JW Marriott Investigated Over Expensive Bananas

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

Uh oh. It looks like the JW Marriott Chandigarh may regret how much they charged someone for bananas.

Indian actor Rahul Bose took to Twitter this week to share his outrage over the price he was charged for bananas at the JW Marriott in Chandigarh, India. He was at the hotel’s gym working out, and asked for two bananas.

He was then asked to sign a bill for them, and it came out to 442.50INR. The bill shows that he was charged 375INR for a “fruit platter,” plus 18% — that includes a 9% CGST and 9% UTGST. Using today’s exchange rates that’s ~6.40USD for two bananas.

He posted a 30+ second video to Twitter, and used hashtags #goingbananas, #howtogetfitandgobroke, and #potassiumkings.

That does seem excessive, though at the same time it seems to me like this might just have been a situation where they didn’t have anything to ring the charge up under, so he got charged for a “fruit platter,” whatever that is. You’d think they could have just given him a couple of bananas, but nope.

Anyway, this hotel is now being investigated by the government. Why? Not because of the expensive bananas, specifically, but rather because they charged GST on this. Of course this was only brought to light because of the price of bananas.

Business Today reports that a high level probe has been called by the city administration regarding this issue.

The Chandigarh Deputy Commissioner and Excise and Taxation Commissioner Mandip Singh Brar initiated the investigation into the “illegal and exorbitant charge of GST” by the hotel:

“Taking cognisance of the video and bill posted by the actor, I have ordered an investigation. I have directed Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC) Rajeev Chaudhary to conduct a thorough probe on how the hotel had charged GST on fresh fruits. Strict action will be taken if found guilty.”

So the issue isn’t the price as such, but rather the fact that the hotel charged GST on fresh fruit.

Based on doing some research, it would appear that bananas aren’t subjected to GST in India. The GST for fruit varies from 0% to 12% based on the type of fruit.

So it’s questionable whether the ordinary “fruit platter” would be subjected to the tax, since it’s possible that it includes nuts or some other fruit that would be subjected to GST.

Nonetheless, the hotel has quite a situation on their hands, all arising from bananas costing over $3 each.

The hotel’s Twitter account, @jwmarriottchd, has protected Tweets as of this point. Hah.

  1. @ Ben — But did he earn Marriott points on the his purchase? On the GST? What credit card did he use?

  2. Well, most states do not tax sales of food such as bananas. But many tax sales of prepared food such as fruit platters.

    I am nonetheless left to wonder if the property failed to pay financial tribute to the politicians in charge. India can be a bit like Chicago that way.

  3. How is this surprising? Am I the only one that would think ordering two bananas at a high end resort would at least be this much. Most places in the us sell them for what a dollar a piece a la carte at a gas station or something. I don’t think 6 bucks for two is all that outrageous considering I have seen charges of 30 or more for a “pot” of coffee and a couple danishes.

  4. $3.50 a banana at a high-end hotel? Since all these places have western prices no matter what the local economy is, why is this news?

  5. A while ago we were staying at the Tropicana on the Strip in Vegas. Early in the morning wife sent me down to Starbucks inside the hotel to get some coffee and I noticed they had bananas for sale which I prefer as an early morning snack rather than a sugar-laden donut.

    Fortunately, the barista warned me they were $3.00 each causing me to decline.

    Vegas hotels are notorious for pricey drinks and $4.00 and $5.00 bottles of water from vending machines but $3.00 a banana from Starbucks, seriously?

    Most higher-end hotel gyms I have been to recently (Conrad HKG & the Waldorf Vegas for instance) provide fruit for free.

  6. So funny, I just made a one night reservation here. I could call up Marriott and cancel my reservation. I’ll just say “I’m chalking it up to bananas”. Or that “the property has gone bananas.”
    “Just Google it”
    Funny that the government is investigating lol.
    What a rough couple years for Marriott. Serves them right

  7. An 11 year old girl realized that she had started to grow hair between her legs. She got worried and asked her Mom about the hair. Her Mom calmly said ” That part where hair has grown is called a Monkey, be proud that your Monkey has grown hair. ”
    Next morning at breakfast she told her sister. ” my monkey has grown hair. ” her sister smiled and said ” That’s Nothing, mine is already eating Banana.”

    Her Mom fainted..

