Wanna Tick Off Hotel Guests? Charge for Wi-Fi

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Turns out hotel guests don’t like getting charged for something they can widely get for free outside the hotel. In the latest hotel-satisfaction survey, properties that charge for wi-fi received significantly lower ratings than those offering wi-fi for free.

Only 11% of hotel guests report being charged for wi-fi, according to J.D. Power’s new hotel-satisfaction-index study. Free wi-fi is now fairly standard at chain restaurants, and based on the hotel survey’s results, paying for wi-fi has become the exception among hotel guests.

And it’s the exception in a bad way: hotels that tack on fees for wi-fi received costs-and-fees satisfaction scores of 688 (on a 1,000-point scale) on average, which is 76 points lower than hotels that don’t charge such fees. But it’s difficult to tell how such scores translate to the guest experience.

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Suffice it to say that, given the near ubiquity of free wi-fi nowadays, today’s hotel guests are more displeased than they were in the past with the prospect of forking over cash to surf the Web in a hotel — having already forked over the cost of the room. In the press release announcing the study’s results, Jessica McGregor, J.D. Power’s senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice, offered the following analysis:

Guests enjoy wi-fi for free in many places outside of their hotel experience, such as in coffee shops, restaurants and other locations, setting expectations against which hotels are compared … When guests learn they have to pay for Internet or when connection speeds are slow at a hotel, they are much more dissatisfied than they were in the past.

The study named the top-rated hotel brands in various categories — midscale limited, economy, upscale, extended stay — and many of the winners, including Drury Hotels, Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, SpringHill Suites and Omni Hotels, offer free Internet access to guests (the latter only for members of its loyalty program, but it’s free to join).

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Surprisingly, while the Ritz-Carlton received the overall highest score in the study (864), its properties charge for wi-fi. At the Ritz-Carlton’s Central Park location in New York City, for example, rooms that start at around $600 a night include a free newspaper of choice, but wi-fi access costs an extra $14 per day. Wi-fi charges have been a top complaint among Ritz-Carlton guests at least since 2010, but apparently the grumbling hasn’t cause the hotel to change its policy.

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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