There’s Only One Explanation For Marriott Concealing The Travel Package Conversion Chart: They Wanted To Fleece Their Loyalty Members

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Update: Marriott has just addressed some of the issues mentioned below, but not all of them. Read more here.


Related post (Read this first!): Marriott Takes The Low Road, Chooses Worst Case Scenario For Unattached Travel Certificates

Marriott has long sold lucrative travel packages for their 14 different point levels of hotels. With the new merged program having just 7 levels (8 starting next February), they had to figure out a way to convert them over to the new program.

Bizarrely though, Marriott continued to sell travel packages until the last minute, but refused to reveal their plans for how they would map them over.

William Sanders, also known as Starwood Lurker, is the company’s official representative on Flyertalk. He said that he got official information from Marriott’s loyalty team and said that unattached travel packages were considered floater certificates and they would be cancelled and converted into “equivalent points.” Mr. Sanders has not made any posts in the past 3 weeks, his longest hiatus from the site in well over a decade. Click to enlarge the screenshots below:

 

 

Given Marriott’s claims to live by the #GoldenRule, it seemed like the only plausible reason for not revealing how the old categories would map to the new categories was that Marriott planned on being generous, much like they were when they tripled Starpoints when they converted into Marriott points. The prevailing theory was that if they released the exact details, it would create a mad rush to buy the travel packages.

Instead Marriott opted to pick the absolute worse case scenario that I had predicted in option 4. They rounded every category down and used peak date valuations to mislead their members and make it look like they were not losing value.

Worst of all, they made no effort to accommodate people who bought category 6, category 8, and tier 1-3 certificates. Those people spent an extra 30K points over the category 5, 7, and 9, but Marriott decided to lump them all together and map them to the same respective categories.

People who bought tier 4-5 certificates for a whopping 540K points that were valid at any Marriott hotel were then informed that after January they will no longer be valid to use at any hotel.

To make matters even worse, Marriott decided that they are not going to let anyone upgrade or downgrade their certificates as they did in the past. That way, people who for example bought a category 6 certificate, got lumped together with people who bought a category 1-5 certificate, and had zero recourse to fix their crummy situation. They rightly feel robbed, there is simply no justification for this.

There is only one explanation that I can think of for Marriott’s bizarre behavior. They pumped up expectations, refused to say how things would map over, and rid their books of billions of points while knowing that they were going to fleece their loyalty members in the process. It’s a classic pump and dump situation and Marriott sold thousands of travel packages that they wouldn’t have sold had they been more forthcoming.

Had Marriott been honest about their plans, there would have been little demand for the travel packages, but it would have been the right thing to do. Instead they deceived their members and most certainly didn’t abide by the golden rule.

I suppose the fact that they needed to say they live by the golden rule should have been a tell. Any company that feels the need to say that is probably one that shouldn’t be trusted. Trust is something that is earned, not something you can trumpet in a slogan. SPG earned our trust, Marriott has not. A hotel containing the name “quality” in its name probably doesn’t have much quality and a hotel chain that needs to say they will always treat others as they would like to be treated themselves probably isn’t going to treat you all that well.

It’s true that many people, myself included, gambled here and lost. So why are we whining? I am doing so because these decisions by Marriott were done in bad faith and are downright unconscionable:

  • Lumping together multiple certificates to the same level without offering a refund
  • Not allowing old top-tier 4-5 certificates work on new top-tier category 8 hotels starting in February.
  • Not allowing upgrades and downgrades on certificates, despite most certificates being sold with the promise that they would be upgraded and downgraded. This problem was exacerbated by members not knowing how the old categories would map to new categories.
  • Not publishing the how the categories would map over, despite knowing exactly how it would happen before it was published on the day of the program merger.
  • Freezing travel package certificates from use until 9/18.

