With the Marriott takeover of Starwood now a sure thing, the realization is soon setting in for SPG members that our beloved program will eventually go away. When you look at member impressions of the merger, the general sentiment is that Marriott Rewards members are quite excited about it (“we’ll be able to redeem points at cool Starwood hotels soon, and might even pick up some elite benefits”), while Starwood Preferred Guest members are dreading it (“SPG is special precisely because they’re not Marriott or Hilton or IHG, so like every other merger up until now, things will get worse”).
While Starwood Preferred Guest isn’t supposed to be merged into Marriott Rewards until 2018, I was really pleasantly surprised when Marriott introduced some new benefits earlier in the week, including late check-out, an experiences marketplace, and testing a concierge service for their loyalest members.
Unfortunately Marriott screwed up the execution, and reinforced many of the concerns SPG members had about the merger. As it turned out, the late check-out benefit was worded as follows: “guaranteed late checkout, which could be as late as 4pm.” That’s absolute bull, because that means a hotel would be following the terms in offering an 11:30AM check-out when the check-out time is 11AM.
After quite a bit of customer feedback I’m thrilled that Marriott introduced a real guaranteed 4PM check-out at all their hotels, except resorts and convention hotels (this is the same benefit which Hyatt and Starwood have).
To me, guaranteed late check-out was one of the big competitive advantages which SPG Platinum had over Marriott Platinum. Since we’ve seemingly been steering Marriott in the right direction, I figured I’d share the three things that Marriott Rewards could do to make this SPG loyalist happy (or at least as happy as possible).
Marriott should add complimentary elite breakfast at resorts
Daily continental breakfast, light snacks and beverages for members and one guest in the Executive Lounge at JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection®, Renaissance® and Marriott Hotels®, Delta Hotels® (limited participation), (resorts excluded).
In the U.S. and Canada, select hotels will provide 750 or 1,000 points in lieu of breakfast in the event the lounge is closed.
At JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection®, Renaissance Hotels® and Marriott Hotels®, Delta Hotels® (limited participation) (Resorts, Courtyard Hotels, EDITION® Hotels and AC Hotels are excluded).
I know Marriott has a lot of brands, but this is the perfect example of what drives me crazy about them. I wish they’d just have a single policy rather than so many exclusions and limited participation.
But the worst part of Marriott’s breakfast benefit is that elite members don’t receive breakfast at resorts. This is so silly and backwards. A lot of business travelers can expense meals when they’re on the road for work, and then the reward for all their time traveling for work is a vacation with their loved ones… and that’s where they’re having to pay for breakfast.
I’ve never seen an explanation for this policy, but it’s ridiculous, and needs to change.
Breakfast at the St. Regis Bali
Marriott should do something about suite upgrades
Complimentary Room Upgrade: Based on room availability at check-in and limited to a Member’s personal guestroom. Upgrades may include rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities, rooms on Executive Floors, or suites. All upgrades are granted on a space-available basis, as determined at the time of check-in. Upgrades are subject to availability and identified by each hotel. Not available at Marriott Vacation Club.
As a point of comparison, here are Starwood’s terms:
Platinum members: Platinum members receive upgrades to the best available rooms, including Standard Suites, subject to availability for the entire length of stay at time of check-in. Not offered at Aloft® or Element℠hotels.
Marriott simply says that Platinum members receive a complimentary upgrade subject to availability, which could include something like a room with a desirable view, a room on a high floor, a suite, etc.
Marriott isn’t saying that you’ll get a suite if it’s available, but rather that at the hotel’s discretion they can upgrade you.
Meanwhile Starwood promises the best available room subject to availability, including standard suites.
The distinction is that with Starwood you’re entitled to the suite if it’s available, while a Marriott hotel could have two dozen open suites, but not upgrade a Platinum member, and still be within the terms.
On top of that, Starwood gives Platinum members who earn at least 50 elite qualifying nights 10 suite night awards, each of which can be used to confirm a suite upgrade as early as five days out, pending availability.
Here’s the thing — I’m not actually suggesting that Marriott should entirely adopt Starwood’s system. I’m just saying that they should change their current system. I hate a loyalty program “promising” a benefit which is entirely at the discretion of the hotel.
Marriott’s suite upgrade policy is no different than what they tried to get away with for their late check-out policy. “We’ll offer you late check-out, subject to availability, as late as 4PM if the hotel feels like it.” A hotel could be completely empty and they’d still be within their rights to deny you a 4PM check-out. It’s the same with suites.
I’d like to see Marriott promise something, whatever is. Either offer unlimited suite upgrades subject to availability, or even eliminate the verbiage saying members may be upgraded to suites, and instead add some sort of confirmed suite upgrades.
Basically, don’t make us be like our favorite Hilton HHonors fanboy who shows up at the front desk with a laminated card with the terms of the program, which he’s incorrectly interpreting. 😉
Suite at the W Taipei
Marriott should convert lifetime status fairly
Both Marriott and Starwood offer lifetime status. Lifetime status is based on the lifetime of the loyalty program rather than a member’s lifetime. Given the rate of consolidation, you have to wonder how much that’s worth nowadays.
The requirements for Marriott lifetime status are as follows:
- Lifetime Silver Elite: 250 nights + 1.2 million points
- Lifetime Gold Elite: 500 nights + 1.6 million points
- Lifetime Platinum Elite: 750 nights + 2.0 million points
Meanwhile the requirements for Starwood lifetime status are as follows:
- Lifetime Gold: 250 nights + 5 years of elite status
- Lifetime Platinum: 500 nights + 10 years of elite status
I don’t envy the role the programs have in converting this lifetime status, or for that matter, in converting Starpoints into Marriott Rewards points.
But if they’re going to keep the same benefits, converting Starwood Gold (which gets guaranteed late check-out, a 50% points bonus, and a further perk with every stay) to Marriott Silver (which gets you basically nothing) wouldn’t be fair. Yes, matching that to Marriott Gold would be generous, but that still seems more reasonable than Silver.
This is the first time we’ve seen a hotel merger of this scale, where the programs are both popular with their respective members. If we thought combining airline programs was complicated back when the major US mergers happen, this is infinitely more complicated, given how different the programs are.
The above are three things which I hope Marriott takes to heart. Of course I also hope that Starpoints will convert into Marriott Rewards points at a fair rate, and that a decent option for airline mileage transfers will stick around after the merger.
What changes would you most like to see from Marriott Rewards with the integration of SPG?