Marriott didn’t honor my reservation — here’s how I profited 120K points
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I recently went on a road trip from San Francisco that took me through Las Vegas. The stop was supposed to be short, so instead of booking a last-minute stay at one of the popular hotels on the Strip, I opted to redeem a handful of Marriott Bonvoy points for a stay at the Four Points Las Vegas East Flamingo.
At face value, the stay should have been great. There was free parking for my rental car and the location was close enough to the Strip that my travel companion and I could walk around and see the sights. But things quickly fell apart when I arrived at the hotel shortly after midnight.
I strolled into the lobby with a confirmed reservation but was quickly told that there were no more rooms available. In frequent traveler terms: I was going to be “walked” from the hotel.
The front desk agent said he could refund me the points I had redeemed for my stay, but that he couldn’t do anything else for me. As a frequent Marriott guest, though — I was a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum elite at the time of the stay, and funnily enough, this was the stay that was supposed to qualify me for Titanium status — I knew I was entitled to more. Getting Marriott to actually honor its Ultimate Reservation Guarantee has taken some time, though.
Here’s how the situation played out, and how I leveraged my unfortunate circumstances for more points (a lot more points) than I’d redeemed for the reservation in the first place.
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How to handle being “walked”
When the front-desk agent told me he would refund my points and that was it, I respectfully pushed back. At the very least, I wanted to be rebooked elsewhere as that’s standard policy when you’re walked at a Marriott Bonvoy property.
His response? He simply printed a Google Travel page for a nearby Courtyard property with confirmed availability and wished me luck.
That’s when I turned to my secret weapon: Marriott’s Ultimate Reservation Guarantee. Granted the compensation varies based on the hotel brand and your elite status, but I knew that as a Platinum elite being walked at a Four Points with a confirmed reservation, I was due $100 in compensation and 90,000 bonus points as well as for the hotel to pay for my accommodations that night at a nearby hotel.
Figuring I wouldn’t get any further with the front desk agent, I called Marriott’s elite line. An agent picked up almost immediately and profusely apologized for my inconvenience. Like clockwork, she suggested a nearby property — the SpringHill Suites Las Vegas Convention Center — and called them to confirm there were open rooms.
She confirmed that Marriott would comp this stay and charge it to the Four Points that walked me. When I asked about compensation, she said she’d open a case and send it to the Four Points. It surprised me that the points-and-cash compensation totally relies on the property actually sending a check and depositing points into my account rather than it coming from some sort of corporate Marriott account. But I didn’t think too much of it since my interaction with the Marriott elite agent had been so gratifying.
Thankfully, the rest of the night went smoothly. I drove to the SpringHill Suites and a room was ready. The front desk agent there said she was surprised that the Four Points walked a Platinum elite, and that the SpringHill always keep a few rooms open for guests like me.
I checked my Marriott app when I got to the room and saw the 20,000 points from my Four Points reservation had already been refunded to my account. Likewise, there was a credit of 30,000 points for the SpringHill Suites stay with an immediate deduction for the booked room. In other words: It was a totally free stay for my inconvenience. Not bad if you ask me.
Waiting for compensation
Fast forward a few weeks. I was back from my trip and still awaiting the 90,000 points and $100 I was owed as compensation from the Four Points.
I messaged Marriott’s Twitter support line and asked about the status of my refund. I received a response less than an hour later saying that the property would contact me directly regarding compensation. This never happened, so I followed up again roughly two weeks later.
I was told that the property closed my case because the points for my stay were already refunded. As you can see in the screenshot, Marriott offered to reopen the case and reiterated the Ultimate Reservation Guarantee compensation. I accepted their offer.
Another week went by, so I followed up with the Twitter support line again. This time I got more promising news: The hotel “indicated” that they would send the compensation, but didn’t give a timeline of how long this would take. The hotel again closed the case.
Finally, over a month after my incident, and two days after my final Twitter message to Marriott, the points appeared in my Bonvoy account. However, I’m still waiting for the $100 check that is supposedly being mailed to me. That said, the 90,000 points deposited in my account are worth around $720 per TPG’s valuations, and are more than enough for a free night at any of Marriott’s properties at off-peak or standard rates (some Category 8 properties will be out of reach on peak dates).
Of course, I’ll update this article when (and if) the cash compensation is received.
Marriott needs to improve this policy
My main takeaway from this situation is how convoluted the compensation and rebooking process is when you’re walked from a Marriott hotel.
It’s one thing to be walked — and I understand why it happens. Like airlines, hotels often overbook properties as a revenue management practice. It makes sense as oftentimes travelers miss a stay due to flight delays, traffic or any other number of reasons. Overbooking helps give hotel franchises much-needed income and keeps occupancy rates high.
At the same time, it doesn’t make sense for them to walk an elite member unless the situation is very dire. Elites are the people who spend the most time and money at Marriott properties for work and leisure travel, and oftentimes properties will hold rooms back from the general inventory for elite members. As I mentioned, this was the case at the SpringHill Suites Las Vegas Convention Center.
Regardless, front desk agents should be aware of how to handle this type of situation. Instead of simply telling me to pay for a night elsewhere, the agent should have known that he was responsible for rebooking me at a comparable nearby hotel and that I was due compensation per Marriott’s published guarantee.
Alternatively, Marriott could consider issuing compensation directly from its corporate operations rather than relying on individual properties to do so. After all, if I need to call Marriott corporate for a rebooking, does it not also make sense for them to push the bonus points and cut the check for cash compensation at the same time? Leaving this up to the property opens up too much room for error, and for properties to simply ignore the compensation policy.
In other words: Marriott’s process for claiming compensation needs to be significantly more efficient. Since Marriott has a published policy in place — which is rare, but not unique among the major hotel chains — that policy should be honored in a way that doesn’t require multiple follow-ups. Being walked is a huge inconvenience, and this inconvenience shouldn’t extend beyond the stay. It’s also a quick way to turn a once-loyal elite member into a customer for a rival chain.
Until it streamlines its compensation practices, be prepared to follow up consistently if you’re walked at a Marriott. Based on my own experience, I highly recommend contacting Marriott’s Twitter support account since this is easier than calling and keeps a written log of your correspondence. Don’t be afraid to follow up weekly either — it might be necessary.
It’s great that Marriott offers the Ultimate Reservation Guarantee to its elite members. Being walked is never a fun experience, but softening the blow with nearby accommodation and compensation is a commendable business practice. That said, the way it’s actually executed is, frankly, disappointing. Leaving compensation up to the individual hotels can lead to endless follow-ups before the points are deposited into your account, let alone a compensation check that may never arrive. That said, at least there is a policy in place that customers like me can point to if and when these situations arise.
Feature photo by Farknot Architect/Shutterstock.com.
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