I always book the room with lowest points, then ask for a room upgrade when I get there. In the past it was never a problem, I would always get the upgrade for nothing. Now they must have some kind of computer system that does not allow this. They say I have to call Marriott and use more points for the upgrade. Has anyone else experienced this? Anyone figure out how to get around it?
Go for it every time, most associates at the front desk are given some leeway and will comp an upgrade from time to time. Mention any affiliation you've got (Navy?)--it never hurts, be nice, ask politely, mention something about the person (they normally have their hometown on their Marriott badge), an hope for the best. It's not being tricky, just asking and hat works most of the time.
You may be experiencing the problem I had with the Hollywood Beach Marriott. The only awards ever available require an upgrade fee. There are no standard rooms available for awards. My communications from Marriott regarding this situation indicates they do not consider this to be a violation of their 'no blackout' policy. I think you will find that some hotels/ resorts have no 'standard rooms' available for awards for months at a time.