My experience with Choice Hotels’ online shopping mall when they made a mistake…

As many of you may know, American’s shopping portal recently offered 83,000+ miles for a $5 accessory (which in the end was not honored). Gary wrote about this extensively, and also provided quite a bit of background on online mileage malls, and how they’re really run by independent companies and not the airlines directly. That means when things go wrong the companies that run them shrug their shoulders, while the airlines take no responsibility.

With that out of the way, I had my own experience not too long ago, and I figured I’d share it. A couple of months ago a blog reader made me aware of a really good offer in Choice Hotels’ online mall under the condition that I don’t pass it on to anyone. Specifically, Big Fish Games (some sort of online game site) was offering 1,500 points per dollar spent through the mall.

Frankly I didn’t know off the top of my head what a Choice point was worth, so I had to do a bit of research. In the end Choice points transfer to airline miles at a 5:1 ratio, so that was basically 300 miles per dollar. Obviously that’s on the high side, but then again, the Track it Back promotion run a few years ago offered 140 US Airways miles per dollar spent.

The interesting thing was that it wasn’t just one page which listed the earnings rate (making it an obvious fat finger mistake), but all three pages that listed the price listed it as such.

I also read the terms and conditions, which said the following about earning points:

I went ahead and bought about $500 worth of games and waited for the points to post. It’s worth noting that these are games you download online, and not games they mail to you. I didn’t actually download any of the games I purchased.

About six weeks after my purchase 1,500 points posted. Not 1,500 points per dollar, but just 1,500 points.

I went to Choice’s website and emailed them regarding my missing points, and a couple of days later got a response from DBG Loyalty, which seems to run the Choice Mall. Their response included, in part, the following:

We make every effort to ensure that the site is error free however mistakes do occur.  Please refer to the Terms and Conditions where it does reference: “DBG makes no warranties express or implied that the Program will be uninterrupted or error-free.”.

Well, no $*&^. It goes without saying that their service may be interrupted (websites crash, etc.) and have errors (they might list the wrong amount, they might not automatically credit points because things weren’t tracked properly, etc.), but what I found interesting was that they thought this lifted any liability they might have.

In other words, they’re suggesting that this part of the terms and conditions means they’re never fully responsible for anything.

In every subsequent correspondence they pointed to this part of the terms and conditions, as if it somehow relieved them of living up to their end of the contract.

After a couple of emails they credited my account 10,000 Choice points (equivalent to 2,000 miles) and offered to contact Big Fish Games on my behalf to get a refund, though said:

We understand that this may not be to your satisfaction, however we are comfortable with the make-good we have provide and will not be able to assist you further in this matter.

Ultimately I’ve decided to drop it and take the refund. It’s just not worth my time. That being said, I did find the dialogue quite interesting, and it comes to show yet again how when we make mistakes (purchase the wrong thing, book a flight on the wrong dates, miss a flight, etc.), no mercy is shown, but when the companies make a mistake they weasel their way out of their responsibilities.

Comments

  1. But that’s wrong lucky. You’ve gotten UA to bend rules about 1000 times over the years. Most frequent travelers have, at one point or another. I certainly have. We shouldn’t lump all companies together… UA has certainly been generous to us over the years (perhaps no longer, alas).

  2. I’d agree that they are absolved of any wrongdoing due to the T&Cs.

    When you see an issue like this, seems it would be a better use of time to confirm the rate BEFORE making a purchase rather than after. Many will disagree and say “never call”, but if calling makes it disappear from the site because it was incorrect, you saved yourself $500 (not to mention the time wasted).

    And for what it’s worth, I’ve *always* had companies show me mercy when I make a mistake – though not when I try to get something by feigning a mistake.

  3. Lucky was in the right. These companies just think they can walk all over customers. When they make a mistake, they have no responsibility but say Lucky accidentally made $500 in purchases instead of $50, they wouldn’t say oh you made a mistake, it is fine, we will cancel your order for you.

  4. I’d agree with lucky. In most cases if the consumer makes a mistake they are stuck whereas companies are allowed to make mistakes and take things back.

    Sure once in a while you can get some mercy from a company but not very often. Also if you are an infrequent flyer you will get very little mercy.

  5. you are absolutly right in my mind and should have threatened legal action. You had enough evidence for a small claims court compaint. I don’t know that you’d win but it certainly seems like you can make the case.

  6. I got in on the AA wireless hockey puck accessory. With credit card sign up bonuses as high as 100K for airline affiliated cards, they are not on good grounds to say the offer is an error and absolves them of liability. I expect to receive the 83K miles as this is what was advertised. If I do not, then I want to get a class together so we can take appropriate action against deceptive trade practices. If you advertise the offer, make good on what you advertise.

  7. The screen shots you posted all say “$1500 per Order.” Am I missing something? Did they update those pages after you made your $500 purchase?

  8. As I have posted again and again, what people are missing is that the T’s and C’s of the programs generally state the mileage has NO monetary value. Thus you CANNOT sue for points that don’t have a value. Until miles are actually recognized as have an ACTUAL value, and the programs can’t just toy with them, this will get worse and worse.

  9. I can’t believe you would actually risk losing $500 on something that you obviously know is a mistake and that you have to realize you have very little chance of getting (unless of course you love online games!)

  10. Clearly you have no clue how ridiculous you sound with your self-righteous anger.

    Have you ever thought about actually WORKING to earn money to pay for things, rather than looking for loopholes and other people’s mistakes to leech off freebies?

  11. When does something go from being an insanely generous deal to being too good to be true? I usually can’t tell the difference.

    100,000 BA or 75,000 AA for applying for a credit card? $300 off a $305 vacation package to Vegas? 140 US miles per dollar for Trackitback?

    Where is the line between “greedy” and “shrewd”?

    Given the nature of our hobby, I think $500 was a pretty reasonable investment under the circumstances.

    But in the end, I would be happy to get a refund and call it a day.

  12. There is often mercy shown when we make a mistake. I’ve missed flights before-my mistake-, only to be put on the very next one. If I book a ticket that costs $600, I can often get at least $450 of it back if I need to cancel it. Sure, that’s not the best, but it’s not nothing.
    United honored the $1500 to New Zealand fare. Mistakes happen. You were trying to exploit theirs. They didn’t bite. Live with it.

  13. Obviously you were swore to secrecy on this deal….

    But have you considered that it could have played out better if you had shared it publicly? It’s pretty easy to tell one or two customers to go pound sand, but when they’ve got 100’s lined up behind you and guys like Gary, it’s not so easy.

    Just a thought.

  14. @hobo13, this is what I have to say about the AAdvantge shopping portal offer via Verizon, so they need to pay up the miles. There is strength in numbers, they made the offer, so they should honor it.

  15. lols at the idea that mileage has no value. if the agreements stated that the moon was made of green cheese would you take a bite?

    contracts make statements all the time that have no connection with reality.

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