What the experts say
Paying extra for the basics
Travelers might not be surprised to pay extra fees for luxury amenities at exotic resorts, said Jane Levere in The New York Times. But over the past two years, high-end hotels in cities across the U.S. have begun charging “resort fees’’ for basic services. Typically ranging from $20 to $40 a night and sometimes called amenities or facilities fees, they cover services such as Wi-Fi access, bottled water, breakfast, and access to bike-sharing programs. In New York City, 131 hotels charge such mandatory fees; in Los Angeles, 78 hotels. Guests hate the levies, but with occupancy rates at record highs and labor costs rising, hotels consider them a useful tool for boosting revenues. Some corporate travel managers have successfully contested the often hard-to-spot fees. But for ordinary travelers, it’s buyer beware.
Zillow’s new home bid
Zillow wants to buy your house, said Aldo Svaldi in The Denver Post. The online real-estate listings giant launched a new service in Denver last week that gives sellers the option of requesting a cash offer from the firm. If Zillow is interested in the property, it will send someone to view the home and estimate the cost of repairs. Should a seller accept the final bid, he or she can set when the closing will happen. A rival home-offer service, OpenDoor, launched in Denver last month; it says it’s already in contract on a $300,000 house. Zillow’s venture—which debuted in Phoenix in April and will expand into Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., this winter—is being closely watched by brokers, who worry it will give the online firm “more power” and lure away customers.
Hidden ads in children’s apps
“Your children’s smartphone games may be selling them stuff behind your back,” said Alessandro Malito in MarketWatch.com. A new study of 135 popular kids’ apps, conducted by the University of Michigan, found that 95 percent contained some form of advertising—including 100 percent of the free apps. “Some of the games have hidden advertisements, while others interrupt play with a video that the children must watch to continue playing or earn credit in the game.” Most children aren’t capable of recognizing “persuasive intent” in advertising until they are at least 7 years old. “The early childhood app market is a Wild West,” said pediatrician Jenny Radesky, senior author of the Michigan study, “with a lot of apps appearing more focused on making money than on the child’s play experience.”