As a Starwood loyalist, I’ll be the first to say that I’m pleased with what they’ve announced so far — Starwood Platinum matches to Marriott Platinum, and points transfers at a 1:3 ratio. Don’t get me wrong, my preference would have been that this whole thing never happened, but given that it’s happening, the announcements so far are about the best scenario I could have hoped for.
But it seems like some Marriott loyalists aren’t quite as happy.
Why are some Marriott loyalists unhappy?
A couple of readers who are Marriott loyalists aren’t quite as happy, and even think that Marriott members are getting “screwed beyond belief” here.
Here’s what reader Daniel had to say:
Please stop praising Marriott for the new details on the merger just because you are an SPG Platinum elite, and more importantly, stop pasting that graph that implies Marriott Platinum and SPG Platinum are interchangeable via status match. This is the second post in a row you’ve done that.
In reality, Marriott elites have gotten completely screwed beyond belief. A 75 night Marriott Platinum is only being given 25 Stay SPG Platinum status without SPG Suite Night Awards, even though Marriott Platinum requires 25 more nights than 50 Night SPG Platinum status, which does provide SPG Suite Night Awards.
Also, matching 50 night Marriott Gold to SPG Gold is also a huge slap in the face given the discrepancy in requirements and almost complete lack of benefits for SPG Gold.
This is disgustingly unequal for Marriott elites, and while you may not care since you are an SPG Platinum elite, try to understand the feeling from Marriott elites and help us advocate with Marriott rather than just blindly praising them for this news. Thanks.
Meanwhile here’s what reader Tom had to say:
I totally agree with Daniel M. SPG elite levels were far easier to obtain. An SPG Platinum with only 25 nights just received Marriott Platinum status which requires 75, literally jumping over Marriott Golds who might have has many as 74 nights so far this year. Another consideration is that Marriott Gold allows club access. With all the newly minted Golds coming over from Starwood (which required only 10 stays), how long before overcrowding of the concierge lounges becomes an issue? Definite disrespect for current Marriott elites.
On paper Marriott loyalists are getting screwed
I see where they’re coming from, and in theory I even agree:
- Marriott Gold requires 50 nights, so why shouldn’t they be matched to Starwood Platinum, which requires 25 stays or 50 nights?
- Why do Marriott Platinum members not get the 10 Suite Night Awards that 50 night SPG Platinum members usually get, given that Marriott Platinum requires 75 nights?
- Why are Starwood Platinum members matching to Marriott Platinum rather than Marriott Gold, when in reality Marriott Gold and Starwood Platinum have similar qualification criteria?
On paper those are all valid points…
So, why do I still think Marriott & Starwood did the right thing?
Marriott Rewards members were happy already
I’m genuinely trying to take my own loyalty out of the equation here. Hear me out.
When this merger was announced, the general sentiment was happiness among Marriott Rewards members, and extreme unhappiness among SPG members. We’re all in agreement there, right?
- Marriott has hotels all over the place, so it’s much easier to be loyal to Marriott than to be loyal to Starwood. Furthermore, Marriott elites are unlikely to see a reduction in elite benefits as a result of this takeover. Heck, they’ve already seen an improvement in elite benefits. The upside for them is that they’ll have a ton of cool new hotels they can earn and redeem points at.
- Starwood loyalists, on the other hand, are losing the brand they love. The reality is that if most Starwood loyalists wanted to be loyal to Marriott, they would have done that to begin with, since it’s much easier than being loyal to Starwood.
Hopefully we can agree on the above, personal feelings aside. SPG members are largely unhappy about this announcement, while Marriott members were largely happy, knowing at a minimum that they’ll have some cool new hotels to redeem points at, with very little downside.
So to me it makes sense that they’re going out of their way to be fair (or more than fair) to the unhappy members.
But why not give Marriott elites more Starwood benefits?
What’s the difference between top tier status at Marriott and Starwood? At Starwood we’re competing for limited resources. Specifically, suite upgrades, since they’re a published benefit. One Platinum member getting a suite upgrade typically prevents another Platinum member from getting a suite upgrade.
The same isn’t true at Marriott, where suite upgrades aren’t a published benefit. What’s one more person in the club lounge or at the breakfast buffet? Yes, I know in practice some Marriott hotels will provide suite upgrades, but that’s not a published benefit.
So, why not give all Marriott Gold members Starwood Platinum? Because you’d literally be exponentially increasing the SPG Platinum elite pool. Every United Gold member and above gets Marriott Gold status automatically, and would get SPG Platinum. Furthermore, Marriott already has a much bigger membership base. The point is, the impact of every Marriott Gold getting SPG Platinum status would be much greater than the impact of every SPG Platinum member getting status with Marriott.
Why not give Marriott Platinum members 10 Suite Night Awards? In theory I wouldn’t be opposed to it, but let’s be honest about what would happen in practice. The programs are still separate without reciprocal elite qualifying nights, so in practice members won’t equally be splitting their time between Marriott and Starwood. So if you gave Marriott Platinum members Suite Night Awards, you can bet they’d be using one for almost every single stay. Proportionally they’d be getting more suite upgrades than the average SPG Platinum member.
I agree this system isn’t perfectly fair, and that the logic isn’t perfect. At the same time, it doesn’t feel fair that our beloved SPG program will eventually be going away. But I guess life isn’t fair sometimes… 😉
Marriott members overall are happy about the takeover. There’s very little downside, and the upside is that they finally have some more interesting properties at which they can redeem points. Heck, they’ve already gotten improved elite benefits as a result of this.
If you gave every Marriott Gold member SPG Platinum, then every United Gold and above would also be SPG Platinum. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of new SPG Platinum members overnight. That wouldn’t be a huge issue if the SPG program weren’t based around “competing” for scarce resources (suites, in this case).
Meanwhile for Marriott Platinum members, SPG Platinum is already getting them more than they’re getting at Marriott properties. You get suite upgrades as a published benefit based on availability, breakfast at all hotel groups, etc.
So I get it, it’s not totally fair, but I also don’t think another “solution” would have been any fairer than this.
What do you think — did Marriott Rewards Gold & Platinum members get “screwed beyond belief” today, or was this the most reasonable outcome possible? What would you have liked to see done differently?