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Tattle Tales Magazine (Fall Edition 1937) – Mistaken Identity …item 2.. The drip, drip, drip of hidden hotel fees continues to add up – “The online travel agency determines how to display it.” (Posted on Saturday, 09.15.12) …
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Image by marsmet523
Resort fees are routinely hidden on travel and hotel sites, but nowhere, as Steve McEvoy recently discovered, are they more dramatically concealed than on such so-called “opaque” sites as Hotwire and Priceline.
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……..*****All images are copyrighted by their respective authors ……..
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A doctor and his wife were having a big argument at breakfast. "You aren’t so good in bed neither!", he shouted and stormed off to work.

By mid morning, he decided he’d better make amends and called home. "What took you so long to answer?" "I was in bed."

"What were you doing in bed this late?" … "Getting a second opinion."

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LOL, yeap that sounds about right to me !!!
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LADIES: FIVE SECRETS TO A PERFECT RELATIONSHIP:

1) Its important to have a man who helps at home, cooks, cleans & has a job
2) Its important to have a man who can make you laugh
3) Its important to have a man you can trust & wants only you
4) Its important to have a man who is good in bed & enjoys being with you
5) Its absolutely vital that these four men dont know each other

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…..item 1)…. website … The Atlantic … Politics … for a Muffin?! A Justice Department Boondoggle

SEP 20 2011, 4:17 PM ET

Yes, hotel food is overpriced. But muffins, sodas, and cups of coffee are still pretty pricey for a government agency — or anyone.
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img code photo…….sweets !!!!!

cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/andrew_cohen/muffins…

Flickr/CulinaryHistoriansOfCanada

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www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/09/-16-for-a-mu…

Well, here is something you don’t see every day.

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General Tuesday released a report blandly titled "Audit of Department of Justice Conference Planning and Food and Beverage Costs." The menu may be tough to digest — it’s 148 pages, after all — but political gourmands of all persuasions are likely to find its main entrees simply delectable, especially since they are being presented for public consumption at a time when official Washington is supposed to be tightening its belt and pushing itself away from the table.

Internal inspectors — from the same office which once upon a time investigated the Justice Department’s role in the 2006 U.S. Attorney scandal — have concluded that mid-level DOJ officials consistently failed in 2008 and 2009 to follow federal guidelines designed to keep food and beverage costs at reasonable rates for government-sponsored conferences. They were taken advantage of, in other words, by private contractors (See? It doesn’t just happen with military contracts). Here from the report is a sample platter of the OIG’s findings:

… DOJ spent about 0,000 (11 percent of costs) on food and beverages at the 10 conferences. All the conferences occurred at major hotels that applied service fees – usually around 20 percent – to the cost of already expensive menu items. Our assessment of food and beverage charges revealed that some DOJ components did not minimize conference costs as required by federal and DOJ guidelines. For example, one conference served muffins while another served Beef Wellington hors d’oeuvres that cost .32 per serving. Coffee and tea at the events cost between .62 and .03 an ounce. At the .03 per-ounce price, an 8-ounce cup of coffee would have cost .24.

It’s a bipartisan mess. Inspectors looked specifically at 10 DOJ conferences in 2008-2009, six during the last year of the Bush Administration, when the Justice Department was led by Michael Mukasey, the former judge selected to replace the hapless Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. They also looked at four conferences during the first year of the Obama Administration, when the Department was led, as it is today, by Attorney General Eric Holder. Alas, it will be Holder who will have to answer the inevitable questions and deflect the inevitable comparisons. "Let them eat cake? How about letting them eat a muffin?"

At places all over the country and the world, the conferences took place after the Justice Department had been warned by the OIG in 2007 that there was too little oversight over food and beverage costs. Investigators determined, for example, that the DOJ "spent 0,000 (14 percent of costs) to hire training and technical assistance providers as external event planners for 5 of the 10 conferences reviewed. This was done without demonstrating that these firms offered the most cost effective logistical event planning services. Further, these event planners did not accurately track and report conference expenditures."

Here’s another taste of what’s in the new OIG report:

… conference attendees received Cracker Jacks, popcorn, and candy bars at a single break that cost per person, including service charges and indirect costs… [There was also] a "deluxe" ice cream assortment that cost per person including service charges and indirect costs… When one event planner applied an approved 15-percent indirect cost rate to the price of food and beverages at a conference, the cost of one soda increased from .84 to .57.

Hotel food is notoriously expensive. But talk about your stimulus package! All this time "event planning" has been the "winning" formula to get America working again. Someone, quick, tell Anthony "A.J" Soprano! Unsurprisingly, the report concludes that the event planners and others responsible for charging these prices ("components," they are cryptically called in the report) were "unable to provide adequate justifications for the expensive food and beverages." The OIG concedes that some of the conferences were planned before new cost directives were put into place in April 2008. But investigators also say they

remain concerned that not all components will take into account service fees, taxes, and indirect costs when deciding what food and beverages — if any — should be served at a DOJ conference. In our opinion, the lack of documentation we found regarding the necessity of costly food and beverage items indicated that not all sponsors were seriously questioning the need for expensive meals and refreshments at their events.

