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Reflections pt1: Looking at Marriott Rewards – SPG Lifetime Plat perspective

Reflections pt1: Looking at Marriott Rewards – SPG Lifetime Plat perspective

 
Old Jun 18, 18, 12:43 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Programs: Starwood:Lifetime Platinum, Air Canada:Basic, Asiana:Lifetime Diamond Plus, ANA: Basic
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Reflections pt1: Looking at Marriott Rewards – SPG Lifetime Plat perspective

Executive Summary

Starwood Lurkers – just jump to the bottom on my suggestions I hope you can bring to the merge program design team

These are my thoughts on the Marriott program. It is healthy for me to let it out before this force marriage happens on Aug 1. Once we merge, those Marriott members will become like our step siblings. Although not bound by blood (or common experience), they are sort of family.

Opinion is mine only and hopefully we don’t get too heated.

How I got here

I started in university when I first tried Starwood hotels (a Westin brand) back in 2005. It was through AMEX’s comped Gold status. I remember the first time going into a Westin hotel and it’s amazing heavenly bed and the heavenly double shower compared to my usual Holiday Inn so I started to convert more and more of my hotel stays from “cheapest on Expedia” to Starwood. 2006 was the first time I qualified as Platinum (with 25 stays). I guess than means 2007 count as my first Platinum year and qualified every year afterwards.

From graduation to work, my employer does pay for some travelling, but it’s not enough to make it to 25 stays (and now 50 nights). I had to top-up every year by staying dedicated at a Starwood hotel when I go on vacations so I requalify for Platinum. So my nights ranged from 25 nights (in early years) to 96 nights (in 2017). But mostly at the 55-60 range each year. This year, I am at 12 year SPG Platinum going into 13 and have over 600 nights.

Thoughts on this merger: SPG Program’s Core Values & Defining Characteristics

It is likely the SPG program intention was to increase loyalty and through increasing loyalty would bring more stable profits and hopefully increasing profits. How the program was setup and implemented does shape the SPG culture and our SPG culture is different from other programs. Through time, the SPG culture is known to be exceptionally loyal and some compared us to the Hyatt program (that I know nothing about). The SPG program is likely one of the crown jewels of Starwood. How did we get this “magic sauce” right when other programs are not as successful as we are? I offer my thoughts. The key ingredients are trust, longevity and focus

1) SPG is very pure and narrow focused

Loyalty is almost exclusively measured in butt-in-beds. In the 2000s, it was strictly PAID nights that count and reward nights didn’t count. It lives up to the name of “Preferred Guests”, the more you sleep in their hotels, the higher the status. There are no free elite nights by credit card that count towards lifetime status. I am aware that there are a few countries like Japan and USA with SPG AMEX that yields 2 stay & 5 nights for annual qualifications (there are none for the SPG AMEX Canada). There is no booking a meeting and get 10 qualifying nights like the do at Marriott. My point is this. Almost everyone who gets Platinum status got it through almost exclusively sleeping in beds. As we are social animals, if we visit the same hotel once every few weeks, every year, you get to know the staff and they remember you. The longer you’re in the SPG program, the more likely you would have more of these bonds and these bonds grow stronger through time. Because we only count butt-in-bed nights for qualifications, all the SPG Platinum members will have similar shared experience (earning through sleeping) and stronger group cohesion compared to other programs that award elite status through credit card spend or event organization or through loopholes/gimmicks. This brings us to the next point.


2) A solid focused SPG program with few loopholes causes members to behave more honorably.
Our program have very few loopholes to be able to trick unearned status. Let’s go down memory lane on how some greatest hits of dishonorable members try to scam the system and got shutdown and complained on this forum.

a) Booking a hotel room and no show but wanted stay/night credits – denied

b) Booking multiple reservations on the same hotel on consecutive nights and wanted the stays to count multiple times – denied with the nights being chained together

c) Booking a single room in multiple hotels in the area wanted to get the stay credits – account got automatically audited and account frozen (yes… seasoned travellers know you can do this legitimately as I did when I was flying across pacific and there was a date/time zone adjustment)

d) Booking a room with other people’s name and try to take stay/night credit – denied

When SPG find it too hard for the existing system to enforce some rules and can’t shut down some tricks, they legitimize it and make it an even field. For example, booking 3 rooms in same hotel for 1 night was legitimized and earned 1 stay and 3 nights. I understand some hotels due to knowledge limitations will give you 3 stays and 3 nights. But still in my perspective, you’re still at the hotel and paying 3x the price. I give them the benefit of the doubt those doing so (as I have done so too) did it for legit reasons and not for mattress runs.

