Not Everyone is Welcome to Participate in Marriott Promotions

Last week Marriott launched its first big promotion since launching their new program on August 18. Registration is required.

The offer that all members are supposed to be able to take advantage of is:

  • Stays of two or more nights between September 26 and January 31, 2019 earn 2000 bonus points.
  • Earn 1000 bonus points per brand you stay at during the promotion period starting with your second brand.

Except not all members are eligible for the promotion. It turns out that some members of the program are singled out not to be included in the offer.

The promotion terms say, “Registration is required. Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards (“Loyalty Program”) members who register for this promotion by January 7, 2019 will earn 2,000 bonus points per stay on stays of 2 or more nights at participating brands.”

Nowhere does this offer say that it is targeted. In order to be eligible you just have to be a loyalty program member. Except not all members are allowed to register. William Sanders, the Starwood Lurker, explained this:

Just an FYI, members that are part of the control group for this offer are not going to be able to register for it. You can try calling to register, but if the associate doesn’t find the offer on your account, then it won’t be possible to do so.

Marriott creates a ‘control group’ of members ineligible for their major promotion because they want to compare the stay patterns of those that are excluded from the offer with the rest of the membership. This data helps to demonstrate that promotions move the needle on consumer behavior.

If promotions didn’t encourage more stay activity, Marriott would be spending marketing dollars (rewarding customers) unnecessarily. So a control makes sense.

This is unfortunate for members who will earn fewer points from Marriott for their business over the next several months, however. And it’s not generally known that a promotion which isn’t targeted actually is… targeted.

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 wondering why my wife was able to register and I was not. Thanks for clarifying this as I was confused as to what was going on. Lucky me?

    Time to move stays over to Hyatt….

  2. A friend of mine told me about this offer and I tried to register for it but couldn’t (and now know why). I am also a member of the Hilton Rewards program. Since Marriott has placed me in the control group which precludes me from benefiting from this promotion, I think my future stays will be at Hilton properties. I wonder if their research factors this in.

  3. As someone else on FT smartly noted – A/B testing like this only works if it’s truly a compelling offer. Which this Mega(Crap)Bonus isn’t.

    Marriott did a lot of things right the past couple years. But they have quickly pissed that all away since 8/18. The levels of incompetence and tone deaf-ness are truly astounding. There seems to be zero accountability. No one stepping up and apologizing for the degree and ongoing screw-ups. No CS service unless you have an Ambassador (which is now even more denigrated).

    Pathetic yet also unsurprising…what many loyal SPGers were expecting from Marriott.

  4. Your “control” group could only consist of people who try to register and you deny them. Since you can’t track the stays these people book away because they don’t qualify, your control group isn’t a control group at all, it is just a group of customers who you discouraged from booking with you. This would overstate the success of your promotion because of the defect in your control group. Imagine a drug study where you give one group the drug and the other group poison, rather than a placebo. Also, you tell the poison group that you are giving them poison. FYI, I have been part of this control group for at least the last 18 months, but didn’t realize it until now. Fascinating.

  5. A/B testing is only A/B testing when it is random. I’m a one hundred night person. Third straight random selection into control group? Kind of doubtful

  6. I notice when the Starwood Lurker first came to be on Flyertalk many many years ago like 1999 or 2001 they really were able to genuinely help people. Now they just seem to just spew out corporate doublespeak. I remember before the lurker would post i.e. if a promotion didn’t make sense for a member, they would review on a case by case basis what would make the most sense for a particular member.

    Also if your not targeted, maybe you can make a new Marriott account under a different email, perhaps elite status match it, and then when the time is right, just mergte the accounts. This once in a lifetime talk you hear about is just once in a lifetime of the particular account i.e. that email address.

  7. Gary, you’ve worked with finance plenty enough to know better than to fall for Marriott’s “control group” language.

    This is much closer to Congress designing the 401(k) rules, where Congress explicitly designed the rules to encourage people who are not saving for retirement to start saving for retirement, and not to use the tax break on people who were saving for retirement anyway.

    Note that other bonuses, like Hyatt’s, are set up to do the exact opposite. Hyatt’s bonus rewards the biggest members a lot more than it rewards casual stayers.

  8. I’m also >100 nights this year and “in the control group”. Got lifetime plat premier and this is my reward…thanks Marriott. Helloooo Hyatt and Hilton.

