Marriott Customer Service Always Gives Out Wrong Answers, Part 716

Marriott customer service has always been next to useless. With questionable competence of the the merger of Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards into a new loyalty program there are more requests of customer service than ever, and more opportunities for stupid responses.

You simply cannot believe anything Marriott tells you, if they answer you at all. Much frustration would be avoided if you’d just research answers to questions yourself, on blogs, instead of asking Marriott and assuming what they tell you is accurate.

Case in point: Marriott says Platinum member upgrades don’t include suites. (Emphasis mine.)

Thank you for contacting Marriott Bonvoy in regards to the Platinum Elite benefits and upgrading you.

I hope that you are enjoying your stays with us and the upgrades that are available to you when checking into the hotel.

The benefit of a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability does not include Suites. When you have 50 Nights a year, you will be offered an Option to select 5 Suite Night Award request forms to upgrade to a Suite if one is available to you.

Some hotels will upgrade you to a Suite if one is available, however that is a courtesy offered by the hotel at the time of checking into the hotel.

We appreciate your loyalty to Marriott Bonvoy and look forward to hosting your next stay with us. If you need assistance booking your next stay, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 1-888-625-4988.

Westin Stonebriar

This despite Marriott explicitly saying they will crack down on hotels that ignore the suite upgrade benefit.

It’s best to ignore Marriott customer service because it’s highly likely that you’ll get inaccurate information if you contact them. The problem of course comes in when Marriott isn’t doing what they are supposed to do, because who are you supposed to go to if not customer service?

I’ve had readers with the wrong lifetime elite status, customer service cannot see that things are wrong and even calls the member a liar. I’ve been able to get things escalated internally. But having me do customer service for Marriott doesn’t scale.

Living Room of Suite at the W Doha

They need an executive escalation team, somewhere for members to go when customer service just gets things wrong. The problem with that is there are so many times customer service gets things wrong, they’re likely to be just as inundated as customer service. I’m personally waiting for a response from customer service on an issue since September. The idea only works if it can be staffed so that answers are both timely and accurate.

In the meantime members are frustrated by the void they enter when they ask the program for help. You’ll be less frustrated if you just don’t ask.

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. I was traveling last week for a funeral and called ahead to a Category 1 Residence Inn to confirm that my Platinum 75 status would get me upgraded to the 2-Bedroom that was available (Necessary because I was sharing a room with my dad and he is a *big* snorer).

    First they told me the room was booked up through April 15. Then when I told them the room is clearly available to rent at a cash rate they told me I could book at the cash rate. I pointed out that if it’s available for cash it is clearly available for upgrade, to which they responded that all 2-Bedrooms are booked through April 15. We went a few rounds until I realized that despite them being wrong I wasn’t making headway.

    So I called Customer Service and was told that the hotels are allowed to set aside a certain portion of rooms for upgrade and if that limit is reached there’s nothing they can do. That didn’t strike me as one of the new “rules” I had read, but given the short lead-time I abandoned and blew 30,000 Hilton points at an Embassy Suites.

    I’m still not clear on the details or accuracy of any of the information I was given. Feels like Marriott has become the Wild West and everybody makes up their own rules as they go along. Being a Lifetime Platinum member, I’m disappointed to say this most recent experience is most comparable to my last experience with IHG. I really want to believe Marriott is better but it’s getting harder and harder.

  2. 100% agree with Jeff. I’ve moved all possible stays to Hyatt (about 95%) until/if(?) Marriott sorts this mess out.

    For all the MR people out there who ridiculed SPG members for saying this merger would be truly terrible….we’re being proven correct every single day.

  3. @jeff – unreasonable expectation to be upgraded to a 2bd ahead of time nor is it in the terms for that room type. Since it’s a cat 1, should have just gotten two rooms. Noise around the edge it is.

  4. “In the meantime members are frustrated by the void they enter when they ask the program for help.”

    It’s called the “bon-void”.

  5. Marriott has over 100 million members. Even if only 10% have an issue (and between the IT issues and the new program rules, that seems like a conservative guess), and even if customer service could successfully address 90% of issues (and that’s clearly way too optimistic), this “executive escalation team” would have a million tickets to solve.

    At a certain point, scale works against you. There are similar issues on the hotel side, with nearly 6000 hotels spread across 30 brands, how can Marriott possibly ensure they’re all compliant?

    These problems are inevitable – Marriott is too big not to fail.

  6. I have completely abandoned all Marriott stays save for my free night awards and the few points I have left from SPG. Marriott is no longer going to be an option in the future. Bon-voyage.

  7. After Marriott slashed-and-burned the SPG model of customer service, they turned to Ernestine as a role model for customer service. (That’s Ernestine, phone company operator via Laugh-In.) With a few changes to the script…..

    Ernestine: A gracious hello. Here at Marriott, we handle eighty-four billion calls, texts and emails a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. So, we realize that, every so often, you can’t get a customer service agent, or for no apparent reason your account status was downgraded, or perhaps you get charged for a reservation you cancelled. We don’t care!

    You see, our Customer Service system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated —even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it? So, the next time you complain about your missing stay, missing points, no upgrades, denial of benefits, why don’t you try a tent? We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re Marriott.