3) Speaking of mattress runs… Mattress Runs in SPG is more expensive than other programs because disproportional of our hotels are more in the middle to high end. Areas in Japan, where I first started working, all SPG hotels were routinely $250+ a night. Once I returned to Canada to work, SPG hotels nearby still $200 a night. European will find mattress runs do not make any economic sense. Members in the developing nations probably look at mattress runs as crazy – staying in a Starwood is already a Lux option for the middle class population. In addition, there is a consensus among SPG members of Flyertalk. You only do mattress runs to go from Gold to Platinum. It is generally agreed that it is a dumb idea to try to do a mattress run from Plat 50 to Plat 75 or Plat 75 to Plat 100 for ambassador. That’s why there was a year I got 96 nights and let it stay. The point is this. Since mattress runs generally doesn’t make sense in higher Plat levels of the SPG program, members tend to not to “massage their nights”. We believe each other when we say we are Plat 50/75/100 can give a rough idea how frequent the legit travelling gets.


4) When SPG faces some bottom-feeders, they are able to innovate to encourage these bottom feeders to spend more. In the 2000s, there was only 1 level of Platinum, 25 stays or 50 nights. In the first few years, I was one of the bottom feeders, I did 25 one-night stays through then called “hotel hopping” where I switch between Starwood hotels in the same city every night so I can get additional stay credits. It was slightly irritation to my employer, but by putting more labor, I didn’t have to “top-up” my travels as much and can cheap out with “Expedia” when price gaps are too big. Then SPG came with Plat 50/75/100 and for the first year, they gave all plats the taste of Suite Night Upgrades (yes! I insist it was my idea of the Suite Night Awards to SPG concept taken from Airline’s System Wide Upgrades). I didn’t think it would have changed my behavior but… it did to my own surprise!! I really wanted those Suite Night Upgrades just so I can use them on vacation. So it improved my travel, out was the hotel hopping. In was the multi-night stays. My wallet got lighter than years past….


With program relatively loop-hole free, members start trusting the system and don’t feel their upgrade denied or benefit diluted because of some free-loaders. So when I lose a suite or had to “wait” for a suite because another Platinum member with ambassador got it, I never have to second guess if the other members are “worthy” or if they got it because of some geographic advantage through credit card bonus nights. When someone say they are Plat 75, I at least believe they sleep at Starwood hotels 75 nights or more. Our Flyertalk forum talks more about hotel reviews and program promo and very little about how to screw the program to one’s benefit.


5) SPG Lifetime Status measured in years encourages more trusting environment among members and trust increases loyalty and efficiency

I made a point earlier that staying in same hotels once every few months develop bonds between guest and staff. Now drag the same dynamic over a decade and more. Combined that with a relatively loop-hole free program and you build a lot of trust. Because the journey was so long (I hit lifetime at 12th year platinum – 13th year as SPG member), when you talk to another SPG Lifetime member, you sort of have an understanding of the respect of a decade of travel and 500 nights in hotel beds at least.

When I first started going to a lounge in a Sheraton, I was generous on my helping of junk food (you know those lounge foods aren’t really high quality). But through the years, you kind of assimilate with all the frequent travellers. You just quietly do your work on your notebook on the side and have a drink and try to have a little of those vegetables and skip the fried foods. Then pull yourself together later in the evening and go to the gym before getting fat.

When you go to the hotels (yes the same ones you did every year), they recognize your face and you recognize staff, and the manager recognizes you. The craziest part is only in my 8th /9th year as Platinum staying in the same hotel did I finally got comped to an amazing suite (and this hotel was known almost never to upgrade Platinum guests to suites).

All the above takes time – a decade. If the lifetime status allows people to rush it in 3 or 4 years, then those bonds between hotel and guests would not have been well-developed. Putting 10 years of one life to grow in a hotel program requires dedication. This type of dedication and bond between guests and hotel staff is what I think builds a very loyal fan base – the journey is the goal.

