Marriott’s Elimination Of Annual Elite Nights For Meetings Is Retroactive

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.

Then they decided that wasn’t good enough. I suggested in December that they’d kill the benefit entirely and then days later a memo leaked that it would end December 31, 2019.

There are two lingering issues, however.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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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  1. […] Update 1/30/20: This change is being applied retroactively. So even if you booked a meeting/event in 2019 before these changes were announced you’ll still not get the credit. This is a poor way to run a loyalty program as presumably a lot of people wouldn’t have booked with Marriott if this was the case. Sure you’ll ‘catch’ people gaming the system, but at the same time people that actually book these meetings and events are caught up in this change. Hat tip to VFTW […]

Comments

  1. Bonvoyed yet again! Certainly sad to ditch the smoking remnants of SPG, but it’s really hard to justify choosing Marriott for hotel spend if one has better options.

  2. Not so sure. I booked an event that was held earlier this month (contract was signed last spring). I received 10 nights (on top of the points dump) this week.

  3. I can confirm I received 0 elite qualifying nights for a meeting I had earlier this month that I had booked in November last year.
    It left a really sour taste in my mouth as I didn’t know about this change until I started wondering why I didn’t get my elite qualifying nights after the meeting.

  4. @Gary. Well, I am confused now. I never did (or can) figure out the whole Bonvoy event thing and just go with whatever I get.

    I just looked and I actually received 14 nights under the category (Rewarding Events). So I am not sure this is actually the 10 night bonus. I did have a significant number of group room nights for attendees (150 total nights for 50 rooms) as well so could it be related to this?

  5. This is how they operate. Remember when, without notice, they changed all their rules mid-year? Well, we SPG folks protested, and kept our status through the calendar year. I am sorry for anyone stuck with Marriott…..I stay in SPG properties whenever I can avoid a Marriott. The SPG employees seem embarrassed about the merger, and tell me they hear complaints daily about Marriott. Wish they would annul the merger…that would be a win-win.

  6. “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.”” – yea standard for a company run by scumbags! Seriously I would be pissed if they did that after I paid for the meetings. Then again its Marriott so nothing is surprising.

  7. This is not retroactive. If it was retroactive, qualifying nights would be clawed back from prior meetings. This change is going forward as of time of change, which has a future effect on prior contracts, a risk assumed by signatories at time of signing.

  8. @Stuart

    The elite night credits you get for room blocks (1 night per 20 room nights) stays. But Marriott used to give 10 nights as a bonus just for booking a meeting, regardless of room blocks. So your meeting is different from what’s being discussed here.

    I don’t book my meetings based on perks (have to do it based on company cost) and most of my events are for local audiences, so I don’t do room blocks. The 10 night bonus was a nice perk for me and now that it’s gone I’m not likely to make platinum for the foreseeable future. Boo.

  9. Oh, also, the benefit for bonus room nights for a meeting isn’t in event contracts (at least, not in any of the 8 I had with Marriott last year, all US properties) so there’s no violation of contract to pull the benefit. Language on receiving points per spend (or miles, or event $ credit) IS in the contract, and requires checking boxes and providing your number.

    So if you’ve just signed Marriott’s standard contract, yeah, they are going to say there’s nothing in the contract they are failing to provide. And I don’t know how much leeway individual properties have to gift you nights. You might be able to cajole some compensatory points from them.

  10. Hi Gary, I actually had my meeting in December, but it’s showing up as cancelled on my account.

    Do I have any recourse here? I booked it specifically within their rules so that I could hit Platinum and choose a 50 night benefit.

  11. They absolutely cannot make this change on signed contract — not legally at least.

    Except they also know (1) this affects few people (2) it will cost more to sue them than most will be willing to pay.

    But contracts cannot be unilaterally amended by one party once there has been an offer and acceptance of said offer.

    Marriott is being repulsive.

  12. I had my meeting Dec 28, 2019 and am STILL waiting for my elite nights. The hotel tells me that I will get them but there was some change in systems that was causing the delay in crediting them.

    Both Marriott proper and the hotel say that it’s coming but it’s now been over a month when I have emails from the hotel saying it should only take 10 business days.

  13. Marriott seem to be in a race to the bottom these days. Arrival gifts used to be a nice gesture but options have substantially disappeared. Exec lounges at some properties closed etc etc.
    A poor show.

  14. About time they eliminate the cheats….. Now if they can just expand the revenue model to cover platinum and up…..or simply go 100% revenue and eliminate nights. It just makes no sense but to open it up for people to game the system.

  15. To the amateur lawyers: The can change earnings of rewards nights anytime. It says it in the agreement for the rewards program. The rewards are a BONUS. What is repulsive is idiots who scam good things and ruin it for those who use it as intended. It is why there are stricter return policies in many places. Idiots would use something for a limited time, return it and think it was ok.
    Of course you are free to go to choice hotels or Hilton or any other hotel company. I can look at Marriott numbers and those people that do that are good to weed out. They are unprofitable customers

  16. In 2018, when Marriott went from 10 nights per contracts to 10 nights per year for your first event, I protested to David Flueck and corporate agreed to honor all contracts that had been signed. This amounted to 70 nights — 7 contracts.

  17. I think marriott is a great hotel chain. The people for the most part are extremely friendly and always offering help. Rules are rules and its all about profit. Before you judge, take a minute and put yourself in there shoes. AND NO I DO NOT WORK FOR MARRIOTT, JUST A CUSTOMER LIKE EVERY ONE ELSE

  18. Not sure why you folks continue to suffer with Bonvoy. How many times are you gonna let them kick you in the teeth?

    This is why God invented Hyatt. Come join us.

  19. Still trying to get nights credit for a meeting held in September at a Courtyard in Tampa. The hotel manager says they “don’t do that” and Marriott customer service says it’s up to the hotel to fix it. Has anyone had any luck in a stuck situation like this one?

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