Things That Drive Me Crazy…

The comments over the past couple of days have been weighty (and a bit heated), as readers have debated serious issues and explored consequential attitudes. I haven’t participated in those discussions, although I’ve followed them, because I had to fly to Washington, D.C., on Thursday for business meetings.

That trip once again involved something very trivial but very annoying, something that really does drive me nuts–partly because I just don’t understand it. Not a “heavy” issue, just an aggravating aspect of modern American life.

Here’s the thing: if you drive down America’s highways, you pass sign after sign advertising inexpensive motels. Many offer free breakfasts; more offer free wi-fi.

When I attend conferences at fancy, expensive hotels, however, as I did on my quick trip to D.C., I am almost always charged for wi-fi. At the J.W. Marriott it was 12.95 per day for the privilege of connecting my laptop to the internet.

Can anyone explain to me why a Comfort Inn on the interstate charging 39.95 a night can offer free internet, but a “chi chi” hotel charging 350+ a night feels entitled to nickel and dime its patrons for the privilege of doing digital business?

Granted, this is what we might call a “First World” problem. But it is very irritating.

Any hotel owners out there with an explanation?


  1. Sheila; probably cleaner linens, a friend of mine found a pubic hair on a supposedly clean wash cloth. Then too, those mints on your pillow are expensive.

  2. I asked that question to a hotel manager this week who works for a Marriott Hotel. His explanation is that their hotel provides a secure Internet connection for all of its patrons that is very costly to maintain, while the typical Wifi offered at other less expensive hotels for free is very insecure and vulnerable to hackers. He says their Internet service is monitored 24×7 to protect against security breaches. The example provided was a Lilly executive using an unsecure Wifi connection at a hotel while attending a pharmaceutical trade show of some sort and having information about a drug stolen that wound up costing the company about a billion dollars. On the flip side, I’ve spoken to a local provider who installs Wifi in a lot of those cheaper hotels, and he assures me that the systems he installs has encrypted data capability that protects users from computer hackers. Of course, sophisticated computer hackers can crash through the most sophisticated fire walls erected.

    I have a different theory for the fee for service trend. Marriott hotels in particular has an attractive rewards program for frequent patrons. A friend of mine who has a job that requires travel on a weekly basis racks up lots of reward points which he cashes in for all of his personal travel. I’ve occasionally accompanied him on trips where we’ve stayed at Marriott hotels using his reward points. We’ve observed that a lot of the people we meet at the pool and the hotel bar are using their reward points to stay there. We figured the fee for services reflected on the otherwise free hotel room was intended to recoup at least some of those free room nights they were giving away.

  3. Of course, as with everything we pay for, you are paying for either a brand name or generic services.

  4. last time we were in New York, we got a great deal on a nice hotel room through The hotel room we were in did not have free WiFi,although the hotel offered free WiFi. It was simply in rooms that cost more.

  5. I’ve wondered about the same thing. Crazy, isn’t it? I stayed in a lovely hotel in New Orleans where the internet access in our room had a charge. In the lobby, access was free. Go figure.

  6. I ask this in good humor, and I know that the D.C. prices are higher, but what is an ACLU representative doing staying in a $350/night hotel?

    To be fair, I would ask the same question of a “fiscal conservative” and a “Tea Partier.”

  7. Off Subject but on also. I came across an article in the Guardian The gist of which is Chattanooga, TN is one of the only places on Earth with internet as fast as 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average.

    Another article from CNN – Chattanooga’s super-fast publicly owned Internet. Chattanooga rolled out a fiber-optic network a few years ago that now offers speeds of up to 1000 Megabits per second, or 1 gigabit, for just $70 a month. A cheaper 100 Megabit plan costs $58 per month. Even the slower plan is still light-years ahead of the average U.S. connection speed, which stood at 9.8 megabits per second as of late last year. A city-owned agency, the Electric Power Board, runs its own network, offering higher-speed service than any of its private-sector competitors can manage.

    Not surprising also from the Guardian US telecoms giants call on FCC to block cities’ expansion of high-speed internet.