This trusting environment benefits hotel franchisee too. When hotels numbers back up that Platinum guests do spend more and have data evidence that treat some of these SPG Platinum guests well, they keep coming back, that creates trust in the system. Through time, they short-cut spread the knowlege treat Plats well = more Plat visits. For this system to work, those Platinum guests need to be frequent travelling guests and not one-off vacation guests.

Marriott Rewards is a different beast

Marriott went a different way on their Marriott Rewards program. It is more like a jack-of-all-trade multi-marketing tool. I spent a few weeks reading up the Marriott Insider and Flyertalk Forum to get a sense of their culture. Like their program name, Marriott Rewards is multi-marketing because they do not narrowly focus on “preferred guests” (ie frequent staying guests). Therefore, SPG’s precious “currency” of eligible nights in earning status is given out relatively at ease at Marriott. There is 15 eligible nights for holding a credit card. 10 eligible nights for organizing a meeting at a Marriott. There are also roll-over nights. All of these features I will explain in the sections below. Sleeping in a hotel room, however, earns you 1 night no matter how many rooms you book.

The Marriott Lifetime status reflects what they emphasis on more bluntly – bottom line. This is measured by the number of points accumulated and number of eligible nights. You accumulate points because someone somewhere must have need to buy those points from Marriott – thus revenue for Marriott. The different approach gives it more of a transactional feel to their culture. Compare to us, Marriott has more topics about getting more points, and gaming status.

To make Marriott Platinum Lifetime, you need 750 nights and earn 2 million Marriott Points (approximately 666,666 SPG points equivalent). The key point for us SPG members is to understand their 750 “nights” are different from our interpretation. In an exaggerated analogy, if has $USD 100 and the other has $100 Japanese dollars (yen), although the digits are the same they are not equivalent. We need to understand this. The Marriott Lifetime status limiting factor is the 2 Million points, not the 750 nights. This is because Marriott giving out eligible nights very loosely compared to SPG standards but the 2 million points looks challenging in the short term (eg earning 2 million points over 100 years is not hard at all). For Marriott members, because they are trying to get the lifetime status in fewer years than Lifetime SPG members do, their task feels more challenging than they would have if the drag it out over 15 years.

For us at SPG, the limiting factor is the “10 years” platinum and the beauty is there is no accelerant – time pass by equally slow for you and me no matter how fat one’s wallet is. SPG program is not worried of points accumulation because if you’re Platinum for the year, you’re spending at Starwood. If you have a SPG credit card, and you put in 10/11/12 years as Platinum you would not have a problem accumulated 666,666 SPG points (10 years = 66,666/year, 11 years = 60,606/yr and 12 years = 55,555/yr). I myself can be considered pretty cheap in SPG standards – the Sheraton type of guy. Staying in a St Regis or Luxury Collection for me is like the World Cup – it comes like once every 4 years and need lady luck to score a goal (getting a suite). Among these 12 years, my SPG master statement (which you can request) show a 1.6 mil SPG points earned. I am being quite conservative on my accounting.

Marriott Rewards full of Loopholes thus encouraging dishonorable behavior

Marriott Rewards have programs that are not deeply thought through and seem to run into unintended consequences. The most problematic of this culture is Marriott’s failure to close these loopholes and through time it corrodes the trust members have in the program and corrode the franchise hotel’s trust on what those statuses should mean (ie elite guests would on average spend more in my hotel during their stay). It only need a small portion of free-loaders to bring down the spending average and thus the confidence and good will along with the trust it has in the program.

For myself, I can think of a few hotels that started amazing when they joined SPG and through the decade, increase of Platinum guests, especially the more predatory type, grinds down their hotel and their initial good will resulting in benefits cuts (unless you stay there often enough that they know you).

So what big problems/ loopholes Marriott program have?

Loophole 1: Marriott credit cards yields 15 eligible nights

For USA members, this may sound nothing wrong. For international members, this whole 15 eligible nights create a steep uneven playing field. A European member or Asian member living in a country without a Marriott visa have to stay 15 more nights than those lucky enough to live in a Marriott VISA issuing country. For the SPG program, the US version of AMEX yields 2 stays/5 nights’ bonus. It’s severity of unfairness against non-USA members is not in the same magnitude as Marriott has. Unlike the SPG Lifetime program where credit card bonus nights are excluded for lifetime status calculations, the Marriott credit card nights also count towards their lifetime status. This cumulative unfairness that Marriott credit card holders has over others becomes much more severe over the long term. In SPG perspective, over a 10-year period, the Marriott card holder gets an extra 150 nights count for lifetime status just by holding the credit card.

