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Traditional Rooms Available - Hotel Selling "Only for Cash"

Traditional Rooms Available - Hotel Selling "Only for Cash"

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Old May 16, 18, 6:27 am
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Traditional Rooms Available - Hotel Selling "Only for Cash"

Hi all -

Here's a situation I've never encountered with SPG before; I recently tried to stay at the Sheraton Ontario Airport Hotel in California. It's a Category 2 property and a nice, small property that's good for nothing besides a cheap night's sleep on points (the lounge is OK just for the 24/7 beverages, and there is an In N' Out across the street). They only have 2 suites but they're spacious.

I was trying to make a same day reservation. SPG.com showed the hotel sold out. I called the hotel and spoke to the Front Office Manager, who said they have duplicate reservations and she likely would have some rooms available for that night, around 6 pm that day, and she would call me then.

She called me and confirmed availability of traditional and club rooms. She would NOT allow a booking on points even though they had traditional rooms available. She claimed they were "holding these rooms back for cash ONLY" due to their high occupancy that night.

I went to the hotel to try to discuss in person, in the lobby. The FoM had gone home, and the Front Desk claimed the GM was unavailable - they claimed "we cannot reach him on the weekends, EVER; we recently had a power blackout on the weekend and we couldn't reach the GM even then"

Finally, an SPG Platinum Concierge Supervisor says to the Front Desk, on my cell phone's speakerphone:
Phone Supervisor: "Mr. Front Desk Agent, do you all have traditional rooms available at your property?"
FD Agent: "Yes m'aam, we do."
Phone Supervisor: "Ok. I am going to need you to reserve one of those rooms for Mr. Btonkid for tonight, using his SPG points."
FD Agent: "I don't know how to do that. Also, my manager has told me that I can only book the rooms for cash or else I will be fired."
Phone Supervisor: "While we cannot force you to do anything, I must advise you that it is a foundational principle of the SPG program that there are no blackout dates on traditional rooms on points. If you all refuse to make this booking, it is a VIOLATION of the SPG Program, and I will be required to open both a customer complaint file and a violation file."
FD Agent: "I called my manager and explained to her what you said. She said her decision was final."

I finally left the property at around 11 pm after getting nowhere in the lobby. Another random gentleman walked in during all of this to inquire about rates. He needed a room for 6 people. The FD agent offered him 2 traditional rooms for $249 each per night. The customer laughed, saying he could book a room for half that in Los Angeles proper, and left.

FOLLOW UP:
*The property is still not taking accountability; the GM claims the Front Desk doesn't know how to make an award reservation (which is irrelevant because the SPG Supervisor on the phone offered to make it for them multiple times)
*The GM also claims that when there is high occupancy, the hotel can have rooms for cash only. FALSE. The supervisor tried to give the hotel the benefit of the doubt, saying some hotels have multiple room types that appear as the lowest category, but a view difference for example could move the room into a specialty category. After checking, they confirmed this hotel has 3 room types and no sub-classes within a category: traditional, club, and suite. The hotel obviously had traditional rooms available but was holding them back from SPG/Marriott, creating a sub-class of inventory
*Why would the hotel want cash only when their occupancy is over 95%? I thought SPG pays them the full ADR on awards on nights where they're 95% or more occupied.

*WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE/DO NOT?
---> Would you all have swiped your card to stay then ask the GM or SPG corporate to have fixed it the next morning? Another SPG Phone Supervisor advised me that they have an internal team that liaises with the hotel before the reservation to make an award booking when the hotel can't/won't, but this team wasn't open this evening. Also, the Supervisor stated SPG lacks an official process to "make this right" (cash booking into award for a last-minute reservation when the property says they won't allow the award) AFTER the stay; that their current process applies to advance bookings. He didn't say that they wouldn't have made the adjustment, just that it's not guaranteed like it is with the before-stay process.
---> How do I best hold the hotel accountable? It's a franchise property and the GM doesn't understand the no blackout dates on a traditional award concept; the SPG people I've spoken to have never personally encountered such a situation as they all claim this is such a foundational aspect of the program that they are shocked the GM doesn't know about it. Is there a Regional or Senior VP that sits over franchise properties and ensures their compliance to the rules of the program, that can be contacted or made aware?
---> What compensation would you all say is appropriate? One would hope it would be severe to deter the property from ever doing this again. So far, they have offered 1 night at a Category 2 property; a pretty poor offer given the time it took to deal with them and SPG plus the fact that they were told they were violating and still did it.

