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How I tried to outwit the St Regis New York $50 ‘Daily Destination Fee’

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I spent three nights last week at St Regis New York.  Whilst I used 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night, the hotel was selling for $1,100 + tax per night for a standard room.  This seems to be their normal peak rate looking at busy weeknights over the next few weeks.

I was lucky to be upgraded to a 100 sq m suite, selling for $2,800 + tax per night.  A review of that will follow next week.

Yes, despite this pricing, St Regis New York has jumped on the ‘resort fee’ / ‘Daily Destination Fee’ bandwagon.  

Whilst this sort of behaviour is illegal in the UK, it is rampant in US resorts and has now spread to New York.  Irrespective of the rate you agree on booking, although if you book direct it is clearly flagged on the website, when you arrive you are told there is a compulsory $50 + tax per room ‘Daily Destination Fee’.  To quote from the card I was given:

“Our Daily Destination Fee includes experiences and offers designed to enhance your stay in New York City:

  • $50 per day Food & Beverage Credit (excludes mini bar) and
  • $50 per day Laundry or Dry Cleaning Credit and
  • $25 per day Fodera Hair Salon Credit (excludes manicures) and
  • Complimentary High Speed Internet Access, Unlimited Local, Long Distance and International Calls and
  • Two Museum Tickets per day to either MoMA or The Metropolitan Museum of Art”

Two of these five ‘offers’ should be immediately ignored.  Manicures, excluded from the hair salon offer, are the only thing the salon offers for under $50.  Marriott offers free internet in all hotels globally to anyone who books direct.

It is important to note that the credit cannot be rolled over from day to day.

I was determined to get full value for this forcibly extracted fee.  How did I do?

St Regis New York Daily Destination Fee

Day 1:

Here was my first surprise.  The $50 Daily Destination Fee runs on calendar days whilst your stay will usually run from, say, 2pm to 11am.

This means that you don’t get any credit for spend on the day you check out.  So:

you need to spend $50 on the day you check in, which if you’re flying from the UK is likely to be late evening so you don’t have much time

you can’t use it towards breakfast on your final morning, because charges on check-out day do not count

I wasn’t to be beaten though.  I headed down to the King Cole Bar after checking in and ordered a $20 glass of wine and a $28 plate of lobster-filled potato skins, below.  $50 credit extinguished.  The credit is offset against the total bill including tax and gratuities.

King Cole Bar St Regis New York food

Day 2:

If you were suitably sad, you could bring some laundry over from the UK in order to fully use your $50 daily laundry or dry cleaning credit, but I didn’t.  However, I purposely only packed one spare shirt for the four days.

After breakfast (free due to my Marriott Platinum Premier status, so I didn’t need to use my $50 food and beverage credit for it) I made up a laundry bag and sent my shirt from the previous day off for a same-day wash and iron.  $19 of value clawed back.

I was having dinner with a friend so I couldn’t use the $50 food and beverage credit in the hotel in the evening.  I decided to have a lunch in the hotel instead, ordering room service mid-afternoon whilst doing an email tidy-up before everyone in the UK went home.  My lobster roll came in at $28 plus $8 room service charge + 18% compulsory tip + taxes, offset by the $50 credit.  Bargain.

St Regis New York Daily Destination Fee

I then messed up.  I had planned to hit the Museum of Modern Art which is just two blocks away. However, in the city that never sleeps, MOMA goes to bed at 5.30pm and I had left it too late for Day 2.

I checked out the hairdressers but at $75 and upwards for a gents cut the $25 credit I was allowed to claim did not seem like a bargain.

Day 3:

After my free breakfast (which, given that the welcome glass of orange juice they give you is billed at $15 with another $9 for coffee, and that their premium omelette is $125, it needs to be), I sent my shirt from Day 2 off to same-day laundry.  Another $19 of value.

After lunch, I finally got to spend a couple of hours in the Museum of Modern Art.

I only needed one ticket but, as I was entitled to two, I took two and gave one away to someone queuing at the museum ticket desk.  $25 value for my ticket and someone else got $25 of value too.

With no dinner date, I popped back down to the bar in the evening.  A $19 glass of wine and a $22 plate of calamari, below, swallowed my $50 daily food and beverage credit.