Loophole 2: Roll-over nights and IT glitch that was never fixed

Marriott has this roll-over nights’ benefit. This benefit allows excess nights over the qualification threshold to be counted for qualification the next year. The existing of such program is already confusing hotels to know if one is a consistent and continuous frequent stayer or not. To make matters worse, they had a flawed implementation on this program resulting in lifetime nights being counted twice and this flaw/glitch was never fixed resulting in continuous compromise of the integrity of the Marriott program. Here’s an example taken from the Marriott forum.

Let’s say a person stays 150 nights by November 1, 2012 and their Platinum requires 75 nights. This person proceeds to stay ZERO in 2013 and 2014. This is what happens:

2012: Nights stayed = 150 Lifetime Count = 150
current status = updated to Platinum on 75th night Roll-over = 150 nights – 75 nights for Plat status = 75 nights
Platinum status earned for year 2013, 75 nights left-over that can be rolled over for next year.

2013: Night Stays = 0 Lifetime Count = 150 + Rolled-over nights = 150 + 75 = 225 nights
current status = Plat (75 nights) Nights available for Rollover = 75 – 75 = 0 nights
Platinum status earned through roll-over nights for 2014, see the Lifetime count is counted twice!

2014: Night Stays = 0 Lifetime Count = 225 nights
current status = Plat (75 nights) Nights available for Rollover = 0 nights
No further status earned for 2015

As you see, the glitch is all nights in excess of the qualification threshold get counted twice for lifetime status. I absolutely do not believe this double accounting was the original intention. Instead I blame bad programming and this problem has been an issue since inception of Marriott’s current Lifetime program. So a decade in and there was no fix. It’s not because there is an insurmountable difficulties, but more on the indifference Marriott has in understanding the long term consequences of not fixing this – a poor accounting on what members real stay through lifetime nights and a distortion on the revenue they bring.

Loophole 3: Rewarding Events yielding 10 nights per meeting regardless on spend

This program is targeted towards Event Planners. Similar to our SPG Pro, the Marriott call it “Rewarding Events”. In addition to give points, the Marriott program also gives 10 eligible nights per event organizers. This means, event organizers can get elite status without the need to sleep in a hotel. This is another way of how Marriott “leverage” their rewards program to a multi-stream marketing tool. The unintended consequences are that elite members are now mixed with event planners, and frequent staying guests. How would a franchise hotel if an elite is a potential frequent guest (that if put in good will may stay at your hotel a lot more) or an event planner is here on vacation (and any goodwill is a not a good bet since the person does events). Of course the above scenario excuses anyone already have some personal relationship/history with the hotel. This itself is a tolerable addition.

The original program intention was for decent size events (like weddings, corporate conference, a class lectures…etc). So the planner will have guests not only use the conference but also get a catering option and maybe even some rooms booked. What is really bad is there is no minimum spending thresholds for these “Rewarding Events”. The program did not set a minimum spend for these 10 eligible nights to kick in. This means, a person doing a wedding or corporate conference spending $1000+ is getting the same 10 eligible nights as those who book a conference room for 30 minutes paying $100 and sometimes, according to the Marriott thread, don’t even need to show up for the meeting!

This huge loophole is allowing many free-loaders to gain status cheaply or less qualified members to annually “massage” their numbers to hit the next elite status. All of this brings short term revenue but again undermines the integrity of the program and in long term distorts the stats of what revenue honest Elite members brings. Elite status should have some correlation towards “big spenders” or “frequent guests”. The number of freeloaders entering distorts the system and weakens the benefits honest and honorable elites would have had without these free-loaders.

You can read more on the thread – Platinum Status in Eight Days and $800 - No Stays Required
Platinum Status in Eight Days and $800 - No Stays Required

Had this loophole happened in SPG, everyone would be up in arms and I believe our SPG team would have closed the loophole quickly and may even reverse nights earned by repeated abusers (eg subject them to an audit). Marriott loophole has been around since at least 2010. For 8 years, nothing was done. Only when some of the SPG Program administrators joined the Marriot Rewards team and start planning the merged program did some reform happens. Reforms seem to happen on Aug 1.

