Ask Ms. Smart E. Pants


Q: Do you have a list of hidden costs that I should ask when booking hotels?
-Ms. L, Minnetonka, Minnesota

A: Dear Ms. L,
Wouldn't life be so easy if in our business everything were available on an all-inclusive list? Sadly, it cannot be. And because every program and every meeting is different, let me start you out with how often we respond, “You did not tell me about that charge!”
Basically, your question needs to be broken down into three categories: hotel contracts, tradeshow spaces and ancillary vendors. Remember: if you learn about a charge, be sure to PIIW (Put It In Writing). Sometimes these charges can be budget breakers if you do not know about them in advance—so ask!
Here are the more common ones:
Basic Hotel Contracts

  • Resort or Facility Fee
  • Transportation Utility Fee
  • Mandatory Service Charge/Bellmen/Maid Fees
  • Any known increase in local/state taxes  
  • In foreign countries, the VAT tax
  • Meeting Space charges—based on your program, if you need a stage that is 36’ x 24’ x 16”, you will want to ask if there is a charge for that. Whatever you need to make your meeting successful, ask upfront if there is a charge, it can become a negotiating tool.
  • Late check-out charge
  • Early departure charge
  • Elevator charge for moving audiovisual/trade show
  • Surcharge for bringing in your own audiovisual vendor
  • Spa entrance charges
  • Meeting place settings (charge for pens/pencils?)
  • Rack brochures

Trade Show Space (Small trade show space that requires no drayage company)

  • Rental of space
  • Rental of tables, chairs, easels, or other hotel items
  • Cleaning charge
  • Overtime charge
  • Shipping and receiving charges (beware of Las Vegas)

Ancillary Vendors

  • Taxes for services
  • For self contained entertainers/speakers, if they charge you to use their sound system     for announcements.
  • Overtime charges
  • Reproduction of promotional materials
  • Set up and teardown fees

Be bold—ask your vendor about hidden costs. Quite often, you learn more than you thought. What is the worst that can happen by asking?
Ms. Smart E. Pants

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