. Paying for the Privilege | Meetings & Conventions

Paying for the Privilege

The skinny on exorbitant rental-car taxes and in-room movie rates

More than a gas-guzzler. Apparently, some cities think people won’t notice the taxes they’re paying when they rent a car. Runzheimer International notices. The market research company, based in Rochester, Wis., reports many major travel cities levy heavy surcharges on car rentals.
    For instance, the tax in Dallas is 26.11 percent with a daily surcharge of $6.42; in Las Vegas, it’s 25.14 percent with no daily charge; in Boston/Cambridge, the tax is 21.11 percent plus a $10.60 daily fee.
Atlanta also charges 21.11 percent but adds only $1.22 in extra daily fees. San Francisco sounds reasonable at 8.25 percent, but the daily fee is $12. Orlando and Washington, D.C., charge more than 19 percent in taxes, plus daily fees of more than $2.50; New York City’s levy is 13.63 percent plus 35 cents a day.
    According to a spokesperson for Cendant Corp., which owns the Parsippany, N.J.-based Avis Rent a Car System, the surcharges fund everything from new convention centers, stadiums and arenas to transportation projects and homeland security.

Your entertainment dollar. The price to rent a movie in a hotel room now is about the same or more than it costs to see one on a wide screen at the movie theater. Recent prices for viewing films at properties offering the On Command and LodgeNet services have been in the range of $10 to $13.
    A spokesperson for one hotel offering On Command said part of the cost comes from the fact that the movie service owns all the TVs in the property’s rooms as well as the wiring to deliver the channels, but Denver-based On Command would not confirm this, defending the price it charges by saying, “Movies play in our hotel rooms 60 days after theater introduction, which is long before they are available for home rental or home pay-per-view.”
    A spokesperson for Sioux Falls, S.D.-based LodgeNet said the hotel buys the TVs and the entertainment provider uses the hotel’s wiring for the duration of the contract. She added that movies are put into the rotation soon after theatrical release. “In fact, many of our titles are still showing in theaters when we show them in the room prior to home video release,” she said.

Saving your travel dollar. It would be nice if more hotels followed the lead of Australia-based Stamford Hotels & Resorts, which has lowered in-room phone costs significantly and cut prices on minibar items by 50 percent.
    In the States, at Westin Hotels & Resorts, part of White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, unlimited in-room Internet access and long-distance phone calling now are bundled together for a flat fee of $16 per 24 hours.

Swiped. As of Nov. 1, 2005, credit cards will be accepted in taxis in New York City. The service, already in place in some Big Apple cabs, also is available in Atlanta, Baltimore, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Low fares, high marks. For the first time, a budget carrier rides atop the annual Airline Quality Rating. The research shows the airline industry overall performed slightly better in 2003 than in 2002.
    JetBlue heads the list, which is compiled by Dean Headley of Wichita (Kan.) State University and Brent Bowen of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and ranks the 14 largest U.S. airlines. The carriers are rated on on-time arrivals, baggage handling, denied boardings and customer complaints.