Loophole 4: Mad dash towards 2 million points & 750 nights before end of year

Now that we have this new merge program. Marriott’s legacy Lifetime program will die end of year. However, one can still qualify for it before end of this year. So what do Marriott members going to do if they are not close? Are they relaxed as SPG members and just “Come what may”? According to Flyertalk thread, they are doing a mad dash to qualifications. For SPG members, there is no “mad dash” other than staying in a hotel. Some Marriott members are already playing tricks.

To make the threshold, Marriott members are engaged in gaming activities some are more shady than others. From what I read so far, here’s what the tricks are:
1) Using “Rewarding Events” (loophole 3 ) to reach the 750 nights

2) Opening multiple Marriott credit cards to get welcome bonuses to reach 2 million points threashold

3) This is like money laundry. Transferring Marriot points to SPG points and then transfer SPG points to various family members. Transfer points from Family members SPG account to family members’ Marriott account. Finally get them to gift the points back to primary member thus having the “earnings” count towards lifetime earning twice even though no new Marriott points was earned! – this is taking advantage of loophole that Marriott can’t trace the points origins that far. The merge program should perform AUDITS on this shady behavior!

4) Transfer Marriot points to SPG, SPG to United. United back to Marriott! Whoa! Points count towards lifetime again! With some loss in transfer.

5)Buying SPG/Marriott points for family members and get them to gift to primary account holder.

With all this gaming around, there will be more undeserved Lifetime members that don’t share the same level of passion as we do in the merged program.

Loopholes and Trust

Individually, each of the above 4 mentioned loopholes is a lot hurt. If one combines the above 4 loopholes, it truly undermines the program integrity. Marriott Platinum members say I have 1000 nights but it highly probable he/she didn’t sleep 1000 nights because of roll-over nights, credit cards, meetings! Marriott has reported fewer upgrades than SPG Plat members and I start thinking there are structural factors that their members are “massaging” their nights to gain higher status, and the sheer number of free-loaders. Overtime, the membership got infused with more free-loaders and more people start gaming the system resulting in a more inflated elite membership than what there truly should be.

SPG brought in blunt tools to fix structural limitations

I at first didn’t understand why in the new merged program, Plat 100 requires $20,000 spend to get an ambassador and Your24 benefit. For SPG members, we’re honorable enough that this doesn’t make sense. 100 nights at al-cheapo 4 point costs at least $10000. My near city Sheraton costs on the lowest rate is $180/night. My Tokyo/Hong Kong hotels are at $250/night at least. Why Marriott punish those who stay 100 nights’ road warrior in a mix of 4 point and Sheratons? Can’t they hire more ambassadors? Then after reading a lot of Marriott forum, I realize it is likely the SPG team put that spending requirements on! It's not against our Plat 100 members as our Plat 100 at the low end should be near $15,000/year level spending in hotels because all are butt-in-nights. It's there to block Marriott free-loaders. Marriott program have such huge loopholes that many of their elites probably “massage” their way to an undesired higher tier. The $20,000 spending requirements is a blunt way to separate the “real” frequent guests against those that are free-loaders or those that “massage their nights” through loopholes to make their way to the top.

Suggestions to Starwood Lurker to bring to the SPG/Marriot program design team

I hope Starwood Lurker William can deliver this feedback to the design team to for 2019 qualification updates. We really need to take a page out of United Airlines and Air Canada’s playbook.

Suggestion 1: Put a spending threshold for those upgrade certs in addition to night stays.
Example The Annual Platinum Premier level (at 75 nights) will only get the additional 5 Suite Night Awards for spending total of $7500 (very reasonable at 100/night)
The Annual Platinum level (at 50 nights) will only get the 5 Suite Night Awards for spending total of $5000 (very reasonable at 100/night)
Put these two conditions on there. Then start enhancing benefits in 2020 – benefits that require you get only if you meet those spending thresholds.

Suggestion 2: Put a minimum spending threshold on Marriott’s “Rewarding Events” and put a Cap on the nights you can earn. You cannot allow someone to spend total of $800 over 8 meetings, not show up for meetings and then gain 80 nights and therefore “buy” the elite status.

Suggestion 3: When we report loopholes, put money and time to close them. We need to cleanse the membership and discourage dishonorable members from gaming the system. Increasing trust between members and the merged program is the way for developing loyalty. It’s also great the roll-over nights program is dead.

