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My Starwood Ambassador Experience Has Ended and I Don’t Really Care

by on April 18, 2014 · 24 comments

in Starwood

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express has expired. View the current offers here – personal, business.

At the beginning of 2012, Starwood updated their Starwood Preferred Guest program to include multiple perks for those frequent guests who stay for 50, 75 or 100 nights at their properties. Some of the perks which I have written about in the past were pretty cool, including updated amenity benefits, higher point valuation and more. Here is the breakdown of the SPG Platinum Tiers:

SPG 50 Nights Benefit

  • Take an upgrade when it matters to you most. Receive 10 Suite Night Awards which can be redeemed for upgrades to suites and select premium rooms. Confirmed starting 5 days prior to arrival and subject to availability.

SPG 75 Nights Benefit

  • 4 Starpoints for every eligible US dollar spent – a 100% bonus over the Preferred level, and the richest earning bonus in the hotel industry.
  • Your24™ – have the flexibility of choosing your check-in. For example, check in at 9 p.m. and check out 9 p.m. day of departure.

SPG 100 Nights Benefit

  • Our highest level of service. Imagine having a single point of contact who can help make everything fall into place when you travel. That’s exactly the kind of personalized service SPG ambassadors provide. They handle everything from room preferences to restaurant reservations to special occasions. Just tell them what you need, and they’ll work to make it happen any day of the year.

The concept of SPG100 is great, it provides the immediate high-level personal relationship that a dedicated and loyal consumer deserves. It gives you a point person who you can always go to to help you with all of your needs, all of the time. Of course if the program worked exactly as planned than it would be ideal, and sadly SPG100 is far from.

When I got to 100 nights in 2012 (thanks to the Personal and Business SPG Amex cards which each give 2 stays/5 nights towards status, plus some additional bookings I made) I was obviously very excited about the prospect of this program, as I travel extensively and having a person assist with my bookings and needs would save both time and energy.

Ambassador service comes with the 100-night level.

Ambassador service comes with the 100-night level.

But herein lies the problem, and the reason that I was not a fan of the program: I was supposed to have an ambassador who would help me, and although I did, the ease of contacting and connecting was difficult. I was supposed to be able to email the ambassador directly with any requests (adding a name to reservation, making a change to room type, etc.), however every time I would email them, it would take at least a few hours to get a response and for me, a lot of my requests are last minute/need immediate assistance.

That being said, they did forward my response to an international team when my ambassador was out of the office, but I never really felt like major things were happening for me. To me, it honestly always seemed quicker to simply call the dedicated SPG Platinum line  and complete the request right then and there. So all-in-all, in theory this is a great perk, but in reality, it just wasn’t cutting it for me.

Maybe the program has gotten too big? Or maybe my expectations weren’t set appropriately?

I imagine that this is what my ambassador's phone looked like...

I imagine that this is what my ambassador’s phone looked like… ;-)

I’m a huge fan of SPG,  but at the end of the day, I would rather stick with the SPG 75 benefits and stay the other 25 nights at more unique hotels or airbnb properties (as I did recently in Dublin) or even at other chains to diversify my spending portfolio.
When I first posted about the SPG Ambassador experience it seemed like I wasn’t alone judging the comments on this thread. Though I’m curious whether my experience is normal or not. Please share your Ambassador stories and experiences!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Sean Besser

    I agree 100%. The birthday and anniversary gifts were nice perks, but most of the time I found it more trouble than it was worth and there were times I wished I didn’t have it.

  • Kevin T.

    I often went out of my way to utilize my ambassador, thinking that she would make an effort to leave notes in my reservation for perks or increase my chances of receiving an upgrade. This was not really my experience. Booking and making changes online was often much more efficient.

