It’s Time, Marriott

a group of people walking in front of a building

August 18th.

That’s when we expected Marriott and SPG to become one program.  And, we expected some hiccups.  I told folks to  watch their accounts carefully for a couple of weeks after the integration, and to be patient.  We did have some other signs along the way that there would be bumps and bruises, but most of those seemed like self-inflicted management decisions.

There was some initial frustration from SPG members on how they ended up with the short straw on lifetime status.  After a few small changes, Marriott ended up at a much more inclusive strategy for how to hand out lifetime status.

Marriott had another unforced error with travel packages when they weren’t forthcoming with members prior to integration.  And, they made a significant change on travel agent bookings that affects plenty of business travelers. These are very loyal customers.  Marriott seems to have made this change after explicitly saying they planned not to.  Those sorts of actions cause members to lose faith in a loyalty program.

You’d think that Marriott would be trying to calm the nerves of loyal travelers.  Instead, the CEO labels the concerns of members as “noise around the edges”.  He says that a small portion of members have voiced concerns.

Here’s Why That’s A Problem

Marriott has a vast number of members in their loyalty program.  It’s true that the majority are not complaining.  Most people don’t.  They switch their business elsewhere instead of complaining.  Or, they become a free agent, not as bound to the program as they once were.  I’ve said in the past that many Marriott members suffer from Stockholm syndrome.  While it’s true that Marriott had to walk a fine line between hotel owners and loyalty members, discussing it publicly isn’t likely to earn them more loyal members.  Diminishing the importance of the complaints those members is arrogant and wrong.

It’s Been Two Months

It’s been over two months since integration.  Concerns still abound.  Two months later mine is just one of many accounts still not showing the correct information.  Updates from Marriott have been slow to come (when they come at all).  I hear from members consistently who still have problems with their account.  Stays are still posting incorrectly.  Canceling award reservations still causes problems with points being re-deposited.

Some of these issues might be getting better, but Marriott hasn’t told us as such.  And, members are still complaining.  So, why should we believe it’s getting better when many members seem to have evidence to the contrary.

Marriott Is Losing The Communication Game

The most frequent complaint I hear from members is how long they have to wait on the phone to fix a problem.  The least frequent thing I hear are updates from Marriott.  They are losing the PR battle right now.  Communication goes a long way, even when it’s not all positive news.  Technology is hard, we all get it.  But, Marriott kept their platform in place for their hotels.  They integrated SPG to their platform.  And yet, Marriott bookings have many of the same problems SPG ones do.  Why is that?  Explanations have been largely absent.

The Final Two Pennies

It’s possible that the comments from management that seem to downplay the current problems are just to satisfy investors and hotel owners.  I certainly hope there are internal discussions about how Marriott can fix the remaining problems quickly.  SPG members were skeptical about the merger, but not necessarily for technology issues.

They were upset that the special parts of SPG would go away.  When you consider how Marriott handled issues like lifetime status and travel packages, it’s not surprising some members are concerned for the future.  Add in a largely silent response on problems, long hold times to get problems solved and points missing from accounts for weeks, and it’s not hard to see loyalty eroding.

That’s a shame, since it was entirely preventable.

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  1. I just had a two week stay i with two rooms, in the past I got credit for night stays for both rooms. I did receive my night credits but only for one of the rooms. I made the reservation on the SPG account, I have not merged my account as of yet, I was not certain this would work, just hopeful it would remain in place at least through the end of the year. I can share the front desk person told me they are getting many complaints from customers about points not posting correctly, they had my information incorrect and one of my coworkers who made his own reservation. My suggestion, when you check out or check in make sure they have the correct account information, even though I did not get the number of night stays I was expecting I was posted within two days of leaving.

  2. Do you know if the $3,000 spend on Marriott Business Credit Card (through Chase) still gets you a one (1) night elite credit? Both Chase and Marriott are telling me that for each $3000 in spend on my MR credit card, I’m supposed to earn one night elite credit, but it’s not posting and they can’t tell me why. I can’t find it in any credit card “benefit” anymore. Do you know if that change since the merger?

