For years Marriott let you earn 10 elite nights each time you booked a meeting with one of their hotels. This was ripe for what they considered to be abuse.
Some members would rent a conference room for a couple of hours and get 10 elite nights, a few hundred bucks here in the states or as little as $20 at limited-service hotels in Southeast Asia. Do that six times at the beginning of a year, along with 15 nights from a Marriott credit card, and a member would earn Platinum status for nearly two years.
Marriott cracked down on this in their new loyalty program. They only allowed members to earn 10 elite nights for a meeting once per year.
There are two lingering issues, however.
- Marriott promised to notify members in advance about the change. They did not do so. When I asked to confirm that the change was happening I was told that if they made such a change they would communicate it to members in advance. Not only didn’t they communicate it in advance, they never communicated it at all. They simply quietly amended their terms and conditions to flush it down a black hole.
- They made the change retroactive. People signed meeting contracts in late 2019 to earn their 10 elite nights at the beginning of 2020. Members are on the hook to pay for these meetings, but Marriott won’t honor 10 elite nights for members who signed contracts when this was still a published benefit.
I asked Marriott about taking away the benefit from members who relied on it in signing meeting contracts. They replied that making these sort of retroactive changes is “standard.”
As you know, when you book a meeting you are signing a sales contract with a sales manager. Within the contract language, it is called out that you receive any benefits or perks at the time of hosting the meeting. This is standard hospitality industry language because meetings are often booked years in advance.
The takeaway here, I think, is that Marriott makes changes to its program without notice and is willing to do so retroactively.
Sure, this isn’t a change that’s of huge interest to all members but they might have e-mailed those who had earned elite night credits for meetings in the past or they might set up a page where they log changes to the program and announce even minor changes in advance.
Since the launch of the new loyalty program they’ve made several other changes to program benefits without bothering to inform members. For a program with such a trust deficit that really has to stop.