Clever Price Discrimination (And Elite Benefits Denial) Strategy From Marriott In North Carolina

The Le Meridien and Sheraton in Charlotte are in the same complex. It’s increasingly common for a large hotel to be sold as more than one brand, to appeal to different types of travelers or to people interested in different brands.

However right now it appears that the two hotels are being sold as one. According to reader reports only the Le Meridien is open and people reserving the Sheraton are getting moved to the Le Meridien.

This is a clever price discrimination strategy. Everyone gets the more expensive hotel regardless of which they book. It allows the property to pick up the more price-sensitive business (that would choose the Sheraton), without lowering the price for everyone, including those who would be willing to pay more to stay at the nicer Le Meridien.


Credit: Le Meridien Charlotte

That’s not the only thing that isn’t matching customer expectations now, though. According to these same reports,

  1. The hotel hasn’t been honoring rates that are supposed to include breakfast because the club lounge is closed even though breakfast restaurants are open

  2. Platinums are being offered points only, not amenity choice (cannot opt for breakfast)

The hotel is still advertising breakfast-inclusive rates, which is a problem if they aren’t honoring the inclusions.

And the lack of honoring of elite benefits underscores another reason why travel seems less enjoyable, with hotels purely functional, a place to sleep. They cut costs, but that also diminishes both long-term brand loyalty and a desire to stay. It undercuts one of the advantages over Airbnb. Reducing the guest experience isn’t a way to drive more business – when fundamentally hotels have a revenue problem more than a cost problem.

This may have made sense during the nadir of travel in mid-April, when nothing a hotel might do could move the needle on its business. Right now though hotels have recovered far more than airlines have.

I reached out to Marriott for comment on this hotel’s practices but they did not respond.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. If a platinum elite books the Sheraton and are put in the Le Meridien on the day of reservation, doesn’t that make them eligible for the benefits of being walked?

  2. We stayed at the Renaissance in Austin last weekend, no lounge, restaurant only open certain hours. No free breakfast or anything offered as a Titanium Plat. I knew these restrictions would vary from hotel to hotel.. but they could have offered maybe more points instead of 1,000. It’s sad seeing hotels (at least the ones we stayed at) at 10%-20% capacity.

  3. Have you confirmed that rates at Le Meridien are more expensive than the Sheraton? If so this is pretty egregious.

    The breakfast? Par for course with Bonvoy where properties make their own rules. Even before Covid. Especially now.

    This is why I keep telling people that in the U.S. right now (not the case in Europe) it is absurd to pay the rates at full service properties. Just go budget or extended stay properties. Anything more is throwing money away for something that doesn’t exist…full service.

  4. @ Gary — My best travel decision ever was to transfer (effectively) all of our Marriott/SPG points to airlines and then never pay cash again to stay at a Marriott or SPG property post-SPG merger. (For full disclosure, we have stayed on points/vouchers/gift cards ~3 times, but only to keep from wasting something “free”. We no longer have their credit cards.) Marriott is the worst of the worst travel companies.

  5. Bonvoyed. typical experience thing with Marriott. Stuart nailed it – go cheap at no service properties because that all you are gonna get anyway.

  6. I guess I am confused. For the breakfast inclusive rate, did the package include lounge access or breakfast at the restaurant? Those two items are independent of each other. If the rates includes breakfast at the restaurant, or if they booked a club-level room, a typical hotel would give them breakfast coupons. If hotel cannot fulfill it, then compensation is due.

    For elite amenity (or lack thereof), it’s part of Marriott’s suspension of elite benefit guarantee. Been reported in multiple sources that the hotels were scaling back without consequences.

    @Alex – if it is a multi-night stay, they should have offered you 750 points per night for lack of lounge access, in addition to the welcome amenity of 1,000 points or $10 F&B spend.

  7. @Stuart – you are exactly correct. I had to go to Austin, TX last week and spent 1 weekday night at Sheraton – which is considered a full-service hotel. I’ve stayed there many times for work. However, of course the Club Lounge was closed as well as the Restaurant/Bar. The place was a ghost town – very depressing. No amenities whatsoever that normally come with a full-service hotel. However, the $95 rate was pretty good at least.

  8. stay at Sheraton San Gabriel CA, no nothing is available. poorly stocked in room amenities, half a roll of bathroom tissues then you have to come down to front desk to get another roll.

