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.
- You can contact Marriott here and explain the problem and your desired solution.
- You can file a complaint against Marriott online with your state’s attorney general, just use Google to find the form. You can complain in NY here and in NJ here for example. Again, be sure to write about the problem and your desired solution.
- You can file a complaint with the BBB here.
- You can Tweet your displeasure to @Marriott, @MarriottRewards, and @MarriottIntl
- You can share your displeasure on the Facebook page of Marriott, Marriott Rewards, and Marriott International.
- You can Like and Retweet this:
@Marriott @MarriottRewards @MarriottIntl
Follow the #GoldenRule and do the right thing for your loyalty members by fixing the horrendous travel package award conversion chart that you hid until it was too late!https://t.co/dtxqo15i4f
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) August 20, 2018
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.