My main goal is to try to correct the property's actions here. I heard them that evening lie to SPG about room availability at first and also witnessed them acting like having a sub-class of cash only rooms for day-of reservations is totally normal. It's unacceptable for any SPG member to show up to a property late at night, when they have rooms available (and may otherwise perish as revenue driving inventory that night) and try to follow the Ts&Cs of the program only to be told the hotel is comfortable with a violation of the SPG Program but not with accommodating the guest.

Thanks in advance for your advice and thoughts on this!
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Old May 16, 18, 7:33 am
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Originally Posted by btonkid12345 View Post
Thanks in advance for your advice and thoughts on this!
Post an edited version of this on TripAdvisor. The hotel will respond very quickly once it is there. I had an issue with Hampton Inn one time telling me my confirmed reservation would not be honored which was corrected quickly when I sat in the lobby, posted to TA, got it on there immediately and heard from the hotel manager within minutes. She told me to sit and wait in the hotel, was there within minutes and I was told by another employee the next morning fired the FD agent immediately. Hotels respond to TA posts.
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Old May 16, 18, 8:23 am
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Originally Posted by btonkid12345 View Post
Hi all -

Here's a situation I've never encountered with SPG before; I recently tried to stay at the Sheraton Ontario Airport Hotel in California. It's a Category 2 property and a nice, small property that's good for nothing besides a cheap night's sleep on points (the lounge is OK just for the 24/7 beverages, and there is an In N' Out across the street). They only have 2 suites but they're spacious.
...
I've been to this property and, although nice enough, nothing to rave about. What they did should not have happened. I hope SPG comes down with both feet. We often claim FDCs make up rules on the fly, but it's clear here management has made up some rules and I can't fault the FDCs for following them. Again, SPG should be able to make it clear that their franchise agreement requires them to follow SPG rules first. If they want to say point rooms get inferior towles, that's fine, not in the agreement.

Do post your experience on TA to increase the exposure of what they are doing and I'm pretty sure that will get upper management/owner response. They may have a bonus agreement with the GM on selling more cash rooms than points. Anything could be their motivation for this (maybe even cooking the books before SPG gets their reports? It's happened elsewhere).
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Old May 16, 18, 9:14 am
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Originally Posted by btonkid12345 View Post
My main goal is to try to correct the property's actions here.
That's not your/our job as guests. That's Starwood's job.
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Old May 16, 18, 9:25 am
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I'm very positively impressed with how the Plat Concierge supervisor understood the SPG rules and was willing to stand up for the OP in this story, even if it didn't resolve the problem. This is much better than giving all kinds of invented excuses to back up the hotel's actions.

At $249 for a regular room at a property of this description, I wonder whether the hotel was accepting overbookings at 6 pm with the plan to walk guests arriving in the evening with cheaper reservations. I can't believe that the hotel had a bunch of reservations that weren't guaranteed with a credit card and were scheduled to expire at 6 pm as Starwoods usually don't accept reservations that aren't either guaranteed with a credit card or prepaid.
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Old May 16, 18, 9:30 am
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I may be wrong here but if the Hotel has a really high occupancy rate (e.g. 90% up), aren't they paid RACK rate for points reservations which could be higher than 249$?
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Old May 16, 18, 9:35 am
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Originally Posted by supatight80 View Post
I may be wrong here but if the Hotel has a really high occupancy rate (e.g. 90% up), aren't they paid RACK rate for points reservations which could be higher than 249$?
It wouldn't be rack rate because the hotel could be completely full and still not have sold any rooms at prices approaching rack rates. Rack rate is a fictional price posted on hotel doors for cases like major national political conventions, sporting events like the SuperBowl, etc. Outside of such times, no one would be paying the rack rate at the typical hotel.
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Old May 16, 18, 9:42 am
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Originally Posted by btonkid12345 View Post
Hi all -

Here's a situation I've never encountered with SPG before; I recently tried to stay at the Sheraton Ontario Airport Hotel in California. It's a Category 2 property and a nice, small property that's good for nothing besides a cheap night's sleep on points (the lounge is OK just for the 24/7 beverages, and there is an In N' Out across the street). They only have 2 suites but they're spacious.

I was trying to make a same day reservation. SPG.com showed the hotel sold out. I called the hotel and spoke to the Front Office Manager, who said they have duplicate reservations and she likely would have some rooms available for that night, around 6 pm that day, and she would call me then.

