This is so frustrating! I have 300000 points that I have built with nothing but loyalty to Marriott, and yet I feel no loyalty is shown in return. If anyone else is having this issue you may be interested to learn that there have been talks that another large hotel chain, in an effort to steal members is offering Diamond club status automatically to anyone who proves they are at marriott's platinum level, and they TRUELY have no black out dates.
Note to anyone from Marriott who may be reading this:
I love your hotels, and hated even posting this; however I will have no choice but to leave you if I cannot use my points when I need them. I strongly suggest you look into this issue. I assure you that when the next time I need to use my points I am told no, you will have seen the last of my money.
Thanks for reaching out to Insiders for tips on award redemption. Your frustration is shared and understood - in particular by those who voted in the Freddie Awards. Althought Marriott claimed Freddie Awards for Best Web Site, Best Customer Service and Best Program, Marriott lost the Freddie Award for best Award Redemption to Hilton - so your statement is spot-on*. That being said, having earned Platinum Elite status and hundreds of thousands of points to show for it, I share your expectations about redeeming them when you want to and where you want to - especially given Marriott's promise, "Our Calendar is Wide Open".
With one possibly two exceptions, Platinum Elite has been effective and very successful in facilitating award redemption at properties lacking availability using points online although rooms were available for paid stays. Recently, in fact, Platinum Elite helped secure a comp upgrade to a king suite at a property near a thriving lakeside resort area that was sold out for a triathalon event. It did help that my wife and I were returning to the property and our names were familiar. However, Platinum Elite secured an oceanfront room at a beach property which will be our first visit for the upcoming Labor Day holiday. This task required repeated/daily calls to Platinum Elite until one representative was able to speak with the decision-maker at the property on my behalf.
Bottom line is that leveraging your Elite status and reaching out to the Platinum Elite line is a highly recomended strategy for securing the property and award redemption for the period desired. Marriott Platinum Elite aims to deliver and with a little patience and flexibility you can achieve your objectives.
Although the frustration trying to redeem online can be intolerable, threatening to jump isn't necessarily the panacea. Marriott Rewards Points are highly coveted, but totally worthless outside of Marriott. Although competitors have alternate offers, do they offer you a place like Insiders where you can get worthwhile advice from Elite peers?
Give the strategy outlined a try and post back the results. I'm confident that your peers here at Insiders will contribute their experiences as well to coach you along.
Dear Mike, I am a 019 account # with MARRIOTT. We have earned over 2,000,000pts over the years. Yes there have been some bumps in the roads with stays in some locations. Over all I have never had a bad situation that make me think of going to another hotel. I am staying 6 nights in Lyon France next spring but there is no Marriott in the area. Whatever your problem is,which you did not mention,I am sure it can be worked out if you keep your expectations in the realm of reality.
I've written before and TJC and others say it better, but if you have any trouble at all using points -- esp the amount you have accumulated -- call the appropriate Reward Level phone number or (in my view) better yet, call the hotel.
The only trouble I have ever had reserving with points (even online) has been the Grand Flora in Rome. I've used points in London, Paris and elsewhere and booked online.
I may have an advantage in that I am flexible in my dates of stay, but I would say from others' previous posts and my own experience that if you either call the Marriott Rewards phone number or the hotel directly, you are likely to get the dates that you want. As TJC pointed out, a website cannot correct for human variables. By contrast, when I want to book at the Flora, they know me, so it's easy. Likewise, if you call the Platinum line, they almost always will accommodate you.
I've had my issues with Marriott over the past year (esp regarding posting of points), but booking with points or customer service has never been a problem.
Sometimes -- frequently -- the phone is better than the computer.