  8. In India, a banana might cost a few rupees, and at 70:1 USD this is indeed a preposterous charge, even at a higher-end hotel. It must have been a mistake – did Mr Bose attempt to get it straightened out with the front desk?

  9. The problem here is called VAT ( or vallue added tax) . Thus tax presume s that there is any kind of service intervention (peeling, cutting, etc) on the fruits. In this case, there were none : just to absolutely plain bananas, delivered on a plate. Hence, this is totally ridiculous. Furthermore, when one knows the market price of bananas in India … I would have my layers jave a look into this… Maybe I could come out with a indemnization that got to buy me a whole banana plantation …

  10. The issue here is that the hotel should not have charged Goods and Service Tax (GST) because the product is not eligible for GST. This means that the hotel did not pay GST when they purchased the item, but are charging the customer GST (the customer thinks he is paying this to the Government, but he is not. Hotel is pocketing the money). This is illegal.

  11. Six dollars for 2 bananas may not sound high to most people.
    But the fact is 2 bananas cost about 10 rupees in INDIA. He was charge 442 rupees. About 50 times including GST..

  12. @Alex, no the hotel would not have been pocketing the amount if the case had been closed without notice. The amount have been recorded in the CST payable accounts, since they did not pay GST on the their purchase, just means they have less recorded in the GST receivable account.

    The hotel recorded it as a GST applicable item. And as such would have paid the GST. The Indian GST flown is a pretty straight forward flow

  13. Knowing the way Indian officialdom works, there will be so many ways this vexed tax issue can be viewed. It will end all tied up in knots to the point where everyone will throw up their hands and wish it to go away, as it will.

  14. Been there earlier this year – quite a nice hotel actually. Excellent (and reasonable) buffet breakfast.

  15. The hotel has the right to charge what they charge. You do not have to buy it. Also, he did not even bother asking about the price in the first place. It cannot completely be the fault of the hotel. However, the erroneous tax placed on it was not right though. You should always inquire about the price first.

  16. GST includes services – i.e. it may be applied to the service delivery element. It doesn’t sound like they were just on display otherwise they wouldn’t have had to be asked for and wouldn’t have been recorded as a platter.

  17. @Archer: Clearly you haven’t traveled much if you believe you could get food borne illnesses from eating bananas at a 5* hotel in India.

    Also, Indian bananas are some of the most delicious in the world. All the more for the rest of us non-ignorant folk.

  18. This guy is broke, acts in “art” movies nobody watches, and lives off bribes paid to peddle commie agenda. There is an election due so he has to make some noise. Also helps raise his profile among fellow commies. Ignore.

  19. wait. is this a real banana, or did he get 2 “bananas” wink wink! LOL if you get what I mean! LOL LOL

  20. As a former employee of a Large 1000 room JW in a skilled position with 22 years experience in my field, I could not even afford to buy a car. I bike to work, getting paid $6 over minimum wage. I live very minimal, goodwill for pots and pans, discount clothing. Etc. Multi national largest hotel company in the world. And in-n-out burger pays about the same. Fuck that.

  21. hes in the jw, what does he expect

    steal your bananas from breakfast like everyone else next time

  22. When a hotel or any seller of goods/services is overcharging customers by claiming “taxes” are being collected when they aren’t due from customers, there is a problem situation that requires government involvement. The government should make sure that the hotel/seller isn’t charging “taxes” but then failing to remit to the government all the “taxes” collected by the seller. The government should make sure that the hotel/seller isn’t misleading the public about the level/amount of taxation applicable. And the government should make sure that price-breakdowns for any purchased good/service are not misrepresenting the transaction. And the government should make sure that it is only collecting taxes that are actually due and no more than is due.

    For all these reasons and more, I am glad that the matter has come to the attention of the relevant tax authorities in India.

  23. Agree with the other commentators that this is not at all surprising. Hotels charge you ridiculous prices for everything – I am on San Sebastián atm and they charge you 8 euros for a bottle of water that sells for 30 cents around the corner.

  24. Isn’t this a scene in Beverly hills cop?

    But that guy just gave him the bananas cause he was a bro.

  25. For context, the market price for bananas in India if you buy them from a street vendor is around $0.80 – $1.20 per dozen (Rs40-Rs80, depending on state, the area I visit regularly is Rs40 but I can imagine it might be more in Delhi).