Marriott phone reps misinformed people, myself included, about their own understanding of what would happen with certificates. Some said that an old category 5 would work for new category 5, old category 6 would work for new category 6, old category 7 would work for new category 7, and old category 8 would work for new category 8. Others said that if you attached a certificate to a hotel going up in category that you could change to another hotel in that same new category. I don’t put much guidance into anything that isn’t in writing, but clearly many of these packages were sold under false pretenses.

So where do we go from here?

It’s no surprise there is already a Facebook group calling Marriott a fraud and a Flyertalk thread looking for people to join a class action lawsuit.

It’s not hard for Marriott to do the right thing here. They can round up a category and provide 30K point refunds when multiple old categories are mapped to the same new category as I wrote in option 4a rather than round down and refuse to offer any refunds. They also ought to allow upgrades and downgrades as people were promised when they bought their travel packages so that people can book the hotels that they want to. And they should allow packages to be changed and applied without waiting until 9/18. At the very least they should people do cancel the package ad take a full refund.

I’m sure there will be comments saying that this was always a gamble and we should stop crying about it. That would be fair if Marriott had acted in good faith, but I don’t see how any of this was done in good faith.

Loyalty programs make money when we use their credit cards to earn points and stay in their hotels. People aren’t going to invest in a loyalty program that is not loyal and can’t be trusted. I sure hope Marriott realizes that and does the right thing, the long term cost will be higher if they don’t.

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60 Comments On "There’s Only One Explanation For Marriott Concealing The Travel Package Conversion Chart: They Wanted To Fleece Their Loyalty Members"

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Ted

Marriott fired my friend’s dad after working 19.5 years. I don’t remember the reason, but I remember everyone thought it was really fishy.

JWI

Yeh, he costed too much according to some corporate beancounter’s secret formula.

chaya

so if i understand correctly – i bought a cat 1-5 but didnt attach it to a hotel. (tried calling but didnt get through) 🙁
1. so they are going to cancel that and refund me an unconfirmed amount of points?
2. my airline points stay intact?

kishke

Well said!

Gingyguy

Can I join a class action law suit if I didn’t buy any packages? Dans anguish is my anguish!

Mark

Will linked certificates get affected in the sense of trying to change dates?

MosheD

Dan, the “Golden Rule” is whatever nets them more gold….

JWI

Yep, bottom line, short term gold for their corrupted leaders and greedy shareholders

leibidik

someon said yesterday it is possible to book spg hotels on the new rates already can someone confirm if that is true? a

Dani

I tried calling in to book an SPG property. First she said that they couldnt book any SPG properties yet, then she said the points system was down and couldnt even see the details of my package.

Shaul Yaakov

I think it was overly optimistic to assume everything would go up. However, I agree they should refund points when 2 categories mapped the same way, and that top tier awards should remain unrestricted.

HE

DAN, your words are pure GOLD!

Rob

Perfectly said Dan. It is turning out that SPG members were very correct to be worried about Marriott. They are not honest, they play spin games. How can we say we do something without actually having to do it should be their new motto.

Mark

Marriott is a company, not a charity. They made this decision to shed some of the point obligation on their books which makes the merger seem even more lucrative to them.

This is essentially an unannounced devaluation which we’ve seen over and over again with other programs and could easily happen next week with Korean Air if tons of people transfer chase points over in speculation and then get slapped in the face with a devaluation.

Agoldsc1

Nope, this is not a standard devaluation, because they did not raise prices across the board, but rather devaluated the returns only for a specific class of members (i.e: holders of travel certificates, and specifically holders of category 6,8, and tier 1-3 certificates). If Marriott suddenly removed half of the points from your account, would you simply consider it a devaluation and carry on?

