What is a hotel room “at cost?”

Today I read an article in The Scotsman with the headline, “Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm paid £50,000 by US Government for weekend visit.” It quoted a certain George Sorial, executive vice president and chief compliance counsel for the Trump Organization, as saying, “For United States government patronage, our hotels charge room rates only at cost and we do not profit from these stays.”

That perplexed me.  How do you calculate the “cost” of a hotel room? I understand that a retailer who decides to sell you a watch for the price that retailer paid a wholesaler is selling you a watch “at cost.” As for a hotel room, I don’t get it.

I’m sure one could devise a formula that would take in all sorts of things: the cost of building the hotel, the cost of running the hotel (although you’d have to determine a definition of just what that means), and then somehow distribute that cost over all hotel rooms over, what? The supposed life of the hotel?

I was sharing my thoughts with my wife and she said, “It’s the rack rate that you see on the back of the door, which is always more than anyone ever seems to pay.”  As always, she’s got a point.

I also thought of the concept of “sunk costs.” You’ve got that hotel room and if you can get any amount of money for it, that’s better than having it sit empty, which is what, I believe, often happens to the most expensive rooms and suites in a hotel (I know on occasion I’ve been upgraded to an “executive suite” for the cost of my “superior” room). From what I understand from the article, this particular golf resort has been operating in the red, so I would assume it has not been full all the time—at least not with people paying rates that support the operation.

So just what does it mean when someone says, “We only charge those rooms ‘at cost’?”


Why “Shooter?”

I was just listening to the news and heard a report of yet another “shooter” gunning down people at an event. Why do we call such people shooters?

Basketball players shoot hoops. You can shoot in pool, golf, craps, and rapids. If you are a model or photographer, you can go to a shoot and make money there. Some people, like me, shoot their mouths off.

The answer? I assume it’s a gender thing. We used to use the term gunman. That limits the “shooter” to males—or, today, perhaps cis-males. Calling someone a “gunwoman” seems awkward—plus, only 2 or 3 out of 100 mass shootings have been committed by women.   “Gunner” might seem an option, but that connotes military and hunters, so we can’t go there. So I guess shooter it is. Sad that I even have to think about it.

It’s still 14¢ per mile

I was updating some of my files to show the 2018 IRS standard mileage deduction rates for business, medical, and charity driving and I noticed that while the business and medical rates have changed almost every year—sometimes up, sometimes down— the charity rate has not changed in at least 17 years; it remains 14 cents per mile. I wondered why.

A bit of googling yielded this article, which confirmed what I suspected. The charity rate is fixed in legislation; the other rates are not.

via Forty Cent Difference Between 2016 Business and Charity Mileage Deductions – NoloNolo

It might be time for Congress to do something about that. And who would complain? Who could be against it?


  • In 2000, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline was $1.51.  In December 2017, it was $2.37.
  • According to the Consumer Price Index, in November of 2017 it would take 20 cents to have the same buying power as 14 cents in 2000.

Of course, this may all be moot if, with our new tax laws, no one is itemizing deductions anyway.

No slam!

According to The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, “For the ninth consecutive year, Americans say ‘whatever’ is the most annoying word or phrase used in casual conversation.”

I say, “Add “slam” to the list—especially when it is journalists using the word, as in


If you love the English language, and believe there is a relationship between the clarity of what we say and what we think, check out Jason Kehe’s article from a 2009 Daily Trojan.



via 12/18: “Whatever” Loses Ground but Retains Annoying Word Title |ome of the Marist Poll

Why Don’t America’s Rich Give More to Charity? – The Atlantic

Found this article interesting. My wife and I serve on the boards of directors of several organizations and donate to each of them, as well as other causes. I’ve never calculated the percentage of our annual income that we donate, but I’ve wondered how it would compare to what wealthier people donate. I do know the amount we donate is enough that we itemize our deductions on our annual income tax return.

I’m also wondering about the effects of the recent big changes to the tax laws.  How will the nonprofit organizations I support fare?  Will the “rich” with their reduced income taxes choose to donate more to charities than they did before?

via Why Don’t Americas Rich Give More to Charity? – The Atlantic