Ethics: Should You Use a Corporate Code For Significant Discounts When You Are Not Eligible to Do So?

This is the front desk at the InterContinental Grand Stanford hotel property in Hong Kong. Should you attempt to use a corporate code to secure a great rate on a hotel room if you are not eligible to use the corporate code? Photograph by FlyerTalk member aks120. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by aks120.

There are a number of ways to get low rates on different aspects of travel, which include various discounts and promotions. However, sometimes the lowest rate which can be procured — and perhaps earn frequent travel loyalty program miles and points and access benefits which elite level members typically enjoy — is by using a corporate code not typically available to the public.

I just returned a rental car to Enterprise Rent-A-Car within the past hour. Although I am an Executive level elite member of the Emerald Club frequent renter loyalty program of National Car Rental — which is owned by the same company which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car — a client of mine gave me a corporate code to use, which resulted in a lower rate per day and automatic insurance coverage.

What if you plan on renting a car from National Car Rental and asked me to give you that corporate code so that you may use it for yourself? Would it be ethical of either me to give you the corporate code — or you to use it even though you are not an employee or service provider of that company?

Depending on the company, I could potentially get in trouble for encouraging the violation of the terms of the agreement between the company and the travel provider — like, for example, losing the client. If I were an employee of that company, my employment could possibly be terminated. Or, perhaps no one at either the company or the travel provider will even know or care — especially if use of that corporate code is not abused by a wide audience.

Some FlyerTalk members have argued that that is not ethical and that the corporate code should be used by a legitimate person, for if anyone other than a qualified person uses that code, it could violate the legal agreement between the company and the travel provider. Others contend that the more people who use the corporate code are actually doing a favor for the company by giving enough business to the travel provider to warrant the special discount and benefits — as well as give the company more power to negotiate with the travel provider.

What if a FlyerTalk member posted a corporate code on FlyerTalk for you and everyone else to use, rather than me give it to you? Would that be unethical?

There is a discussion to that effect in the Starwood Preferred Guest forum on FlyerTalk.

The main reason why some FlyerTalk members like to use corporate codes illegitimately is because the risk of getting caught is usually low and there are usually no problems — but note that the key word here is usually.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to use a corporate code and you do not have proof that you can use the code legitimately, you could be forced to pay the full rate on the travel product or service which you plan to use. The front desk of a hotel property on your first night is not the ideal place or time to learn that not only can you not take advantage of the corporate code, but that you might have to pay full price — or perhaps find lodging elsewhere for the night.

There are also FlyerTalk members who say that if you want to use a discount code, there are usually plenty of public codes from which you can choose — but those codes do not usually offer as much of a discount. You many not be able to take advantage of possible benefits with a public code like you would with a corporate code.

By the way, I also have access to a corporate code with Hilton Worldwide. Although I do get discounts and benefits with that corporate code, the room rate at hotel properties worldwide is more expensive, more often than not — never mind getting the discount or benefits. I mention this simply because a corporate code does not guarantee the user any benefit.

Would you attempt to use a corporate code which you are not eligible to use in order to procure a significant discount and possible benefits? Do you frown upon the idea of other people using corporate codes when they are not supposed to do so?

Comments (Showing 13 of 13)

  • laggers at 4:13pm September 20, 2013

    Integrity is doing the right thing, when nobody is watching. If you have NO right to use the code then let it alone.

    • Brian Cohen at 12:06am September 22, 2013

      There is no argument from me, laggers.
      However, I am rather surprised that no one has stepped up yet to comment in defense of posting corporate codes on FlyerTalk — especially from those who are adamant that they should be posted.

  • trm2 at 5:18pm September 20, 2013

    Laggers left the perfect comment.

  • Doc Savage at 11:30pm September 20, 2013

    There s a thread somewhere about an idiot blogger who was using a code he wasn’t entitled to, then had a problem with the rental company and wrote a nasty column about the company despite prevailing in his dispute with them. Someone high up in the rental
    company had his account audited, canceled the code, and contacted the client the blogger had gotten the code from and made the client tell the blogger to never use it again.

    Karma.

    You can darn sure any insurance coverage won’t be valid unless you qualify for the code though you might not find out till after the accident.

  • clarkef at 11:54pm September 20, 2013

    Others contend that the more people who use the corporate code are actually doing a favor for the company by giving enough business to the travel provider to warrant the special discount and benefits — as well as give the company more power to negotiate with the travel provider
    ————————-
    That is not true. Travel Providers gives special volume discounts because they don’t want unused inventory. But the travel provider doesn’t want to give away all of its inventory at bargain rates. So overuse of the discount code can actually have a very detrimental impact on both the travel provider and the company.

  • gmporter at 10:37am September 21, 2013

    laggers is correct. Also, if you cause a horrific accident (not just a fender bender), all the sudden I can guarantee that the insurance company is going to audit whether you qualify for that insurance coverage or not.

  • aks120 at 8:32pm September 21, 2013

    Thanks for the advert for my trip report but I just wanted to state that I never used a corporate code that I was not entitled to – or any in fact! Interesting debate though 🙂

    • Brian Cohen at 12:02am September 22, 2013

      Thank you for the photograph, aks120 — and I can understand why you would post a disclaimer. I was not attempting to imply that you used a corporate code to which you were not entitled. I wanted to use a photograph of the front desk of a hotel property simply for illustration purposes — and I would much rather use one by a FlyerTalk member with a link to direct traffic to a trip report posted on FlyerTalk than to use some image supplied by a stock photography company…

  • aks120 at 6:41am September 22, 2013

    Brian – no worries – you can use any photo of mine you want! I do think the debate is a valid one though – i struggle sometimes to resist the good offers you could get through using a code I am not entitled to. What stops me is the potential feeling of shame at the front desk when my booking is refused or I am asked to pay a stupidly high price on the day.

    I never even thought about insurance not being valid but that is another good reason.

  • ysolde at 10:46am September 22, 2013

    One of the benefits of joining hotel reward programs, ffps, etc. is that they will send you promotions that will significantly reduce prices on hotel rooms, plane tickets, car rentals, etc. There really is no reason to use a corporate discount to which one is not entitled, and to do so strikes me as unethical.

  • scubaccr at 12:48pm September 22, 2013

    One reason tge car rental company does not charge you as renter, for insurance, is that some companies, eg IBM will carry annual insurance for their employees, rather pay the ‘highly expensive daily rate’.
    So when you have illegally used IBm rental code, due to not being an IBM employee, then have an accident, you as a non-IBM employee will get the bill.
    Worse fir you, if not some minor ding, but a personal injury involved, you will be in some real financial hurt!

  • adpent at 8:46am September 23, 2013

    I wanted to use a photograph of the front desk of a hotel property simply for illustration purposes — and I would much rather use one by a FlyerTalk member with a link to direct traffic to a trip report posted on FlyerTalk than to use some image supplied by a stock photography company…

  • […] care. We could go on ad nasueum about whether using these codes if you’re not eligible for them is ethical, but in the end, you’ll have to abide by your personal judgment. My final total was $32.75 (not […]

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