Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Hidden Costs

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I am definitely a convert to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. I loved being in the Bahamas at that time of year, loved the poker tournament, will definitely go again in the future and encourage others to do the same. BUT I do feel obliged to add two little warnings, in case anyone actually follows my advice. The first is security - the streets can be dangerous, and it’s best to stick inside the resort. Luckily, the resort is the size of Manchester so it’s not a big deal. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get mugged by the resort itself.
  What you want to do, obviously, is win the package on PokerStars. If you buy your own way in, then expect the expenses to be much higher than they appear before you leave home. Let me tell you about my hotel bill.

  I selected a pretty modest room - a standard in the Royal Towers, for $285 a night. I assumed there’d probably be a little tax on top of that, as happens in America. And I’d been warned in advance about the high price of food and drink in Atlantis. This is what I was not prepared for:

$1.50 “bellman gratuities”.
  OK, it’s only $1.50, but it’s a principle. I tipped the guy five bucks for bringing my luggage up, because I’d never expect to see that on the final bill.

$4 “maid gratuities” per guest per day.
  Similarly, I left $30 for the maid, because I’ve never before checked out of a hotel and seen tips added on my behalf. Room cleaning is a standard service, and I’ve always found tips to be (rightly) voluntary.

$1.50 “pool and beach gratuities” per guest per day.
  I made day 4 of the tournament. I wasn’t actually on the beach at all. But I appear to have tipped everybody anyway.
  Note: the “per guest” charges also apply to children, so if you have a couple of cots in the bedroom, you’ll find at checkout that the little ones have been liberally tipping the beach staff and the maid from their prams.

$17.10 “PITDA Levy” per day.
  That’s the tax I expected to see.

$17.10 “Hotel Guest Tax” per day.
  Another tax? A tax just for being a guest? Isn’t the price of the room the tax for being a guest? Baffling.

$15 “energy surcharge” per guest per day.
  What? Sorry? ENERGY SURCHARGE? Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always taken for granted that electricity has been provided with hotel rooms as standard, ever since about 1830. Even if it wasn’t, there’s no way I’d be able to run up $15 a day, even if I was simultaneously using 23 hairdryers to melt the ice in the minibar. And why is it per guest rather than per room? A television doesn’t use up more energy if there are two people watching it. It is pretty normal for the modern traveller to assume that when she walks into a $285 hotel room, she’ll be able to switch on a light or a TV without being charged for it. A sudden surprise surcharge at the end, not mentioned on the website or when booking, is simply a hidden cost - charging for services which have not been solicited (since I was never given the option of asking NOT to have “energy”) - and surely illegal?

  This total of extra costs increases a $285 room bill by $54.70 a day, $75.20 if there’s two of you, or $150.40 if you have a couple of kids in the room. It is an extra 19% on top of the quoted price, or 25% for two, or more than 50% with children. And that’s not including the $14.95 per day for internet access which (although we’ve got used to paying extra for it) has become a basic requirement these days, isn’t costing the hotel anything like that much to provide - and a really classy place would give it for free.

  Looking at this bill, having spent four long days dodging the wiles of the world’s sneakiest poker players, defending my blinds, fighting aggressively from the button, refusing to be pushed around at the table, I finally felt that someone had managed to screw me. My innards foamed in a turmoil of rage, most particularly about the bizarre extra “guest tax” and the inexplicable power charge. If they’re charging for electricity, why not for water? For carpet? For windows? I was incensed.
  I expressed this fury by handing over the money with a polite smile and a grateful thankyou for a pleasant stay, then kicking myself for weakness all the way home.
  I may be a poker player, but I’m still English.

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Dickie D at 5:48 pm on January 14th, 2009

That’s absurd…how do they get away with it?
On a lighter note a dealer (female) from the PCA is answering questions on 2+2. I was enjoying my earl grey with biscuits this afternoon and spat a mouthful with laughter when I read this:-
“Since no one’s gonna ask, I will offer the fact that Vicky Coren has some huge bazongas. She’s also the coolest female pro I’ve ever met.”

Andy the Dealer at 6:45 pm on January 14th, 2009

......She’s also the coolest female pro I’ve ever met.”

I’ll second that.

Victoria Coren at 7:51 pm on January 14th, 2009

What a nice thing to say - well, the second bit anyway…. Not sure whether to take the first bit as a compliment or not… I wonder which dealer it was? I remember a female dealer called Sky who I thought was great and made me laugh a lot, and another called Pat.. maybe it was one of them.. I’ll look up the thread and see what other PCA gossip there is.

Mike at 10:45 pm on January 14th, 2009

I feel the same rage at low cost airlines that now charge you for bringing any luggage with you.  I mean, how many people can travel without any luggage?  Then they also charge you for the privilege of checking that luggage in at the airport or selecting which seat you’d like to sit in - theft I call it.

brec at 12:32 am on January 15th, 2009

My stomach churns just reading about it. —Which is the principal reason I’ve been to the PCA at the Atlantis only once, the first year it was there.

I assume you didn’t pay directly for your meals, else this blog entry would have been longer.

John at 7:53 am on January 16th, 2009

Just when I thought I’d cracked the poker parlance I find another new term to learn - ‘huge bazongas’.  So, have I got this right… having a pair of huge bazongas means a flop is inevitable?

Victoria Coren at 2:05 pm on January 16th, 2009

No it bloody doesn’t! Worst case, there’s always surgery…....

Ashley at 7:11 pm on January 16th, 2009

I don’t understand all this negativity. Do you think it’s easy to find suitable venues for a poker tournament? How could anyone possibly take the European Poker Tour seriously if they didn’t have a tournament in the Caribbean? Surely 1386 unhappy guests is a small price to pay to maintain the integrity of the EPT!

Victoria Coren

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