This is a long posting from a Platinum for Life member with over 1000 paid nights in the Marriott program and a couple thousand paid nights in other loyalty programs.
I know that Marriott staff actually pays attention to postings like this, even though they do not typically acknowledge them. Pay attention, staff, to this one. Mull it over. If you see merit, implement something along the line of what I suggest. I believe if you do, it will benefit Marriott at the expense of its competitors.
We’re talking about whales in this posting, but not like Moby Dick, though! Las Vegas gambling casinos love their “whales”. The small fish are nice, but, the “whales” are another matter. No casino wants to lose its “whales” to another and for good reason which needs no explanation. They strive to keep the whales coming back. It’s all about money!
But, if a casino frequented by a “whale” is perceived as changing the game and dramatically increasing the house’s odds of winning and increasing, therefore, dramatically the whale’s odds of losing, THEN if that whale perceives that a competing casino is now offering better odds for the whale to win relative to his/her former favorite casino, THEN a rationale “whale” will cut back gambling at the old house, probably even cease gambling there, and change casinos to the house where the whale has a perception of the odds being more in his/her favor than before.
Hotel loyalty programs can be thought of as casinos. When the hotel loyalty program, i.e., the “house”, changes the rules too aggressively in its favor and against the “whales” that have frequented them in the past, the rational “whales” look for a better house, a better hotel loyalty program.
So, while all the hotel programs devalue their programs, including the Marriott, and make us all truly fee that the odds have been stacked against us with the devaluations, how can this be turned to Marriott’s advantage?
How can the Marriott’s loyalty program land the “whales” from competing loyalty programs when the competing programs devalue their programs?
How can the Marriott loyalty program keep its existing “whales” from switching to competing programs in a fit of anger when the Marriott itself devalues its program?
Here’s my answer to my questions.
Marriott’s loyalty program could provide for its “whales” a “grandfathering” protection, making it known that when the time comes that it devalues its program, that its “whales” will be grandfathered at least 18 months after the devaluation in which to continue to be able to earn and to be able to redeem points under the old program rules existing before the devaluation.
This grandfathering has two benefits: 1) When a competing “house”, such as the Priority Club or HHonors, devalues its program, their “whales” want to find a “house” with better odds to the “whales” of not losing the value of their future stays, so that the grandfathering by Marriott would offer some “insurance” against loss to these whales and incentivize providing more business to Marriott at the expense of the other programs; 2) And even when a competing “house” is not in progress of devaluing its program but the Marriott is, the grandfathering by Marriott to its “whales” incentivizes its “whales” to maximize their stays to build up their points within the grandfathered time span and have time to plan their reward stays without panic or haste. We all believe, don't we, that Priority Club and Hilton and other programs are seemingly annually devaluing their programs? So, even if the Marriott is and they aren't currently, it's just a matter of a year or less when we believe that the other programs will be doing so themselves.
How would a “whale” be defined for this “grandfathering protection”?
It might be those holding Platinum for Life status, or another threshold if the Marriott so opted, something such as 500 paid nights in any consecutive 5 year period, 3 year period, etc., etc., etc. It might include tracking referrals for which “referral bonuses” have been earned by member for having someone new enroll in the program. You see, whales not only ARE business in their own right, they also BRING business when others in their entourage switch to Marriott away from Priority Club, HHonors, etc. And, when whales leave one program because they’ve been abused, they TAKE not only their own business but the take with them the business of their colleagues when they can, as I have been able to successfully do.
With roughly 3,000 paid nights at various hotels over 20 years of being on the road, with being able to document over 1,000 paid nights in each of the Priority Club and Marriott Rewards program during those 20 years, I can say in my opinion, that the most abusive “house” for stacking the odds in its favor is the Priority Club, and HHonors is not far behind. It’s cause for anger.
I can also tell you that if I’d had a known of a “grandfathering” benefit within the Marriott Rewards program as would have protected me to some degree along the lines I’ve suggested, the Priority Club would have lost many hundred of my personal paid stays I’ve provided it—and many hundred paid stays of my colleagues. Those paid stays would have gone to the Marriott program.
I wouldn’t say the Priority Club would have lost all my 1000+ paid nights. Why? Well, in many locations I’ve worked on long term projects, there are only Holiday Inns or HI Expresses and no Marriott affiliated properties. So, Priority Club has had my business in those communities by default. But, before I got wise to the Priority Club’s “house rules” that have left me feeling totally abused, I would favor Priority Club properties over Marriott when having a choice. Never again!
In early February 2013, I joined the HHonors program and left a Holiday Inn property I had checked into in early January to check into a HHonors property. I’d be in a Marriott property right now if I had one in this town in which I’m staying on a long term project that will run several hundred paid nights in 2013, and that doesn’t include the members of my crew who are staying where I am because of my telling them to avoid the Holiday Inn.
You see, it’s this simple: when the Priority Club announced its latest abusive devaluation of its program in January of this year—following up on the one it did the year before--I just said, “enough”.
I’ll never again stay in any Priority Club property if I have any choice of a Marriott or HHonors property. That is precisely the kind of damage to loyalty that the Marriott program ought not want to suffer when it devalues its program and precisely the kind of damage that other programs do to themselves for which the Marriott can take advantage with a “grandfathering” provision along the lines of what I’ve suggested.
Marriott staff, go fishing for whales!
Great analogy to gambling casino whales!
I like the idea of grandfathering benefits to platinum members!
Why limit it to 18 months though?
It seems only fair that folks that have been in the program for many years, and have a minimum of 2M lifetime points should have their investment honored.
Maybe give new members, e.g. whales a chance to earn that status by earning 75 nights and becoming platinum. For every year they remain platinum, they are grandfathered. Once they hit 500 nights & 2M lifetime points they are lifetime platinum, and continue to remain grandfathered. However if they dip below that level, and are unable to maintaine the status, even with the platinum challenge options, then they lose the grandfathering.
This way the Marriott whales, and whales changing brands are incentivized to maintain their business with Marriott.
Folks that are newer to the program and travel less, and not currently receiving existing benefits, would not be eligible.
HowieG: great post! Your analogy is spot on. Marriott management feels they have us harpooned, but being a Moby Dick in terms of stays, $$ spent, and loyalty, I can free myself and go to Hyatt or Starwood. Untied Air thought they had me and this whale tool his annual 250,0000 flying miles elsewhere, and I have been costing them real $$ thru redemption of first class tickets when they surely could have been sold. When Marriott management awakes from their Cinderella like slumber, they will be greeted by the ugly Euro tourist, who once they run out of money (it has happened before) will flee like a fair maiden being attacked by a troll from under the bridge. Those of us whales will long be gone, no Capt Ahab for us, not old man in a rowboat to catch up and haul us back, we will be safely swimming in other oceans, never to return except to use up our now devalued points. Marriott, you have rigged your own game, and we will not stand for it
I like this perk that Radisson has because I was able to go to the Radisson to use the internet in the lobby. for free and thereby ended up staying there on my next visit. Exciting changes happening soon at IHG one of these is: free Internet globally to Gold Elite and Platinum Elite members and soon all members will receive this greatbenefit. As a member you will be able to access the Internet for free at all IHGwhether you’re staying or simplystopping by for a coffee like Radisson’s Club Carlson members get.