew that it might absolve me of any personal guilt for that night, it wouldn’t necessarily stop her from being taken advantage of.  So, I not only stopped, but I insisted on walking her back to her room.  I did.  I got her to her room, got her out a bottle of water, and left, making sure that I heard the lock latch behind me.

Event 2: My First High School Date, circa 1991

I went to an all boy high school, and the school would put on dances on a Friday night every couple of months.  Girls from different areas were invited, and it was usually pretty fun.  I mentioned how I was pretty shy, so for me these events were largely standing around with my equally shy friends watching the activities, occasionally venturing out in hopes that some girl would fall into my path somehow and we’d end up dancing together.

That never happened, except for the one time that it actually did.  I found myself dancing with someone, and we danced more than a few songs and exchanged numbers and agreed to go out the following weekend.

We talked and set up plans, and as we did so, I kept my parents in the loop.

As I was getting ready to go, my step-mom pulled me aside for a conversation.  At the end of it a few points had been drilled home.  I’m pretty sure I had to even repeat them word for word:

  • I was going to the door to get her (no honking the horn)
  • It was expected that I would meet her parents
  • Her mother would be given at least one compliment
  • My date’s car door was to be opened by me
  • My date would arrive home at least 15 minutes before the time she was due
  • She would be treated with respect
  • I was going to remember that I barely knew her
  • Nothing would be expected to ‘happen’

And there may have been a few other things.

And I’m also pretty sure this happened on just about every date I went on through high school.

Event 3: Sixth grade detention, circa 1985

I had three awesome teachers in a row between 3rd-5th grade, where I connected with them, got along with them, and felt that they always had my back and understood me, even when I’d be a pain in the rear.

Not so much with my sixth grade teacher.  He didn’t put up with any nonsense, and now that I look back, I think he was more getting us ready for the eventual realities of junior high more than anything, but I found myself in trouble with him more than once.  Unfortunately, one time I got myself in so much trouble that I was issued detention, so that I had to stay 15 minutes past dismissal, and I had to be picked up by a parent when it was done.

I took the detention slip home and presented it to my parents.  As I knew would be the case, they were very displeased.  But I felt a little bit of hope when one of the things my dad got upset about was that he would have to come and pick me up.  This meant him having to leave work early.

I was hopeful and I thought that, if he couldn’t come and get me that maybe he could call and get me out of the whole thing.  (After all, I’m pretty sure that whatever it was I got in trouble for wasn’t my fault, right? *lol*)

Well, I made that suggestion to him and he looked at me as if I’d just suggested that we all wear wigs and go travel around pretending to be The Grateful Dead (yeah, they were kind of big around this time, if memory serves).

In other words, it wasn’t going to happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my dad said something along the lines that, if anything, I would be staying LONGER than the 15 minutes I’d been written up for.

Bringing The Three Events Together

When you look at the first story of what happened in college, it’s pretty obvious that things could have gone a different way.  One of the things, as I look back on, is that I probably could have continued things and gone all the way with that girl that night.  After that, I’m not really sure.  Would she have seen it as having been taken advantage of and done something or would she have just attributed it to a drunken decision and moved on?

I’m not really sure and I’m glad that I did not put her or myself in the position to find out.

I went down a better path and it was because of two things that tie back to the other stories:

  • Respect

  • Consequences

Here’s the thing.  Even with what was probably a blood alcohol level way over what was legal, I realized that I would be doing this girl wrong.  She never said the word ‘No’, but I realized that I needed to stop anyway.  Why? Because the conversation as I headed out to my first real date was not just about that date.  It was about teaching me respect.  That’s why it wasn’t just a one time conversation. It was drilled into me, and though I dreaded the conversations each time they were going to happen, I also remember the feeling of surprise the first time I went out on a date and the conversation didn’t happen.  Looking back, I think that showed me that it worked.   The message had been received, and I only received it because my parents spent the time to teach me respect.

Now what if I had made a bad decision and had gotten in some sort of trouble for it?  What if I’d gotten her pregnant or what if she realized the next day that she wasn’t in the right state of mind to give consent?  Either one of these outcomes would have resulted in me having to tell my parents that I was in trouble.  What would they have said?  Well, I’m not going to speak for them on exactly what they would say, but I’m going to tell you exactly what they wouldn’t say.  Words I know I never would have heard would have included “We’ll get you out of this” or “We know it wasn’t your fault.”

Why do I know this?  Because I was taught that actions have consequences.   My first lesson in this was back in sixth grade.  Here I learned that my parents were not going to get me out of things.  If I got myself in trouble, it was on me to stand up and take responsibility for it.  I’ll tell you what, knowing these truths definitely guided me to different and better decisions.  This happened in the case of the drunken frat party, but also in many areas of my life.

What My Parents Got That The Stanford Rapist Parents Still Don’t

My parents love me.  Brock’s parents love him.  I’m sure of these truths.  But where my parents and Brock’s went different is that Brock’s parents try to shield him from the world.  This includes trying to shield him from his own mistakes.  My parents didn’t do that.  My parents didn’t want me to make mistakes and tried to steer me down the right path, and I’m going to give Brock’s parents the benefit of the doubt and think that may be they tried to do this too.

But the difference is how they reacted when mistakes were made.  See, all kids make mistakes.  No matter how much you teach them, kids make mistakes.  I see it every day.  But, my parents never took my mistakes on as their own burden.  My mistakes were made by me and it was up to me to live with what happened.  You can tell by the statement made by Brock’s dad that they didn’t follow that.  They likely saw him make mistakes along the way but would step in and shield him from the consequences.   My dad made sure I served my detention, no questions asked.  Do you think Brock’s dad ever tried to get him out of detention?  I kind of so.

And now his kid is going to jail.

So, parents, take this as a lesson.

Teach your children respect.  Make them say their pleases and thank yous.  Make your sons understand the importance of showing respect to their dates and their dates moms and everybody else.  Repeat it until they roll their eyes at you and then repeat it a few more times.

Teach your kids consequenses.  If your kids get in trouble by their teacher, don’t go complain to the principal.  If they come home with a black eye, don’t call the parents of the other kid and blame them for how they raised their kid.  Here’s the thing, you can support your children while letting them handle the consequenses of their own actions.  Let your kids know that mistakes are OK, but that if they make them, whatever happens next is something that they have to be prepared to deal with.  If you teach them this at a young age and reinforce it, they won’t like it, but I tell you, they’ll have a much higher likelihood to grow up and not rape people.  And, probably will do much better than that.

Epilogue – Event 1

A few days after the frat party, the girl sought me out.  She thanked me for having taken the high road and for having made sure that she got home safely.  She was glad that nothing happened that she would later have regretted.   We actually got to be friends.  I found out she has a greater gift of sarcasm than I do, which I never would have otherwise learned.  Even though we’re in different parts of the country, we still keep up via social media to this day.  I cherish this and know that it turned out for the best.

Readers, what do think about the Stanford rape story?  Parents don’t likely actually say “Don’t rape people” as a way to teach their kids not to be rapists.  Still, how do we do our part to guide them down the right path?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.