Mark

Sounds like they are going to make those specific people whole, so i guess everyone will only be a little screwed by this

JWI

Sure, this is capitalism, make money for shareholders. However, there is a honest way of running a business and then there is the dishonest way. Marriott chose the latter. Shame on them

Captain Obvious is a Marriott Guy

This is exactly why I didn’t follow all the bloggers on boardingarea blabbing about making travel package purchases near the program combination deadline this month. They and you thought you would score some kind of bump when they mapped stuff over. While it is ridiculous to try and screw over customers and have some pay more points than others for the same package, a great deal of the whining wouldn’t exist as people wouldn’t have listened to all these travel bloggers telling them to stock up and potentially get “more”. Things will eventually get sorted out.

Marriott the ripoff

I’m a semi-retired physician, I have more than the means and free time to sue, but no lawyer. I know I probably won’t get anything in the end, but the end game would be to ensure Marriott has “paid out” the money as well as penalties and interest that it has ripped off it’s customer. What’s my step one? Get into the yellow pages to consult with a lawyer? There should also be a post somewhere to get a class action rolling. I already know there are a few circulating on a couple Slacks. Marriott better move quick!

Flying Jew

Dan Lets storm the castle gates!!!!!

shiframeir

R @Dan, i love u :). I was sure this would happen (and warned everyone accordingly), but dont worry, i’m also sure there will be an outcry (led partly by u) and in the end you and all who took the chance will be compensated, like has happened 95% of the time with big companies that dont like this bad press.
Just as i was right about the earlier prophecy, i will be right on the latter (cf. R Akiva and the fox)

Josh

I think that if they would have at least refunded Cat 6,8, and Tier 1-3 – they wouldn’t have pissed off everyone AS MUCH. Now they’ve opened the floodgates!!!

Hjay

Hope Gary from VFTW gets a good look at this & see’s how real thought leaders in travel think. Nobody will tell you to stop whining if you lost at a casino & you find out the decks were tampered with. Beautiful piece Dan. Keep it up!!

Alex

Long time reader, first time poster. Just wanted to say thanks for continuing to post about this, and not letting Marriott ride out the storm so easily.

Dan Bee

The problem here is that everyone assumed a “heads I win, tails I don’t lose” situation, a gamble without risk. I don’t think Marriott was trying to fleece anyone; if they had been, they would have been pushing the packages themselves, instead of relying on Dan to do it. Moreover, they recommended attaching the certificate to a particular hotel, which gave buyers a safe harbor. I agree there could have been more transparency, and that phone reps shouldn’t have given out misinformation. But without anything in writing, it was a gamble.

shiframeir

Exactly. noone was forced to get these and they all assumed the risk, but they expect that the customer will win with enough bad press (and they probably will).

Moose

Dan thank you for advocating for us, unlike big corporate poster boys like TPG and Gary. Please keep writing about it since what Marriott did was despicable.

Felix

Forbes and WSJ just wrote articles about this

txtmax4

Good news!
Due to the efforts of people like Dan, Marriott has now agreed to refund 30k points to the categories that got messed over!

Contact Marriott via here: https://www.marriott.com/marriott/contact.mi select “packages – deals” and request your refund!

Deal Guy

Dan, you’re the best. Just read on TPG that Category 6, Category 8 or Tier 1-3 certificate prior to 8/18 are able to request a one-time exchange for a package one category lower. To submit a request, contact us at https://www.marriott.com/marriott/contact.mi. Select “packages – deals” from the drop down menu.”

Don’t worry Dan, I’m a huge follower of yours because you stand up to what’s right!!! Thanks for everything!!!

Yossi

Dan your the Man! This is a great use of social media to make sure that companies don’t take advantage and are bullying the hard working Americans. I think Melanie trump has a movement for bullying and maybe we can get her on our side.
I understand that you are personally heartbroken about the end of SPG era but you are also doing a great help to everyone by helping us them up against the bad guys!

Jeff

Is this not partly your fault and the fault of the other mainstream bloggers? You have all been writing ad nauseum for weeks about speculation about this, usually recommending people buy these speculatively. It all pushed people to buy these packages from FOMO (what happens if the conversion is amazing and you missed out?). Perhaps all that chatter caused people to buy so many speculatively forced Marriott to make the conversion less generous due to how much they’d lose. A little introspection on your part would be nice.

