4 Predictions For The Rite Aid Free Hyatt Night Promo

Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be writing a post every Wednesday to start. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.


Last week I wrote about the Happy You Year promotion that Rite Aid is currently running.  Essentially the deal is that you spend $250 on participating items at Rite Aid and you receive either a 2-night stay at select Hyatt hotels or a 7-night stay at a Wyndham resort.

On the surface, this sounds like a really good deal.

Rite Aid Happy You Year Promotion
Rite Aid Happy You Year Promotion

So why am I concerned?

The more I read about it, the more this promotion started to sound like the JC Penney / Dockers promotion from 2007.  The fulfillment company for that promotion was TLC Marketing.  It generally did not go well for consumers, ultimately ending in a lawsuit.  (Though certainly some of us did do well.)

Anyway, I pointed out that the redemption process in the current promo was similarly onerous.  The economics were similarly unsustainable.  The mailing address was in the same city as TLC Marketing.  I basically put down a lot of dots on a paper, but then said we didn’t know who the fulfillment company was yet, so we really couldn’t connect those dots.

When something smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, and looks like a duck (even when that Duck is dressed like an Oakland Raider), it almost always is, in fact, a duck.

Is this a Duck or a Raider?
Is this a Duck or a Raider?

At least two readers (Dan, Jeff) commented that the link for the Rite Aid terms and conditions was hosted by TRCo Marketing.  A quick look at the company websites revealed that TRCo Marketing and TLC Marketing have the same CEO, Mike Scalera.  Mr. Scalera’s bio on the TLC Marketing website actually references both companies.

The US presents an immense opportunity for TLC and TRCo. I see the potential here as huge! Our passion for creativity and innovation gives us an unlimited potential and we have earned our place among the leaders in the consumer promotions arena.

I have no idea what the difference is between TLC and TRCo, and I don’t really care.  To me, they may as well be one and the same.  From my perspective, this means that the 2015 Rite Aid Happy You Year promotion is being run by the same outfit that ran the JC Penney / Dockers one, and I’m expecting a similar outcome.

What happened last time?

The key issues that I remember from 2007 are that it took months for TLC to contact people once they had submitted their redemption form.  Many, including myself, had to initiate complaints with the Better Business Bureau in order to get TLC to respond.

Looking back at my email archive, I see four “updates to my BBB complaint” status messages occurring over the course of a week, several months after I submitted my redemption form.  That was how I corresponded with TLC to eventually book my flight.

The good news is that once I had their attention, the booking went pretty well.  The key was getting TLC’s attention.

Apparently a lot of people never did get TLC’s attention because a couple years later I received notice of a class action lawsuit.  From the 2011 press release:

Levi Strauss & Co. has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged that its outside promotion administrator was not up to the task of handling the Promotion. Although thousands of qualified consumers did receive the promotion’s benefits, due to problems in the management of the promotion thousands of others did not.

[…] Thousands of consumers who made qualifying purchases and returned all the paperwork asked for will be eligible to receive a $150 check and $100 in free Dockers® merchandise.

I’m not a lawyer, but it is certainly interesting to me that TLC Marketing is not mentioned — instead Levi Strauss / Dockers was left to pick up the tab for the settlement.  I guess it’s only natural to go after the deep pockets.  As a result, TLC Marketing was left to live another day, or reincarnate themselves as TRCo.

I wonder if Rite Aid was aware of any of this history when they signed a contract with TRCo?

Four Predictions

First, I don’t have a crystal ball.  These are just my personal guesses of how I see this playing out based on what happened last time under seemingly similar circumstances.  Again, I am not a lawyer, marketer, pundit, etc., but rather just a deal hunter.

Obviously, I hope that we all come back to this post in a few months and laugh about how wrong I was, how TLC Marketing has turned over a new leaf, and how well this promotion was handled.