  3. Right on, Ed. The “noise around the edges” comment reminded me of “Let them eat cake” and we know how that turned out.

  4. From the perspective of a loyal SPG member, this has been a train-wreck. Besides this comment, I’m one of the many silent business folks who will be shifting their business elsewhere.

    1. GAM, I suspect there are a bunch of folks like you. Heck, some of them are bound to do it without realizing there are. Many business folks despise friction. When it presents itself, they sometimes make snap decisions so they can go back to focusing on their core business. I know I do it. That can’t be good for Marriott.

  5. There is also is a big difference between the customer service group at SPG vs Marriott. SPG is welcoming and with Marriott, you just want to move on. If this does not get better, my focus will be going to Hilton, I would choose Hyatt they just do not have the footprint for where I travel to.

  6. I was glad to see this post today. In my wifes SPG act, just before the merger, we transferred SPG points to Korean Air on Aug 16th. As of this morning, they are still not there. Its put an entire 2019 vacation into question since all the other parts of the vacation are booked and after holding a seat for us for a month, Korean Air gave it away. 4 emails, several calls, posts to the Marriott message board, the Research Team taking a look, no resolution and not a single email, or call from anyone in a managerial capacity acknowledging the unacceptable nature of the transaction. Its really unprofessional and in our opinion a theft of miles from our account. Mistakes and such happen all the time, but its the communication and effort to get in front of it and communicate what is going on that they really have dropped the ball.

  7. Great Post! I miss SPG so much. This merger has nothing but a disaster bought travel packages and we were ditched by Marriott completely as they never bothered to tell us the new conversion hence wasted out miles picking the wrong package. Then they wouldn’t let us book with those packaged. Points and credits are still missing from SPG co branded credit cards. Looks like Marriott doesn’t even care for us loyalists at this point. I have converted most of my MR points into miles and with this new United 30% promo ill be more than happy to move all the remaining points into Airlines and say Bye Felicia to Marriott. My business will be going to Hilton + Hyatt onwards.

    1. Leo, sad to hear. The travel packages situation could have been handled so much better ahead of time, even if they didn’t want to provide a decent value. Communicating it ahead of time might have lead to a little disappointment, but probably not long-term damage.

  8. My Question, I respond to many of these post to learn and share, the question, do the companies like Marriott pay attention, are they listening because in the end they have to care. I do understand not all business decisions can be to all of our satisfaction but are they listening. I have been loyal to SPG to over 600 nights in my 9 years, do they want to lose that to their mishandling and changes to the program, I admit I was never a fan of Marriott because of their programs and only chose their properties when I had no other reasonable choice. I just spent about $4600.00 for two rooms for almost two weeks. I went out of my way to stay at an SPG property because of loyalty, there were other options.

    1. Leonard, some programs DEFINITELY listen. For example, I’ve been vocal here and there about changes at Hyatt and American Airlines. So have my readers. I’ve had folks from both companies reach out to me about comments they see here. So, I’m a big fan of keeping the comments coming.

  9. Arne and his crew have been the “village idiots” IMHO on this one. As a Lifetime Platinum SPG’r, this “integration” is just another example of why I avoided Marriotts all these years.

    This past weekend, I called the (now former) SPG Platinum Concierge line, and it took 30+ (30+!!) minutes to get a live body on the line…and then they could not resolve my matter ….and this was a former Starwood employee on the line, who said that in the past that this would have been a simple matter in their old system.

  10. My lifetime nights have somehow decreased from August to present….from 909 to 903. And with 15 years years total, shouldn’t I be a Platinum Premier Elite now? As a SPG lifetime Platinum I always felt Marriotts were soulless hotels….but stayed there when I had to.

    I know look to Hyatt more and more, and just cancelled 4 nights in Hawaii due to Marriott strike.

  11. Hey Ed,
    Have you heard whether or not people are still having problems transferring points to airlines? I am planning a redemption on Emirates and I could either wipe out my MR balance or wipe out my Marriot points (used to be SPG points). However, I am afraid they will get stuck in limbo. Would you say it’s safer to go the MR route right now for an instant transfer and peace of mind?
    Love your podcast, BTW!

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