December 4, 2010
Why They Call It Taxachusetts
Recently my wife and I spent a night in a Boston hotel that boasted rather lavish accommodations; we even got our own matching bathrobes.
Admittedly, the guest services in general were more than satisfactory. My only complaint is that the lady at the cafeteria sold me two "Grande" coffees. I surmised upon inspecting the cup size that the term stood for the equivalent of a medium-sized drink. The problem was that the lady at the cafeteria filled the cups only halfway. So in essence, I bought two small coffees but paid the price of two medium (Grande)-size coffees. Never mind that the proper translation of "Grande" is "Big." Somehow a good third of this fiendish secretion upon which I depend daily to get my blood pumping was lost in the translation.
In retrospect, this relatively minor but no less shady transaction should have alerted me to the other hidden pecuniary charges that I would incur unawares before vacating the premises.
Allow me to explain.
My hotel stay bill was as reasonable as one could expect, given the location and the various amenities one enjoys from any fine institution in the hospitality and leisure industry. So I did not have a problem agreeing to pay the room charges.
But upon reexamining the exquisitely stenciled receipt, I spied several other charges that did not make much sense.
First was the occupancy tax.
As far as I can tell, occupancy is defined as the act of being in a certain space. My wife and I were occupying one room in the hotel. I would think that such a fee would be included in what is aptly called the room charge. But apparently the hotel staff thought differently.
This occupancy tax was an altogether separate charge. My guess is that once you wander anywhere near yet-undefined parameters of that space, you a liable to pay for "occupying" it. It is sort of like charging lower mammals for marking their territory.
Then there was the local tax. I am not making any of this up, by the way.
The local tax was the same amount as the occupancy tax, and no less mystifying.
I think by "local tax," they meant that there is a charge for staying in that particular vicinity. It is not the hotel accountant's fault that this magnificent facility was built in an area where imposing a tax on those with the status of visitor has long been an established tradition. Hence, due to that serendipitous whim of fate, over which no mere mortal bearing a gold-inscribed lapel name tag was willing to take responsibility, I had to pay a local tax.
The third tax that was appended to my bill was the convention tax.
I suppose that if you were part of a convention that came to stay at the hotel, you would be expected to pay this tax. But I was there as no part of any convention -- unless of course, a couple watching TV while feasting over a couple of vanilla-frosted cupcakes from Mike's Bakery can be called a convention.
Perhaps "convention" in this particular sense stood as a derivative of the word "convenience," meaning that it was highly convenient for the hotel's concierge to charge an extra fee for his troubles. Either way, I did not understand why I also had to pay this tax.
And finally, there was the hotel inclusive charge, the only charge duly explained at the bottom of the bill.
As per their own description, the hotel inclusive charge is a charge that is "distributed among all of the Hotel employees," which is a group that "extends beyond the wait staff, service employees, and bartenders." In other words, this is not a tip. At least not as defined by the Massachusetts service charge and tip statue.
I did not go to the hotel's bar or its fine restaurant; neither did I ask the hotel staff for any extra towels, or consult any of them as to the location of the ice machine. So my suspicion is that the guy who handed me the key to the room is the only one entitled to pocket this fee. I also have a feeling that whoever wrote the above-mentioned statue must be getting some kind of cut from this tax, but that is neither here nor there.
All this owes its genesis, as you may have already guessed, to the noble efforts of some well-meaning self-styled philanthropists -- known today as liberals -- who at one point in history decided that the most efficient way to maintain a stable society was to endow its government with the power to coerce its more affluent citizens to funnel some of their surplus capital into the pockets of the poor folk barely subsisting in a state of abject poverty. In the arcane conclaves of the liberal psyche, the system still works as it was intended from the beginning and is not in need of repair, as others have the audacity to suggest.
But the truth is that today, in America, taxes no longer represent the shared altruistic impetus that once encouraged the wealthy to help assuage the needs of the less fortunate. The system more resembles a kind of legally sanctioned criminal enterprise which consists mainly of arbitrarily conjured usury that is regularly foisted upon the often unsuspecting and not so wealthy citizens. This is complete and utter madness.
In Massachusetts in particular, it feels these days like if you simply sneeze, you will get taxed. I suppose it is the price you pay for living in a state that gets about two months of decent weather all year.
But what I had not anticipated was that taxation with so little representation would become such a fine-tuned art, that someone would devise such imaginative and creative ways to fleece a guy who simply wanted to celebrate his wedding anniversary.