Lindemann's hotel -- where the added fees are all paid up front

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On a recent visit to Berlin, Germany, I took a travel-induced chance, as I often do, and booked a hotel I didn't know much about. When I was reserving my room online before my arrival, a strange thing happened that warmed my heart: I was informed about all the extra fees up front and given the chance to buy them ahead of time.

The hotel Lindemann's, is pitched as an affordable design hotel, meaning it's cheap (€54, equaling $68 at the moment, is a normal starting rate) and it's pretty, having been designed by architects with a thing for black. That is the base price for a classy room.

But the inducements to spend more were presented even before I had clicked "reserve." Its booking page offered to add on extra charges it dubs "enhancements." I could have Web access, the booking page told me, if I paid €5 a day or €10 for three days. I could get breakfast, and that would cost €25 (including, rather Teutonically, a pack of vitamins). Or I could have both for the reduced combined rate of €28. There was an option for a parking space, for an extra cot, one for pet accommodations, and even some for tickets good for Berlin's public transportation system.
It even gave me the option of a fresh flower bouquet. "Would you like to surprise your partner?" the website asked. "Gladly with individual words or a greeting card." That was €25.

When I checked in, I was handed vouchers for everything I had booked ahead of time. There were no surprises. I was done, and there was no sinking feeling that I'd stumbled into a thicket of fees, the way there is so often at American hotels, which start surprising you with charges for parking and valet and newspapers after you've already committed to sleeping there.

Lindemann's got its extra fees, and I got what I bargained for. A trusting relationship was established.

If we can accept that hotels now consider ancillary fees a crucial part of their profit strategies (and we have to, because they now do), then customers at least deserve to know about them ahead of time, which is apparently a novel concept in the American hospitality industry. Trust between a consumer and the hotel is what brings repeat business, and being taken by surprise might be good for the hotel's bottom line this year, but is bound to bounce back on them next year in lost business.

Lindemann's also gave me a treat just for booking ahead of time online: a nice glass of German beer, redeemable anytime during my stay at the lobby bar (pictured). That freebie wasn't in lieu of an web-only discount; it gave those too, up to 15%, applied to multi-night stays. I also had the option of buying those add-ons later, in case I changed my mind about wanting that bouquet.

The hotel may also be the only one I've ever stayed in that had actual shag carpeting in my room, which felt unbelievable after a long day of retracing the path of the Berlin Wall.

Lindemann's isn't a new name, since it has operated in Berlin for 15 years. But its newest property, which opened in the Schöneberg area only about a year and a half ago, is just the fourth for the group, which has aspirations of turning into a more common brand.

It's not very often I get a chance to praise a hotel brand for finding a pleasing way to nickel-and-dime me, so I'm taking that chance now. The Marriotts and Sheratons of our country could learn from the Lindemann's of Germany. Its respectful system works.

Oh, and sorry about the World Cup. May I offer a fresh bouquet of flowers in condolence?


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