Smokin' in the boys' room: More hotels go non-smoking...and charge fines if they catch you

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The premise is simple: A hotel does not have any smoking rooms because of the stench and the filth smoking creates. You stay at the hotel, you're expected to abide by the no-smoking rule. If you smoke, you pay a fee, often in the $200 to $250 range (but at some chains as much as $500!). Sounds fair to me.

The truth is that cleaning a room following a smoker can be expensive because often anything cloth (curtains, couches, etc) needs to be cleaned. After all, what non-smoker wants to stay in a non-smoking room that has just been smoked in? Yuck.

But even non-smokers have to be careful. Last year I was put into a room in one of these strict non-smoking hotels, and the room reeked of stale smoke. I didn't stay in it, because I didn't want to pay the penalty the following day when the cleaning staff smelled the odor. Plus I didn't want to smell the stale smoke all night and then smell like it all next day when the smell invaded my clothing. So I went straight to the front desk and asked for a different room. They were happy to help.

More chains are moving toward having all rooms non-smoking, including Sheraton, Marriott, Westin, and Walt Disney. They say it's just too expensive to allow smoking in the rooms, and I don't blame them. If you get one of these charges and you haven't smoked in the room, you can often dispute it. But for those who really are smoking, hotel staff is on the lookout for evidence, so don't think that you'll have an easy time getting out of the smoking fee.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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