King Cole Bar food St Regis New York

Day 4:

This was check-out day.  As I noted above, any charges you incur on your final day are not valid against the Daily Destination Fee because they count charges on your check-in day instead.

This would only have been a problem if I was relying on the $50 food and beverage credit to pay for breakfast, but I got this for free via my Marriott status anyway.

In total ….

Over my three nights, I paid the hotel ($50 + tax x 3) $171 in ‘Daily Destination Fee’.

In return I got two shirts laundered, one MOMA ticket (and gave another away), one lobster roll lunch and two ‘one food plate and a glass of wine’ dinners in the bar.

Now, you probably think I’m going to say “but I’d rather have had the $171 in my pocket”.  To a large extent this in true.

On the other hand, part of me was happy that I had been forced to spend some time and money in the hotel.  I probably wouldn’t have gone in the lovely bar otherwise, my lobster roll lunch would probably have been a Starbucks takeaway at my desk, I may not have got to MOMA (although I do normally visit when I’m there so that is less clear cut) and I would have been looking a bit scruffier without a freshly washed and ironed shirt each day.

If the hotel was still offering 3,000 Marriott Rewards points per night on top as part of the fee, which it was last year before it started cutting back, the return on my $50 would actually have been good value.

If I had been here with someone else, I would have got more value from the MOMA tickets – because we would have used two, worth $50 – and we would probably have used the full $50 daily laundry and dry cleaning credit.  We may even have got to the Metropolitan Museum as well.  On that basis we’d probably have turned a profit.

I should add that, if you don’t have Marriott Platinum or higher status, using the $50 food and beverage credit for breakfast is well worth it – except on your last day when it won’t count.  The breakfast room is lovely and it is 100% a la carte waiter service.  You may even feel grateful that you were effectively forced into it.

Of course the real point ….

…. is that it is ludicrous that a hotel which routinely charges $1,100 + tax for a standard room on a busy night, and rarely less than $800 + tax, feels the need to mess about like this for the sake of $50.  The hit to their image, and the staff time needed to adjust every single guest bill, surely can’t justify it.

But what did I actually think of St Regis New York?

Good question!  Look out for my review next week.

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Comments

  1. Maybe I’m in the minority here but if I ever stayed at a hotel that charged $1,100 per night (and I certainly never would, irrespective of my income) I would expect to be served the best breakfast on planet earth at no cost!! And anyone who pays $125 for an omelette has lost touch with reality!

    • I completely agree. If a room is sold for $1,100 – I’m sorry, but something is wrong. Who on earth would pay so much for a bed? Ok once I paid $400 for a night, but that’s because I got caught (was hoping to redeem some points,.. but left for last minute and nothing was available, so I had to book cash). Remember Rob there was that Even hotel down the road for much less…

      • I don’t think your average St Regis customer would consider the Even …. although in reality they probably should as my review will show. I just priced up the Four Seasons (midtown one) for a random September date and the tiny entry level room (27 sq metres) is $1,395 plus tax. The Mandarin Oriental is $1,095 plus tax. Rates are in line.

  2. Perhaps based on the resort fee, and other less than positive comments based on this thread, I might switch to the Chatwal for an upcoming stay, thoughts?

  3. “My lobster roll came in at $28 plus $8 room service charge + 18% compulsory tip + taxes, offset by the $50 credit. Bargain.

    I hope that word “bargain” there was sarcasm. $50 for a sandwich is outrageous.

    Not sure how a tip can ever be “compulsory” either. Even a UK service charge can be declined if you make a fuss about it.

    • In America, not tipping that amount is really frowned upon. My other half tipped 10% once, not knowing the tipping etiquette at the time.
      The waiter in question chased him down the road, wanting to know what he’d done wrong.

      • My max is 10%. if service is shit, nothing.

        • RakishDriver says:

          You tip 10% if you are unhappy!
          I’ve never agreed with this x% tipping business, but it is ingrained in the US, so just roll with it.
          Some locals have been offended just by hearing my views on it.

        • Yup, when in Rome you’re fine, but when in the USA, tip a minimum of 17.5% unless a hot drink has been thrown in your face.

