With the downgrade of the platinum award program, today marks the end of an era for Marriott. This was the final remaining benefit that made a loyal customer feel special and appreciated, and allowed hotels to provide individualized welcome gifts to create memorable first impressions. The $10 F&B credit is a slap in the face and another indication that current MR management has no clue regarding the financial impact of loyal customers.
I joined the original Marquis program several years ago, earned lifetime platinum, and purchased 5 weeks (plus DC points) of timeshares. Although I was never a true road warrior, I traveled frequently and impacted decisions for others in the group. Until recently, Marriott properties represented over 80% of our hotel stays. The MR program was a primary reason because I always felt appreciated. Some of the most influential program benefits included:
In recent years since Bill Marriott has reduced involvement and Ed French has taken over the MR program, every valuable benefit has been reduced or eliminated. A few were added, but most of these are also offered by every other chain and non are personalized in any way. Now I am just another number, and no longer have any reason to choose Marriott over any other chain. This is a real shame because Marriott was the leader in realizing that making customers feel special enhances their growth and profitability. The bean counting philosophy today only considers short term profits, but loses sight of the longer term impact of losing their most loyal customers. I am just fortunate to have enjoyed many years of benefits of an excellent program and memorable travel experiences. In the future, I will choose my hotels based on price, location, and amenities. Marriott, you have now become a commodity.
Superchief, my brother from another mother
I had just finished the following humongous post (bear with me Insiders, I'm only working off of a continental breakfast ) in response to a new member who asked why don't resorts provide breakfasts for elites; well by time I had typed my response, hundreds of new posts went up and apparently, I'm not clever enough to find the post I was responding to . (Marriott's masterplan is working!). So, with apologies to the length, I'll park it here, because at essentially the same time we were thinking the same thing. We few, we happy (?) few, we band of brothers. Hang in there Insiders, like the Chief says - Arms Length, but let's keep sharing the ideas.
Resorts (which many are in name only) do not include breakfast for the same reason that:
Concierge Lounges aren't open on weekends
BOGOs have gone the way of the Tasmanian Tiger
Courtyard doesn't offer free lounge coffee anymore
Welcome check in amenity gift joined BOGOs
$1,000 gift cheques went from 135k to 255k points
Hotel categories supposedly based on redemption, had 28 pages of increases, 1 page of decrease
Plat premier status qualification remains a mystery
Plat premier other than darker card and shaving kit bag has same benefits as platinum
You pay for parking at more and more suburban properties
Etc. etc. etc. There's more, (use the search box above) but lunch is calling.
The reason in a nutshell - because that's what Marriott wants and they have customers and financial performance to more than replace any customers who leave over it. Be careful of using a customer service oriented logic when it comes to attempting to understand the erosion of reward benefits, it's a gordian knot.
Fortunately Marriott still provides, for the most part, excellent service at the property level and we have this forum (albeit diluted with the recent tsunami of baseball stories and reviews - I fear the next distraction will be a photo contest, like on Facebook), for sharing ideas on how to optimize travel given the reality of lacking any consumer leverage. Welcome aboard, come on in, the water's fine.
Here's a little ditty that pretty much sums it all up
To the tune of Master of the House from my favorite play - Les Miserables
Welcome Rewards, sit yourself down
See Freddie's winner, the best in town
As for the rest, all of them tools
Trailing our lead, and following the rules
Seldom do you see
Anything for free
A plan of such design
That's content to be
Master of your perks, doling out the charm
Giving you improvements, that might do some harm
Spin a juicy tale, creates a little fuss
F & B credit, makes a purchase a must
Likes to always change the bennies
Doesn't cost us to be nice
Enhancements get you little
As we often jack up your price
Master of your perks, keeper of your stays
Ready to raise categories any day
Take away your wine, giving you some points
Bistro coffee costs and you now must pay
Everybody loves a resort
Everybody pays the fee
Strap the title on the building
And it raises our P.E.
Master of the perks, quick to take your cash
Better book 'em now, because the deals won't last
Lodger to the loyal, courter of the new
200 nights a year and it's premier for you
That's unless we just decide not to
That's unless we change our mind
But if you save up your points,
They'll lose their value, you will find !
Erc and superchief11: I had done a post like this last year, and echo many of your sentiments. I am just shy of the # of nights for lifetime PLT. Once that is done, probably Q3 or 4 this year, I will do a status match at another major chain and try that one out and see if the grass is greener. I did the same with UA and now fly another carrier, and have found it better or equal. I know I have a choice in travel, and since the loyalty programs have become transactional, I will exercise my choice.
Hope you get to see this, it may not be able to stay up very long.
