How to book Manhattan’s secret — and cheapest — Marriott ‘mattress run’
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There was no easy way to explain to my wife why I needed to stop by a rooftop bar in Times Square and then pay for a hotel room there that I had no plans to spend the night in.
Over the years, I’ve done lots of crazy things in the pursuit of points, miles and elite status. But this … this was a touch harder to explain.
I was on a quest to test out what is probably the cheapest — and most bizarre — option for a Marriott “mattress run” in Manhattan.
For those who don’t know, this is the time of year when frequent travelers start getting serious about requalifying for next year’s elite status. We’ve got less than three months to hit those flight miles or hotel nights to get status in 2020.
Enter the mattress run.
Marriott’s Bonvoy program requires 10 nights in hotels to reach Silver status, 25 nights for Gold, 50 for Platinum and 75 for Titanium. Ambassador elite requires both 100 nights and $20,000 in annual spending.
Sometimes it makes sense to book a cheap hotel room you don’t really need for a night or two to hit that next tier. Also, award stays count toward earning status too, so you don’t have to spend real cash on stays for them to count.
I already get Gold status for complimentary thanks to my Platinum Card® from American Express and my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. I could earn Marriott Platinum status by charging $75,000 to the Bonvoy Brilliant card in a year — but I don’t currently have $75,000 in charges to put on that one card this year.
Platinum status, however, is my goal. It can get me free breakfast, lounge access, a 4 p.m. checkout, the opportunity for free suite upgrades and a few other perks. So I need to hit the 50-night threshold. My Bonvoy credit card gives me 15 elite qualifying nights each year, which gets me nearly a third of the way toward my 50 nights. Add in lots of work and personal trips and I’m close, but not close enough, to hit Platinum status by the end of the year. Time for a mattress run.
Living in Manhattan, it isn’t as easy to make a mattress run as it is in less expensive parts of the county.
“Budget” hotels in the city are routinely more than $200 a night, though you can find Marriott properties for around $60 per night in other parts of the country. I haven’t owned a car in 12 years, making it difficult to drive out to a cheap, suburban Fairfield Inn.
So that’s how I found myself at the rooftop bar of the Moxy Times Square.
Moxy is one of Marriott International’s newer chains, aimed at a younger, hipper crowd. I was one of the reporters at the brand’s big unveiling in January 2015 and remember the mock rooms set up inside shipping containers. Moxy’s theme is super-cool but super-tiny. (Here’s a TPG review of the Moxy in downtown Chicago — complete with bunk beds.)
The Moxy Times Square has a rooftop bar called Magic Hour that takes the whole vibe to a new level. The bar includes a mini-golf course called “Fore Play,” some topiary bears engaged in several, um, adult positions and a carousel with benches and tables that spins you around and around as you eat and drink.
At first glance, Magic Hour’s menu is typical for a Manhattan bar. Beers are $10, cocktails start at $17 and a giant soft pretzel is $16.
But at the bottom of the menu, Magic Hour offers something unique, “crash pads.” These 110-square foot rooms are yours for one night for just $99. The menu asks you to “inquire for details.”
These rooms can’t be booked online. As a point of comparison, a room with a double bed at the Moxy is 150 square feet and king rooms start at 200 square feet.
I didn’t really care about size. I own an apartment one subway stop away. My question was: Could I get an elite night credit by booking one of these crash pads?
So I inquired.
A friendly bartender explained that I needed to make a purchase at the bar, take the receipt down to the lobby and see if they had any crash pads left.
When the hotel opened in September 2017, there was a lot of press about the 19 crash pads. Note: Somehow their size has shrunk from 120 square feet in media reports back then to the 110 square feet on the menu today. I didn’t bring a tape measure for my very short stay.
The hotel has always explained that they could only be booked via the rooftop bar. A big alarm went off in my mind as the bartender said there might not be any left. It was 5 p.m. on a Monday. The bar opened an hour ago. How could all 19 crash pads be gone?
The bar menu also says that the rooms are only available after 11 p.m. but the bartender said the front desk doesn’t enforce that.
I asked if there was a minimum spend to get a room and he said I could order a $4 soda and qualify. Or, he added quickly, he could just ring up one cent and give me a receipt. I didn’t have any change, but luckily, he was more than happy to let me use a credit card for the one-cent charge.
(Full disclosure: I did arrive with some co-workers and ran up a separate tab for a round of drinks and some appetizers. The one-cent charge was done to get me a receipt immediately and see just how cheap I could make this experiment.)