TLC will not automatically send out booking links

Several readers have already confirmed that the codes print out correctly at Rite Aid after you purchase the participating items.  They’ve also confirmed that entering them on the website works as expected.

I predict that the problems will begin at the point where TLC is supposed to send you the online booking link.  Everything up to here was automated, but this requires human intervention.  In 2007, TLC just never got around to contacting most people.

So what is supposed to take 10 days eventually drags on indefinitely until you get the BBB involved.

We will need to work through the Better Business Bureau to get anything booked

Unlike the stock market, in this game past performance is a good indicator of future results.  My guess is that we’ll need to file BBB complaints just to get TLC to respond.

On the plus side, I predict that when they do respond, we’ll have the opportunity to go back and forth with them a bit about dates and properties.

In other words, you may not be locked into what you put on the redemption form.  You may get to choose from any Hyatt that has stay certificate availability at that time.

That’s a good thing. 

You may even be able to switch between redeeming for a resort week and redeeming for Hyatt nights, or vice versa.  Possibly you’ll get to ask some questions about the resort week as well before committing to it.

Communicating with TLC will be the main hurdle

I predict that if you get through the initial booking with TLC, it will be smooth sailing.

Hyatt has excellent customer service and I just don’t see them letting this go belly-up.  I imagine that any problems that occur after initial booking can be addressed directly to Hyatt, completely bypassing TLC.

Even going directly to Wyndham in the case of the resort stay would be an improvement over dealing with TLC.

This will be a fight

I predict that those who are not proactive will never be contacted by TLC.  (If you don’t plan to be aggressive and proactive, you really should sit this one out!)

If there is a class action lawsuit, you’ll be contacted eventually and asked to join.  This turned out pretty well for folks last time.  In exchange for spending $125 on Dockers, they received a check for $150 and a voucher good for $100 of Dockers merchandise.

That’s not as much value as the free flight, but it’s a net positive return for minimal work.

What else do you need to know?

There were some common questions in the original post.  I tried to answer a lot of them, and here are a few that seemed particularly relevant.

When do the Hyatt nights need to be used by?

The FAQ of the promotion website originally said that the Hyatt nights needed to be booked within four months.  Several readers pointed out that the terms and conditions stated it was 1-year.  One reader received clarification that it was indeed a typo and should have been 1-year.

This makes sense to me.  Hyatt stay certificates have an expiration printed on them, but it’s more than four months.

Isn’t 7-nights in a resort a better redemption than 2-nights in a Hyatt?  Why are you focusing on the Hyatt nights?

Yes, 7 nights is greater than 2!  The problem is that we just don’t know enough about the resort.  Will it incur taxes?  Will the property pressure you into a timeshare sales presentation?  What is availability like at the various properties?

While the Hyatt nights are mostly a known commodity, the resort nights seem like a black box.  They could be a good deal.  They could be a disaster.

In contrast, Hyatt has a very loyal following in the miles and points community.  We more or less know how the stay certificates work.  We can check availability.  Many of us have status with Hyatt.

Can I change the dates of the Hyatt stay after it is booked?

This is a very interesting question.  Technically, the answer from TLC is certainly no.

I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that once the stay is booked you’ll be able to call Hyatt and have them switch the stay to a different Premier-level property or change the dates, subject to Hyatt’s cancellation policy for the property.  I’m also betting that Hyatt will let you change to a property at the Choice or Classic stay certificate tier, both of which are lower.

In other words, I’m guessing that it’s a standard stay certificate, and will be treated as such by Hyatt.

What is the best booking strategy?

I’ve already explained why I think the Hyatt nights are the safer bet, given what we know.

In general, I would not make nonrefundable travel plans around your preferred Hyatt stay until you actually have it booked by TLC and confirmed by Hyatt. 

Then the question is whether to target a stay in the very near future, or farther out.  Technically, you are permitted to request the nights as close as four weeks out.  Doing so could give you a reason to contact the BBB almost immediately, thus putting pressure on TLC to fulfill your request.

