Mergers are never good for consumers and there are always pain points, but the Marriott-Starwood merger has crossed over into the absurd.
We knew that Marriott lied about not destroying Starwood’s value proposition when they cut the earnings on the SPG AMEX from 3 Marriott points per dollar to 2 per dollar. The card was the main value proposition as it allowed you to earn points that were very valuable as airline miles or hotel points. In one fell swoop that was murdered. That the new $450/year SPG Luxury card does nothing to rectify that is even more mind-boggling to me.
But somehow from there, things only got worse.
They played coy with their travel packages and refused to say how they would convert them with the new program. Everyone figured the only reason they would hide the conversion chart was because it would be too generous. Instead the reason was because their plan was beyond stingy. To make matters worse, Marriott also added a new restriction so that people can’t even upgrade their packages to book the Starwood hotels they actually wanted to book. They took advantage of the situation to create demand despite knowing that they would pick the worst case scenario. They even had their social media team write that people would get an equivalent amount of points, which was totally false. It was all an act designed to fleece their own loyalty members out of their hard earned points. And then they lied about it being bookable early, as it’s still not. Apparently they don’t realize that loyalty is a 2 way street.
In a first for a loyalty program, they added cross bank restrictions to limit signup bonuses between banks.
Marriott promised that they would use Starwood’s policies for upgrades and capacity controls on awards, but didn’t follow through. And you’ll need a PhD to figure out which hotels give elite members a free breakfast.
The actual merger process over the past 15 days has been nothing short of chaos.
- Phone lines have massive holds unless you call a service center outside of the US.
- Marriott still can’t figure out how to properly refund cancelled Starpoint reservations.
- Points transfers to most airlines are still not available and the website doesn’t properly display the 60K transfer bonus.
- Points transfers to El Al were promised with the merger but never materialized.
- Suite night awards have been buggy with some hotels.
- Marriott still can’t figure out how to let people book all suite properties with the promised 60K points. They advertised this as being a limited window of bargains, but what good is it if it’s not actually bookable?
- They took away the ability to book upgraded rooms at hotels like the S. Regis Maldives after I posted about the deal. They doubled the cost of upgraded rooms from 85K points to 170K points and they took away the ability to get a 5th night for free on upgraded rooms.
- Point balances and status have been incorrect for many members.
- Stays are not posting for many members.
Marriott has long had IT problems, but it has gone off the rails with this merger. It’s a real shame they didn’t keep SPG’s IT system, which while not perfect, was so much better than Marriott’s.
Marriott’s communication throughout this process has been downright embarrassing.
So much for the #GoldenRule that Marriott claims to live by. I don’t have any faith that Marriott will ever do right by its members.
Luckily we still have Hyatt…at least until they get gobbled up like what has happened to great hotel chains like SPG and Fairmont.
What problems have you encountered during the merger? Will you stay loyal to Marriott?