  8. Worse yet, the properties know nothing will happen to them if they break the rules or game the system. Yes, one or two properties have been caught and publicly shamed by Marriott, but the reality is there are a lot of properties refusing to follow either the letter of the rules or the intent of the rules — unless your idea of breakfast is a muffin and coffee — and there’s nobody to call to get a property to comply.

  9. “For all the MR people out there who ridiculed SPG members for saying this merger would be truly terrible….we’re being proven correct every single day.”


  10. I, as many of my former colleagues, spent the majority of my career with Starwood doing everything I could to ensure this didn’t happen to our guests. We lived by the mantra “Do the right thing for the guest”. We believed in proving that a Starwood Preferred Guest truly IS a preferred guest. Some would say we created our own monster in terms of going above and beyond for our guests. Maybe we did, in some cases. But regardless of the tangible things we did for and gave to our guests, at the end of the day if nothing else we ensured our guests received prompt, accurate, and understandable responses to all guest inquiries. If the guest had to ask a question, not only did we give them the answer we also actively behind the scenes did everything we could to find ways other guests wouldn’t need to spend their time reaching out to get the same information. Sure there were times when an answer was not readily available, and times when issues were more complicated requiring specialists (hats off to the Starwood Consumer Affairs Executive team for not losing it some days), but we were trained to provide a response within 48 hours. If an answer wasn’t currently available then keep the guest in the loop on progress and advise it may take time but we will get an answer. And at that point we owned it personally until the guest was satisfied. We didn’t shovel BS at the guest and close the file. Every time I had a guest with a question I couldn’t answer, I wanted the answer just as much if not more, so the next time I would be able to provide the guest with an answer right away.
    The Starwood Consumer Affairs team who handled the more in depth and challenging guest issues was one of the first corporate teams let go post-merger. The teams dedicating to handling customer inquiries and complaints disbanded and the role of a super agent (associates who can do it all in one call) emerged.
    We can only imagine how different this transition could have been if those dedicated Starwood departments, and many others, had remained intact continuing the work they had successfully been doing for years.

  11. @toomanybooks and @Sean- Please quit inviting others to switch to Hyatt as I am enjoying the chain too much to share with others:)

  12. I’ve had it with Marriott Customer Service! I’ve been calling, emailing and tweeting since the merge of the programs. An SPG Lifetime Platinum, I was assured that I’d be the same status. My online account says I’m Plat Elite. They haven’t added two stays I had this year and the points are wayyy lower than they should be.

    On the Lifetime Platinum issue, I’ve heard it all. Last summer I was told that they can see I’m a Lifetime Platinum from their end. But not one hotel I stayed in last year could see the info. I now ask at every hotel what my status is on their end. They see only Plat Elite. The perk of having that status and the upgrades it brought was fun. But I’m not given those cute smiles at check-in or the extra mile with upgraded suites.

    I’ve talked to customer service more times than I can count. My Bon Voy app annoys me to no end. I’ve heard that there’s no problem, that it’s an IT problem, that it would be fixed in a month, fixed in the new year, fixed on St.Smithers Day! I ask for a card and I’m told that it’s on the mobile app. Nope.

    I’m not surprised that I’m not the only one.

  13. @Mike,

    I’ve been upgraded to a 2-BR at Category 1 more times than I can count, also in that same city. I think you’re also missing the context that I called while driving to the hotel. Wasn’t asking them to pre-reserve a room. Just confirming if it was still available on arrival could they upgrade.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel so much entitled as I don’t like being lied to (fabricating a story about it being booked through April 15) and given misinformation, or conflicting information.

    Also, family dynamics did not allow for “just renting 2 rooms”. Thus my burn of Hilton Points at Embassy Suites (who, by the way, was more than happy to upgrade me to their 2-BR).

  14. I’d like to see the same scrutiny and consumer advocacy (to preserve lives as opposed to customer service practices) of the giant politically connected and influential Boeing over these pages

  15. I’m one of the lucky few I guess. Had to change the date on a Category 9 certificate for a stay in Domes Nunez Chania this summer and with the new system, there’s no way to apply the certificate. Rep I was talking to gave me the necessary points (200K extra mattiott points) so that I can make the change with the dates I needed. I didn’t have enough points in my account to book the Mykonos hotel, my husband did (240K), they booked it in my name and took the points from his account. At the time I did this, Santa Marina didn’t or was not accepting points booking that’s why I cannot just book it with my husband’s account. They did the same thing when we had to switch booking for the Westin Mammoth president’s day weekend t his year.
    Been upgraded to a suite on ALL of my 2018 stays as well as this year. San Diego, Philippines, Japan etc. I guess I’m just lucky. All of my stays this summer will be with Marriott except for the Hilton Dubrovnik. Titanium Elite the hard way meaning I’m a leisure traveler having earned the status through stays and credit card spend. I’m a school teacher so there’s a couple more days in the year that we’re able to travel.
    I hear and see what people have been saying, but Marriott has been good to me. Hilton too. My Hyatt stay is sporadic at best mostly from the free night that comes with the card. Winter travel is set too. Ritz Tokyo Westin Osaka Westin Kyoto all on points or certificate. Points went up March 5, I called and again they gave me the difference to honor reservations I made before March 5. Again just luck I guess.

  16. I’ve had an associate tell me at check in that they only upgrade Platinum and Titanium members… not Ambassador Elites….

    i was like.. WTF

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