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.