6/10/2022 08:00

Remember $100 room rates

Before the push for transparency in hospital charges there was a push for honesty in hotel charges. The public was upset, hoteliers may have been thrown out of legislative office (I think), and new regulations were enacted: The actual room rate had to be posted in every hotel room on the back of the door where guests would see it as they shut out the teeming world to finally relax from their travels.

Of course the hotels had those signs printed in small gray type to discourage anyone from reading them, but the demand for transparency was met.

Hotels in my memory posted rates of $100 a night. If you believed the signs you would never stay in the room; you had to decide to put your faith in the promises of the desk clerk and not in the mandated rate transparency. The mandate for transparency was fully met without ever revealing the rate charged to anyone in actual reality.

Like hospitals charging "uniform" rates to everybody so as to protect Medicare from being gouged, the hotels posted rates far in excess of anything they ever expected to receive: "Our charges are uniform and apply to everyone equally but our discounts apply unequally in whatever way we think will enhance our short-term income stream." Both hotels and hospitals offered some sort of discount to any customer who could pay (but not necessarily to the very poor or the naive).

Years have passed since last I stayed in a hotel. (Longer since I made a tourist trip. The last room I used was in a motel down the road the night my bathroom was under repair and unusable for 36 hours.) Prices have changed, expectations have changed. This morning I read in the news that the old excessive rates, the ones intended only to scare the customer, are now 40% of the minimum rates actually being collected:

"Hotel rooms at discount chains off the crowded highway were charging $250 a night on the weekends. ... Carrie Lingo ... who is chairwoman of the board of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said she has yet to see much of a slowdown caused by inflation." https://apnews.com/article/biden-travel-inflation-prices-18075e9dbaa85141bd20b4dd164fc33e

Prices change and the amounts people are willing to pay will change but the impulse for sellers to be secretive and for buyers to grumble seems as predictable as taxation.