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NYC Hotel Charges a Daily $30 ‘Curation Fee’ for Things Like WiFi and One Happy Hour Wine

Budget Travel
by Nickolaus Hines Apr 3, 2024

Hidden fees have long been a problem across the travel industry, from airlines, to concert and sporting event tickets, to hotels and short term rentals. So much so that President Joe Biden’s administration introduced legislation to curb what they call “junk fees” to make the true cost of things more transparent.

MADE Hotel in New York City seems to have taken the approach that it’s not the fees themselves that are the problem, but the phrasing used to describe them. Instead of a convenience fee or anything similar, MADE calls the $30 per day addition (plus tax) a “curation fee.” New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka recently drew attention to the extra fee for guests specifically for how it’s described.

To be fair, at least MADE Hotel makes it clear what that “curation fee” covers: coffee or tea from on-site Paper coffeeshop, a glass of wine during the nightly hotel happy hour from 5 PM to 6 PM, one Blink Fitness Gym pass per day, WiFi, and bikes that are available on a first come, first served basis. It also covers access to Good Behavior, which at first had me thinking that the hotel guarantees guests are all civil people (except at private events), but really just refers to the plant-filled rooftop bar named Good Behavior.

Whether guests want this “curation” or not, they’re still paying for it. Yes, even if all of the bikes are taken, you’re not a gym person, and you never make it to the tight happy hour window for a single glass of wine. On Google Maps, reviewers have noted that Good Behavior allows walk-ins, so isn’t limited just to hotel guests paying extra for access. Maybe this is beside the point, but none of these things really fit the definition of curation: “to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I learned about the MADE Hotel curation fee from Chayka. He’s an expert in curation whose writing is worth following for anyone interested in the way our world works, from design trends to how the internet shapes the way we live. His latest book, Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture, is all about how the online algorithms that control what music we listen to, which social media posts we see first, and what our search results look like has essentially replaced traditional lifestyle curators like editors and writers. It’s not always for the worse, but it’s very often not for the better. His newsletter, One Thing, brings actual tastemaker curation to the forefront.

MADE Hotel’s fee for it’s curation, on the other hand, is just a resort fee by another name.

These are common regardless of where you stay. After all, you’re not just renting a room when you stay somewhere, you’re renting all of the communal aspects of a place as well as the cleaning, amenities (though some amenities carry yet another fee), and upkeep. The fees allow hotels and accommodations sites to list the lower price before added costs, which can impact the order they show up in travel booking sites. Each hotel search by price that includes MADE effectively doesn’t show the price, it shows the price minus $30 per day plus taxes. Plus, anyone booking a room at MADE Hotel from a third-party site isn’t faced with the curation fee at the time of booking and has to pay the mandatory fee in person when they check in.

It’s similar to how the full price with taxes isn’t shown on grocery store shelves. People see the low price, and by the time the total expense is tallied they’re already checking out and ready to pay.

The practice may feel wrong — why not just bake the cost into the final price rather than trying to game and trick people’s preferences for lower-priced options? — but that doesn’t mean they’re completely ridiculous. Running a hotel is a tough job and the list of the full costs that go into day-to-day operations is extensive. Value is indeed added by the extras that MADE Hotel and others like it provide to guests. What is completely ridiculous is trying to frame what is otherwise an understandable cost addition as some sort of artistic benefit.

The word “curation” deserves to keep its meaning, even if human curation is on the decline. Hopefully museums don’t catch on and start adding their own hidden “curation fees” that guests don’t see until they’re hit with the bill.

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