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More and more 'junk fees' appearing in Las Vegas tourist industry

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 20:53:17-05

LAS VEGAS — You could call it the attack of the killer fees! The Feds call them junk fees: Hidden or unexpected back-end fees that ding consumers for things like concert tickets, dining, hotels, credit cards, airlines and more.

"It does seem a little shady, as far as things just coming up without notice. And then you kind of feel backed into a corner," said Torri Ana Monteith, who recently splurged for John Legend concert tickets on Ticketmaster.

Those tickets quickly got a lot more expensive than she expected.

"They were $158 for the actual tickets — for the two tickets," Monteith said. "But then I ended up paying the service fee, which was $21 each. So then I ended up paying $42. And then also the order processing fees were $5.50."

Monteith's total in junk fees alone: $47.50! With a base price of $79 per ticket, that means Monteith forked over 30% in fees.

Ticketmaster's website says fees "are determined in collaboration with our clients" and said, "clients typically share in a portion of the fees we collect." But, plenty trickles down to the customer.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau produced a video calling out companies for "luring customers with enticing offers, then charging excessive junk fees."

They say "the new fee economy distorts our free market system by concealing the true price of products from the competitive process." In other words, it makes it really hard to comparison shop.

"Is it worth it to like, compare all of these?" Monteith questions. "Or is it worth it just to pay the fees?"

According to the CFPB video, more and more companies are depending on fees in their business. "They often charge these fees to feed their bottom line. Even if people aren't really getting anything in return."

Credit card companies make billions from late fees — more than $14 billion in 2019 alone, according to federal data.

Banks charged more than $15 billion in overdraft fees the same year.

The Feds also point to thousands in junk fees paid by new home buyers in closing costs.

Ironically, there are fees for the privilege of paying your bill and for not using your account enough. Those are called "inactivity" fees. The Las Vegas tourist industry has also been getting in on the game.

"Resort fees are really a lightning rod for the frustration of travelers," said Scott Roeben, the founder of the popular VitalVegas.com blog, who hears from thousands of visitors fed up with sinful fees in Sin City.

Beyond resort fees, there is a devilish, little-known fee that might pop up on a restaurant tab.

"They're called 'concession fees,'" Roeben said. "Sometimes they're called service charges. The restaurant can call them pretty much whatever they want."

If you want to know how much the concession fee is, you may need a magnifying glass. It's printed on some menus, like one from Cabo Wabo's at 4.85%, but in tiny print at the bottom of the menu, following a warning about undercooked food.

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We found Hexx and Beer Park at the Paris hotel-casino charging concession fees. So does Kassi Beach House at Virgin Hotel, which added up to an extra $4.05 on a receipt one customer shared with 13 Investigates.

While it may only amount to a few bucks, Roeben says people feel like they're being nickel and dimed to death.

"Fees make people feel like they're being hoodwinked, and they perceive it as shady behavior," he said.

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But worst of all, Roeben says it's something he believes hurts us all.

"I hear from thousands and thousands of people, and many of them even pre-pandemic. We're talking about the fact that they used to come to Vegas eight times a year, six times a year, but they had narrowed it down to maybe once or twice a year based on that feeling that they get when they feel ripped off," Roeben said.

So, what can we do about this?

Roeben says sometimes if you complain, you can get concession fees taken off your restaurant tab.

Also, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to hear about your experience and frustration with junk fees.

With your help, the Bureau is looking to ramp up enforcement and make recommendations to lawmakers.

This story was originally published by Darcy Spears of KTNV in Las Vegas, Nevada.