Hotel Complains About Marriott Elite Members Trying To ‘Scam’ Free Breakfast

At Marriott’s Hotel Distil, an Autograph Collection property located in Louisville, Platinum elite members and above get a voucher for a ‘continental breakfast’ or $15 off anything on the breakfast menu. Only they don’t offer a “continental breakfast” on the menu. And nothing on the menu was $15 with coffee, fruit or juice, tip and tax.

In fact, as if to make sure you can’t buy a breakfast item and coffee within the $15 voucher they’ve crossed out the $6 price of yogurt on the menu and made it $11. Here it is:

The restaurant’s website menu still shows the yogurt as $6, though:

A $15 credit here works as a discount to encourage food and beverage spend, not a breakfast benefit. It’s like the coupons some hotels give out at check-in offering a drink and an appetizer with purchase of dinner, because they want you to eat in their restaurant.

The reader who shared this with me has spent approximately $30,000 with Marriott just so far this year. He overspent the breakfast allowance at this hotel by $3, commented on it, and reports that “the restaurant manager suggested I was trying to scam a free meal.” Marriott literally promises its Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador members a free meal!

Marriott hotels just ignore elite breakfast benefits with impunity and will continue to do so until Marriott does something about it. Even before the pandemic I described understanding the Marriott breakfast rules as “like something out of a Fellini film.”

In April Marriott told me that because of the pandemic hotels could more or less do whatever they wanted “hotels were given the flexibility to offer food and beverage alternatives to members with elite status including a complimentary grab-and-go breakfast, F&B credit, or something comparable based on the brand.”

Marriott said they’d be “determining how long to grant flexibility.” Hotel occupancy in the U.S. at least is up. Covid cases are down. Local restrictions are ended or ending.

The chain used to be known more than anything else for its consistency. Now the Bonvoy program is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna git.”

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, 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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  1. In all honesty I am no longer surprised by such news. Typical “Bonvoyed”-ness.

  2. It’s a published benefit. There’s no scamming here – except by property management.

  3. Personally, I’d rather get $15 off of a good breakfast than a free version of whatever crap is usually served.

  4. Crap does not end. Being loyal isn’t worthwhile anymore. I’m not in the camp of users. But spread your money across chains. Use the best promos. Research individual properties thoroughly.

    Everyone with a decent number of nights per year and a few CCs will still have mid-tier in most programs, good enough to ensure they don’t give you the trashcan-view room. However, I’m not gonna pay a premium for a pseudo-breakfast benefit and a highly random room-category upgrade.

  5. This is just another nail in the coffin that I will fire Marriott as my hotel chain of choice. I already have been very unhappy with their suite upgrade that is virtually unusable at any decent hotel. When it was still Starwood Hotels, I didn’t even have to request upgrade. Even when I was at Royal Hawaiian or Moana Surfrider Westin; they automatically upgraded me to suites. Now with Titanium for the last 2 years, I have 20 suite upgrade certificates; but no where to uses. Only I get were emails that with regrets; hotel properties cannot offer upgrade? Even during Pandemic? Stick a fork in me for Marriott.

  6. Whatever happened to the consumer affairs division within the state’s attorney general office that used to put real fear into any business attempting such a scam? Remember in 1970 how NY state’s consumer affairs dept. called out McDonald’s for providing less than the advertised poundage of the newly introduced Quarter Pounder?

    What is being perpetrated by these individual hotel properties is worthy of a class action, given how corporate is indifferent to such aberrations.

  7. After selling one cup of yogurt for $11 they could have used the incremental $5 to print up some new menus.

  8. At least you got a room. We were recently in New Mexico where we showed up at a Home2Suites by Hilton only to find the doors locked and no cars in the parking lot. The hotel was still under construction, only no one bothered to inform us. After a call to reservations, which was obviously routed to India, and after being on hold for 45 minutes, the reservation agent was so flustered that after 30 more minutes she had managed to lose any possible other Hilton property with 40 miles. Finally escalating it, we got a nice person in the US who told us to find something on our own and they’d comp us if we sent in receipts.