  • John

    Haha, as if without the SPG cards you wouldn’t have achieved Ambassador to begin with ;)

  • Matt

    I disagree with every part of your complaint about the program except for when you said sometimes they would get back to you in an hour. To that point though, I’ve messages you on here when you weren’t as popular a few years ago and never received a message, did I leave your site, no. My point is, they aren’t just YOUR ambassador, and they always tell you how to get support when they are not there (call their ambassador hotline). I work for a company (that you are a frequent guest of) with 1000 sales reps who predominantly stay with SPG. I’d say about 5% of us have ambassadors and you get out what you put into it. If you don’t want to talk to your ambassador regularly (like I do) and understand that his/her schedule isn’t 24/7., you can’t really expect to get your answer resolved right away now can you? Don’t ask a question when it’s past their work schedule since it’ll sit either until the next day or when a colleague picks it up. My ambassador has mailed me birthday gifts for three consecutive years now. She’s taken a lot of the busy work out of planning a trip for me on several occasions like arranging cabs or having the concierges at each hotel reach out to me before my arrival to book excursions, arrange airport pickups, prep my room, etc. Back to the point of my colleagues, I talk to my ambassador, she knows what I like and the type of help I like to get. My colleagues, they can care less really. One colleague asked for his ambassador to email him all the promotions, that’s it. You get out what you put into it. Leesa is my ambassador and she may be the best thing SPG’s Ambassador team has going.

  • Matt

    One other thing, it’s a free service, stop complaining and appreciate it. I have a friend who’s platinum for like with Marriott and barely gets upgraded. He always tells me how envious he is of my status with SPG

  • matt

    Talk to your ambassador again and tell her you want her to leave notes in your profile, don’t just assume she will. Every SPG hotel I stay in, I’m greeted before going to the desk by name, why? Because they have my photo that my ambassador asked me for when I first got accepted into the program. This happens with hotel employees whom I’ve never even met either. When i get to some hotel rooms theres a tube of toothpaste in the bathroom for me. Why? Because my ambassador once asked me what are some things I’d like to have upon checkin, and I told her. Maybe I have a better ambassador than everyone else or maybe I’m just more baller than you and the points guy when it comes to SPG? I don’t know.

  • matt

    Just curious, what were your gifts? I’ve gotten a W Robe, a few W accessories, and 3 books..

  • Andrew

    I think it comes down to WHO your ambassador is. My ambassador service ended this year as well, but during the time I had the service I reaped the benefits. My ambassador was attentive and responsive and ensured that my birthday trip, among other trips, was flawless. She went out of her way to find out my likes and dislikes and made me feel truly valued. Additionally, she was able to find the best rates and the best rooms. Before I arrived at the hotel, I had a list of restaurants and activities to choose from.

    I do have a couple of friends that felt that their ambassador experience was worthless, so I really think it comes down to who is assigned to you.

  • Sean Besser

    I got the robe as well. I am a big foodie and my amb clearly did her homework as I got a zagat book and some chocolate for my birthday and we got some other book for our anniversary.

  • RJ

    I had a similar experience — I found that my ambassador was nice but not very responsive or particularly helpful. I got in contact with a supervisor, and she reassigned me to another ambassador, Jason Neville, who is excellent!

  • Kevin

    I don’t agree that this is a “free” service – you spend plenty of cash making 100 nights in a year. I get “free” concierge service with my Amex Plat – and it’s nearly as worthless as the SPG Ambassador program. I’ve always found that making changes online or over the phone to be faster – rather than having an ambassador, just give me a 24/7 hotline…

  • alxstevens

    Matt -

    My experience was like Kevin and TPG – my Ambassador was very helpful and attentive via email, and did in fact send me a birthday card, but I never saw a single instance of improvement at any of my 50+ stays that I made while in the Ambassador program, even in cases when I told him personally that this was an important/meaningful stay. I too sent a picture, and never had anyone recognize me.

    I like SPG and I am treated very well as a Plat, but I’m with TPG when I say the Amabssador 25 nights aren’t worth it – would rather have Hyatt Diamond as a second top-tier.

    That said, I also agree with you and Andrew that it comes down to who your Amassador is. I also wonder if there’s a budget assigned per participant for things like gifts – maybe that’s why others get gifts and I get a card?

