At first, Rodney Harmon thought the copy of USA Today that appeared outside the door to his hotel room was free. He didn't ask for it, and it seemed like the type of complimentary service the Hilton Garden Inn Sonoma County Airport hotel would likely provide.
It only after Harmon received his bill that he realized he had been automatically been charged 75 cents for the paper. Then, the 55-year old Sacramento resident got angry.
Harmon has filed a federal class-action suit against Hilton hotels, charging that their practice of automatically billing guests for newspapers is deceptive.
"He did not request a newspaper and assumed it had been placed there by hotel staff," said the suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Harmon didn't realize until later that a 75-cent charge for the paper had been added to his bill.
Harmon accused Hilton of deliberately hiding the newspaper charge by describing the fee in an "extremely small font which is difficult to notice or read" on the sleeve of the room card.
The suit also noted that forcing guests to accept a newspaper wastes paper and is harmful to the environment. UPI reports:
The suit also claims that as newspaper readership and circulation has been declining, hotel guest are probably not even reading the papers place at their doors. The unread papers are an "offensive waste of precious resources and energy," the suit states, adding "deforestation caused by paper production is a matter of concern and worry in this state, country and worldwide."
"It's over a piddly sum," Consumerist noted, "but the case could have big implications if it becomes the impetus to sue other hotel chains, since many hotels do just the same thing."
Hilton representatives declined comment to the Chronicle citing the pending litigation.