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The Bonvoy Rebellion is Here

The Bonvoy Rebellion is Here
Jeff Edwards

Former Marriott Rewards members have started a campaign to shame the hotel conglomerate over real and perceived slights following the integration with the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program and the formation of the new Bonvoy rewards program. Disgruntled elite travelers have even created a “bonvoyed” website to allow unhappy guests with status to air their many grievances.

Marriott International’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts hasn’t exactly gone off without a hitch. Now, some of the hospitality giant’s most loyal customers are going to great lengths to get the company’s attention.

In recent months, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members have quietly suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The combined loyalty program has left some members feeling cheated out of elite status.  The thorny loyalty integration was soon followed by a particularly severe reward redemption and benefits devaluation. To make matters worse, Marriott revealed that its elite guests may have been victims of the largest data breach in history.

Even the name of the combined rewards program, “Bonvoy,” earned a collective ‘meh‘ from weary customers.  The number of unhappy Marriott customers has reportedly been a boon to the Hilton Honors program which reports it has won millions of new members, in part, because of Marriott’s woes.  Other loyal Marriott customers, however, have vowed to take arms against a sea of troubles.

Skift’s Grant Martin reports that a group of activist Bonvoy members have created a “bonvoyed” campaign to draw attention to their plight. The bonvoyed.com site gives dissatisfied members a public forum to air grievances about everything from long hold times, difficulty using or receiving reward points or seemingly unfixable IT issues. Some users take to the site to simply reminisce about the glory days prior to the Marriott/SPG merger.

In October, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson attempted to appease dissatisfied customers. He promised to evaluate the company’s most unpopular recent moves.

“We are really interested and eager to see the results of that now over the next few months, but there’s a lot of work yet to be done,” Sorenson said in public comments. “When you look at the program from a credit card perspective or points earned or elite status, yes, there are some changes that are not loved.”

For the most part, unhappy Bonvoy members were not impressed by the hotel executive’s admonishment to members to “hang with us.” The bonvoyed campaign appears determined to send the message that time is up.

“Sorenson’s comments are one of the main reasons that we started this site,” Jeffrey Brownson, one of the creators of the site told Skift. “He clearly has no idea how these ‘outlying’ problems are affecting Marriott’s everyday customers.”

[Image Source: Marriott]

View Comments (18)

18 Comments

  1. gobluetwo

    March 15, 2019 at 5:42 am

    While I don’t disagree with a lot of the issues, let’s be real – it was the beloved Starwood which suffered the massive data breach since 2014 – well before the Marriott transaction. So yeah, it’s easy to poo poo Marriott here, but it wasn’t actually Marriott data or systems for the first several years of the breach.

  2. arcticflier

    March 15, 2019 at 5:50 am

    It has been a frustrating transition but my 25 recent stays in 2019 have seen an improvement over last years transition mayhem.

  3. drphun

    March 15, 2019 at 6:15 am

    As Marriott’s customer service gets worse and worse, I avoid staying in Mariotts more and more…

  4. Vivaladiva

    March 15, 2019 at 6:49 am

    Yup, I left Marriott/SPG. I’ve been living the good life at Hyatt, Hilton and IHG/Kimpton this year. As alifetime platinum w/ ambassador not getting anything special for my birthday travel and the long phone calls was enough for me. Plus Hilton and IHG have easy promos right now so I can use points for summer travel. Marriotts last and upcoming promo aren’t worth it to me. Contacting other brands for status match is too easy. People would be fools to stick with Marriott now.

  5. gaspasser

    March 15, 2019 at 6:51 am

    Its. OT that they have no idea how these “outlying” problems are affecting everyday Marriott customers, they flat out don’t care.

  6. silentfaith

    March 15, 2019 at 7:26 am

    I have not seen a Marriott TS promotion this year, seems like a long time to fix a website or i am looking in the wrong place, I don’t know how they are selling their timeshares without some type of promotion. .

  7. avw

    March 15, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Looks suspicious to me. Who is it that is gathering members’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and Marriott status? If you go to the Bonvoyed web site and click on “about us”, there is no information about who is behind this information gathering. Is it another hotel chain that is looking to poach Marriott’s customers? Is it a law firm looking to scoop up clients? Checking the entire web site, I can find no clue. I am not giving my personal info to some entity that does not disclose who is behind it. Yes, Marriott has major IT issues, but I am not going to compound my problems by sharing my personal info with who knows whom!!

  8. swbrad

    March 15, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Mergers/acquisitions like this are never good for the customer

  9. ConnieDee

    March 15, 2019 at 8:03 am

    I’m just a frequent vacation traveler, no business traveler. I was just using Marriott’s program for the free wifi. All I remember is that sometime in 2018 a desk clerk told me I only needed one night more to get a free night. Then I stayed at a Marriott for seven nights for a (fun) conference. I’ve stayed several more times because Marriotts are convenient airport hotels. Then there was this strange thing called Bonvoy (what does that mean? Is it short for Bon Voyage? How can you shorten a french term into English? Or, is it some kind of pot and pan cleaner?) Now, if I log onto the website it appears that I will never, ever qualify for a free night. In the meantime my airport has a new hotel at the same light rail stop as the Marriott; guess I’ll give it a try.

  10. WalnutBaron

    March 15, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Right up front, I will mention that I am a Lifetime Titanium member–the result of loyal travel with Marriott for more than 30 years. I’ve been a big fan of Marriott for a long time, so I admit my bias before making my comments.

    Has the transition from SPG to Bonvoy been rough? Absolutely. Do we have a reason to have expected better from Marriott? Again, absolutely. Marriott’s vaunted reputation for great customer service–especially toward its most loyal customers–has taken a big hit over the past year.