        • Generally agree to the 15% ish rule or just a few pennies if its rubbish!

    • Not a bargain. But, have you tried buying a lobster roll in a London restaurant recently?

      • I tip what I want to tip. I hate the “ suggested tips” by percentage you see at the bottom of the bill. At the end of the day you are not going to see the waiter again and if you tip 20%+ you must be mad.

        • Currently in USA near Jackson. I loathe the US system of suggested tipping. I’m a tight fisted Scot , so tip if I’ve had good service, zilch if it’s been poor. It’s bad enough paying all the taxes in the small print.

  4. Previously I’d only seen these fees in Las Vegas. Now with the high occupancy, city and state taxes in New York City plus these fees guests will end up paying hundreds more per night than they originally anticipated.

    There’s so much good food in New York City that I wouldn’t want to feel forced to use any of those services, but you can’t just say upon check in “no thanks” these mandatory services.

    I think this will just serve to further alienate premium customers. Wealthy people tend to hate feeling nickel and dimed, it’s not just travelers on a budget. This fee just feels chintzy.

    I feel like more travelers are now likely to choose rival properties like Four Seasons, Peninsula, The Sherry, Carlyle and the like for cash bookings.

    • Spurs Debs says:

      I’m not wealthy and I hate being nickel and dimed!
      I like nice hotels but I want value for money.
      I’m not paying resort fees I’ll take my money elsewhere. For my trip next year to NY I’m staying in hotel with no resort fees.

  5. Speaking of fees, I got very excited after reading your piece here,
    that is until I realized you’ve got things completly wrong!
    https://www.headforpoints.com/2018/02/26/whats-deal-new-york-resort-fees/

    “CHRYSLER BUILDING OBSERVATION DECK
    The Grand Hyatt New York also has a $25 + tax per day ‘Destination Fee’. This is what you get for your money:
    Seasonal skyline rooftop tour of the Chrysler Building
    The Chrysler Building tour takes place four times a week at 10am depending on the weather – so there is a possibility you won’t even be able to do this.”

    Great! that observation deck has been closed to the public for 75 years!
    and it still is…
    What you do get is a Skyline Rooftop Tour at the Grand Hyatt, from which you can see the Chrysler Building.

    https://newyork.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/activities/hotel-activities/Destination_Fee_Inclusions_and_Redemption_Details.html
    – Enjoy breathtaking views of the New York City skyline; prepare to be mesmerized by particularly incredible views of our next door neighbor, the Chrysler Building

  6. Even Kimpton Seattle are at it now!

    A guest amenity fee of $20 (tax inclusive) per night includes unlimited local and long distance phone calls, upgraded WiFi for up to 5 devices ($14.99 value), access to Riot Athletics group training or indoor cycling classes, Car2Go registration and 24/7 access to their fleet of Mercedes vehicles ($35 value) including $10 drive credit.

    • swhostring says:

      I’d like to see if phoning mum back in UK for 3 hours really is free lol

      • It could be an opportunity to catch up with University friends now living in Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Peru…

      • I would be surprised if long distance includes international calls, unfortunately. Have googled Car2Go and it seems anyone can join for $5 + tax which includes $10 free credit. And a 24hr rental starts at $79… probably better off getting a hire car from those crooks at Hertz.
        Perhaps Mrs W might enjoy the athletics group training while I take Baby W round the Boeing museum.

  7. I hope when the St Regis analysed the business case for introducing a, resort fee that they used a realistic valuation for the adverse publicity and guest sentiment for the brand as a whole, not just NY.

  8. $125 for a “premium” omelette… Just wow! (facepalm)

  9. Jerry Mandel says:

    See resortfeechecker.com and NEVER use a hotel with the ripooff fees.

  10. A pig with lipstick is still a pig. In this case, a St. Regis is still a Marriott, with no idea what luxury really means.

  11. Quote “I made up a laundry bag and sent my shirt from the previous day off for a same-day wash and iron. $19 of value clawed back.”

    You certainly clawed back $19 – but was it $19 of value? Surely $19 for washing and ironing a shirt is a bit steep.

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