She called me and confirmed availability of traditional and club rooms. She would NOT allow a booking on points even though they had traditional rooms available. She claimed they were "holding these rooms back for cash ONLY" due to their high occupancy that night.

I went to the hotel to try to discuss in person, in the lobby. The FoM had gone home, and the Front Desk claimed the GM was unavailable - they claimed "we cannot reach him on the weekends, EVER; we recently had a power blackout on the weekend and we couldn't reach the GM even then"

Finally, an SPG Platinum Concierge Supervisor says to the Front Desk, on my cell phone's speakerphone:
Phone Supervisor: "Mr. Front Desk Agent, do you all have traditional rooms available at your property?"
FD Agent: "Yes m'aam, we do."
Phone Supervisor: "Ok. I am going to need you to reserve one of those rooms for Mr. Btonkid for tonight, using his SPG points."
FD Agent: "I don't know how to do that. Also, my manager has told me that I can only book the rooms for cash or else I will be fired."
Phone Supervisor: "While we cannot force you to do anything, I must advise you that it is a foundational principle of the SPG program that there are no blackout dates on traditional rooms on points. If you all refuse to make this booking, it is a VIOLATION of the SPG Program, and I will be required to open both a customer complaint file and a violation file."
FD Agent: "I called my manager and explained to her what you said. She said her decision was final."

I finally left the property at around 11 pm after getting nowhere in the lobby. Another random gentleman walked in during all of this to inquire about rates. He needed a room for 6 people. The FD agent offered him 2 traditional rooms for $249 each per night. The customer laughed, saying he could book a room for half that in Los Angeles proper, and left.

FOLLOW UP:
*The property is still not taking accountability; the GM claims the Front Desk doesn't know how to make an award reservation (which is irrelevant because the SPG Supervisor on the phone offered to make it for them multiple times)
*The GM also claims that when there is high occupancy, the hotel can have rooms for cash only. FALSE. The supervisor tried to give the hotel the benefit of the doubt, saying some hotels have multiple room types that appear as the lowest category, but a view difference for example could move the room into a specialty category. After checking, they confirmed this hotel has 3 room types and no sub-classes within a category: traditional, club, and suite. The hotel obviously had traditional rooms available but was holding them back from SPG/Marriott, creating a sub-class of inventory
*Why would the hotel want cash only when their occupancy is over 95%? I thought SPG pays them the full ADR on awards on nights where they're 95% or more occupied.

*WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE/DO NOT?
---> Would you all have swiped your card to stay then ask the GM or SPG corporate to have fixed it the next morning? Another SPG Phone Supervisor advised me that they have an internal team that liaises with the hotel before the reservation to make an award booking when the hotel can't/won't, but this team wasn't open this evening. Also, the Supervisor stated SPG lacks an official process to "make this right" (cash booking into award for a last-minute reservation when the property says they won't allow the award) AFTER the stay; that their current process applies to advance bookings. He didn't say that they wouldn't have made the adjustment, just that it's not guaranteed like it is with the before-stay process.
---> How do I best hold the hotel accountable? It's a franchise property and the GM doesn't understand the no blackout dates on a traditional award concept; the SPG people I've spoken to have never personally encountered such a situation as they all claim this is such a foundational aspect of the program that they are shocked the GM doesn't know about it. Is there a Regional or Senior VP that sits over franchise properties and ensures their compliance to the rules of the program, that can be contacted or made aware?
---> What compensation would you all say is appropriate? One would hope it would be severe to deter the property from ever doing this again. So far, they have offered 1 night at a Category 2 property; a pretty poor offer given the time it took to deal with them and SPG plus the fact that they were told they were violating and still did it.

My main goal is to try to correct the property's actions here. I heard them that evening lie to SPG about room availability at first and also witnessed them acting like having a sub-class of cash only rooms for day-of reservations is totally normal. It's unacceptable for any SPG member to show up to a property late at night, when they have rooms available (and may otherwise perish as revenue driving inventory that night) and try to follow the Ts&Cs of the program only to be told the hotel is comfortable with a violation of the SPG Program but not with accommodating the guest.