  • FrankC

    I had great response time from my ambassador but besides very specific requests like “Can you please ask the hotel to have a bottle of wine the night after I check-in” I didn’t see any value. While I wasn’t looking to get extra freebies I would have at least thought I’d get some better notification of promos, SPG moments (and I specifically called these out multiple times), and just some more proactive service then having to ask for something specific that I could ask the hotel for as well (and probably get better service). It seemed like a great idea but poorly executed.

  • J

    Talk about high maintenance

  • moe ahmed

    what do u mean i shouldn’t assume??? they shoold be more professional and i shouldn’t tell them how to do their job. Obviously anyone would like to get a free upgrade without even asking. so why should i remind my ambassador to put a note on a reservation for a free upgrade or to add some perks. And no its not a free service for someone paying 100 nights per calendar year. when someone reaches to this elite level they should make sure they hire someone with extensive experience and to make sure to notify the hotel by email or phone that a loyal spg member will arrive and to request a suite upgrade or to provide a upgraded room. you must be very lucky to have an experienced ambassador cause i assure mine is a joke. im 2 years away of being spg lifetime platinum.
    remind him to request for me

  • SG

    My ambassador was amazing, but I didn’t visit enough high-end properties where the benefits could truly be utilized (such as a bottle of bourbon in my room waiting for me). Roger has been phenomenal, and we’ve bonded over Disneyland and Hawaii. I will use him for the next year and I’m glad he’s my ambassador.

    However, I recently learned from a former W Hotels Desk Manager that 100-night Platinums are at the bottom of the list. There’s basically no difference between people with status and everyone else. Unless you’re a celebrity or head of state, you’re basically one in a few hundred others expecting a suite upgrade.

  • Mark S.

    Seriously? I’ve been part of the ambassador program for the last 2 years and the most I’ve gotten is a birthday card!

  • Matt

    RE: The free service, what I meant was that I’m sure 75% of the people (if not more) who’ve reached this status probably never paid for the majority of their own hotel rooms out of pocket unless you own a business. The majority of the people who reach this status are probably business travelers. Also, you/company pay out of pocket to stay in a W, Westin, St.Regis etc hotel because you need a bed for the night. You don’t pay, per se, to get an ambassador. When you reach a certain level you are welcomed into the program of having an ambassador. Either way you still had to pay for 100 nights in hotels for whatever reasons you needed to travel that year. To my point, it is a free service added on top of your regular spend. Why complain about it? Either use it to its advantage or move along. They tell you all the time (at least mine does), they can’t guarantee you anything.

    Again, I am beyond grateful for mine. She’s done more than enough than what I listed and really made me proud to be very loyal to SPG.

  • HenryC

    I was told the same by a former Sheraton Manager…..everyone expects an upgrade. He also told me that usually they don’t attempt to upgrade elite status members unless they ask. My personal opinion is that it should be automatic. They created the program for people who spend their money and are loyal to the brand. Once it’s earned the perks should be automatic otherwise WHAT is the point? Why bother earning the status if you don’t get the perks?

  • HenryC

    Who care whether it was with or without the SPG cards?!? The company puts a set of requirements in place and provides way to meet those requirements. They should deliver on the promise. People who can’t or don’t care to try to meet the requirements shouldn’t complain or knock those that do.

  • John

    As a Hyatt Platinum, my “ambassdor” at Hyatt HQ does a fantastic job for me. I’d say I almost always get an upgrade (well perhaps over 90% of the time) whether using upgrade certs or free upgrade. I’m also SPG Platinum. My personal experience with Hyatt is far better than SPG. Hyatt is my first choice.

  • Guest

    I was excited to receive ambassador service to help with little things throughout the year: the forgotten items left behind at a hotel, the missing points that never showed up on my account, assistance with getting a late checkout when the W Fort Lauderdale requested $199 for a 4 pm checkout. I really like my ambassador (she is great!), but it doesn’t seem that the ambassador is empowered to handle these types of requests. It usually involves a reply such as “I’ve forwarded your request to that department and you will hear back soon.” Once I reach 75 nights at Starwood this year I’ll be spending my nights at Marriott and Kimpton. For those who have not tried Kimpton, I must say, their top tier Inner Circle status is really impressive, and they will match your Starwood status.

