British Business · Hotels & Inns · Lawyers Life · Life On The Road · Travel · UK · Work

Charge for Wifi? Why, fie!


From a little corner table at the hotel cafe, Nottingham


Travelling away from home has a funny way of making days pass by quicker.  For the past weeks, C and I have been living our usual pretty itinerant lifestyle, a different part of the UK every week.  C covers his consulting gigs, and I tag along with my own hardcase of paperwork to do while away.  Actually “away” is not quite the word.  Perhaps I should fine-tune that word to “further away”, especially when the conveniences and comforts available while working from our home in Manchester are not available.  My work as an attorney in the US requires me to pass big bulks of work across the Atlantic.  And so when we are on the road, I have to find my nook to do work, and equally importantly, I need to have internet connection to send work across.  Unlike in the US, many UK hotel groups/chains do not offer free internet connection.  Not even when a big chunk of their clientele are business travellers.  For instance, C is a frequent user of another hotel group (Let’s call it “P Hotel” The Premier Inn group) for his business travels.   The said Hotel chain is extensive, and you generally can also find one located outside of city centre and anywhere across the UK — convenient for C as power plants are usually located quite far from them.  I like that P hotels Premier Inns have spankin’ clean rooms, are pretty no-frills (altho very often, I wouldn’t mind some pretty frills), and — they have showers and not just bath tubs (happy me!)!   However, what seriously irks me is that the P hotels they charge for internet.  Their rate?  £5 per hour, or £10 for any time use within a 24 hour period (multiply that by a 4 day stay).  The guest must pay this upfront (front desk), and they give you a “scratch” card with a password.  There have been many times when, just for the principle of it, I want to refuse to pay more than the room rates (which believe me, can go quite high when booked on short notice).  But then I tell myself “what principle are you talking about?  It’s just how they choose to do business”,  knowing that sticking to my guns would go against professionalism.  No choice then but to suck it up and pay for it.  Alternatively I would/could take the bus into town, find a Starbucks, and work there until the Barristas either become my good friends or get annoyed.  Trust me, it is awful to feel that you’ve overstayed your welcome.  So it usually ends up with me spending more money for coffee and cookies.  Bottomline, what I had done in these instances really made no economical sense.  To save £10, I spent more (bus ride to and from, coffee and cookies).  So what do I do but gripe silently to myself in utter frustration?  And outwardly, act nonchalant and bear it.  That’s the British way, and when in Rome.

One of the places we regularly stay in when in Edinburgh is the King’s Manor.   This hotel is managed by the Best Western UK group (Twitter handle:  “BestWesternGB”).  They provide free broadband to guests.  What a relief.  Hotel people who understand that providing internet connection today is the functional equivalent of having bedside and lobby telephones in yesteryears.  A simple, basic feature like this,– and I am less antsy about not being able to take care of my clients overseas.  In the end I enjoy travel and stay that much more.    I hope hotels in the UK realize that the value of providing broadband to guests, and the competitive advantage it provides to their business mark worldwide, are much more than the sum of its actual costs.  No hotel guest wants to feel isolated from contact, or to feel that they have to pay additional for a few hours of de-isolation.  Too much nickel-and-diming your clients. And really, how silly.

So this week, we booked ourselves in another Best Western hotel.  This time, the Westminster in Nottingham.  We will continue to stay in BW hotels and look into them wherever we travel.

Anyway, by way of  FYI, since this is a blog about expat life, here are some of the hotel groups in the UK where guests PAY FOR WIFI:

  • Hilton
  • Travelodge
  • Holiday Inn
  • Marriott
  • Malmaison
  • Premier Inn and
  • Thistle

And those that PROVIDE FREE WIFI TO GUESTS include:

  • SAS
  • CITY INN and of course,

(Source :  “Do Not Disturb” magazine, Issue No. 1)

p.s.:  Best Western GB has come up with the first magazine issue called “Do Not Disturb”.  The magazine is unconventional, fun and interestingly quirky — definitely in line with the company’s byline “Hotels with Personality”.

Cover of "Do Not Disturb"

18 thoughts on “Charge for Wifi? Why, fie!

  1. My husband and I comment on this every time we stay at a hotel, especially one that caters to business people. It’s ridiculous. You’d think with the economy as it is that they would offer as many perks as they can to their guests to keep them coming back. Thanks for posting those that don’t charge!

    1. HI Kim:
      You’re welcome. I don’t understand why they do not just distribute and tuck in the costs into the hotel tariff, if cost is really the issue. I often feel putting a charge is chiefly for the extra revenue (think of ridiculous prices of drinks in restaurants…. same principle). I was a bit surprised once when we stopped for coffee in Moffat (Scotland), and I asked if I can have hazel nut syrup added, and the lady said “that will be additional 20p.”. Another time when I asked for ketchup for my “burger” somewhere and they charged me 10p for a small sachet. It just makes me wonder if that little amount shaves off a significant percentage off their margins… (really?)