    Two days later, in Ft Worth, at another Home2Suites, we showed up only to be assigned to a standard room when we had booked a 1 room suite. When we pointed this out to the desk clerk, she insisted we had the room we had reserved. It was only after we pulled up the reservation with the suite confirmation that she admitted they didn’t have anything else, it was take it or leave it as the city was booked, she couldn’t offer anything else but a refund. (A quick checked showed there were rooms available, they were just expensive due to the PGA tournament.) Rather than risk getting stuck with a huge hotel bill, we drove two hours to near OKC to find reasonably priced accommodations. We’ll see if Hilton comps us for that one. But really don’t appreciate the attempted gaslighting.

    I’m just going to hazard a guess here that due to a lot of recent hires, hotels don’t have a lot of experienced personnel on hand to deal with the sudden end of COVID and the rapid increase in travel. That’s what all the federal aid was for, to keep those people on staff. Looks like they let them go instead, as service has been rather poor. Or is it the New Normal?

  9. @John, I agree completely. Most hotel programs are like the airline programs (maybe Hyatt excepted, especially overseas). These are no longer loyalty programs… full stop. It’s an asymmetric relationship. One just has to be opportunistic to pick off the low-hanging fruit to one’s advantage, the credit card signing bonuses, etc. and use hotels or VRBO/AirBNB, etc. as suits one’s needs. And then just figure out where you can get breakfast by your preferred hotel. It’s not worth arguing about < $10 street value for breakfast.

  10. I’ll share an experience I had recently with the Sharaton San Diego Marina. As a Titanium member (and I assume Platinum as well) I recieved a coupon good for 1 coffee, 1 pastry and 1 yogurt/fruit bowl (up to 2 people). We were able to substiture orange juice or hot chocolate for coffee, but nothing else. It was rather tasty, but I would much preferred to have had a fixed dollar amount that I could spend any way i wished. Prices here were much lower than your illustration.

  11. This is why I moved away from Bonvoy for Holiday Inn Express. At HIX, I can count on a free mediocre (at best) breakfast without any hassle. More hotels playing stupid games in the Marriott family. 🙁

  12. I’ve given up on Marriott… They used to be a class act… That was then… This is now.

  13. After the Starwood merger Marriott grew to the point where customer service is less essential than profits. We saw all saw this coming years ago when the merger was first announce in spite of Marriott’s shallow promises to maintain historical benefits.

  14. Goodness, what the hell are they charging for a cup of coffee? Hotel Distil can go F themselves.

  15. Agree with MJS. I would take $15 off a decent breakfast of my choice v. a crappo HIX packaged danish and OJ dispenser. Of course neither is really going to win my business if I have access to a lounge or buffet breakfast of the sort we find in Euro and Asia properties, or until recently JW Live, etc.

  16. A Holiday Inn Express employee apologized that there was no breakfast but offered dinner instead! It was merely a microwave dinner, can of soda and an ice cream bar but it was good when one is hungry.

    This is why I no longer stay at Marriott unless the location is superior.

  17. To be honest, as a Marriott Ambassador member I would take any of these offerings mentioned in the comments over the 750 bonus points that I get offered for breakfast.

    Heck on one recent stay at a “Full Service” Marriott where they outsourced their breakfast offerings to the lobby coffee shop (still prepared in the hotel kitchen) and thus didn’t offer breakfast I went next door and bought breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. Their elite members got whatever they wanted free.

  18. Marriott does not care about customers. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have had more poor experiences at Marriott hotels in the U.S. than at any other hotel chain. I’m using up my existing free certs and cancelling my last Marriott card. My husband is a Hyatt globalist and I have Hilton diamond status, so we’ll be spending our money elsewhere.

  19. Last article like this, some Marriott loyalist got flustered in the comments that bloggers were always picking on their preferred brand. I want to get that guy’s take on Lucky’s experience with the Aegon Mykonos.