  • Jordan C.

    I used to work at the front desk of a major Starwood hotel in NYC. We received 100-200 platinum guests per day. Most were pretty polite and just wanted to check-in to a comfortable room to sleep, but some would demand every request be filled when they would arrive a 11pm. Of course we were happy to accommodate if we could, but sometimes things just aren’t available when you want them. They would call their concierge, but that person would just call us at the front desk and ask us again, at which point I would explain that the suite upgrade literally was not available and that I just told the guest that. Our VIP team would do their best to accommodate all room upgrades and requests received in advance, but SPG is not great for last-minute requests. Not all properties reserve suites or even high floor rooms for Plats. Personally, I felt like it was pretty cheap, but I wasn’t necessarily in a position of power at the time to change things.

  • Jamie

    If it makes you feel better, I had to “fire” my ambassador. When asked why by his supervisor, I emailed her this. She never responded. Well I guess customer service isn’t her strong-suit either…

    Hi Amy,

    I asked to switch ambassadors
    for a couple of reasons. However, I did not intend to Matt in trouble at all.

    I finally asked to switch ambassadors because I caught myself calling after his hours or call the Platinum concierge, on purpose to get someone that I thought might be more helpful.

    I have been disappointed with my ambassador service for a couple of examples which I will highlight below:

    My honeymoon summary (very high level): I got married last summer and planned a honeymoon, staying at all SPG properties in France. I worked with XX to do so, but while he booked them, there was nothing else that he did that made my experience special. I had asked that he made a note on my stay’s profile that it was my honeymoon and if possible, go above and beyond to ensure we got upgraded (using my upgrade nights). I called the afterhours ambassador service to ask a question a couple days before my departure and was told that the fact that it was my honeymoon had not been noted on my record (thus, I would not get anything special at all). In addition, we stayed at the Westin in Paris for 4 days. I forgot about
    the 5th night free situation (offered at this hotel) and was never
    reminded of that. While I don’t expect anyone to do that, it would have been nice. Finally, my arrivals. Each hotel experience had something majorly wrong with it. First, we checked into the Paris Westin. We were not given an upgrade and when we went up to our room, the room was completely unclean; bed unmade, bathroom dirty, cigarette butts throughout the room. Only after going down to the front desk, waiting in line and waiting 2+ hours, did they accommodate us. Again, nothing special with this stay for our honeymoon. Next, we went to the Nice Le Meridian. We checked in (again, no upgrade), and went to our room. We were put in a twin bed room…. For our honeymoon. I talked to the manager. He said there was nothing in the record about a honeymoon. After a few hours, he accommodated us. Again, nothing special here. Needless to say, this was pretty disappointing. And am leaving out little details to keep this brief.

    Upcoming Punta Cana trip: I am going to Punta Cana, DR this weekend with friends as a surprise for my
    husband’s 30th birthday. I reached out to XX to book. Again
    did not mention the 5th night free, so I will be missing out on
    that. Anyways, this has been an eye opening experience since a couple of the people I’m going with also have ambassadors. Our experiences have been very different. XX did however, asked if we wanted a car to pick us up from the airport for a $20 charge. I was actually impressed by this because I’ve never been offered anything like this. I was supposed to get a confirmation on this on Monday, but I have not received anything since he offered. However, my friend’s ambassador (XX) provided her with options of things to do in the area, called
    the hotel to ask for amenities, and asked which like of liquor/ wine she
    preferred so that would be in her room when she arrived. I have never been offered anything like this, even when I identify that something is a special
    trip.

    Honestly, I really do not needto have the red carpet rolled out for me when I got on trips. I am pretty laid back and not very demanding or a “complainer”, but since I stay at SPGs +1/3 of the year and spend tens of thousands of dollars a year with you all, I would like to have a similar experience to my peers.

    Again, not trying to get XX in trouble here. Maybe it just was not a “good
    fit”.

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