  9. As a Platinum I have stayed at Marriott properties on several occasions since COVID started, including where I in theory would have been able to choose breakfast. At check in they just tell you straight up that your only choice is the points because there’s no breakfast. On a couple of occasions they started to ask me what amenity I wanted and then quickly corrected themselves and said only points are available.

    I thought his was because they allow hotels to ignore elite perks during COVID?

    Anyway, I can’t really blame them although it would be nice if they added something, even a little note from the manager in the room thanking me for my patience in these extraordinary times or something like that.

  10. God do you people really worry about filling your gut right now?

    All focusing on breakfast anyway does is continue America’s path to obesity. Most physicians recommend only 2 meals with maybe just coffee and fruit before lunch if you want to be healthy.

    Secondly it is a “first world” problem to whine about no breakfast or lounge access when so many are out of work, sick or otherwise suffering. BTW Titanium Marriott, Diamond Hilton and top level of several other programs but I have NO PROBLEM now understanding when I book a hotel it is likely room only w no lounge, limited amenities and no housekeeping. To think otherwise comes across as very shallow and selfish!

  11. @AC, terms like shallow and selfish do not apply to customers who have paid for a product or service and expect rightfully to receive it as described. In addition your quip about health and obesity is a red herring, not to mention dangerous. Medical and nutrition advice should be given on an individual basis from licensed professionals who know your personal specifics.

  12. I will add it’s fine for Marriott or hotels to inform customers prior to booking that any or all amenities may be unavailable due to Covid. What’s not fine is for customers to be told their elite benefits include x y and z, then the hotel tells them oh guess what you’re not getting those benefits.

    Again it’s not about selfish or first world whatever. It’s about the proper way of doing business.

  13. Why is anyone staying at hotels, particularly Marriott, when they’re making you clean your own beds and do your own housekeeping? It’s like indentured servitude.

  14. @AC, what because this post didn’t talk about Caesar’s, you had to mention your status at other places, geez, give it a break every now and then.

  15. I understand when state or local restrictions keep things from re-opening as in before coronavirus, but at this point it mostly seems to be cheap owners. Marriott has done a horrendous job disclosing property disruptions since this started in March. It’s also completely inconsistent even at properties within the same brand in the same state.

  16. It’s a pandemic don’t you folks know you should give up eating breakfast as a top tier elite And forgo all your benefits ? Shame on you all
    End of sarcasm 🙂

  17. Stayed at the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn in Delaware. As a Marriott Titanium I was informed that because of Covid the hotel does not do late check-out. Check-in is 4pm and I had to check out at 11am! No mentioning on the website of all these issues though. Hotel management also used Covid as lame excuse for shortened hours, lacking customer-service, totally chaotic situation at breakfast hand-out (into a brown paper bag) etc. Gives a bad taste and makes me to NOT want to stay with Marriott.

  18. lap Tn
    my family 7 people stayed at the Sheraton a property of Marriott in Kentucky in early 2020. There were no hospitality, no, restaurant’s, no coffee in the lobby, no room cleaning, no change of towels. Front desk stated service is provided when asked at the time of check in.and also stated, (only one hotel housekeeper on duty to clean rooms, no coffee or restaurant in lobby because of Covid virus. Also stated by hotel staff that Marriott polices is they only clean room if the customer ask the day when checking in. Sheraton got me on their room policies because I don’t read their company policies when I make a reservation. at any hotel I vist. My expectations of any hospitality of all hotel chain is that the rooms are cleaned every day of my stay. That stay at Sheraton is rated through 10 (1)

  19. Can anyone who’s worked a hotel tell us how hard/easy it is for hotel management to get a rate (like: with breakfast) removed from the Sheraton reservation website?

  20. I stayed at the LeMeridien Chatlotte the weekend before last and asked them why they were not giving breakfast and points since the lounge was closed and the inexperienced front desk agent parroted pre-covid benefits even though the lounge was closed. Needless to say I raised the issue with Marriott Rewards. That was just 1 in a long list of issues experienced during my stay. I would not recommend. Bry
    FyI, guest enter and Checkin on the Sheraton side but walk through corridor to LeMeridien elevators.

  21. @joseph.. i can. I manage select service marriott properties. I have asked marriott multiple times to fix what amenities we are currently not offering. Everyone at Marriott has been laid off and there is no support coming from headquarters.

    as far as no late check out- we have been asked to slash our staff. for a select service- maybe 8 people at most working in the building.

