Just for the disappointed like myself who will earned nothing this summer with Marriott and will likely earn nothing this fall either now that they appear to have stopped offering a Free Certs option:
Both Choice Hotels and also the IHG (Holiday Inn) chain have picked up the slack and are offering the free cert after two paid stays. While I love my Marriott hotels and prefer staying at them, this total disregard for those of us who can't achieve the number of nights needed to rack up the points has opened me up to going elsewhere.
The last time I talked with rewards, I was told that the most complaints they had were on the certificates. People wanted higher categories and from what we see Marriott was just not going to do that. I started a poll a long time ago asking Marriott to allow us to pick our promotion from a bucket and pretty much all of those who answered wanted to do so. It would be better for us and Marriott too.
Some like the certificate and some just can't use them so why not let us choose as opposed to just doing away with them. Unfortunately those unhappy are most likely to speak out. Those happy say little.
But Marriott actually did do just that. After the giant bump of 2013, Marriott actually was offering us the category 5 certificates for a while - I think it was 3 bonus promotion periods in a row (and for those of us who didn't initlally receive that offer but wanted it, most were successful in getting their offer changed to it). Then suddenly boom, no certs period. Like my husband of few words says, "When they're hurting, they give you free stuff. When they're not, they give you the bird." That's simplistic of course, but there's some truth in it.
A la erc, the best we can do is work (play) smarter, not harder. For those who have the time to wrestle for the rare good deal, wrestle on. For all of us, keeping one another informed of lesser known little perks and tricks of how to best make "deals" (Marriott deals are more and more becoming a misnomer) work for us, sharing valuable experience enhancing travel info and sharing information regarding which properties treat their guests well and which properties treat us like flies, is our best strategy. That and free agency.
I hope I don't come across as bagging on Marriott. They offer a nice product and create expectations that are largely met. Marriott Rewards is their game after all, and they could offer us far less than they do (and all they really have to do is remain competitive, however that is defined by Marriott). For me, I just need to adapt with the economy (game) and decide what I'm willing to do (or not) to play along. At the end of the day, a nice property with excellent customer service offered at a fair rate would work just fine (and as a mea culpa, I'm not staying much for a while now as my travels are being scaled back to lots of out of town family visits (grandchildren) - no hotel stays, my dollars mostly being spent on airfare - until I retire in 3 years, and with the exception of course for an annual vacay, so yes, it's easy for me to say. Once I return to being a lodging hard hitter and world traveler, I may feel different, and it remains to be seen whether or not my loyalty to Marriott will survive. I hope so.)
And also for the first time, with the observation that the perks, deals and recognition that elite status brings are waning across the board, I'm asking myself just how worth it (the cost of) chasing lifetime status is? Since all of my stays are out of pocket (always have been, always will be), I have to ask myself how much a loyalty program is worth. The reality is, one must spend a lot to get a lot, so the real benefactors are the business travelers (and post business travelers who have achieved lifetime platinum status at their employers expense), and good for them. It seems that they are who the "game" is really designed for, and so it occurs to me that my attempts to participate seem futile, silly, even foolish and perhaps I need to adjust my expectations accordingly.
As for the category 5 certs (even the category 4)? They were good while they lasted. Sigh...
Agree about your disappointment and how other chains seem to be in better touch with the consumer.
My thought is the promotions are supposed to motivate you to make a few more/ longer stays than you would have done.
(add incremental business). The way the non certificate promotions have been designed and "assigned" can appear to be disconnected from our specific travel plans/ reality.
Instead of motivating me, several of the promotions have annoyed me in concept/ implementation. Don't think that was their intent.... however I think it has been the effect. Reading various postings, I don't think I'm alone in this conclusion.
When in doubt, let me pick. At least I won't be upset/ frustrated. Rather cheap way to more easily please your most loyal customers.