The other approach is to book something closer to 1-year out so that you can sit back and watch how this unfolds and learn from others’ experience.  I’m usually in the latter category.

Bottom line

My overall advice is still the same — you should only do this deal if you are willing to jump through a lot of hoops and possibly deal with a lot of frustration.

You really need to go into this with your eyes wide open.

What about you? Are you diving in, or sitting this one out?

Comments

  1. I went for it last Thursday, and received the online booking form via email the next day and ‘requested’ my three properties of choice. The form stated ‘we will contact you within 8 days to confirm your booking,’ which would mean by 1/17. I selected email as my communication preference for tracking purposes…we will see.

  2. So, I have already gotten my booking link and booking code, completed those, mailed in my registration form and I actually received a telephone call from a live person on Monday from Rite Aid Rewards reminding me to mail in my registration form.

    She saw and mentioned my exact property and dates requested and told me to expect another email soon from the Concierge Agent for final booking.

    Hopefully I am far enough out in front of the crowd to actually receive what is promised.

    Will keep you posted.

  3. @John DELTA – I had the same experience. Submitted booking form and received a voicemail reminding me to send in my form. I called back the number and was able to get a live person on the phone to confirm once they receive the form, I’ll receive a call within 8 days to complete the booking and mentioned the Hyatt I had in my form. My form arrived at their PO Box on Monday so I should know by next week. Overall, the process seems easy so far.

  4. I think RiteAid’s people might want to talk to JCP’s people. Ben, you are doing a great service to all of your readers by posting all of this info. Hopefully it works out for everyone. If not, at least they have some useful information to work with. This is a bright moment in internet history. 🙂

  5. If you need any more evidence that TLC and TRCo are the same company with different names, they’re touting the same HTC promo on their respective homepages. Nice.

    “HTC and TRCo rewarded music loving phone purchasers with a Rock Festival Pass to the most famous festivals in France when they bought the new Wildfire. The two-month campaign ran in major retail outlets across France supported by POS materials, vouchers, and a dedicated microsite. Rock on.”

    “To promote sales of the HTC Wildfire phone to the youth market in France. Rock on! TLC Marketing partnered with France’s biggest Rock festival to offer every single consumer a HTC festival pass. The campaign was delivered through print, POS and online.”

  6. Unsurprisingly, some people are already getting this to work as it’s supposed to work. All PONZI SCHEMES start out with the early joiners doing well. Once the number of investors exceeds a certain number, continuing the deal becomes unsustainable, and the promoters of the scheme have to flee to Belize with the proceeds.

  7. Im sitting this one out since the hassle isnt worth it for me and i dont really need the Hyatt certs but I am somewhat more optimistic than Travis that this ends up working out. I just can’t see why Rite Aid would agree to this promotion with the current terms if they didnt intend to follow through on this. They had to know this promo would be popular and that a lot of people would take part in it. Undertaking this promotion and then not following through merely exposes them to a slam dunk class action lawsuit like Dockers faced.

    Companies do stupid things all the time but Rite Aid is big established public company with a large brick and mortar presence. It would just seem to be incredible business and legal incompetence to go into this promotion without the intent to comply with terms and conditions provided. Perhaps I will be proven wrong but I just can’t see the benefit for Rite Aid doing what Dockers did. Sure they get some cash up front but in the end you most likely end up paying it all back…plus legal fees…plus the settlement.

  8. I have a different experience than the earlier posters. I completed the offer, requested the Hyatt offer online through the portal and printed out the form. The form doesn’t ask for requested Hyatt dates/locations, it’s just a “request” you have to mail in. Mailed it immediately on Monday.

    I still haven’t been contacted by RiteAid/JCP via email or phone.

    I’m actually a little suspect that the earlier posters received attention from RiteAid/JCP so quickly after requesting the Hyatt award online. I would expect they would need to receive a physical copy first. Wouldn’t be surprised if the earlier posters are shills for the company.