  20. Have stayed at Distil and the Marriott a few blocks away for work. My team wasn’t budget-constrained and ended up preferring the Marriott — food onsite was better and had faster service, rooms were roomier, gym was more spacious, beds were just as comfortable, and we found the staff nicer to us to boot — on top of that, for what it’s worth, it was also cheaper. Distil was “OK” prior to COVID, can’t imagine what they have done to wreck the service since.

  21. As a Globalist I have lately been getting a $30 F&B credit per day to use as I want at Grand and Park properties. I prefer this as, honestly, I am a coffee and run kind of guy for breakfast and never really get the obsession with hotel breakfasts, lol. I am always shocked at how HUGE breakfast is with everyone here and there….Matthew at LALF being the Maestro of critiquing hotel breakfasts.

    In terms of this offer, I dunno, a credit towards breakfast at $15 seems fine. Whatever. Shady stuff on the menu aside.

  22. Get over it people. I’m lifetime Titanium (plus Hilton Diamond). Breakfast isn’t an obsession for me like apparently it is for many of you glutinous people. However, a $15 credit (which Hilton is also introducing) is just fine. Cup of coffee and maybe some fruit is fine. If you want more you get a $15 discount.

    Why are you all whining and acting like you are owed the world. They can establish and revise policies as they feel best suits their business. If you don’t like it don’t stay there but obviously their market studies show these changes are, overall, beneficial to the bottom line (which is all that really matters)

  23. Marriott’s gonna be Marriott (aka terrible), but frankly the person spending $30K in 6 months with them could learn a lesson from P.T. Barnum too.

  24. Marriott has lost all control of their properties. It seems like every week now, there’s a new story about a Marriott hotel going rogue. It’s as if these properties are testing their limits and seeing what they can get away with. It’s become clear the Bonvoy loyalty program is an utter disaster.

    Anyway, I’m done with Marriott. I’ve already cancelled all my Bonvoy cards and I’ll burn through all my points this year, and that’ll be all she wrote.

  25. F**k Bonvoy! Stay at one of their properties because you love the property; never stay because of Bonvoy. I will have over 100 nights at hotel properties stayed in 2021 by the end of July; none with Bonvoy. I miss SPG.

  26. I stayed at the Cadillac Hotel on Miami Beach first week of June 2021 (which is part of Marriott) and found the breakfast to be of decent quality. As a Titanium Elite I got a voucher good for $36 dollars of food for two people. Split in half, $18 was enough for a good breakfast. They had an upcharge of $7 each person for the breakfast buffet which worked out to $25 each person. Also, I was staying their seven days and they let me combine breakfast vouchers for $72.

  27. Hotels are nice, benefits not so much. I love the Hotel Distil though. I had to check out early last time due to the Breona Taylor verdict shutting down the downtown

  28. Yep very shady, Gary. Do you know people in Bonvoy that can actually do something about hotels like this? Giving hotels free rein doesnt help anyone so some standards/guidelines are def needed.

  29. In all fairness, the Greek Yogurt Bowl price was likely a typo and not a price hike. At the bottom of the menu under “Sides” the vanilla Greek yogurt by itself is $6. I agree that the menus should have been reprinted though.

  30. @Ted: Marriott and Hotel Distel share both ownership and management companies.

    @Jim: No, it wasn’t a typo. They raised the price of the yogurt bowl with berries and granola. A container of yogurt was $6 but was literally a small container that’s maybe $1.25 in the grocery store.

  31. When an individual Marriott property chooses to play games with upgrades and breakfasts, it is not an issue for me at all. I choose to avoid spending any additional money in that hotel for restaurants, bars, spas, etc. that I would normally expect to do. As a Lifetime Titanium Elite, the best response to a local management decision is to divert my money elsewhere. And of course, I choose not to return to that hotel for any future business.

  32. Grab a granola bar and bottle of water, hit the gym, stop whining like a bunch of entitled fat slobs.
    Seriously, whining over a hotel breakfast? The raised on concrete folk never cease to amaze me.

