My last post on this fair blog was about all the ways I was going to get Bonvoyed this summer during a work trip that involved a trifecta of Marriott hotels (AKA “The Devil’s Triangle.”) Then, the most incredible thing happened: everything was fine. Better than fine, actually… I know, I’m as surprised as you! Marriott’s run of horrific customer service, chronicled in detail by the masochist(s) at the @Bonvoyed twitter account, had me quaking in my boots leading up to the trip. I mean, I can handle a rude hotel employee here or there, but all the outrageous customer service horror stories in their aggregate painted a very unflattering picture of a company that actively hates their customers and wants to torture them as much as possible.
I also had a mild Bonvoying as a sort of amuse-bouche for what I assumed would be a shit smorgasbord when Marriott lost the confirmation number for a stay booked through SPG (pre-merger) and then required forever and a half on the phone talking to various agents until they could find it again. I had assumed that transferring reservations from the old to the new system was pretty much ground zero for any kind of system integration, so the fact that Marriott could fuck even that up did not bode well.
The trip started off just fine: I checked into the Renaissance République in Paris, and no mention was made of the points discrepancy (that the rate I booked at was lower than the current rate due to the hotel changing categories). Not that this should have presented any issues, but when I wrote about how I was worried about the hotel not honoring my reward nights, no one told me I was wrong to be. I’m not going to give Marriott a cookie just for meeting the basic conditions of what a rewards program is, though, so let’s move on.
(If you’re interested in a review of the hotel: the rooms are super tiny and the bedside tables are barely big enough for an alarm clock and a cell phone, but it’s pretty nice. The location is fantastic, but I wouldn’t stay here again… especially not for 50,000 points per night. Oh and the minibar had dried crickets and a bunch of condoms and lube, so I imagine you could have a really interesting night if you were so inclined.)
As far as elite recognition, I got as much as I usually expect when staying at a hotel with mid-tier status, which is to say: a brief thank-you for being a loyal member upon check-in and then no room upgrade whatsoever. But the staff was really nice and helpful, so I can’t complain.
My next stay was supposed to be in Rotterdam, but the Autograph Collection (or Tribute Collection, I can never keep them straight) hotel I booked didn’t open in time. I don’t consider this a Bonvoying, though, since the same thing happened to me with IHG last fall. And at least this hotel was proactive about letting me know, whereas I had to find out about the IHG situation myself. We’ll call this one a draw, since Marriott didn’t get a chance to Bonvoy me but certainly could have. (I ended up booking the Hilton Rotterdam instead, and I was impressed. I got upgraded to a junior suite, and the executive lounge was huge with a substantial snack selection. Rotterdam is a very odd city and it would probably make sense to stay at a suitably odd hotel, but if you’re okay with a bland but luxurious corporate hotel, I recommend the Hilton.)
On to Munich, then, where I booked three rooms at the Le Meridien. I’ll put my cards on the table now: I loved this hotel, and the staff was fantastic. When I checked in, they told me they had upgraded me to a deluxe room, which was a nice surprise. However, when I asked about the other two rooms I booked, the guy apologized profusely for not realizing the three rooms were a block (since Marriott assigned them three different confirmation numbers after the SPG migration), and then set about making sure all three rooms were upgraded and on the same floor. That’s pretty amazing, right? As an extra bonus, they offered me two free drinks at the bar as an elite welcome amenity, although I still received the standard 500 points.
The hotel itself was superb — very large rooms (especially for Europe), great bathroom, good amenities, etc. My room even had a plate of fancy chocolates and strawberries with welcome letter too. For a mid-tier elite! I’ve never received a welcome amenity like that — not even from IHG when I paid to be an Ambassador, and certainly never from Hyatt or Hilton.
I’d stay here again in a second, except for the fact that the neighborhood right by the train station kind of sucks — lots of strip clubs and casinos. At least I think they were casinos. Too bad I didn’t have the crickets and lube from the Renaissance hotel in my room this time!
After a week at the Le Meridien, it was time to go home, and I was very thankful I somehow managed to escape my Bonvoying. The only remaining thing would be whether my points posted on time, since I’ve heard so many stories about that not happening. I made sure to get my guest folio printed out as well as emailed to so I would be armed in case any shenanigans cropped up after the fact. Then I flew home on Lufthansa first class, which was fucking awesome, but that’s for another post. (That I’ll probably get around to writing six months from now.)
A couple days after I got home, the points posted, but it was the wrong amount. “Here we go,” I thought. I asked Twitter whether they thought I should bother even trying to reclaim the other points, and aside from someone telling me that every idiot knows you can’t earn points from multiple rooms (you most definitely can), the consensus was that I should stop being so lazy and go get what’s mine.
Turns out I was only able to get points for two of the rooms, since only two were paid on my card, but that’s still around 20,000 points, so I decided to go for it. I waited until ten days had passed and then filled out a missing points form figuring I would wait forever and finally receive a non-answer response that required calling in and talking to someone with the enthusiasm of a wet flour tortilla. Much to my surprise, I received a response within five minutes saying that they had examined my guest folio and applied the points to my account, which would post within 48 hours.
Well, 48 hours passed and no points, so I sent a follow up saying the points I was awarded originally didn’t match the amount spent at the hotel. Another five minutes later I got a similar email saying I was right and that the points would post right away. I logged in again, and there they were.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
In conclusion, no I don’t know what makes me so goddamn special. The issues with Marriott clearly aren’t “noise around the edges,” as CEO-of-the-year Archie Sorenstern likes to say — the sheer volume of complaints, and the fact that some of the most well-known travel bloggers have been equally affected as rank-and-file members suggests that Marriott simply doesn’t care about their customers. I certainly am not writing this post to discount the stories of thousands of disgruntled Marriottsketeers, but… I’ve been pretty hard on Marriott in the last few posts, and I figured it was my duty as a journalist (HAHAHAHAHAHA) to present the other side of the story.
Honestly, the customer service thing at the end of the trip is what’s flipping me out the most. A good experience at a hotel is equal parts luck of the draw both in terms of staff and the hotel itself, but I don’t think I’ve read a single story of anyone having an easy time recovering lost points. That I should have had to deal with it in the first place is perhaps a point of criticism, but Marriott’s IT being a piece of shit is just a fact of life, so it’s to be expected. The thing that I can’t believe is how quickly they responded to emails both times, and also that I was able to resolve it in two “touches” (that’s some customer service-speak for ya) and no phone calls. It boggles the mind.
I supposed I shouldn’t celebrate too soon — maybe they’re going to claw back the points because I didn’t work hard enough for them, or there’s going to be a mystery charge on my card that I can’t get reversed or something like that. It’s certainly not without precedent. But for now, I’m going to say that my two stays with Marriott were both very pleasant, with the second one being among the better hotel experiences I’ve had outside of an ultra-luxury hotel. Maybe this — treating customers like humans and providing a good guest experience — is what Marriott needs to do to win people back, rather than funding insufferable influencer trips. But I’ll leave that up to Archie, since he knows what he’s doing.
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