  26. Haha the comments are hilarious. How numb have we all become to runaway capitalism, where companies are free to charge exhorbitant and in this case illegal costs… And people still favor the companies as “oh it’s a 5-star hotel and should charge that much.”

    First of all, that hotel is in India, where the local economy is different – so think about this from a perspective of people over there instead of your high stool.

    Second, in India even companies, especially reputed, abide by a social contract of not profiting insanely. Of all nation’s in the world, US has lost this social contract and so companies often rip off consumers leaving them little recourse to do anything.. eventually people like in this forum become numb (aka stupid).

    Third, they violated laws by charging taxes, which is a clear violation. Kudos to the government to at least notice that. In US, Comcast would illegally charge for things all the time and government would be like “oh we are extreme capitalist.. I don’t know ”

    Context matters. Don’t just travel, open your eyes.

  27. I think a lot of you aren’t getting the point.

    Say you’re at a 5 star hotel. You ask for a sandwich.
    The hotel gives you a sandwich but bills you for an ‘English breakfast’, and bills you an amount which is 50 times what a sandwich costs in a reasonably good restaurant.
    Moreover, the way tax laws are written, a sandwich is not charged any tax but a ‘breakfast’ is charged 18% tax – which is added to your bill.
    Does that sound fair? Or even logical?
    As per Wikipedia, in restaurant terminology, a ‘platter’ implies a main dish and side dishes. The hotel in question must reveal their logic in labeling two bananas on one small plate as a ‘fruit platter’.

  28. @Archer: “I’d be skeptical of eating any fruit in a country like India.”

    You are being ridiculous. Like many other fruits, the edible part of a banana is protected by a skin. Even if the skin is dirty, the fruit inside is clean.

    In fact, fruit in India is often far superior to what we get in supermarkets in the western world. It’s fresher, and the tropical climate means the flavor tends to be better. I’ve eaten all sorts of fruit in India and all over the developing world without any problem at all, and I consider sampling fruit I can’t get at home to be one of the pleasures of traveling in the tropics. You are missing out.

  29. He requested room service at a high end Western hotel. Pretty reasonable charge in my view. No sympathy here for him.

  30. I’m torn between viewpoints. On one hand, what did he expect? Literally anything at a high end hotel is crazy overpriced. $8 for a cup of coffee, $25 for a mediocre breakfast buffet, etc. He didn’t HAVE to order them, and was paying for the convenience.

    On the other hand, I take issue with large businesses taking advantage of people. Do you REALLY have that much of a choice if your hotel is remote and doesn’t have a lot of food available nearby, or if it’s unsafe to walk around outside after dark? Food is not optional, and it seems inherently wrong to price-gouge a captive audience.

  31. Latest Update
    Hotel was charged Rs 25000 (USD 357) by indian tax authority for over collection of tax. No question on overpricing.
    Though authority did not gave requested time to hotel to give explanation.

    Hotel is a Victim of Bad GST Consultancy, Bad Media Coverage and Bad ERP System

    Indian GST (Goods and Service Tax) is Complex.
    Fruit Platter has GST rate 0% (assuming all fresh fuits under HSN 803), Food served under Room Service has GST rate @ 18 % (SAC 996332). On which rate Hotel should charge GST?
    Because of lack of clarity on GST Rates, highest rate is adopted by service provider.
    Both are punishable so businesses adopt comparatively better option – Overcharging.
    If JW Marriott would have undercharged. Payable amount would be all pending GST amount which was not charged from customer and penalty.
    Now since they overcharged they are paying only penalty.
    In this case Hotel`s TAX Consultant should come ahead and take responsibility for advising hotel about TAX Code and Rates.

    Bad Media Coverage
    Many Big Media houses making wrong head lines like “JW Marriott Chandigarh fined Rs 25,000 for over-charging actor Rahul Bose for two bananas” – FirstPost
    Its spreading absolutely wrong message. Its not overcharging revenue from Customer. Its over collecting of tax to give Indian government.Further customer can get tax credit also. Sadly Hotel don`t have media management to address this. Hotel did not get requested time to give explanation.
    Hotel`s Media consultant should come ahead and express that, “There is no claim on Hotel`s overcharging. Claim is on Hotel`s over collection of tax.
    Since we are not tax expert, we did as GST Consultant advised. Now We will obey whatever government official advise and order.”

    Bad ERP System
    Bill from system was not with proper details which is resulting hotel`s bad name for overcharging.

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