I have often thought that loyalty programs have value when the points are used and when they are not. For example, using points to stay at an inexpensive hotel seems to be a waste of those points. Rather, I tend to use those points for what otherwise would be an expensive night or nights at a higher category hotel. Makes more sense to me.
This article parrots that idea and is a thoughtful expositon with a real world set of examples.
Thanks for the article link. Tom Parsons is famous for his bargains and penny pinching , but I'm surprised he's such an advocate for using points, since he's in the selling business at Best Fares. There was a very good analysis done on this board several months ago after Marriott increased the points required, etc, which pretty well substantiates Parsons position.
Seems Marriott has become aware of this as well. Now along with 90,000 of your points they can also tack on addition $$$ per night. I saw a carribbean destination taking your 90,000 points then making you pay an additional $250 per night!!! Some reward for Platinum Level folks! Thanks....I think....
Ritchie -- I see this is your first post, so welcome to the discussions on Marriott Insiders. I agree that our points have suffered devaluation which makes it more important for most of us to search out the best deals. Since I don't go out of the US often, I have not seen the carribbean offer you cited. I agree that doesn't sound like a very good deal. But the good thing about MR is that there are numerous possibilities for using and enjoying the points.
TJC, first of all, whose words are these -- "HOLLYWOOD BEACH MARRIOTT - Take a look at the Upgrade instructions. If you book this online w/o calling the hotel about an upgrade, you are baited and screwed..." Baited & screwed?! I don't read it that way. The upgrade rules are pretty clear to me...if you want more than the standard room, you either pay in points or dollars, right? Unless you get a complimentary upgrade, of course. In all my years of staying at Marriott, this is one issue I've never encountered. It has always been clear to me if extra compensation was required, i.e., upgrade to ocean view room might be 5,000 points or $100 per night. Lastly, another common thread among those links you provided is that neither person reported back on this forum about the outcome of their report to Marriott Customer Care. It would be nice to see how Marriott responds to these problems. Possible, I suppose, that the solution is still being worked.
"The upgrade rules are pretty clear to me... It has always been clear to me if extra compensation was required"
Perhaps, you're among the exceptions, NUHusker and I respect that. That said, I will try to address some of your comments.
Marriott Rules: What is very clear is that Marriott rules shift the responsibility to the hotel franchise to disclose their paid upgrade rates when redeeming a points-based award. For example:
Marriott Room Upgrade Information states:
Marriott Rewards Terms and Conditions Upgrade Rewards says:
Clear disclosure upfront might remedy the confusion. However, how to do that under "Find & Reserve" is counter-intuitive. When "Use Marriott Rewards points" is selected, the Find & Reserve organizes hotels in buckets. 'Hotel Category' is supposed to level the playing field between locations, brands and value. The expectation is that a Category 6 hotel requires 30,000 points per night NOT 30,000 points plus $250. The search engine also distinguishes between "Hotel Reward" or "Pointsavers." For greater clarity, why not display, "Hotel Reward + Cash Upgrade." This would raise the flag to check the Reward Rules.
Common denominator: The posts by Ritchie, Sophiegrace, Superchief and Tapline have a different common thread for me. The hotels in question did not take ownership and accountability for letting guests know upfront that reserving a special view incurs a $250 paid upgrade fee on top of a point "reward".
Feedback: The value of Marriott Rewards lies in the expectation that loyalty is rewarded. A hotel award combined with $250/night to upgrade undermines that value. It is also counter-intuitive under the promise of the 'Best rate guaranteed'. Having said that, I don't believe one-off solutions will remove the sting experienced by those who shared their stories. It was humiliating enough to share what they experienced under the expectation of being loyal to Marriott. Whether or not they care to disclose, I hope all of them received a full refund from the hotels in question.
Regrets: Stepping Stones - High-jacking this discussion was not my intention. Ritchie - I caught the sarcasm. All - thank you for reading this far.
I may or may not be the exception. I suspect there are many others who have had zero problem of this sort. Most people don't make a report when things go right. The info you provided may not be as clear as it could be, but if I saw anything about extra points or $ may be required you'd have my attention enough to at least read the rate rules. Possibly calling the platinum reservations desk instead of reserving these types of stays online might result in a clearer understanding and fewer problems.
"Most people don't make a report when things go right."