  9. Marriott thinks it’s too big to fail now that they’ve merged with Starwood. I’d say that everybody needs to prove them wrong and dump Marriott. There has been nothing good for the customer in anything since the merger. Nothing but greed from Marriott.

  10. I beg to differ with you, Gary; but the terms and conditions of the MegaBonus promotion indeed DO state that it is targeted, which surprised me — and it is not the first MegaBonus promotion which was targeted and not for everyone.

    This is what I wrote in this article for The Gate:

    “The terms and conditions state that “The member receiving this offer has been targeted and the offer is not transferable” — but that is unusual because in past years, all members of the Marriott rewards frequent guest loyalty program have been eligible for the quarterly MegaBonus promotion — even if they received targeted offers — if I recall correctly.”

    I did not personally receive the offer for this lackluster promotion; but I registered for it anyway. After approximately a week, I finally received an e-mail message congratulating me that I am registered.

    I just rolled my eyes and shook my head…

  11. @JFKPHL “Your “control” group could only consist of people who try to register and you deny them.”

    exactly when’s the last time you’ve properly administered A/B testing ? Your proposal instantly leads to self-selection bias. But yea, the Starwood Lurker has been far too candid here. Control groups and placebos only work if the recipient is woefully unaware of the fact.

    Banks routinely do these types of tests, even on the premium segment of customers (private banking customers obviously would be fully excluded from any control, but anything below that is fair game – think Chase Private Client or HSBC Premier).

    I would know – one of my job requirements was writing up the A/B split criteria at various banks for certain products for a good chunk of the 2000s, then measuring their 24-month credit performance past the event.

  12. @henry LAX Pretty sure @JFKPHL was pointing out a flaw in Marriott’s design (hypothetically 100% of the control could attempt to register), not proposing a viable alternative.

  13. Well I guess I know why I couldn’t get registered. Really stupid they put the information on the front page of the app. At any rate, I called and the gal says there isn’t a promotion. I told her about the app and said I want it. She immediately signed me up. When I asked her about why she told me there wasn’t a promotion, she advised she was off yesterday and didn’t know about it.

  14. I am in a double super secret control group. I called to register and was told I would get 5,000 points for not staying at a Marriott property.

  15. Absolutely ridiculous!! The very existence of this “control group” is absolutely disgraceful. I mean, why randomly penalized a group of members for doing exactly as a rational person would?? I agree with William, the control group IS those members who don’t register for the promo. Wonder what would happen if those in the control group ask for a “compensation” for being chosen randomly by Marriott to be in the control group?

  16. Thanks for this! Like other posters, I too was not sure why this wasn’t showing up on my account.

    Not the greatest promotion, so I’m ambivalent about not being included, but as an (low maintenance) SPG Ambassador member, I’m not so happy that Marriott is choosing not to take better care of me.

  17. The only thing lamer than the latest “MicroBonus” promo is the secret exclusionary rules.

    What will Marriott do next to antagonize its customers? It’s already set an exceptionally high bar, but the recent track record says it will come up something even more offensive shortly.

  18. For those that haven’t merged your accounts yet, perhaps log in to your “other” account and try registering, it might give you another chance. I doubt you will be lucky enough to have both accounts selected to be this target group.

    As for all the hackers out there thinking ahead, I tired, Marriott closed the loop for double dipping. So as long as your account is “linked” , and if you have 1 account registered, you cannot sign up for the promo again with your “other” account.

  19. Haven’t been able to register for the last couple of promotions; guess as a lifetime platinum premier elite, Marriott assumes I will be loyal.

    WRONG- enjoying Hyatt much too much to care about useless promotions at Marriott

  20. The Starwood Lurkers are worse than useless these days; for example they pretty much single handledly touched off the disastrous rush in travel packages and relayed information at several points in time that they had to know was wrong when they posted it.

  21. I am not arguing the obvious obfuscation by Marriott of the terms and conditions of the promotion of MegaBonus, Gary. We are in agreement about that.

    I am just saying that when I read the actual terms and conditions, I was surprised to find that language — but it is there.

  22. Funny how it seems majority of the so called “control group” including myself happen to be platinum members. I haven’t been able to register for a promotion in a year. Kept wondering why till now.

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