Suggestion 4: Don’t allow credit card nights to count towards life-time status nor allow unearned years count towards new life-time status. Use the narrowest definition when it comes to earned years. I find the lifetime status earned is rewarding because the journey was a long and meaningful one. When a program says 10 years minimum, it should also mean someone may need 12/13/15 years as an elite Marriott member to qualify and it through Lifetime. It has diminishing meaning if most of a person’s “stay” memory is booking meetings for others (10 nights each) or keeping a credit card (15 nights per year). Fond memories come from experiences. Loyalty comes from fond memories associated with the brand. Moderately bad memories in a hotel likely fades away through time (unless it was so bad you remember it). The Lifetime program should aim in encouraging the maximization of members creating these wonderful memories in your hotels and that can only happen through staying in them. Don’t short-change your own program by allowing nights that contribute to zero memory creation “count” towards lifetime membership.



Read my Reflections Part 2 thread on my thoughts on SPG Lifetime Plats with <750 nights coming tomorrow

Last edited by yeunganson; Jun 18, 18 at 12:59 am
yeunganson is offline  
Old Jun 18, 18, 1:49 am
  #2  
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Originally Posted by yeunganson View Post

Suggestions to Starwood Lurker to bring to the SPG/Marriot program design team

I hope Starwood Lurker William can deliver this feedback to the design team to for 2019 qualification updates. We really need to take a page out of United Airlines and Air Canada’s playbook.

Suggestion 1: Put a spending threshold for those upgrade certs in addition to night stays.
Example The Annual Platinum Premier level (at 75 nights) will only get the additional 5 Suite Night Awards for spending total of $7500 (very reasonable at 100/night)
The Annual Platinum level (at 50 nights) will only get the 5 Suite Night Awards for spending total of $5000 (very reasonable at 100/night)
Put these two conditions on there. Then start enhancing benefits in 2020 – benefits that require you get only if you meet those spending thresholds.

Suggestion 2: Put a minimum spending threshold on Marriott’s “Rewarding Events” and put a Cap on the nights you can earn. You cannot allow someone to spend total of $800 over 8 meetings, not show up for meetings and then gain 80 nights and therefore “buy” the elite status.

Suggestion 3: When we report loopholes, put money and time to close them. We need to cleanse the membership and discourage dishonorable members from gaming the system. Increasing trust between members and the merged program is the way for developing loyalty. It’s also great the roll-over nights program is dead.

Suggestion 4: Don’t allow credit card nights to count towards life-time status nor allow unearned years count towards new life-time status. Use the narrowest definition when it comes to earned years. I find the lifetime status earned is rewarding because the journey was a long and meaningful one. When a program says 10 years minimum, it should also mean someone may need 12/13/15 years as an elite Marriott member to qualify and it through Lifetime. It has diminishing meaning if most of a person’s “stay” memory is booking meetings for others (10 nights each) or keeping a credit card (15 nights per year). Fond memories come from experiences. Loyalty comes from fond memories associated with the brand. Moderately bad memories in a hotel likely fades away through time (unless it was so bad you remember it). The Lifetime program should aim in encouraging the maximization of members creating these wonderful memories in your hotels and that can only happen through staying in them. Don’t short-change your own program by allowing nights that contribute to zero memory creation “count” towards lifetime membership.
Hi yeunganson

Thank you taking the time to share your feedback and suggestions.
This is definitely helpful for us to know how our valuable guest thinks and feel.
We will definitely share this with the relevant team.

Taufiq Hamzah
Social Media Specialist
Starwood Customer Contact Centre (AP) Pte Ltd
[email protected]
Starwood Lurker IV is offline  
Old Jun 18, 18, 3:22 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2003
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Originally Posted by Starwood Lurker IV View Post
Hi yeunganson

Thank you taking the time to share your feedback and suggestions.
This is definitely helpful for us to know how our valuable guest thinks and feel.
We will definitely share this with the relevant team.