  2. Do you think the policy might be to stop people going into the hotel just to use the internet? The equivalent of what you do in Starbucks? They probably don’t want too many people stopping in for coffee and using up the computer spaces available.

    I think, rightly or wrongly, the hotels also think that business travellers don’t care about expenses, as they’re not paying the bill personally. It’s just passed onto their company. I’ve always been amazed by this attitude – aren’t businesses meant to be lean and efficient? But they seem happy to pick up the tab for things that we lesser mortals balk at.

    And it’s not just international business people is it? What about bloggers?!

    1. There are many ways and devices of controlling against overstaying “free-wifi squatters” in general areas of the hotel. But certainly, this should not be the case for paying guests. I feel that for large business chains in particular, if the dilemma is between turning-off or losing your patrons due to these charges, and having to deal with incidental minor irritants of dealing with abusing wifi homesteaders, it might make more business sense to go with the latter. Personally, I vacate my table in Starbucks when the place gets busy. And I also feel that during those non-peak hours, people would tend to walk into a coffee shop that have their tables peppered with people that an empty one. A somewhat-busy coffee shop is its own good publicity. So, having people linger a bit (as long as it is not during peak and busy hours) is not such a bad thing. Furthermore, when I stay longer, I make sure to buy another drink or a little cake — which is only fair. I agree that some business may be thinking that business travellers can pass on the costs anyway to the clients. (Sadly, bloggers don’t/can’t). Oftentimes though, some part of it will just be absorbed by the user — in my case, I write off part of it as part of operating my little indie practice. (Could’ve gotten myself a camera accessory or something when all that adds up.). Providing free broadband may not be the way to go for small businesses, but for larger chains? They have the means of finding a happy middle ground that satisfies their patrons and protect against abuse.

  3. UK businesses certainly seem to have a penny-pinching (US : “nickel & dime”) attitude compared to the US companies. If you are brought up in the UK you get used to it. US companies are much more focussed on customer satisfaction.

    I guess that running a business in the UK is more cut throat than in the US due to higher real estate costs, higher pay and employment overheads (Nat Insurance, Tax etc). This perhaps accounts for the difference in pricing policy between the UK and US. Optional extras are often free in the US but chargeable in the UK. The aforementioned ketchup sachets is just one example, a small charge for whipped cream on coffee is another.

    Other notable differences are the choice and the levels of service available in the US compared to the UK.

    The Americans certainly have a way of complicating simple purchases. There seems to be a myriad of ways one can cook and serve an egg! By the time the waiter has explained the egg options I am too worn out to eat the said item.

    Then there is US customer service. The British tend to be very critical of Americans and their throw-away platitudes (‘How are you today?’ / ‘ Have a nice day’) and treat then as being very false. However American retail assistants, waiters etc are generally very polite, very helpful, and attentive, and far superior to their British counterparts. Miss Chicago (aka ‘The Wife’) and I often discuss this and agree that the 2012 London Olympics will generate many disgruntled visitors, disappointed by British levels of service.

    Incidentally a couple of weeks ago I stayed at a Marriott. The costs were somewhere in the region of £130 per night for bed and breakfast and still Wi-Fi was chargeable at £10. Astonishing! I vow never to stay at a Marriott again no matter who is picking up the tab, unless they change their policy.

  4. Hi Miss Chicago,
    It can be frustrating not to have WiFi (for free) when you want it, especially when you travel as much as it sounds like you do. Have you thought of getting mobile internet service? Good to know some places include it in the price. I just wanted to stop by and say HI! and hope you have a great weekend in Angelsey. Will look forward to your pictures.

    1. HI Jane: For now I have mobile internet service on the blackberry (which doesn’t work for transferring docs, but helpful for emails etc.). I sometimes use the hubby’s “dongle” which uses dial-up technology, ergo, still slow, and virtually impossible to transfer huge files. Sigh. I guess all said the world is still much more connected now than a few years ago. How did we manage before? :) Thanks for dropping by and I will try to take pics and post them. Thanks.

  5. Wow!”
    Coincidence or not?
    Great minds thinking alike or what?

    When my friend Kathleen came across from the USA last year for that mini-Europeasn vacastion we spent our Edinburgh leg of it at the Kings Meadow Best Western. We weren’t looking to spend much time surfing though.

    1. uhm…. what were you looking to spend time doing then? ;)

      And btw, Dave, you’re Number 3, 1 lower than The Bard, but still one higher than Colin. Firth.

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