Hotel Lawsuit: $82 Million in Unwanted Newspapers

Last Updated Aug 3, 2011 10:31 AM EDT

You don't read it, and no one you know reads it ... so how can USA Today be the No. 2 newspaper in the country?

The answer is hotel copies -- which make up about half of the flagship Gannett paper's 1.8 million daily circulation, notes Jeff Bercovici in Forbes. (The Wall Street Journal, the nation's No. 1, gets only 7% of its readers from hotels, he points out.)

That means a lawsuit against Hilton Hotels could be big trouble for the newspaper chain, says Bercovici -- if the outcome convinces the hotel chain (or even industry) to stop ordering the paper for its guests.

A former hotel guest, Rodney Harmon, is suing the hotel chain in federal court over the 75 cent daily charge a Northern California Hilton passed along to him for a newspaper that he didn't want.

Hotel visitors can opt out of these "guest refund" copies -- but only if they know about the charges, which add up to some $82 million a year at Hilton Hotels, Bercovici points out.

We "believe there is more at stake than 75 cents," Harmon's lawyer, Kirk Wolden, told the New York Times. "It exemplifies the types of advantages that, unfortunately, we see companies taking of you and I and everyone else every day."

Got a hotel stay coming up? If you don't want to pay for a daily paper, be sure to ask at check-in whether you'll be charged -- and opt out if you aren't interested.

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Flickr photo courtesy of Hector de Pareda