Travel: Charge of the hotel telephone brigade

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The Independent Travel
THE COMPLAINT by Nicholas Murray about being grossly overcharged for telephone calls made from hotel rooms (Independent Traveller, 10 April) brought a wide-ranging response.

'Hotels impose an exorbitant and totally unjustifiable mark-up of 300 per cent - often more - on telephone calls. How do they justify taking advantage of their 'guests' in this way?' asks Constantine de Goguel, of Parsons Green, London.

Dr Robin Sutton, of Bedford, says that some hotels 'rip off' guests even more by using Mercury, 'thereby reducing their costs and increasing the profit margin'.

The consensus of advice is clear: get a BT Chargecard. Dr Sutton writes: 'If you use a BT Chargecard the cost of the call is charged to your home (or business) phone bill. The cost is a little bit more than normal as it is based on the payphone rates, but it is still significantly less than the normal hotel rate.'

The card costs nothing to obtain (ring 0800 345144 for further information) and can be used in Britain or for calling Britain from abroad. Using UK phones, including payphones, callers dial in their account number and a PIN and are connected direct.

But here lies the snag for people using Chargecards to call from hotel rooms, says Mr Maid, of London: 'Much modern equipment used in hotel switchboards provides a printout of every digit dialled, including the Chargecard PIN, thus laying you open to fraudulent use of your Chargecard.'

Mr Maid advises hotel guests to use their Chargecard at the payphone in the foyer. 'In addition you might make a point of telling the management that you have refused to use their exorbitant bedside phone, and that you consider that the enforced inconvenience of using the payphone has considerably reduced the standard of service you had expected. You never know, somebody might consider this important.'

For those without a BT Chargecard, John Grear, of Derbyshire, has another trick up his sleeve: 'A wife trained to take down numbers at short notice and phone back]'

I recently acquired a BT Chargecard and can heartily recommend it. Being able to use a payphone without having to find the right change or buy a phonecard is a tremendous liberation. I also used it recently while travelling in France and Spain and found it invaluable. When travelling in the United States I use an AT & T Calling Card (0800 897801 for information), which is also an excellent time and money saver.