“What’s the most outrageous thing a venue has ever attempted to bill you or a client for?”
It seemed like an innocuous enough question when I posted it to about five of the meetings and events-related groups I belong to on LinkedIn. When I subsequently received more than 500 comments — nearly 400 on the Event Peeps group alone — I knew I had struck a nerve. And some of the stories were real head scratchers.
Topping the list of most frequent complaints were charges for Internet use (running as high as $3,500 per day for a dedicated connection in a ballroom), using outside A/V providers, coffee, parking, spa access, bell charges and the omnipresent “service charge” (which is approaching 23-24 percent in many places). Thankfully, some of the charges were successfully disputed. But here, for the record, are the ones I felt were the Top 10 Most Outrageous:
#10. Excessive charges for heavy power in ballrooms was a common complaint but this one was the worst. A planner was charged $13,000.00 for one 400 amp 3 phase and one 200 amp 3 phase drop for three days. Or, in layman’s terms: $13,000 for two boxes to plug lights and stuff into.
#9. A hotel charged a group $13,000 to use a freight elevator for two days.
#8. After an 83-year old musician went onstage two minutes before the dinner break was over to warm up, the client was charged overtime (missed meal penalty) for 16 union crew members.
#7. Although self-parking is typically free at one luxury resort, a $5 per-person self-parking fee was added for the 1,200 attendees that came to a luncheon held there. (Fortunately, the planner discovered the charge and successfully disputed it.)
#6. After inserting two thumbtacks into a wall in the meeting room of a five-star hotel in California to hang a small banner, the planner was charged $3,500.
#5. The charge for vacuuming a 60’ x 80’ exhibit booth? At one venue, $5,067.
#4. One property imposed a mandatory minimum 8-hour call on a Sunday at $192/hour for a house electrician to drop one power strip for a computer.
#3. A planner was willing to negotiate the price of bottled water with the hotel (they wanted $5.75 per 12-oz. bottle for 45,000 bottles over the course of a large six-day program). The hotel refused to budge, so the client decided to use water coolers instead. Lost revenue for the hotel? Approximately $175,000.
#2. One group always brings their own candy for their registration booth. However, at one property, the hotel attempted to charge them $.50 for every piece an attendee took during the event.
#1. After being told that they’d have to pay $50 per day to have a standard-sized waste paper basket at their registration desk, one group decided they’d rather throw their paper on the floor. Miraculously, a “free” trash can quickly appeared.
To be fair, in the debate that ensued on LinkedIn, not everyone felt as if the venues were to blame for the fees incurred. “The barriers to entry into the event design and production business are so low, entirely too many unqualified folks are presenting themselves as event planner/producers, despite having little experience and fewer relationships with facility management and contractors,” said Richard Boothroyd, director of special projects at GALLO. “This is a major problem.”
That’s why, in my next installment, we’re going to take a look at the venue’s perspective. Here’s one example in which the hotel not only saved the day, but took a serious financial hit in order to help a client:
“A car show was to be held on the second floor of a hotel, and on the day of load-in, the freight elevator broke down,” said Geoffrey Andrews, president, CPN. After the mechanics called reported that it would take several days to fix, “the general manager of the hotel agreed to punch a 20-ft. wide x 10-ft. high hole in the exterior wall of the hotel and pay for the cars to be lifted into the second story ballroom by a crane.” Now that’s what we call customer service.