    I’ve been in hospitality for years and covid has done the business bad.

  22. @marriott we booked a stay in Mystic CT at a Marriott. They oversold and my wife and 3 kids were moved to a rundown “crackhouse” on the front of the property and given a room with no A/C in August. They refused the room and were told they had that right. My wife found another hotel at 8pm that evening. Just got our bill and Marriott still charged the room even though the room given didn’t fit the description. Very sad move for Marriott

  23. As an ambassador member i am not pleased. No breakfast. No water. No upgrades because suites are closed for pandemic. Wake up everyone. Wear a mask and get things done. Otherwise we will see more and more economic impacts. Think your taxes are high now? Keep making travel difficult. Keep limiting your workforce and keep limiting the pleasures of business travelers. Ie breakfast. Wear a mask. Go to work.

  24. I’ve traveled a lot over the past couple months on business. Staying at Marriotts throughout the U.S., from California to North Carolina. I’ve been an platinum/titanium Elite member for over 8 years. I’ve been an extremely loyal member staying at nothing but Marriott properties over the past decade.
    The amenities are just one of the ways the brand has fallen off. In service it is now on the level of a Motel 6 or worst at many properties that should at least weather Covid in brand standards.
    For Example: I was staying at the Westin, downtown Atlanta: the water cut off in the morning, the front desk clerk was overwhelmed and extremely rude, the hotel needed a better cleaning job (too many ways to list), their room service staff was suspect (too many ways to list.) I was there for a week’s stay but after the 2nd day, I had to change hotels- despite demanding work schedule. They didn’t even offer points for the failure when I emailed the GM.
    The Marriott near Perimeter in Atlanta was horrible as well, the clerk walked me through the housekeeping bay because the elevator was broken (carried several large bags down stairs.) Then I was given a room that looked & smelled like it was in the basement. The hall smelled like smoke and a fight broke out at 2am and the police were in the hall yelling to get several people out. I assume it was the same people smoking in their rooms/halls?(I was a nightmare) – The hotel gave me $50 off the stay, which… I guess, is something- more than the Westin dared to even attempt. Though hotels are struggling, at least these two hotel were at full customer capacity. (Which is probably the root of the problem: understaffed but still attempting to maximize profits.)
    Needless to say, I checked into the Le Meridian for the rest of the Atlanta trip. Even though the amenities were not back to normal after the other two hotels it was like a dream. It was obvious the hotel put limits on the guests rooms according to staffing- it worked.
    These were just the worst of about 38 other stays this year.
    Like the gentleman stated above, I will be cashing out my points & checking out the Hilton Honors or maybe give the home rental sites a try.
    Disappointed with how the brand has taken a hit,

  25. My son traveled to Houston last week. He was the only patron at the Westin for the first night and was basically locked in because the front desk was not authorized to stay over night. Services were closed inside the hotel. The following night another guest arrived. Two paying customers is not enough to continue services or to keep the hotel open. I understand Marriott’s plight, but guests need to know what they are buying when they book a room.

  26. @kyle: I think it depends on the management company, the brand, and the market. Some Marriotts have everything disclosed on Facebook, Marriott.com and elsewhere. Others are basically operating like normal. Open restaurants with social distancing but no buffets. Proper breakfast in the morning. Daily housekeeping. It all comes down to the management company and the owner. Yes, obviously, there are some hotels across all brands in some markets that are never going to recover from this. But people are traveling and many hotels are actually doing pretty well now. Some places have had a really good summer.

  27. I stayed at the Fairfield Inn in NJ after a power outage and loss of air conditioning at home, service was excellent. Of course breakfast was limited, staff explained why the limited services, also realized many Americans are blessed and do not realize the many who do not have the basic necessities of life
    The country is in the midst of a global pandemic. We should not expect things to be normal. Nor should the Hotel Industry or any industry take advantage of its customers. COVID 19 can bring about the best or the worst in us.
    I hope the this season brings a new normal that displays the best in all of us.

  28. Yup. Multi year Ambassador and offered nothing outside of points and have been back to normal travel since end of April. Upgraded room given once. Stayed over 120 nights so far in 2020. Pretty much done with Marriott for the rest of the year because of that. Not offering elites something for the lack of Lounge access or other perks, leaves me wondering why I’m bothering right now. So I won’t anymore. Time to see what the Hilton rooms look like these days.

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