    I am not going to pretend to be an Computer-Internet Expert, but what are the odds here in Indiana or in Indianapolis, that something like Chattanooga’s Gig would even be considered??

  8. My guess is that the explanation is that there are two kinds of guests that make up most of the population of expensive urban hotels. Those whose bill will be paid by others, mostly businesses, and those whose wealth makes those expenses insignificant. It’s the same for first class vs coach on airplanes.

    So, the hotels and airlines can. And their customers love it. It’s a one night stand in a Bentley. It says, I’m important, a mover and shaker.

    While most people see “class” as a problem of other cultures, it is as or more evident here. We want others to be very aware of our successes. We wear our tribal garb proudly and love the assumption that we earned it.

    Capitalists especially believe that status is the highest of motivators. That we’d be lazy bums without it. It’s what drives us relentlessly towards more.

    At the other end of the spectrum it’s also why many need an underclass to elevate their personal meager status.

    We are more critters of culture than of ration. There’s not much sense in pondering the good and bad of it, just the reality of it.

    Congratulations Sheila on your choice of topics the last several days. Lots of passion. But respectful in my opinion. Always interesting. I, for one, look forward to coming here every day.

  9. Sheila, having been on a conference planning committee and a participant in the negotiations with the hotel, I can tell you that charging the participants for wifi in the rooms is negotiable, and those charges can be waived as they were for ours. Also, the hotels often outsource the av and internet to outside vendors who charge exorbitant prices for their services – mostly as high as they can charge without your deciding to buy the equipment and hire the techs yourself. The hotel is already wired for the internet, so the bottom line is that they charge for it because they can and it has nothing to do with hackers and security. Just one more way to nickel and dime you.

  10. It’s a luxury tax. Except that the money goes into private coffers. Such a tax on the wealthy is only permissible, of course, because the benefits are reaped only by the wealthy, rather than the public (as infrastructural improvements, single-payer health care, or unemployment benefits or would).

  11. It’s a luxury tax. Except that the money goes into private coffers. Such a tax on the wealthy is permissible only because the benefits are reaped by the wealthy, rather than the public (as infrastructural improvements, single-payer health care, or unemployment benefits would be).

  12. “Because they can” is a convenient answer but I don’t think it’s the only reason. It might just be a time-honored way of allocating a limited resource to an otherwise insatiable appetite for broadband service. I’ve stayed at the cheaper hotels where the wi-fi network is jammed with traffic and I can’t get anything done. I would rather pay for it and get a high level of service (provided that’s what they deliver). A bigger question for me is: If broadband access should be free (or included) at hotels and airports, then isn’t it just free everywhere. Why are we about the only country in the G20 that doesn’t provide ubiquitous and nearly free access to the internet, especially in densely populated city centers? Why isn’t the internet considered a public utility like our roads, and water/sewer utilities? The build out of US infrastructure in the late 19th and 20th century led to the most productive and wealth economy in human history (so far). Wouldn’t a similar information build out produce similar results?

    But a FAR bigger peeve of mine is having to pay $15 for two fingers of Macallan scotch neat at the hotel bar.


  13. Verizon has a reasonable monthly rate for a mobile Wifi
    device that can handle 5 devices simultaneously. (I get
    10GB per month for $20.00, additional charge if 10GB
    exceeded, haven’t exceeded it as yet)

  14. If both individual and corporate customers of hotels would contact hotels that charge and tell them they’ll no longer patronize those who charge for wifi nor those who just tack it onto the room charge, hotels will discontinue the practice. Squeaky wheels have a way of getting oiled.

  15. Eh. If you have a smartphone, you don’t need to use their WiFi anyway. Regardless of if it’s free or pay, it’s usually crap. It’s easier just to use your phone (and usually cheaper) or find the nearest McDonalds (they usually have decent WiFi) or a local coffee shop or just use your phone (either tethering it or just using it to upload data/files).

    But the bottom line is that the hotel on the side of the interstate is making money off the rooms, where as the hotel in DC is probably making their money on extra services.

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