I'm not so sure that's correct. From comment cards to Customer Care e-mail, calls to Guest Services, Guest Satisfaction surveys and Insiders, Marriott invites guest feedback. Marriott prides itself on continuous improvement and attention to guest feedback helps the company evaluate performance, identify service gaps as well as promising solutions.
During team huddles, department heads recognize deserving associates with a, "Way to Go." It's highly coveted. Corporate routes the comment cards, letters, notecards and e-mails back to the management team for this purpose. It all starts with guest feedback.
It's a win-win for the guest, the associate(s), the hotel and the company. Keeping track of who did what during a stay can be challenging, but Marriott is proactive and provides multiple ways to capture feedback that reflects the ways associates contribute to enhancing a guest's experience.
Making a reservation online or by phone is where the guest experience begins. Selecting the destination, a bed type, the view and services offered sets the guest expectations from the get go. All of these decisions have a common denominator: What will it cost?
Contrary to the comment, there are many examples on Insiders where 'things go right.' The discussion about upgrading to Re: Club 91 at JW Marriott. In fact, that thread enjoys 12 replies out of 872 views.-- Edited by TJCNewYork at 11/14/2009 1:19 AM EST. Revised title to better reflect the discussion and content.
You don't need to convince me that Marriott is a good company with good feedback systems that they use to recognize employee performance. But, I'm not conviced that most people who have a positive experience make a report of it either. And using words like, "baited and screwed", is tantamount to accusing Marriott of being involved in some kind of scam. It's simple -- read the rate rules, call if you're not sure, and complain if it works out differently than you're told.
We all need to be our own educated consumer to borrow a quote from a haberdasher and we'll all be a good customer.
Marriott defines (clearly, as far as I am concerned) the terms and conditions for each sale of a room night, free or not. It is our collective responsibility to read and understand (and if not to ask) for clarification on something that seems not right.
I would caution that associates often do not have the power to make something happen that violates a stated policy or that reverses a clearly written prohibition.
That being said I am afraid tha good service often goes unrewarded by many guests. This may be for several reasons:
In those halycon days when we kept our shoes on before boarding an aircraft, the staff got "onion" and "orchid" letters. Staff of the airlines told me that the "onion" letters, while much more frequent, were forgotten but the "orchid" letters were always recalled fondly.
Bottom line: I recommend a personal thank-you to someone who works as hard as you do to make a stay pleasant and productive. If you have the time, please send a personal note to the GM, or fill out the fold-over GSS cards that are in the rooms. And, if Marriott fails to deliver a note detailing the circumstance will go a long way to clarify any issues that you've faced.
"We all need to be our own educated consumer"
Absolutely, Stepping Stones. There's a higher probability that informed decisions achieve desired outcomes. But, can every reservation be informed? Are there gaps in reservation information, inadequate disclosure and spotty policy implementation at individual properties? Do hotels experience turnover?
Depending upon the hotel and the franchise that owns it, participation in various promotions is determined by the individual hotel and rates are determined by a revenue manager and uploaded to a centralized system nightly, I've been told.
When Marriott launched, 'No Blackout Dates' there was an outcry from a bunch of Insiders about the lack of availability to reserve using points at a number of hotels especially the very popular Category 8 hotel, the Grand Flora in Rome. As it turned out, the Grand Flora does not participate in No Blackout Dates and that was buried in the Terms and Conditions. The information was not transparent through 'Find & Reserve.' Does this mean that 'No Blackout Dates' is a scam? Absolutely not.
With a bit of encouragement, one Insider contacted corporate and the hotel. Voila - desired results were achieved! Long story short, making informed decisions and becoming an educated consumer is a learning process.
The Cash Upgrade policy is among the 'enhancements' of the 2009 program changes. Is there enough process and communications to support this enhancement? Is there enough transparency to understand that in addition to 90,000 points for 3 nights you have to pay an additional $250/night?
Marriott has shifted the responsibility to the hotels to provide the rate information. But unlike the Grand Flora which is on a list posted under the Terms and Conditions, the hotels requiring the Cash Upgrade are not. It's a hunch that the hotels who have elected to impose this Cash Upgrade have not thought through a process completely.
As already evident, this makes informed decision making quite challenging. Luckily, the number of properties where Insiders are reporting Cash Upgrade issues is limited to Florida and the Caribbean.