Can individual Marriott hotels opt out of replacement benefits for elites?
Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
We like to think of vacations as a stress-free time with no cares in the world, but when it comes to award travel, sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and start digging through the fine print to make sure you're getting everything you're entitled to. We recently covered a story about resort fees at Marriott properties, noting that if you're an elite member staying at a property where the resort fee includes internet access, the hotels are required to offer you a replacement benefit. TPG reader Heather recently had trouble getting a hotel to honor this guarantee, and wants to know if individual properties are allowed to opt out of it ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER HEATHER"]I recently read your article about getting the most from your Marriott resort fee. When I checked in at the Orlando World Center Marriott, I asked about what replacement benefit they were willing to offer in place of the Wi-Fi, which they confirmed was the same benefit that came with my Platinum Bonvoy status. To my dismay, the individual at the check-in desk, the resort manager, and the woman from Bonvoy I spoke to on the platinum elite member line all refused to honor this replacement benefit. I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience, or if there are other, more successful strategies to pursue if one comes up against such resistance![/pullquote]
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Before we dive in to Heather's experience, just a quick review: Section 1.3.c.iv of the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions says the following about resort fees for Marriott elite members who would already receive internet access due to their elite status:
When I first covered this story, I noted that most hotels don't proactively offer the replacement benefit. It's up to you to know what you're entitled to and make sure you ask for it at check-in. This is exactly what Heather did when she arrived at the Orlando World Center Marriott. When the hotel initially tried to deny her a replacement benefit, she did the correct thing by first speaking to a manager on site, then to a Bonvoy customer service representative. Unfortunately none of them were willing to enforce the rules here, and Heather ended up receiving the following response from the hotel:
"At the Orlando World Center our property discretion is not to provide a replacement benefit for the inclusion of the resort fee."
Marriott requires each property to select, at its discretion, a replacement benefit to offer as part of the resort fee, and this hotel was trying to claim that its "discretion is not to provide a replacement benefit."
This immediately seemed like a case of a rogue actor not following the rules, so we reached out to Marriott for clarification and received the following statement:
"The policy requires a replacement benefit be provided. We are reaching out to the property to ensure this is reinforced and corrected."
What to do if a hotel tries to deny you benefits
It's important to understand what to do when a hotel tries to deny you a benefit, whether it's one that's a perk of your elite status, something you paid for with your room rate, or something like a resort fee. The first step is to stay calm and polite; you're not going to get your way by being rude or screaming, especially at a front-line employee who might honestly be confused about the hotel policy.
Related: The award traveler's guide to Marriott Bonvoy
If I'm still running into resistance, I'll try and pull out a copy of the hotel loyalty program's terms and conditions (which can be found online with a simple search) or the elite benefit guarantee, depending on what my issue is. Sometimes I'll even go upstairs to my room and get my laptop to do some research if I'm in a foreign country with spotty cell service. Either way, a little bit of research can help a lot. At that point I'll go back down and speak to an employee at the desk or in the club lounge. If they refuse to budge I'll politely ask to speak to a manager, and if that still doesn't work I'll call or email the hotel chain.
In the case of Marriott, if the property won't provide a replacement benefit, we suggest you bring their attention to the policy, and call Marriott elite customer service or email for followup.
No matter what, you're best off getting issues like this sorted out while you're still at the hotel, before you check out. Things are much easier when you can walk downstairs and speak face to face with a manager, instead of having to swap emails with an employee who may not be familiar with your situation or any previous conversations you had.
Thanks Heather, for bringing this story to our attention. In this case the hotel was in the wrong to deny you a replacement benefit, but by speaking out and drawing attention to it, we can make sure they'll play by the rules moving forward.
Thanks for the question, Heather, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com.