I took the elevator down to the lobby and my dreams of a cheap mattress run were quickly extinguished by the crowd. It was the week of the United Nations General Assembly and every hotel in the city was at or near capacity. The Moxy Times Square was asking $529 for one of those 150-square-foot rooms with a double bed.
Sure enough, when I got to the check-in counter, I was quickly turned away. No crash pads were being offered that night.
I was disappointed — but at least I could head to my own apartment for the night and wasn’t scrambling for another room elsewhere.
That Monday-night attempt might have been a failure, but I don’t give up that easily.
Four nights later, I decided to swing on by the hotel on my way home. It was a Friday night. The United Nations delegates had left the city. And rates for double rooms at the Moxy were down to $246.
A Marriott Courtyard nearby wanted $199 and the Element Times Square West wanted $189. If I had a car, the Sheraton in Edison, New Jersey, wanted $84 for the night. In the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., I could have checked into the Sheraton Tysons Corner for $75.
Any one of those hotels would have certainly earned the Marriott Bonvoy elite night.
I wanted the $99 Manhattan crash pad.
Arriving at the hotel, I skipped the line for the rooftop bar, the bouncer inspecting IDs and the bar’s bag check.
Instead, I took my receipt from earlier in the week straight to the front desk. It was 6 p.m. and the lobby was empty. I flashed the bar receipt and said I wanted a crash pad. There was one left and it was mine.
The agent at the front desk was manually entering my info into the system when I asked about adding my Bonvoy number. No problem!
Soon I was being welcomed as a Platinum Elite member. I got vouchers for two free glasses of prosecco at the lobby bar, 500 bonus points and two free waters in the room. About 30 minutes later, the reservation showed up in my Marriott app. My hopes of a successful mattress run were looking promising.
With $18.11 in taxes, my all-in cost would be $117.11 — plus the penny spent at the rooftop bar.
I headed up to the seventh floor to check out my crash pad.
There are 612 rooms at the Moxy Times Square. Mine was clearly not the nicest in the hotel, but I was still pleasantly surprised. The hotel made full use of every square inch. The twin bed was comfortable, the bathroom wasn’t as small as I expected it to be. Sure, there wasn’t really any place to store luggage and only a few hangers were crammed into a corner. None of that mattered to me. I was, after all, just here for the elite-qualifying night.
I took some photos of the room, worked on my laptop for a bit and watched an hour-long episode of “Billions” on Showtime — free streaming access to the pay channel comes through the TV for guests.
The room was cozy and the design thoughtful. I worried about the frosted-glass window on the door letting in too much noise at night. During my 90 minutes in the room, I heard plenty of conversations as people walked down the hall or waited for the nearby elevators. That wasn’t promising for a full night’s sleep. Luckily, I was sleeping in my own bed, uptown, that night.
Why else do I like the Moxy? It’s not quite in Times Square (fine with me) but is close enough to all those subway lines plus Penn Station. That means folks who work in the city but commute out to Long Island or New Jersey could easily make this a mattress-run stop on the way home. Or someone might truly need a crash pad.
The next morning, I woke up at home and prepared to take my daughter to her gymnastics class. It was only on the way out the door that I noticed the hotel key card from the night prior. I almost forgot to check out of the room that I wasn’t using. I grabbed my phone, opened the Marriott app and clicked the check-out button. A few minutes later, an email arrived with my final bill.
A note at the bottom had my account number and said: “Your Marriott Bonvoy points/miles earned on your eligible earnings will be credited to your account. Check your Marriott Bonvoy account statement or your online statement for updated activity.”
Three days later, the points — and the elite-qualifying night — posted to my account. Success!
My rooftop gamble had paid off. The $99 crash pad counted as an elite-qualifying night. I got 990 base points, plus 495 extra points for being a Platinum member this year and 500 more as a welcome gift. That was a total of 1,985 points for the $117.11 room — plus 703 points for charging the room to my Bonvoy Brilliant Amex. All of those points are worth $20.50 at our current valuations.
So, in the end, the mattress run essentially cost me $96.61 (plus that pesky extra penny.) It was less if you wanted to assign value to the couple of glasses of included prosecco.
It wasn’t the best deal I’ve ever found, but it might be the most creative. At the very least, I’ve now got a good story to tell — plus one extra night toward next year’s status.
All photos by the author except where noted.
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