Thanks primarily to the proliferation of personal cell phones, consumers are staging a successful revolt against hotel surcharges on the use of telephone lines.
Some refuse to book rooms in properties that do not include free Internet access or free local calls, while others express outrage at hoteliers that impose heavy charges for minibars, telephones, or Internet connections.
The biggest consumer gripe is directed at hotels that charge for calls that are allegedly "toll-free," such as 800 numbers for airlines or car rental companies.
Though widely considered a scam by the traveling public, hotel phone charges were once a huge source of revenue. In some places, they still are: the Sheraton Waikiki charges $9.44 for the first minute and $1.50 for each additional minute, while New York's Waldorf Astoria charges $9.99 per minute and up to 99 cents for additional minutes on international calls (and $1.95 for up to 60 minutes on domestic calls).
Fees for daily Internet access range from $13 (Sheraton Waikiki) to $10.95 (Houston InterContinental) and $9.95 (Seattle Grand Hyatt, Albuquerque Hyatt Regency, New Orleans Sheraton, Waldorf Astoria, and more).
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, three of every four hotels allows free local calls and nine out of ten offer Internet access (not all of it free).
Clever guests can often find a way to circumvent such charges. Bringing a laptop to a lounge or lobby, or connecting to a wireless router from a nearby source (such as a neighboring hotel) often works when using the laptop in the room isn't free.
Ironically, upscale properties are more likely to impose phone-line charges than inexpensive or moderately-priced hotels. The reason is simple: there are so many lesser-priced hotels that many of them need to offer amenities designed to woo customers.
Although cell phone reception is often spotty in high-rise hotels, it is relatively simple to find a nearby location -- such as a pool deck or open-air patio -- with better service.
Travelers heading overseas can also avoid hotel-room phones by renting international cellphones for their trips.
Using the Internet for phone calls is also a growing trend, since programs like Skype provide free or discounted calls via the computer.
To compensate for the loss of revenue caused by widespread cell phone use, some hotels are adding a "phone use fee" to guest room bills. That fee is applied automatically whenever a room phone is activated -- even if it is never used or used only to call the front desk.
It may not be long before big-league baseball managers call the bullpen on cellphones too.