I've been staying at Marriott family hotels since my first real business traveling started over 20 years ago. I have truly enjoyed the consistency and professionalism that the brand has delivered. I appreciate when an industry leader strives for high standards.
I redeemed a boatload of points in 1997 and took my family to the Grand Canyon thru Phoenix. I've been looking forward to another nice trip. my wife and I have been planning (dreaming) of exotic locales to visit in 2009-10.
When the point values changed in Jan. of '09, that was a bit of a bitter pill, but the idea of no blackout dates and the buy 4 get 1 free seemed like a nice attempt at a compromise. Much to my chagrin, I attempted to redeem in the Caribbean at years end. I found what many of you folks probably already knew... no blackout dates is a figment of someone's imagination or a blatant bate and switch scheme.
The disappointment in a company that I, like many of you, have driven miles out of my way, paid higher rates at times, and believed spoke with a true heart versus a forked tongue, was crushing.
The warped policy of lighting up a minimal amount of rooms to be used for point redemption to enable a chain to claim no blackout dates is misleading at best and dishonest at least. I was able to find the true occupancy at a few hotels that we were trying to book. They were less than 60% sold but still would not release any rooms for redemption. The rationale that an employee shared was that although the rooms were available, they felt there was a good chance they could sell in the future so therefore the were being held back. By the way, we're not talking Superbowl type special events, just a good chance that they might be sold.
If the idea was that by changing the value of the points may create some anger among loyal clientele..to come up with a make believe no blackout dates to sooth the masses only makes people wonder about the true VALUES of the chain and it's founders. The more honorable thing to do would have been to grandfather the existing point structure for a longer period of time and then just change to the higher amounts. People can take change, even if it's not for the better, but when you treat them with disdain, it can leave a very sour taste in their mouths. All the goodwill that some in the Marriott worked hard to earn gets washed away when the client feels as if they are being intentionally sold a bill of goods.
You are just learning what we have been complaining about here for the past year.
What we've all come to realize is that "Blackout Dates" and "Capacity Control" are two entirely different things. While it's true that the hotels may not blackout rooms during certain times of the year, they still offer only a handful for redemption and once they reserve those limited number of rooms, they don't make any more available.
There are some hotels that are exempt from the No Blackout Date policy, such as the Grand Flora in Rome. But to be fair to Marriott, these properties are fully disclosed somewhere in the fine print.
You mentioned Grandfathering points earned up until the changes last January. I was the first person on Insider to propose that, but Ed French, the head of the Rewards program, didn't respond at the time - or since.
The lesson for today children is; nothing is forever.
I feel your pain but I first experienced the very same issue you have around mid January when I tried to book rooms during Christmas in Costa Rica.
On the very day reservations were opened (50 weeks in advance), I tried to book some rooms using points only to find out that none were available. This new "no blackout" policy is simply and utterly disingenous.
Rest assure though they don't care!
With the exception of several Category 8 properties listed in the T&C as non-particating, Marriott corporate fully supports the No Blackout Dates policy. Contrary to the comments posted, there is excellent availability in the Caribbean. As a test, try booking 9 days 8 nights, December 25 to January 2, 2010:
Is it 100%? No, many properties in the Caribbean have 21-day advance reservation rates w/o refund after 24 hours of placing the reservation. Life happens and cancellations do happen. With a room already pre-paid, booking a guest using MR points is gravy for any hotel. The best Platinum approach is the PPP: Positive, Pro-active and Persistent. Keep calling, happy holidays and good luck.
First of all Costa Rica is not the Carribean. Second, were these properties available back in January / February? Nope and this is when you would also would be trying to redeem airline miles. Just try doing that now. Third, the point of EARNING POINTS is not being treated as its a gift to be able to redeem points. Your suggestion to be persistent would indicate you seem to have alot of time on your hands. Good for you but most of us have many other distractions (i.e. job, family, children activities) and I simply don't feel as if Marriott should come before these other priorities.
It is very evident that Marriott's 'No Blackout Dates' policy experienced a rocky start. No one disputes that. Marriott's mis-steps included lagging implementation, excessive promotion and under-delivery. Many loyal Elite expressed disappointment and outrage. With over 600 messages and more than 27,000 views of the
Fast-forwarding 14 months, "No Blackout Dates" is more deeply embedded into Marriott culture. This took considerable effort and teamwork by Marriott. Properties that continue to practice excessive capacity control are the exception, IMO. Factoring the lion's share of Marriott properties are located in the continental US, the disproportion of properties in the Caribbean makes it very difficult if not impossible to redeem rewards. Caribbean properties face a challenge. Because they are few in number, they will fall short of Elite expectations fueled by promotions, Our Calendar is Wide Open
While it's very understandable to desire the best and harbor the expectation that it should be effortless to obtain; basic supply and demand in the Caribbean defies logic. As stated earlier, cancellations do occur. In that context, persistence is an effective workaround that can secure the value that Elite expect and deserve.
Moving on... the comments about 'grandfathering' merit a quick response. There are legal precedents and lessons-learned that make it risky for Marriott to do so. For background on this topic, see the March 19 post, Myth or Truth About Grandfathering?
In closing, a friendly reminder: All are welcome to express non-agreement in a manner that is both relevant and respectful. Thanks in advance for your continued cooperation. Cheers!
"The "No Blackout Dates" should be 100% true for anyone who reaches Plutonium and that should be policy of the Marriott Corporation and thus "trumps" any individual hotel's desire to limit availablility in using points for this level of membership."
This approach presumes that hospitality is only about a transaction. If that were true, then Paid will always trump points. In the hospitality business, it's not about the transaction, it's about the relationship. And relationship requires interaction of some kind anticipating mutual interest in a positive outcome.
Everyone is very busy whether you're the one making the reservation online or your the FD person handling room assignments. Picking up the phone to gently engage provides the opportunity to say, 'Hey, I've stayed with Marriott 200 nights this year and rarely had a break to relax with my family. I'm planing to stay at your hotel for a week and use points. Online, this is all that comes up, is there something you can do to make it special?'
As NUHusker notes, Marquis has rooms for 80,000 points.
Online reservations checks the point balance when 'Redeem Points' is selected. If the session times out, the connection to the point balance is broken. So, the system will not present what it 'thinks' is an illogical option. Login is the only remedy.