Marriott Guests Are Getting Refunds If They Spent Points At 3 Resorts

Back in March I wrote about the JW Marriott Los Cabos charging award guests an extra $30 per night fee to stay, calling it “the most Marriott Bonvoy thing ever.”

This flat fee was described as a ‘service charge’. Paid rate guests pay a service charge of 10% of their room rate, and with paid rates under $300 service charges are lower for guests paying cash than those paying with points.

When I first asked Marriott about this I was told that these service charges were typical for resorts in Mexico, and that award guests weren’t being targeted despite unfortunate language on Marriott’s website that made it appear otherwise. I pushed back.

  1. Claiming there is ‘no service charge specifically for redemption stays’ isn’t quite right since there’s no flat $30 charge applied to paid bookings, which are billed 10% of paid rate.

  2. That’s beside the point, since service charges (or any fee that is a percentage of room rate) – as opposed to resort fees – are supposed to be included with award stays. Bonvoy program terms item 3.2.e states that free night redemption “includes.. room tax/service charge.”

Credit: JW Marriott Los Cabos

Marriott told the property to cut it out. They “look[ed] into whether this practice existed at other properties in the company’s portfolio.” And they committed to “communicate with [Bonvoy] members who were impacted by such charges and intend to address the situation.”

It took four months, but Marriott has return to the issue and solved it. They’ve shared,

[A] few months ago, it was discovered one hotel had created a fund financed through a service charge on all stays including redemptions. All money raised was paid directly to associates as a gratuity except for property executives. A thorough review revealed two other properties with similar service charges. At each property, the service charges were rescinded to comply with Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions. The service charge for paid stays remains.

Members who booked redemption stays at the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa, Courtyard Nassau Downtown/Junkanoo Beach and Westin Cozumel during the period when service charges were imposed for redemption stays are now being notified in an email that they are eligible for a refund and how to apply for it.

Saying the money was for employees maybe is supposed to make guests feel guilty, and not seek a refund? Mandatory guest tips – outside the U.S. even! – are all well and good, but:

  1. Hotel employees should be taken care of by the hotel
  2. The hotel is receiving payment from Marriott that is meant to be inclusive of service charges.
  3. If they’re taking that reimbursement and not sharing a portion with staff, then the hotel is a bad actor
  4. And if the hotel is underpaying their staff, they should fix that.

I did flag that the Renaissance La Concha was doing the same thing, so I’m following up to learn why this hotel wasn’t included in the service charge refund process.

That hotel still has its $30 a day fee for award stays up on its website, while paid night guests do not get chargeed $30 and are billed 18% instead. It’s the exact same thing. Except this property calls it a resort fee instead of a service charge. I’m curious to learn if that’s why they’re allowed to continue to do this (Marriott lets hotels hit award guests with resort fees, unlike Hilton or Hyatt).

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. Saying that “the money is for employees” IS definitely shady. And probably not true either.

  2. When are the dates you are talking about? I had a 7 night stay at the Westin Cozumel.

  3. I am looking forward to reading what you find out about LaConcha. We stayed there a few years ago and we are supposed to be there again this coming December – using points.

  4. Why should guests be further inconvenienced being told they must apply for a clawback of their money improperly overcharged by multiple Marriott properties to receive a refund? How deceitful. If Marriott headquarters cared about their guests, why not tell these properties to “knock it off” and immediately refund the overcharged guests without forcing guests to generate unnecessary paperwork and correspondence to receive a refund of their money.

    When top-of-the-line Marriott properties intentionally screw their guests through dishonesty, imagine what all the other lower-end Marriott properties will do to you. Once Bonvoyed, forever Bonvoyed.

  5. And the beat goes on. Whether it’s Marriott or some other network, the fact is that property owners — big and small — luxury and economy — pull stuff. Sometimes the network catches them and other times not and yet other times doesn’t care. I had my own revelation event.

    I had a booked a specific type of suite on a paid stay at a top-category hotel in New York City and received an email confirming that specific type of suite, along with the room rate. (I still have it.) The day prior to arrival, I called the hotel front desk to ensure everything was set. The representative said I had a regular room. I said I had a confirmation email showing a suite and the network website still indicated the suite booking. The representative passed me to a manager, to whom I forwarded the confirmation email.

    The manager said he was confused. He said his system showed a regular room BUT AT THE SUITE’S ROOM RATE. He also said that he would not be able to “upgrade” me from a regular room to a suite. I said fair is fair — if I’m put in a regular room, I’ll pay that rate but not the suite’s rate. The manager said he would investigate the matter and call me back. (He never did.)

    I then called the network’s top-tier team. The team’s representative confirmed that I indeed had a reservation for a suite and suggested that it was a software issue causing the hotel to see a regular room. The representative also pulled up the confirmation email that was sent to me — a suite. While I was speaking with the representative, we both saw the room type on my reservation change to regular room (what the . . . heck) but AT THE SUITE’S ROOM RATE. I asked the representative about the suite room rate discrepancy and was told that I would have to work it out with the property. Really?

    That incident was the last in a string for me. If this caliber of hotel is pulling this kind of stuff, then they all do. It’s a dirty business. It was a disheartening realization. It changed my whole perspective / strategy regarding hotels. Yet, I still cling to my belief in the Great Pumpkin.

  6. I got the email for a 2017 stay. I’m quite surprised.

    Companies that act to correct their breach or promise demonstrate their ethics. I’m looking at you, United. People bought lifetime Club memberships usable anytime. United stands alone in not honoring their bargain.

  7. @VFTW- Should people take the gift card refund without consideration of interest over x years? I would love to get your expertise on this decision before people just accept the refund and waive any other rights to compensation (waiver is signed when you accept the refund)

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