Once again ---- it depends on your definition of upgrade.
As noted in other posts in this thread, folks who are not familiar with hotel room "blocking" (assigning rooms based upon reservations) may not realize that numerous criteria are used when blocking rooms, such as: MR status, room type requested, rate paid, etc.
However, upgrades based upon Plat status can take many forms (not necessarily an upgrade to a suite - as is commonly perceived): E.G., an upgrade can mean a better view (such as poolside or ocean view), a preferred location in or on the property, a room with a lanai, more amenities associated with the room (such as a room on the concierge floor), comped parking if the hotel normally charges for parking, comped weekend breakfasts for cardholder and spouse, etc. etc.
Yes, some of these are amenities not directly associated with room type, but are nonetheless upgrades based on Plat status.
What you have to keep in mind is don't expect an upgrade. I always go in with the attitude it can't hurt to ask but I am not expecting it.
I have had several upgraded rooms but that is checking in on a Monday or a hotel that had very few guests. If the hotel is fully booked or close you will not get an upgrade.
Also, I try to go for early check in. The hotel may only be able to give a few upgrades a day and first platnium members to ask will get them. Most of the time if you do ask for a upgrade to your room and they can't do it I have been given other things. Such as room service coupons.
I have to go with what others have said here, don't expect it but it doesn't hurt to ask. But I do tend to think that the properties do hold out on Elite's.
A few weeks ago I stayed at the Courtyard 5th Avenue in NYC (a really nice place by the way). A week before my stay I called the Platinum line as many suggest here and put in a "request" for an upgrade to a suite since I was traveling with my teen. The day before my arrival I checked online and suites were available. The morning of my arrival I checked and suites were available. When I checked in I asked if the upgrade request could be honored and was told that it could not.
All throughout my 3 day stay I checked availability of suites several times a day and there were some available. Now one could argue that the hotel put some aside for walk-ins or last minute reservations, but I guess they never materialized.
This experience only confirmed what I've known for a long time - that upgrades are far and few between and the properties don't bend over backward trying to make them happen.
C'est la Vie.
I agree with an earlier most that many of the upgrades are incremental and not suites. I often get a corner room or a "deluxe" king that might have an extra chair or refrigerator in it. To be honest, I usually ask to be on the concierge floor in a normal room instead so my moring coffee is closer.
The one time I really needed a suite, I asked the clerk at checkin and gave her a good reason and she got me a suite.
Good question. As far as anyone will admit to me there is no iron-clad policy across the entire Marriott landscape that prevents an associate from giving anyone an upgrade, regardless of elite status. Rather, it seems to be a function of the time of day, the recent experiences of the associate, the amount of unsold rooms, and phases of the moon! (well maybe not the last reason).
Over the last several hundred nights I have been upgraded even when the hotel is full, and not upgraded when the hotel was almost empty--go figure! I never expect it to happen but am pleased when it does.
Speaking of rooms, the best line I've heard is an old saw about a guy checking in to a Hilton, only to be told that his reservation was no good and there were no rooms.
Thinking on his feet, he said, "If Conrad Hilton were here now what room would you give him?"
The desk clerk said, "We'd give him the Presidential Suite, of course!".
The fellow says, "Well, I can assure you he's not coming so just give me his room!"