Taufiq Hamzah
Social Media Specialist
Starwood Customer Contact Centre (AP) Pte Ltd
[email protected]
If I could add one sentiment that our Lurker could bring back to the powers that be. That is equal treatment of legacy SPG and MR accounts. As an example; The number of # years as elite for legacy SPG accounts are given by the SPG dashboard that is all good, however if the functionality to obtain number of # years as elite for legacy MR accounts are to be more lenient with respect to gifted status etc the same should apply for SPG accounts. The same rules should apply for legacy SPG accounts or legacy MR accounts. I am agnostic to which rules prevails but it should be the same. It would be logical to let the SPG rule be the guide or maybe how the new program define a qualifying elite year.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 7:03 am
  #4  
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Note that Marriott has already closed a couple of the loopholes (no more rollover nights, and no more 1 night per $3K spend on CC, which you didn't mention). And rumor has it that the 10 nights for any Rewarding Event will change come 8/1 (10 nights only the first meeting, 1 night/meeting after that).

They are also closing the SPG "loophole" of being able to get credit for 3 rooms per night (though I put loophole in quotes there, as I believe there is no equivalence of that loophole with the MR ones).

So going forward, LT Plat will be pretty easy...have the credit card, stay 35-45 nights/year, no minimum points needed. But at least the member has to be loyal for 10 different years, vs. being able to gamify it in a short period of time.

As many have noted before me, SPG was weighted more towards elite recognition & on-property benefits, vs. the MR focus on higher bang for buck points earning and redemption. The new program seems to have found a good balance of both, but time will tell on the elite recognition side.

(BTW very well written and thought provoking piece, OP).
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Old Jun 18, 18, 7:34 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by UA-NYC View Post
And rumor has it that the 10 nights for any Rewarding Event will change come 8/1 (10 nights only the first meeting, 1 night/meeting after that).
That will be a very welcome change. It was really ridiculous.

Originally Posted by UA-NYC View Post
They are also closing the SPG "loophole" of being able to get credit for 3 rooms per night (though I put loophole in quotes there, as I believe there is no equivalence of that loophole with the MR ones).
I wouldn't call that a loophole at all. It was an explicitly defined benefit.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 7:37 am
  #6  
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Originally Posted by yeunganson View Post
Put a spending threshold for those upgrade certs in addition to night stays.
This is unnecessarily punitive. There are places in the world where this may be reasonable, and places where it isn't. It's also highly skewed in favor of business travelers staying on OPM.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 8:10 am
  #7  
 
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This thread is a very interesting example of how the same facts look totally different to different people. Personally, I have found the Marriott elite experience to be a somewhat warmer, more welcoming, more inclusive experience than the SPG elite experience. Others' experiences may (and apparently do) differ. Also, others may not value these features as much or may even view them as negatives.

As to "equal" treatment of SPG and MR legacy accounts, my definition of "equal" would be to treat them both the way they were each marketed at the time. That seems like equal and fair treatment. To retroactively change the treatment of one or the other seems to me to be clearly not treating them equally. Going forward, under new, announced rules applicable to all, is a different matter.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 8:16 am
  #8  
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I'll agree that it's a matter of perspective - so one must consider things from all viewpoints.

You argue that Marriott is more lenient with status, but the annual threshold for top tier was 75 nights, the highest in the industry. Someone on the MR side can look at SPG, where you can earn Platinum status with just 25 one night stays. And since you could earn credit for 3 rooms at a time, if you travel with a large family or colleagues, you could get that status with only 9 actual nights of butt in bed (or 8 if you had the Amex).

As the programs combine, regarding lifetime status, my biggest issue (as a much more regular guest of Marriott than Starwood) is that the new program status - years plus nights - mirrors the SPG method. The problem is that in hindsight, SPG members are rewarded going forward based on what has always been their benchmarks. For legacy MR members, the rules have changed entirely. Someone striving for years to achieve 2MM points suddenly sees that threshold vanishing after this year, so no wonder some are making the "mad dash".

And since years of status never mattered in the past, MR members never strived for that. I know in 2017, I could have focused my travel enough to earn MR 50 night status, but because my 2018 travel pattern would have meant little in-hotel benefit from that status, I didn't. Had I known years of status would be the lifetime benchmark for the new program, I would have. SPG members had no such switch made on them.

As far as your suggestions, it seems pretty common here on FT for people to make suggestions where the negative impact only affects other people. One you yourself already have lifetime platinum, it's easy to say things should change to make it harder for others. Suggestions 2 - 4 won't affect you, and I'm guessing you do have the annual spend so that #1 won't either?