  9. Dan — Couldn’t the same points have been made about JCP / Dockers in 2007? That they had a physical presence, were a big company, knew the promo would be popular, etc. and shouldn’t have undertaken it if they didn’t intend to follow through? I just don’t see the difference between then and now.

    Here’s what I think happens: outfits like TLC / TRCo sell these promotions to the big companies, claiming they have a lot of experience running them and it will all work out fine. Flashy powerpoint decks, and all that jazz. Then they charge a flat fee to do it. Rite Aid / JCP *think* that the promotion is completely outsourced, and their costs are fixed. They believe they’ve transferred all risk to the fulfillment company.

    This incentivizes TLC / TRCo to limit the redemptions. The money they spend on fulfillment comes out of their profits, so they try to get out of honoring the deal. They know Joe Consumer will blame JCP / Rite Aid. Nobody has ever heard of TLC / TRCo.

    But then the consumers revolt, and the lawyers go after the deep pockets, JCP and Rite Aid, who have no idea that they just opened themselves up to lawsuits. They thought they had it outsourced. And TLC / TRCo walks away.

    Again, this is purely my conjecture. I have no inside information. I’m just trying to come up with a reason for why big companies get duped into running unsustainable promotions. I’d be happy for someone who works in this field to shed some light on it for us because I do find it fascinating.

    Also, do a google search on TLC / TRCo. There are some interesting comments from former employees…..

  10. When I am driving out of town next week, I am planning to purchase the $250 in a single run to a RiteAid store since there are none near my home location. However, I noticed in their weekly sales ad that while many items were marked as eligible, a number of items listed in the blogs as being eligible were not noted as such in the newspaper ad. For those who have completed their $250 purchase, does the RiteAid store clearly mark which items are eligible?

    Thanks!!

  11. Well, even though I a supposedly a “shill” for Rite Aid (or is it TRO?) I am still going to share my personal experiences timeline with this award procedure.

    I will say to Mike’s point that I twice-daily now screen my junk email folders for the keywords “Rite Aid” “Happy You Year” and “Hyatt” just to make sure I do not miss the award confirmation email from the “Concierge agent.” Since they only give you two days from receipt of that to make a committed selection I choose to be proactive so as not to lose my nights on a technicality.

    To Michael Hodgson’s question “does the RiteAid store clearly mark which items are eligible?” Well, yes and no. From my first post, I explained how some items were properly marked AT THE STORE, but did not cue the unique rewards numbers. That is why I had the manager refund all of my first order and we started again (and I removed three items and added eight new ones) which did trigger ALL FIVE reward codes.

    As for being accused of being a “shill” that’s paranoia at work there folks…I guess it’s possible, but anyone can check…I am a regular contributor to FlyerTalk forums, Million Mile Secrets, OneMileAtATime, DeltaPoints and DeltaMileageRun. That’s the extent of my blogging interactions.

    I am a self-employed professional photographer who travels for work and pleasure.

    I do want to share this with everyone:

    I received this in my email earlier tonight. I had reached out to Rite Aid even after my telephone conversation as I don’t want to be lost in the rush and want to make sure they follow-through:

    Rite Aid
    4:33 PM (2 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear John DELTA,

    Thank you for your inquiry! We receive daily reports of all redemptions processed on the website. Once we are able to confirm your selection, we will be able to email you the form. Please allow 24hrs to process.

    If you have any additional questions please contact us via this email address (riteaid@rewardrequest.com) or by calling (844) 579-1644 Monday – Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 930am-630pm EST (excluding Public Holidays)

    Sincerely,
    Rite Aid Buy & Earn Rewards Center

  12. Thanks for sharing your experience John. I find it interesting that your correspondence is signed Rite Aid, rather than TLC / TRCo.

  13. @Aurelien W –

    If you will look at the other post on the promotion you will see where the certificates have already been issued and received and certified by Hyatt.