  33. Why stay in a spartan corporate glass box that plays games, when you could stay at a individualy owned (real) Bed and Breakfast. I own one in Philadelphia and while hotels are slashing amenities, we added them. We make a gourmet breakfast with local ingredients included in all stays. Plus no games with perks or points, we treat everyone like a rock star. Check out Cornerstone B&B if you are ever in Philly. Shopping small with your travel dollars makes a huge difference for small family owned businesses, and you can definitely feel their appreciation. Plus you get so much more for your money, we care about people, not margins.

  34. Loyalty points are becoming worthless., no matter where you stay. When I fly out of CLT, I stay at a local La Quinta. It’s okay, not expensive and a $20 cab ride to the airport.
    If i try to use my Loyalty points, it’s a nightmare. I have to book online or with their call center. Half the time I can’t understand the person who I am talking to. It takes forever to get a reservation. If I use 3,000 of my Loyalty points guess how much I save for the trouble??? $10
    I call the hotel directly. They know me, I use my military discount, they give me the room I requested and it is definitely worth the extra $10.
    The Loyalty points are a joke. No matter what level you are staying.

  35. Marriott sucks!! We stayed almost a whole year in 2020, dirty rooms, dirty air filters, no breakfast, no coffee, but they still charged the full rates. No discounts for the nasty rooms. No discounts for giving them our total conviction to stay with them.

  36. Marriott does not care about their guests; they only care about their franchisees. Period. Full Stop. Fact. They show no loyalty to me and I will no longer show loyalty to them.

  37. Dont know why anyone is still invested in gaining status with marriott. They have constantly shown they dont give a rats about their highest contributing members because their scale and lack of direct competition allows them to behave this way.
    Shop around, and go where youre well taken care off.

  38. Used to be SPG – oh, how I miss them, the consistency, the customer focus, the ability to get customer service to be able to make a hotel do something. 1,400 nights in Marriotts and SPG combined… and decided I’d had enough in the year of the merger when they messed up combining my points so bad it took 6+ months to resolve… despite my being Ambassador at the time.

    Took a depth breath and switched to Hyatt. Hyatt refused to match status which wasn’t a good start (and it still amazes me why the major chains didn’t actively try to poach ex-SPG members at the merger)… but since then, Hyatt has been a joy. Takes me (almost) back to the SPG days with the consistency, customer service and actually wanting me as a customer. After burning thru Bonvoy points while gaining Hyatt status, now I just need to bite the bullet and burn thru the remainder which is tougher now that I’m a Hyatt Globalist and want to always stay there!

  39. I’ve stayed quite a few nights at the Hollywood Beach Mariott in Florida this year. I am a lowly Gold status. I will say that I have been consistently given early check in, free breakfast in the restaurant and awesome service. They have a super low resort fee with great amenities. I’ve been upgraded and given breakfast at other Mariott properties that are off the beaten path. So far, I’ve been pleased, but my expectations have been low. I am a leisure traveler who is patient, friendly and tips well.

  40. Elite members make me sick with all their demands and their “don’t you know who I am” mentality. A bunch of freeloading jerks who im sure 90% of them are on their companies dime yet they are getting the points for the stay. Hotels and hotel owners took a beating last year – have some class and quit ur bitching!!

  41. Ashford and Remington own a chunk of Marriotts. Tight company. Half the concierge lounges closed. No restaurants open. Marcus hotel group are on top of the ballgame. Everything is open. Find out who owns the Marriott you plan on staying at is the key. There are no more true Marriott hotels left. All franchisees.

  42. Four Points Sheraton in Arkansas just did something similar but for a one-night stay it wasn’t worth the effort and the Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s was probably better anyway.

  43. William, when you have a choice where to book, it does make a difference, otherwise why be loyal? When I travel for work I will sometimes pick a Marriott farther away over a similar priced hotel to ensure I continue to get the perks like free upgraded internet.

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