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Check Out for Children, a Starwood and UNICEF program, raises funds through guest donations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia–Pacific.
UNICEF’s info is a bit dated:
Guests at Starwood Hotels are invited to add US$1 (or the equivalent in local currency) to their bill upon check out, as a donation to UNICEF.
From the partnership launch in November 1995 to 2011, guests at participating Starwood hotels donated US$25 million to UNICEF. From 1995 to 2008 these funds enabled us to immunise 1 million children against deadly diseases.
The ‘invited’ part is a bit misleading. This is my second stay in recent months at The Hongta Hotel, Shanghai, a Luxury Collection property. First time around I had noticed a small UNICEF card on my bed each night next the typical card about saving the environment by not changing sheets. I did not pay any heed to the UNICEF card until on checkout I saw a US$1/night charge on my bill for UNICEF.
The charge was never mentioned at check-in and when I saw it at checkout was concerned that my company would cause me expense hassle for putting a charitable deduction on my hotel itemization, and alternatively trying to pay myself would be administratively difficult. So, feeling like a heel, I requested the charge be taken off my bill, instead supporting charities in my own way, which I target at 5% of my gross income annually.
I found the card on my bed again this stay and the language is a bit different than ‘invited’ implies:
In order to support UNICEF’s work, an extra US$1, or local currency equivalent, will be automatically added to your bill. If you agree, you do not need to do anything. If you prefer not to donate, please let us know when you check out.
I am torn on this. The program certainly generates funds for a cause I feel is worthy, much more funds with its ‘opt-out’ method than it would with ‘opt-in.’ However not everyone will feel that cause worthy. I also prefer to direct my charity to where I decide it will be best employed. The method is debatable: some will see it and not mind, some will think it sneaky, some will never notice. At a minimum there should explanation at check-in, not just a fine-print card by the pillow. Best practice is to inspect hotel bills at check-out but we all have our moments when we dash without study and discovering this later involves hassle to the customer to alter. A Starwood customer should have a reasonable expectation that a bill will be accurate.
Readers, do the ends justify the means here? Fair or foul?