    Everything on this end is done and it is there as seen by us and Hyatt and even changeable by contacting Hyatt directly.

  14. Thanks for the update John. I read the top comments which seemed to indicate it they would be waiting 7-10 days for replies, so I got lazy and only checked the dates of the last comment.

  15. Wel,l I completed the two nights hyatt promotion in ~10 days (bought everything online at one sitting–have enough razors for a year or two), end-to-end. for a 2 night stay at a 4* in Santa Rosa, CA wine country. When they phoned me about my three choices of hotel (yeah I used phone for communication) they seemed willing to try my hotels as per my priority and my first choice booked. Checked on cost for room ant its ~$200nt.
    Thinking about doing the promo for Wydham. Anyone have experiece with this on the Happy New You promo, please?

  16. I am trying for the 7-day resort stay, and on the booking form it asks for “Preferred Date of Departure for Resort Location…”

    I am confused by the wording, do they want the date of departure from the resort (end of stay)? or from my home to the resort (beginning of stay)? I am skeptical about this and think they want people to mess up and not be able to take advantage…

    Has anyone filled this out and have any advice for me? Thanks!

  17. They are doing it again now. February 2015, so I’m going to assume all is well. On way to a 7 day resort hopefully. Also the $250 is before coupons so my out of pocket is closer to $150!

  18. Well, I just called the 1-844-579-1644, after 1 bout 15 min wait, got to a live person, here were my questions:

    Question:
    1-Can it be the same resort location with 3 different dates? Yes
    2-No Tax due?Y Yes plus refundable deposit
    3-What does it mean by preferred departure locations? I am in Los Angeles, CA
    You have to figure out yourself through the submitting form link, I can’t do it for you
    4-Can I mail Jan & Feb forms together in one envelope? Yes
    5- Can the flight destination from Feb matches resort destination from Jan’s promotion?
    That’s asking too much…clicked…she HUNG UP on me?

    Am I the only one doing both months to make it a cheap vacation? After reading this article, I am beginning think if this’ll end up costing money instead of saving?

  19. Waiting 2 weeks now for my certificates that was suppose to be delivered within 5 business days. Hope is fading………

  20. @joan –

    I am sorry to hear of your trouble with this promotion. Like I said before, I got our certificates, they have been deposited into our Hyatt Gold Passports account. We even CANCELLED the original Rite Aid dates, and now have booked a Grand Hyatt property for a summer weekend stay (and extended that weekend by sandwiching the FREE nights between nights with Points+Cash on either end).

    We decided not to try the February promotion…and I am less optimistic for those who did… just for the issues that @rollwithit1 is bringing up. A FREE Flight + a Cruise/Resort/Hotel stay would be great, but that might be “pushing the envelope”

  21. @John DELTA

    Deposited into your Hyatt Gold Passport account ? I thought certificates came in the mail ?

    My reservation is listed in my HGP account but I thought I needed the certificates (via mail) at check in.

  22. @ Joan –

    We have the hard certificates, but Hyatt has them digitally in our account.

    We just call and speak with reservations to change our dates.

  23. I always buy A LOT (10k plus a year) so this promotion was a no brainer to me… I chose the 7-day resort vacation… send everything (they received on January, 26th according to tracking number). Well today is February, 25th and I haven’t received any contact (of course I looked up my junk mail as well). I called pretty much every day and I wasn’t able to talk to anybody at the customer service number. Also emailed them… with no response…. I just filled a BBB claim (before reading your post). and I came across your post after typing “rite aid happy new you” scam. Well now it makes more sense…. from my experience, your predictions are pretty on point (sad to say). I will update my case if I get conctated (by BBB / Rite Aid or the marketing company). Frustrating! Thanks for your posting though!

  24. I also came across your post while looking for information on this promotion. I filled out all my paperwork and submitted my information by the deadline, April 6th, for the resort stay. I have never been contacted about the stay and have sent several emails with no response.

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