(And in the interest of disclosure, the nights count doesn't affect me, I'm already over 750 combined. I may or may not have 10 years of 50 night status, I think most likely not, but I'm closer on that than I ever was on LT points with MR).
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Last edited by swag; Jun 18, 18 at 10:36 am
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Old Jun 18, 18, 8:18 am
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by Ord Liza View Post
This thread is a very interesting example of how the same facts look totally different to different people. Personally, I have found the Marriott elite experience to be a somewhat warmer, more welcoming, more inclusive experience than the SPG elite experience. Others' experiences may (and apparently do) differ. Also, others may not value these features as much or may even view them as negatives.

As to "equal" treatment of SPG and MR legacy accounts, my definition of "equal" would be to treat them both the way they were each marketed at the time. That seems like equal and fair treatment. To retroactively change the treatment of one or the other seems to me to be clearly not treating them equally. Going forward, under new, announced rules applicable to all, is a different matter.
Fair enough, however for MR legacy accounts there exists no historical precedent with respect to the definition of a valid elite year. If you in such a situation create a more lenient rule that is only applied on legacy MR accounts while a less lenient legacy rule is applied on SPG legacy accounts I would define as unfair treatment of SPG legacy accounts. If there is a need for a more lenient rule; apply it on both types of accounts.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 8:41 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
That will be a very welcome change. It was really ridiculous.
I don't disagree - I am personally taking advantage of it now, but it is ridiculous

I wouldn't call that a loophole at all. It was an explicitly defined benefit.
Just referencing the "what about-ism" often mentioned in other threads...I have yet to see a single poster say they have earned more than my 50 nights from that benefit (out of 800+ so not even significant). Whereas the other forms of night earning were IMO cheaper/easier/more fruitful.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 9:03 am
  #11  
 
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The entire point of Marriott having a program like this is to drive business. It is not to make anyone feel superior, yet this post never mentions profit to Marriott, what activities drive profit, how much profit different activities bring or what additional business something you deem unworthy might bring. The people who have that information and study that information decide how the program is run so as to maximize profits. If that makes a particular member feel less special, who cares?
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Last edited by Oxon Flyer; Jun 18, 18 at 9:16 am Reason: For compliance with FT Rule 22.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 9:22 am
  #12  
 
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
That will be a very welcome change. It was really ridiculous.

I wouldn't call that a loophole at all. It was an explicitly defined benefit.
How is the explicitly defined benefit of ten nights credit for a meeting a "loophole" when it was explicitly permitted by the T&Cs, defined there too, yet the three for one gimmick was not a loophole because it was an explicitly defined benefit? If something is not a loophole because it is an expressly defined benefit, then the meetings would not be a loophole. How can one a loophole but the other is an explicitly defined benefit? Especially when both are defined benefits?
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Old Jun 18, 18, 10:16 am
  #13  
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Folks, the forum moderators are aware of this thread and have already had to make some interventions to ensure compliance with the FT Rules.

If you have any issues with any particular wording or the ‘worthiness’ of the thread, please just click the triangle and let the mods sort it out.

This thread is a very interesting example of how the same facts look totally different to different people.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 10:42 am
  #14  
 
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Originally Posted by CJKatl View Post
The entire point of Marriott having a program like this is to drive business. It is not to make anyone feel superior, yet this post never mentions profit to Marriott, what activities drive profit, how much profit different activities bring or what additional business something you deem unworthy might bring. The people who have that information and study that information decide how the program is run so as to maximize profits.
But for such a customer-centric business as hotel management, optimising for profit alone might turn out to be a sub-optimal strategy in the long term. Any FX trader can show great profits in his/her short term book by letting the long term book go to hell in a handbasket. You can also trade off margins against volume so saying it's all about profit doesn't really tell you anything. And if it's all about profit maximization maybe Marriott might want to avoid having their booking page being down more often than it's up.

Originally Posted by CJKatl View Post
If that makes a particular member feel less special, who cares?
Well if enough members feel less special I guess someone ought to care eventually.
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Old Jun 18, 18, 11:28 am
  #15  
 
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OP mentions adding a spend requirements for SNAs. Totally disagree here. They are already worthless as it is...

I also don't think SPG/MAR should be emulating UA...all US domestic FFP's have done is gut customer benefits and likely engender singular brand loyalty
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