    But a dispassionate look at the facts would indicate that some of the complaining being done by the bonvoyed clan just comes across as whining. For example:

    1. The massive security breach of the SPG system, which had grievously exposed members’ personal information including in many cases their passport numbers, had actually been in place since 2014–long before Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood. True, the breach was not discovered until September of last year. But while Marriott has taken all of the heat for this massive breach, the real blame lies with Starwood’s IT team which not only allowed the breach in the first place, but allowed it to go undetected into and through the entire merger process with Marriott.

    2. The devaluation of points credits in the new Bonvoy system is, sadly, almost expected these days. Every hotel chain, every airline, every other loyalty program is doing it. At least most of the devaluation has occurred only for the very highest luxury properties–and it was telegraphed by Marriott to its members many months in advance, allowing anyone who wanted to cash in at 60,000 points per night to book those properties before the price increase to 85,000 points. Subsequent to the change, I’ve made a couple of reservations at what I consider to be outstanding properties, including the Royal Hawaiian and the Ritz-Carlton in Waikiki, which are still available at 60,000 points per night. The devaluation’s full impact, in my opinion, hasn’t been terrible.

    3. The part of the transition that is inexcusable–and for which Marriott has been completely tone deaf–is the conversion of the SPG system into Marriott’s system to create Bonvoy. I don’t doubt the incredible complexity of this conversion, but Marriott’s IT team had many months to prepare for the conversion and the resulting fiasco is a huge black eye on Marriott’s reputation. From lost reservations to lack of points credits to change of status to overwhelmed and ill-trained customer service reps, the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster. That said, Marriott is slowly but consistently climbing out of the problem, and the reliability of the Bonvoy reservations, points, and status system seems to be working quite well, at least from what I can see.

    Many of the comments made by the bonvoyed members are valid. A large number of the comments are both unfair and unfounded. As for me, I’m sticking with Marriott.

  11. ichorush

    March 15, 2019 at 8:48 am

    I am a lifetime Titanium member as well, and I have given up on Marriott. I am currently in the process of using my remaining (devalued) points and maintain Premier Marriott Rewards cards for myself and my wife only because they represent good value for the free night one gets. However, where Hyatt and Marriott compete, my money is now going to Hyatt, except in the (rare) instance that Marriott offers better value.
    The most annoying feature of Marriott is the robotic customer service which is entirely useless. Instead of being able to talk to a knowledgable representative immediately, I now have to suffer the endless waits and poor customer service that makes it so aggravating that I wind up hanging up and forgetting Marriott. It was fun when Marriott offered the best in hotel travel for the frequent traveler. Now it isn’t and Marriott will lose an enormous amount of business as a consequence in my opinion.

  12. UALfromMSN

    March 15, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Is this the new untied.com?

  13. emsahb81

    March 15, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I had mucho points with Starwood. Has anyone else noticed that rates seem to have gone up? I would usually check Hilton and opt for Starwoods. Now, 4 of my next 5 trips (to my same old places) are with Hilton.
    I am disappointed.
    A friend of mine in the hotel biz told me that the hoteliers disliked Starwoods because they gave the most away to the travelers. Truth.
    Who’s left now?

  14. Sealink

    Sealink

    March 15, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Is this the biggest DYKWIA ever?

  15. feobrien

    March 17, 2019 at 7:28 am

    It is a pretty poor offer compared to Hilton. Hilton gives you DIAMOND status for the $450. Marriott gives you GOLD??? No comparison.

  16. Dublin_rfk

    March 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    When Marriott was family owned it was the place to be a status member. Today as a faceless corporate business, life status is the only reason I even look for a room.

  17. Sam2013

    March 18, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Having been high status at both Marriott and SPG with an Ambassador earned, I have experienced a number of problems beginning with my hotel on Aug 24th not having my reservation and the next hotel having a check-in system down, need to use a paper chart to record each guest check-in and need to bring all guests to their rooms to open the doors for them with a master.

    Before we could call in to Mr Marriott’s office with a problem and it would get resolved. They have removed that office, and now maybe one will get the “escalation department” which replaces his office and staff but certainly does not equal the service of before.

    On the Ambassador side, those people have really suffered. It appears the training and addition of new systems was not in sync, not enough, or not effective. They were running full speed with clients and taking on massive changes. Of course it was a disaster. Plus the rumor was that each Ambassador had been give double the client load. I don’t know, not verified. But certainly my Ambassador and their managers were suffering taking on business, while getting new software, new computers, new telephones and systems. Definetly too much at once.

    What surprises me, is that in America with the famous business schools, tons of MBA’s, prior history of modern corporations making mistakes, is that Marriott has not taken or seems to not have taken advantage of all this knowledge and just dove in, which in today’s business environment and being one of the biggest hotel brands, seems to be just nonsense.

    Of course as it has been said in ancient Greece, the fish rots from the head. Of course leadership needs to take responsiblity for this failure. And have not. On another blog by John, a former employee of Marriott says that Arne Sorensen only visited a customer service site two weeks ago. Late?
    And presumably if not corrected soon, the board and Wall Street will be calling for management changes.
    I do hope they get it right and I do hope they value their clients. My status’s were earned in nights, I know the brands inside and out over many years. I do hope they listen and get it right.

  18. lawrencelane

    March 18, 2019 at 11:56 am

    I qualified for lifetime Titanium Elite (750nights and 10 yrs plat before end of 2018). Emailed them to see whats going on, and first agent said it doesn’t look like I qualify but will put in further research. I haven’t heard from them in a week.

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