Federal Lawsuit Filed Over 75¢ Hotel Fee

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Think you’re sick of getting nickel-and-dimed with fees when you travel? Meet the man who is literally making a federal case out of a 75¢ charge for the “complimentary” newspaper placed outside his hotel room door.

Today’s travelers should never assume that required charges, let alone tiny perks and amenities are included in the agreed-upon rate. Not food, entertainment, or checked baggage on flights, nor taxes, fees, car seats, and insurance for car rentals, nor hotel Wi-Fi or anything in the minibar—nor even what might reasonably be understood to be a free newspaper left outside one’s hotel room door.

The latest traveler to unpleasantly discover that such presumed freebies aren’t free at all is Rodney Harmon, a 55-year-old man from Sacramento who recently stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn near the Sonoma County Airport in California. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Harmon woke one morning in his hotel to discover a copy of USA Today in the hallway outside his room. He didn’t request the newspaper, and, like most other hotel guests, assumed it was provided by the hotel free of charge.

It wasn’t. Because Harmon took the paper and flipped through it, a fee for 75¢ was added to his hotel bill.

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It’s pretty easy to see how the hotel bills of thousands and thousands of other travelers are inflated in similar fashion, usually without guests having a clue. This is why, after Harmon discovered the fee, he decided to file a federal class-action suit against Hilton:

“The alleged consumer injury is substantial, causing millions of guests at defendant’s hotels to unwittingly part with money for a newspaper they did not request and reasonably believed was provided to them without charge,” the suit says.

The suit acknowledges that Hilton does sneak in notification of the fee, but only using an “extremely small font which is difficult to notice or read.”

Beyond the money grab from unsuspecting customers, Hilton’s automatic newspaper delivery constitutes an “offensive waste of precious resources and energy,” per the suit, in which countless travelers glance through USA Todays they hadn’t asked for—and which soon wind up in the trash or recycling bins after being barely read.

Is a measly 75¢ newspaper charge the worst, most egregious fee encountered by travelers nowadays? Not by a long shot. But anytime you’re charged for something you didn’t request, didn’t really want, and could reasonably presume to be complimentary—now that’s just plain offensive.

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Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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