Thanks in advance for your advice and thoughts on this!
Wow OP you certainly threw everything possible at this property. My main question is was a traditional room available to book on spg.com at any point after you received a call that some rooms became available?
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Old May 16, 18, 9:51 am
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Originally Posted by supatight80 View Post
I may be wrong here but if the Hotel has a really high occupancy rate (e.g. 90% up), aren't they paid RACK rate for points reservations which could be higher than 249$?
I'm sure they have a complicated formula to determine what payment is made for reward stays with lots of factors to consider. The bottom line here is the property was not playing by the rules and needs to be reprimanded. I truly hope it wasn't for nefarious reasons.
Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
It wouldn't be rack rate because the hotel could be completely full and still not have sold any rooms at prices approaching rack rates. Rack rate is a fictional price posted on hotel doors for cases like major national political conventions, sporting events like the SuperBowl, etc. Outside of such times, no one would be paying the rack rate at the typical hotel.
Yes, rack rates are outrageous and probably rarely actually paid. The law calls for a "published rate" be listed for all rooms so it can be used in various cases, such as special events and unannounced extended stays (to encourage departure). It may be aspirational, but not really fictional. Typically the contacts will call for something based upon Average Daily Rate (ADR) that is readily available as a performance metric of a property.
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Old May 16, 18, 10:06 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
I'm very positively impressed with how the Plat Concierge supervisor understood the SPG rules and was willing to stand up for the OP in this story, even if it didn't resolve the problem. This is much better than giving all kinds of invented excuses to back up the hotel's actions.

At $249 for a regular room at a property of this description, I wonder whether the hotel was accepting overbookings at 6 pm with the plan to walk guests arriving in the evening with cheaper reservations. I can't believe that the hotel had a bunch of reservations that weren't guaranteed with a credit card and were scheduled to expire at 6 pm as Starwoods usually don't accept reservations that aren't either guaranteed with a credit card or prepaid.
I was impressed with the Supervisor too...she knew the rules well and while friendly, was very no-nonsense.

I haven't called the Platinum Concierge in nearly a year and was surprised with the wait on a Friday night. The first two times, I received agents of varying quality, who put me on hold and then the line was disconnected.

I finally was connected to the Supervisor successfully from.a transfer from the third agent. Neither of the previous two tried to call me back. I let the Supervisor know she was the fourth agent I had spoken to, to attempt to rectify this, and that plus it being late Friday night probably fueled her approach towards the property.

Originally Posted by supatight80 View Post
I may be wrong here but if the Hotel has a really high occupancy rate (e.g. 90% up), aren't they paid RACK rate for points reservations which could be higher than 249$?
Yes. Sorry if my OP was long but I put this in there - I asked why they wouldn't want an award because based on the NYC Le Parker Meridien details made public, higher than 95% occupancy means the hotel receives ADR for the room and not the pre-negotiated award redemption rate (which is much lower).

Originally Posted by HHonors OUTSIDER View Post
Wow OP you certainly threw everything possible at this property. My main question is was a traditional room available to book on spg.com at any point after you received a call that some rooms became available?
Not that I caught. I checked right at 6 pm. Then about hourly after that, until a little before 10 pm when I arrived in the lobby. Once they confirmed they had rooms but were "holding them back" I reached out to SPG because that just reeked of malfeasance.
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Old May 16, 18, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by btonkid12345 View Post
I was impressed with the Supervisor too...she knew the rules well and while friendly, was very no-nonsense.

I haven't called the Platinum Concierge in nearly a year and was surprised with the wait on a Friday night. The first two times, I received agents of varying quality, who put me on hold and then the line was disconnected.

I finally was connected to the Supervisor successfully from.a transfer from the third agent. Neither of the previous two tried to call me back. I let the Supervisor know she was the fourth agent I had spoken to, to attempt to rectify this, and that plus it being late Friday night probably fueled her approach towards the property.



Yes. Sorry if my OP was long but I put this in there - I asked why they wouldn't want an award because based on the NYC Le Parker Meridien details made public, higher than 95% occupancy means the hotel receives ADR for the room and not the pre-negotiated award redemption rate (which is much lower).



Not that I caught. I checked right at 6 pm. Then about hourly after that, until a little before 10 pm when I arrived in the lobby. Once they confirmed they had rooms but were "holding them back" I reached out to SPG because that just reeked of malfeasance.
OP I think the paid traditional room has to be available to book on spg.com before you and the Supervisor can beat the property up to please deliver the paid room as a points room.
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Old May 16, 18, 1:19 pm
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Originally Posted by HHonors OUTSIDER View Post
OP I think the paid traditional room has to be available to book on spg.com before you and the Supervisor can beat the property up to please deliver the paid room as a points room.
That's going to be a key element in being able to follow up on this with the SPG Hotel Coordinators. If a traditional room cannot be booked as a paid rate online or through the call center and the hotel does not return any new-found inventory, there isn't anything they are going to be able to do about it.

