Seems every Hotel chain (As TJCNY points out in his excellent post on the facets and foibles of the SPG covert program) has an angle, a new thing to try, in the sometimes vain hope that it will make folks more loyal to that brand.
I guess I am old-fashioned but I see brand loyalty as not being based on gimmicks, or secret promotions, or value-less trickery.
Brand loyalty for me consists of:
I have had the same insurance company, USAA, for the last 40 plus years. While they are sometimes not the cheapest, they are consistently the best in terms of customer service and followup. I will stick with them as long as they'll have me.
I routinely throw away about ten pieces of mail a week offering to "absolutely lower my rates on insurance," if I act quickly. I have not and will not do that.
So brand loyalty is a two-way street: the provider of the service needs to be mindful of me as a customer and as long as I see that the product or service has value, I will remain loyal. Forget gimmicks--get to the core of good service and good products and we'll all be happier.
Never was asked by SPG to be part of a secret program though I have been a member of their program forever--and at the top level a few times. I have only read about the bait and switch on the FF forums and can offer no personal experience, just the anecdotal experience that others have mentioned.
I was in the 1980s a member of the Pan Am FT program, which remains for me, the quintessential example of what a program should be: an unadorned program that recognizes the loyalty of its members with special perks, no miles or nights, just excellent service and upgrades to business or first class most of the time. Pan Am is gone forever as is the simplicity and honesty of their program.
Above: Royal Hawaiian in Starwood Luxury Collection
Marriott's expansion on the island of Oahu at Ko Olina and Waikiki is relatively recent compared to other brands who are established on the island. During one of several trips on business and leisure, I booked a suite at Starwoods Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki. The guest experience for myself, wife and family while there attending a convention at the nearby Sheraton was not just pleasant, it was unforgettable!
The Royal Hawaiian is as upscale as it gets. Robes, slippers, fresh flowers, turndown service, complimentary breakfast, chilled bottled water in the mini-fridge and more.
Based upon stories swapped with fellow conventioneers staying at the Sheraton, the decision to go upscale at the Royal Hawaiian was worth every single penny.
We extended the trip ten days heading to Marriott's Vacation Club on Kaua'i for a week and then Maui Ocean Club before flying home from Maui.