The Justice Department will say this is old news and that it has done much more since 2009 to reduce these costs. And Congressional Republicans and the GOP presidential candidates will likely use the report to take pot shots at Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for wasteful government spending. Perhaps the only appetizing "component" of this meal is that copies of Michael Kinsley’s under-appreciated book "Curse of the Giant Muffins and Other Washington Maladies" now likely will soar. In fact, I hear the Justice Department just bought a few copies at 5 each.
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…..item 2)…. The Miami Herald … www.miamiherald.com … The Miami Herald > Living > Travel ..

TRAVELWISE

The drip, drip, drip of hidden hotel fees continues to add up

Posted on Saturday, 09.15.12

BY CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/15/v-fullstory/3000653/the-dr…

Like many resort hotels, the Marriott San Juan Resort and Stellaris Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico, adds a fee to its daily room rate to cover amenities such as bottled water, a casino coupon, local phone calls and wireless Internet.

And as is the case at many resort hotels, it doesn’t matter whether you drink bottled water, want to visit the casino, make a phone call or use the Internet. Marriott’s fee is mandatory.

Resort fees are routinely hidden on travel and hotel sites, but nowhere, as Steve McEvoy recently discovered, are they more dramatically concealed than on such so-called “opaque” sites as Hotwire and Priceline.

When McEvoy booked a room at the Marriott through Priceline, a site that doesn’t reveal the name of the hotel until you’ve paid for a nonrefundable reservation, he was told that he’d pay only 0 a night. But his e-mail confirmation said that he’d be billed an extra in fees — that, in effect, the surcharge was part of the room rate. “Is anyone trying to write a law to prevent this from happening?” asked McEvoy, a transportation consultant who lives in Philadelphia.

As a matter of fact, yes. The lack of disclosure of these extra charges, a longtime source of frustration for travelers, is getting some attention from a group of consumer advocates led by Ed Perkins, a fellow syndicated travel columnist for Tribune Media Services and a former Consumer Reports editor. In a letter he sent to the Federal Trade Commission last month, Perkins asked the agency to rule that these fees are “unfair and deceptive.” An FTC decision on the matter would close a loophole that collectively costs travelers tens of millions of dollars every year.

The way some resort fees are broken out and disclosed is commonly referred to as “drip” pricing: This means that a company initially advertises only part of a product’s cost, then reveals additional mandatory charges later, as a consumer goes through the buying process. And hotels aren’t the only ones to use this price-tag sleight of hand; you can also find it in the automobile sales and financial services industries, among others.

Drip pricing is a special concern to the FTC. This spring, the agency hosted a workshop on the issue and solicited complaints from consumers, a potential sign that it may soon act to curb this practice. Perkins hopes that the government will start with hotels. A representative for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the trade organization for the U.S. hotel industry, said that the organization couldn’t speak about the issue until it consulted with its members. The FTC didn’t respond to a request for a comment on Perkins’ letter. A Priceline representative wouldn’t comment on its resort-fee disclosure practices, although in past cases, the company has said that it believes the way it displays mandatory fees after a purchase is sufficient.

Asked about Priceline’s disclosure, a Marriott representative pointed to his company’s website, which prominently shows a resort fee but calculates it as part of the price after a room is selected. Marriott can’t control how these fees are displayed on Priceline, he added. “We provide the rate and applicable fees,” he said. “The online travel agency determines how to display it.”

The hotel industry’s best argument for charging resort fees is that everyone is doing it. If one resort stopped, and displayed a true price, then it would lose business to competitors whose rates look cheaper because they don’t include a resort fee in their base price.

But fixing the resort fee problem might require creative thinking on the FTC’s part because of a layer of other players, notably online travel agencies, which determine how rates get advertised and displayed. It’s worth noting that resort fees have survived despite widespread public criticism and threats of lawsuits.

According to Perkins, government action isn’t without a precedent. After fuel prices spiked, for instance, many airlines started carving out a portion of a true airfare by labeling it a “fuel surcharge” and excluding that amount from their price promotions and displays, he said. The Transportation Department stepped in, forcing airlines to quote an “all in” fare.

Cruise ships stopped drip pricing in the mid-1990s after Florida’s attorney general investigated “port fees” that covered more than the actual dockage costs. Turns out they also covered cruise lines’ operating expenses for fuel, fresh water and wages. Six cruise lines agreed to stop drip pricing in Florida.

The timing on the current effort couldn’t be better. Not only are hotels and online agencies taking a harder line with guests who grumble about resort fees, but the success of these extras is also emboldening some non-resorts to match them. John Kazlauskas, a writer from Los Angeles, recently had to pay a resort fee on a -a-night motel room in Anaheim, Calif., that he found online. “It is truly ridiculous,” he told me.

Although no one tracks resort fees by hotel, they’re part of a class of extras referred to as “ancillary” fees. A recent New York University study projected that the American hotel industry would earn nearly billion in ancillary fees this year, nearly quadruple the 0 million it collected a decade ago.

Ideally, the government would require hotels, as it did airlines, to include any mandatory fees in their prices. But even if the FTC only issued specific guidance on how and when to disclose the fees, it would mark an important step toward solving one of the most vexing problems facing hotel guests today.

Christopher Elliott is the author of Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals (Wiley) and writes that Travel Troubleshooter that runs in this section. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chriselliott.org.
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