Best regards,

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Old May 16, 18, 1:58 pm
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Originally Posted by HHonors OUTSIDER View Post
OP I think the paid traditional room has to be available to book on spg.com before you and the Supervisor can beat the property up to please deliver the paid room as a points room.
the challenge here though is: what can be done if the hotel is actively keeping selected rooms from SPG/Marriott to sell in house to walk ins only?

I say this because one of the FD agents told me at least 2 rooms were marked "dirty" / unavailable but the property agents knew they were actually available for walk ins.

I assume marking a room dirty removes it from booking on spg.com. If so, the hotel seems to be taking active steps to deceive/discourage the SPG booking tool in select cases where they feel they can extract more revenue at the FD.

Originally Posted by Starwood Lurker View Post
That's going to be a key element in being able to follow up on this with the SPG Hotel Coordinators. If a traditional room cannot be booked as a paid rate online or through the call center and the hotel does not return any new-found inventory, there isn't anything they are going to be able to do about it.

Best regards,

William R. Sanders
Social Media Specialist
Starwood Hotels & Resorts LLC

[email protected]
William: thank you for your reply. Are there any program terms and conditions that REQUIRE the availability be shown either on spg.com or to the Call Center ONLY?

On the SPG website that discusses the no blackout dates (link Here) it lists the following full terms and conditions, and nowhere within these T&Cs does it state the availability must be only on the website or via the call center. It just refers to availability, which the lobby FD claiming availability should be more than enough, even if rez systems are uncoordinated or incorrect.


I ask because the Supervisor who spoke to the FD agent on my phone's speakerphone specifically indicated that available just means that: available either online, call center, OR at the hotel itself. She was also perplexed how the hotel had real availability but hadn't pushed it yet to SPG/Marriott (usually it's instant).
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Old May 16, 18, 2:02 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
I can't believe that the hotel had a bunch of reservations that weren't guaranteed with a credit card and were scheduled to expire at 6 pm as Starwoods usually don't accept reservations that aren't either guaranteed with a credit card or prepaid.
Seems like there is plenty actual issues that warrant criticism. There's no need to make something up. None of what you wrote here was in the original post. The OP noted "duplicate reservations" not ones without guarantees.

Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
It wouldn't be rack rate because the hotel could be completely full and still not have sold any rooms at prices approaching rack rates. Rack rate is a fictional price posted on hotel doors for cases like major national political conventions, sporting events like the SuperBowl, etc. Outside of such times, no one would be paying the rack rate at the typical hotel.
As someone who worked in hotels for decades, I can say that this is not correct. There's nothing fictional about rack rates. While we didn't have people paying rack every day, any time we were approaching 100% occupancy, we'd sell a small number. We typically sold out every Tuesday and Wednesday except for the December holidays. And every we sold out every Saturday night when the city had either NFL or college football home games.
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Old May 16, 18, 2:07 pm
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Originally Posted by btonkid12345 View Post

William: thank you for your reply. Are there any program terms and conditions that REQUIRE the availability be shown either on spg.com or to the Call Center ONLY?

On the SPG website that discusses the no blackout dates (link Here) it lists the following full terms and conditions, and nowhere within these T&Cs does it state the availability must be only on the website or via the call center. It just refers to availability, which the lobby FD claiming availability should be more than enough, even if rez systems are uncoordinated or incorrect.
I think it is at least implied here:

"3.2.a. Redeeming Starpoints for rooms at SPG Participating Hotels and SPG Partner Hotels is subject to availability at the time of reservation and advanced reservations are required."

Where else would one make an advanced reservation for an award room if not online or through the call center?

I ask because the Supervisor who spoke to the FD agent on my phone's speakerphone specifically indicated that available just means that: available either online, call center, OR at the hotel itself. She was also perplexed how the hotel had real availability but hadn't pushed it yet to SPG/Marriott (usually it's instant).
The supervisor is just plain wrong here. Hotels are explicitly told not to book award rooms onsite, so they should never be available through the hotel itself.

Best regards,

William R. Sanders
Social Media Specialist
Starwood Hotels & Resorts LLC

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