You are right regarding Marriott now focusing on attracting the younger generation. However, I think my adult daughters and their friends would prefer being appreciated as a loyal and appreciated customer rather than hotels having hip lobbies and bistro breakfasts. My daughters and their friends have traveled with us a lot over the years and have always been impressed by the platinum amenities and excellent service. They are not at all impressed by the new Courtyards, and are as concerned about value/ service as much as we are. In fact, they will have less disposable income than we enjoyed, so cost will become even more important.
Marriott forgets that many of its lifetime platinum members have adult children who look to us for advice regarding travel: both business and pleasure.
You are so right!
Your daughters represent a new generation, that really wants the same quality of life that we have wanted, and appreciated!
Thinking back on my loyalty to Hyatt and HI, prior to moving it to Marriott.
Changes in the marketplace are just normal, and can happen again for all of us!
Marriott previously recognized the importance of customer's first impression when checking into a hotel for a business or pleasure stay. Being recognized at check-in and receiving the platinum amenity (often with a personal note from the manager) illustrated that I was a valued customer and made my stays more enjoyable. Now I feel like a number in their database and every amenity has strings attached or represents another revenue generating opportunity.
My life has been with Marriott just completing my 2200 nights in my life. Sad to see such a great service group lower the standards and now give us cereal as a reward. It seems it is time to check out the other great goups like Hyatt, Hilton(I am a Diamond) and Starwood. Marriott is losing its touch and the new policy is unacceptable to me. Heartbroken to have given my loyalty to them to receive this type of downgrade.
Sad day at Marriott...
Congratulations on a terrific, cogent, and insightful post - you've certainly struck a nerve as witnessed by the phenomenal interaction (19 likes, 19 replies over 590 views as of this reply) in a period that an Insider must really make an effort wading thru the plethora of reviews.
As a marketing expert, your knowledge of consumer behavior is dead on and I have written numerous times about Marriott's apparent lack of interest in at least professionally responding (and I don't specifically mean in this case, this is just our summation of previous missed opportunities) to the many, many very legitimate and calmly (and I'm discussing the calm ones, which were hundreds; not the flamers) stated concerns about just what you discuss above - the eroding, if not lack of, customer loyalty recognition, specifically from Headquarters (again, most properties remain excellent at understanding the symbiotic relationship).
Well anyway to get to my point (the crowd, those still left, let out a scream of FINALLY!). I've been following this link over at Flyertalk about banning sharkfin soup. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/marriott-rewards-including-ritz-carlton/1475394-marriott-please-ban-sharkfin-your-menus.html
Now without us getting into our own discussion over the topic (it's well covered by FT) take a look at pages 5-7 where Jay Hamilton the Marriott Associate gets involved. This is how we all grew to appreciate and become loyal to Marriott. Thoughtful interaction between the company and its customers. Boy, if we could have only had more effective communication between Marriott operators and us (and I'm not talking about Andy, Michellel, et al. - they're in a no win position). Had Marriott spent more time walking us through the changes without blowing smoke up our dress ("Elites didn't really know about Bogos, our customers prefer buying coffee" etc etc) sure, many would never be satisfied, but I'm confident, given by definition, the hardnosed experience of the road warrior, a better understanding would have been reached, beneficial to all parties.
Oh well, I've gone thru my stages of denial and bargaining (I skipped anger and depression, there's much bigger things in our lives and no lost benefit is worth that) and now actually am somewhat relieved to be a 'free agent'. I still have several upcoming Marriott trips on my 2013 travel schedule, but now I also have a cruise, two non-Marriott timeshares, and believe it or not four nights in Non-Marriott properties.
I'm also a lot better travel mate with my buds, no longer obnoxiously insisting on Marriott only stays! So, we all move on - but let's keep this gang together and keep sharing the ideas, a little spice of different stays might just be what the doctor ordered.
Superchief, Jerry, and all - excellent points. To the point on catering to a new generation I completely see this. I am old enough to have done a significant volume of travel for work over many years, but still consider myself young enough to appreciate what the intentions of "improvement" are. I think those posting in this thread understand and all agree that regardless of what kind of technology or glamor you offer all of your guests, there is no substitute for that one on one human interaction, that hand shake or smile and sincere "thanks for coming back here again this month sir, we love having you while you're away from home". Age has nothing to do with the tangible emotion you can foster in customers - people of all ages know what it feels like to be appreciated - sadly Marriott has not grasped that fundamental aspect of service. As Platinums (or Mega-Super-Top-Secret-Platinums) we have made a conscious choice for loyalty - a choice of where to spend our time away from our homes and families. I think some empathy beyond just looking at how much you paid for a room can go a long way. A lot further than a $10 F&B credit. Oh, and just a side note, the Courtyard I frequent most for work just raised the price of Market beers to $5.50 so your $10 credit can only get you one. Talk about the true last straw.....
In the end, Marriott has done a lot right by me and my travels and for reasons I can only partially explain, I remain hopeful that something can be done. For starters, please go back to the old beer price so my F&B credit can stretch a single into a double....