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Social Media is all the rage these days – Delta is on the ball helping people through their @DeltaAssist Twitter account and hotels have been driving stays through Facebook, like the ill-fated Hilton Garden Inn 10,000 point debacle we all had fun with in February. I personally see the value of social media, because it allows me as a blogger to engage with new readers every day. Every time one of my Tweets gets re-tweeted on Twitter, new eyes stumble upon my site (and hopefully get hooked forever!).
Starwood has been savvy with their online presence for a while and they just announced a new level of social interaction – points for Foursquare check-ins. Per this promotion, you can now earn 250 Starpoints every time you check in at a Starwood property where you have a confirmed reservation (maximum of one check-in per day). Additionally, thru May 31, 2011, they are also “hiding” free resort nights, so every time you check-in, you have a chance at winning a free night.
I’m curious to see how this actually plays out. You have to link your Foursquare and Starwood accounts, so I assume they will be verifying that you actually have a reservation before awarding the points. Not the most sophisticated software, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people ended up getting points even if they didn’t have a reservation (or they made a refundable reservation and then cancelled after “checking-in” on Foursquare.)
Considering you don’t physically have to be somewhere to “check-in” via Foursquare, this could be an easy way to rack up valuable Starpoints. Starwood also allows free transfers between accounts from the same household, so if your family of 10 checks into a hotel, you can then merge all those points to a central account as long as you all have the same address on file. I wrote about this process changing recently in this post – Starwood seems to be monitoring intra-household transfers, so I wouldn’t recommend breaking the rules.
If you’re reading this and still scratching your head saying, “What the heck is Foursquare?” I will tell you. It’s an application you can download on your smart phone that uses GPS to detect stores/restaurants/points of interest and allows you to virtually “check-in” to those locations and leave a comment. For example, you can “check-in” to your favorite restaurant and leave a tip for future customer on your picks for the best menu items. I often see people leaving tips for free wifi codes and other helpful notes that can save you money.
Foursquare then learns all about your habits and can sell that valuable information to marketers. Additionally, companies can offer location-based specials to entice you to visit their establishment. I loaded up Foursquare in Times Square NY and got several specials, including this 250 Starpoint promotion:
1) Get a free gift when you check-in at the Winter Garden Theater and display the promotion on your phone and ticket stub for MAMMA MIA!
2) 250 free Starpoints for checking in at the Manhattan Times Square
3) Free 16oz fountain beverage with entree purchase at Cosi.
Let’s take a look at the T&C for this promo – they don’t explain a whole lot, like how exactly you will get the points or what they qualify as a “qualified stay”:
You must be a member of SPG and have an account with Foursquare Labs, Inc. (“Foursquare”) to participate in the Program. Membership in the SPG program is free at www.spg.com. A Foursquare account is free at www.foursquare.com.
Only one SPG member account may be linked to a Foursquare account, and both accounts must belong to the same person.
Only one check-in per property per member per 24-hour time period.
All Program offers are subject to the terms and conditions found at www.spg.com/foursquare, which may be modified or discontinued at any time.
Program offers may only be redeemed through a valid check-in on Foursquare at an official Starwood property venue.
Program offers will recognize only one Foursquare check-in at an official Starwood property venue per SPG member in a 24-hour time period.
If Starpoints are awarded pursuant to a Program offer, the redemption and expiration of Starpoints is governed by the SPG program terms and conditions.
Program offers may not be combined with any other offers, incentives, discounts or promotions.
Starwood reserves the right to modify or discontinue any of its offers available on Foursquare at any time.
You authorize Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., its affiliates, properties within the Starwood system and third-party service providers (collectively, “Starwood”) to collect, process, use and display information provided by you during the submission process (including any personally identifiable information) for any lawful, business-related purpose, to store the content and other information at and transmit it to various locations, either directly or through its third-party vendors, throughout the world, whether within your country of residence, the United States, or elsewhere; and to contact you regarding the content and other information you provided.
To update your communication preferences or learn about Starwood’s privacy practices, view the Starwood Privacy Statement at www.spg.com, or call 1-877-782-0071 in the U.S. and Canada, or +353-21-4930474 in all other countries to access our privacy information line.
The Program will not affect your communication preferences with other Starwood programs, for which you will need to inform such programs, Starwood directly if you wish to opt out.
If you choose to opt out of the Program, you may do so at any time by going to http://foursquare.com/settings. Once you opt out of the Program, Starwood will retain all information it has obtained from you or Foursquare to the extent that Starwood needs such information for business purposes, including verifying Starpoints awarded pursuant to the Program.
You acknowledge that the Program uses the Foursquare application programming interface but is not endorsed or certified by Foursquare.
You agree that Starwood is not responsible for any errors or omissions made by Foursquare.
You agree that Starwood is not responsible for any and all technical errors related to computers, servers, providers or telephone or network lines resulting in an unavailable check in.
YOU AGREE THAT STARWOOD AND FOURSQUARE SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY USE OF THE PROGRAM OR OTHER INFORMATION YOU PROVIDED.
You agree to indemnify and hold Starwood, Foursquare and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, agents and employees harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorney’s fees, made by any third party due to or arising out of your breach of these terms and conditions or your violation of any law or the rights of a third party. Starwood’s failure to act with respect to a breach by you or others does not waive its right to act with respect to subsequent or similar breaches.
You agree that any disputes arising out of or related to these terms and conditions shall be handled individually without any class action, and shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the state of New York.
Starwood reserves the right to modify or discontinue the Program at any time without notice as well as your participation in the Program if you violate the terms and conditions of the Program.
Starpoints, SPG, Preferred Guest, and their respective logos are the trademarks of Starwood or its affiliates.
All of the Foursquare TM logos (including all badges) and trademarks displayed as part of the Program are the property of Foursquare.