Dill

I’d agree a bit in that the bloggers across the board suggested to buy these packages previously where the value was present and to mitigate vs. disaster however do not forget that Marriott did publish what the travel packages would cost in the future under the new program and *everyone was against waiting on those.

And least not forget that Marriott did suggest attaching these to hotels beforehand (and I saw quite a few bloggers recommending the same).

Yes, Marriott really screwed up here with a subset of their loyalists and brand marketing (social media) going forward. Let’s see how they recover.

The bloggers have some backtracking to do as well but I really don’t recall reading a single one lacking a “gambling” or “buyer beware” comment on package recommendations.

Doug

Wow… what a bunch of whiny losers! YOU ALL KNEW THIS WAS A GAMBLE! You chose to go into it KNOWING that this “bad option” was possible, but you chose to roll the dice anyway.

Now, you don’t like the results and you want lawsuits and complaints.

Ridiculous.

Rewards

when companies make mistakes or errors on pricing whether it be flights or products, people love to jump on the deals immediately, but when they come out and say they made a mistake everyone gets upset stomping their feet and figuring out ways to sue them. I’m not saying what Marriott did was right, but at the same time everyone very well knew this could happen…if no one even thought that this could have happened then I would agree it was extremely wrong of Marriott, but that’s not the case…we all swung for the fences and missed…good for those who locked in their certs. Hopefully it pans out for everyone but if not there will always be other deals to have

james

I had a Cat 6 package that mapped to a Cat 4 in the new program. I really want a week at a certain Cat 5 resort SPG property. So basically you’re telling me that with my refund, I just paid 75,000 old Starpoints for 120,000 AS miles, fine. But had I opted for a cat 7 for 10k Starpoints more than the package I bought), I could have had a week at the cat 5 as well. Pushing for a 1-time adjustment is probably the way to go here.

#hindsight, #goldenrulemyarse

JWI

I have a recording of my conversation with a Marriott Loyalty rep, someone who was previously a Marriott Platinum rep for 7 years with experience (so basically a trustworthy veteran representing Marriott, not a fresh out of college recruit), about two days from the merger date. He assured me certificates retain their category levels between the old and new systems. Basically, a cat 8 in the old system (which is what I have) is a category 8 in the new. So, I have proof of being lied to. This is screwed up what Marriott did to us – no very nice. Well, I guess they can go to confession and wash themselves clean – so, is this how it works?

JWI

Dan, you are the man. Stand up for the small person. Marriott screwed it’s reward members, in a dishonest, underhanded manner. Shame on them. All of us should take just one step to screw Marriott now. Pay back time!!!

Slip6

This is my first DD comment (I’m more active on DOC), but just wanted to ask…why aren’t more people retweeting this post? I went to retweet, and saw only 5 others had before me. Yes, they caved and are allowing 30k point refunds, but it isn’t enough that they are just now reacting to the bad PR. Bottom line, it was intentionally deceptive and people would be stuck if it wasn’t for the PR backlash.

LDoc

“Not publishing the how the categories would map over, despite knowing exactly how it would happen before it was published on the day of the program merger.”

Not sure they knew well before. My guess is that the redemption data came in and there was a boatload of category 6, category 8, and tier 1-3 certificates redeemed with points.

MARRIOTT HQ @ 12:01AM AUGUST 19, 2018
NERD: Redemptions of category 6, category 8, and tier 1-3 certificates are exponentially higher than the other categories.

MNGMT: Devalue those categories in the mapping chart, NOW!!!!

David

Just found out winter dates, I have my cat 8 voucher linked for the week before in a new cat 6 hotel, I saw that you posted we won’t know till 09/18 if will be able to change linked vouchers, but now that I know my dates should I try calling?

Dov

I ended up with a category 1-5 package not booked to a hotel. Is there any way to upgrade to a higher category?

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