Class action: I thought USA Today at my hotel was free

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2011

“A guest at a Hilton hotel in Santa Rosa who was upset that he was billed 75 cents for a newspaper he assumed was free has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the hotel chain, saying he was deceived by a scheme that also hurts the environment.” [San Francisco Chronicle] More: Jeff Bercovici, Forbes.

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Advice Goddess Blog
08.03.11 at 1:53 am


1 Titus 08.02.11 at 1:18 pm

This sounds like an application of Tennessee’s unsolicited-products law, or at least the theory of it (apparently passed in response to old magazine and newspaper scams that involved delivering the publication without request and then demanding the subscription fee on the back end; now anything under a specified value is deemed a gift if left unsolicited at a residence): though I doubt 75 cents is really worth the trouble of anyone involved.

2 Reformed Republican 08.02.11 at 1:27 pm

Did the guy try to get a refund before taking them to court? Is it really any different than offering a complimentary newspaper, and including the cost in the room rate, without making it a line item?

3 Anthony 08.02.11 at 4:29 pm

@Reformed Republican: Yes. If it were part of the room rate, you’d be aware of it when shopping for which hotel to stay at. I wouldn’t have thought 75¢ would make a difference, but apparently it does, or at least the hotel management believes it does (else the hotel wouldn’t be doing it).

Strikes me as a reason to avoid Hilton (maybe just that one?), not as a reason to file a lawsuit though.

4 D 08.02.11 at 5:49 pm

I wish I had as much free time as that guy (he says while cruising the internet for legal matters to incur his righteous wrath).

5 Amy Alkon 08.03.11 at 1:45 am

Must we litigate everything? A guy at a liquor store in Long Beach charged me 50 cents without telling me because I used my VISA. I noticed that the bill was high and he then said it was 50 cents extra because I used a credit card. I told him I knew that was against the credit card company’s merchant agreement, and told him to give me my 50 cents back or I’d report him to VISA. He did. I left. No lawsuit. Case closed!

6 William Nuesslein 08.03.11 at 9:50 am

The traveling salesman was told that the motel had $6 rooms and $8 rooms. (It is an old story.)

“What’s the difference?”

“The $8 rooms have free TV.”

7 Jack Wilson 08.03.11 at 12:39 pm

WN, for 8 bucks, you better get free TV!

8 Tom 08.03.11 at 5:06 pm

My job requires about 25% travel, so I spend a lot of time at hotels including hiltons. I’d be suprised if he asked to have the $0.75 removed and it wasn’t. I don’t know that I’ve ever asked for a charge to be removed and it wasn’t.

I’ve also never been charged for a newspaper that was left in front of my door.

9 Bill Poser 08.04.11 at 11:08 pm

It’s the fact that the hotel is not up front about the charge that makes this an unfair practice, coupled with the fact that if I know I’m paying for it and have a choice, I’d buy a newspaper instead of USA Today.

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