The Hidden Value in Marriott Rewards: My Defense of the Program
As I referred to in my recent post on Marriott’s suite benefits, and further back my post on the Freddie Awards, I honestly think Marriott Rewards provide great value. In fact, I think it is frankly undervalued.
One of the greatest things about the Marriott Rewards program is, based on my own experience; they have exceptional customer service dispute resolution. Why I think this is vitally important will become more apparent as I explain my personal thoughts, based on my own experiences within the program.
Their attitude of friendly service is perhaps best embodied in the mantra of another travel industry corporation, Delta: “Don’t let the rules overrule common sense.” Thus, Marriott is fairly open when it comes to making exceptions for elite members, whether that be for a cancellation mistake of mine, or going above and beyond.
Often, I have found the fact that corporate gives each individual property jurisdiction on elite-member benefits which leaves the specific hotel open to provide such, even if not officially stated. In other words, the case is that Marriott properties go above and beyond for elite Marriott Rewards members, even if technically not inclined to.
I will admit I think Marriott has its weaknesses. In the course of doing my research to put this post together, I discovered some weaknesses within Marriott that I do not necessarily appreciate. That said, I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect hotel program. Starwood, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, they all have their shortcomings, I think. And if you ever found one, don’t join it, because then it will no longer be perfect!!
Of course, the most common gripe folks have—even I, for the most part, are their elite thresholds. Silver Elite, which requires 10 elite nights, in my experience, can include lounge access, upgrades and free internet. Although with internet as a Silver I often had to request it, and getting it was hit or miss. But the real sweet spots are at Gold and Platinum, requiring 50 and 75 nights respectively.
Objectively, not much can be said of this. Yet, my response is three-fold. For starters, most would agree that there is not much difference between Gold and Platinum. And if you stay a couple of nights with Marriott each stay, 25 stays would get you essentially the same benefits as top-status with another hotel chain, be it 50 or 75 total nights.
My final argument for Marriott in this respect is more substantial. I think Marriott recognizes this as at least a perceived weakness, and tries to mitigate the effects via status challenges. I was a Silver Elite last year, yet I could still tell Marriott appreciated my business. Therefore, I was given a status challenge where 6 stays in 90 days earned my Gold status (again, not much different from Platinum) through February 2014. Can you name any other chain that gives away room upgrades, lounge access, free internet, elite reservation lines for a mere 6 stays?
And if I really was gelling for Platinum, every other year you can perform a Platinum status challenge where 18 nights, or 9 stays will earn you Platinum for 18 months.
It seems a lot of these weaknesses are evident in Marriott’s Resorts properties. And I am certain many these resort properties are very aspirational, obviously given the term “resort.” And on occasion lounge access may be a huge draw for me. But it’s never been a huge for me when staying somewhere. If I plan on staying at a Marriott property and want lounge access, or breakfast on the weekend, their portfolio of properties helps me out by have somewhere close by that I can stay.
So the resort issue has never really bothered me, as I won’t allow a few properties to ruin an entire brand for me. And furthermore, Marriott is not the only hotel chain with resort property quirks.
For example, Hilton does not allow 48-hour room guarantees at resort properties, per their Terms & Conditions. No matter the program, there are bound to be a few bad apples. Don’t let a few properties regulations ruin an entire loyalty program for you!
A third, also common complaint of Marriott is the lack of room upgrades. This despite the fact that the verbage for Gold and Platinum members on Marriott’s website now reads as follows:
“Every time you check in, we’ll do our best to upgrade you to a premium room – at no additional charge for your entire stay. Upgrades may include rooms with desirable view, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, room with special amenities, rooms, on Executive Floors, or suites, subject to availability identified by each hotel.”
Granted, the hotel has the jurisdiction to decide who they upgrade, but I have found most properties to be pretty favorable to suite upgrades if available.
A final, less obvious criticism I have heard hailed against Marriott are these “availability issues.”
For example, I know it says suites are based on availability, but whether suites, room type, or late check-out, what hotel isn’t subject to availability? Even those with “confirmable” suite upgrades.
Tommy777 tells a story of staying at the W Minneapolis several times for work. Each time would result in no Platinum suite upgrade for him. Fed up, he finally checked back with the front desk and they informed him 200 Platinum-level members of Accenture were frequenting the hotel every week, and checking in at 8 AM. Again, subject to availability and thus first-come-first-serve, he was told if he wanted a suite he need to arrive sooner. So the next week he staid elsewhere when he was in Minneapolis and was able to receive a suite upgrade.
Gary really railed on Marriott for not having a king when he booked a hotel at a conference rate. I have faced similar issues with group rates at other properties, and it is usually because you are receiving a room from a specific blocked of rooms. And no matter the chain or property, I would never expect to have another person dislodged from their room just so I can get my bed preference. Preference or not, I understand it is dependent on availability, just like suites are.