Same Marriott That Tried To Steal 2% From Every Guest Is Sticking It To Elites On Breakfast

One Mile at a Time published a guide to Marriott Bonvoy elite breakfast benefits, which vary by brand – and can involve whatever is being served in the club lounge, continental breakfast in the restaurant, or a fixed-dollar credit to be used on property. Of course some hotels are more generous than this.

Marriott specifies that the benefit is for a continental breakfast in the U.S. for hotels part of a brand that provide the benefit in the restaurant rather than a club lounge, and that it’s breakfast (undefined) outside the U.S. Some hotels push the definition of ‘continental’.

One of the commenters on this breakfast benefit guide writes,

[R]ecently at Westin Fort Lauderdale – booked a night with points and got charged almost $100 for resort fee + parking. When we gave our waiter the breakfast voucher we got as platinum members, he said it covers a fruit bowl and croissant. We ordered eggs too. On the check, it appeared as two $20 charges + eggs order. At their printed menu, there was “fruit bowl + croissant” item listed for $8. So, they give people $8 menu item and put $20 on the check, with taxes and tips calculated for the full amount.

Two things stand out about the property in question. First, it is infamous for charging guests an extra fee to pay by credit card – even a Marriott credit credit card. Second, the property is owned by DiamondRock Hospitality whose CEO has complained about having to give elites breakfast.

So on the Bonvoy and rewards program, they’ve made some changes and like you would expect when they were on new programs, for some of their hotels, it’s been really good and some we need to make adjustments with the new program.

So, I would say, our rewards cost in Bonvoy are down across our system, which has been good. Some of the contributions in some hotels are up and frankly some are down. And so, we’re working with them and they are agreeable to make adjustments where it’s fair to make adjustments. I’d say the one that we’re — we have been a little bit focused on is they — what — on your Bonvoy, they’ve given the leads who are their premium folks, free breakfast at resorts and they compensate us I think $7 a breakfast. But that’s one that in some markets make sense and in some markets probably is it’s too expensive. So that would be one that under the Bonvoy program we’re working with them on solutions to be equitable.


Breakfast at the Scrub Island Resort, Autograph Collection

The hotel investor CEO complains about breakfast, which he sees being worth $7. So he’s only going to give $7 worth of breakfast even though his total costs for the program are lower since the launch of Bonvoy and even as he noted that he was promised additional cuts.

It should be no surprise that this issue comes up at a DiamondRock property, because the Westin Fort Lauderdale isn’t their only one that was scamming guests with extra fees to pay with a chain’s own credit card. The Points Guy defended another DiamondRock property doing this, the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain, even though Hilton says doing so violated their brand standards (as it now does with Marriott).

When there are bad practices in the industry, they often aren’t isolated to a single hotel. Marriott seems to let owners get away with a lot. And you’ll find the same practices across properties within a single ownership group like adding unexplained sustainability fees to guest bills.

It’s important not to leave benefit language ambiguous in program terms the way that Marriott does. Hyatt’s approach is to actually define what breakfast means so there can be no arguments (emphasis mine),

Globalists will receive daily complimentary full breakfast (which includes one entrée or standard breakfast buffet, juice, and coffee, as well as tax, gratuity and service charges) for each registered guest in the room, up to a maximum of two (2) adults and two (2) children. T

Give ’em an inch and some of these bad actors will give you a stale bagel, every time.

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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Comments

  1. This is what happens when Marriott does not own or manage its hotels. Over 70% of Marriott’s properties across all brands are managed by owners like DiamondRock or third-party operators like Aimbridge. Marriott should have never allowed its full-service upscale brands to be franchisee managed.

    Does anyone think Marriott has the gumption to stand up to owners like DiamondRock?

    At least IHG is deflagging its worst owners and operators.

  2. As mentioned some time ago I showed your blog to the hotel people and mentioned the legal questions involved. They were astonished and immediately took the 2% charge off. But clearly what we have here is, “A failure to communicate.” Somebody (many?) in the privately owned Marriotts are gouging what they can. Perhaps corporate doesn’t care what franchises do with their name, which is a fast way for the whole organization to start circling the drain.

  3. DrRichard, both the hotel chains and the property owners know exactly what they’re doing. And, they have made it clear that they will not use KY.

    So, I again say that if this issue matters to someone, that person is still playing THEIR game. And, after all of the articles about what they are doing, if someone is still playing THEIR game, the person deserves what they get . . . and perhaps enjoys it more without the KY.

  4. At the Westin in Kona, that charged over $900 a night, continental breakfast was a tray of fruits and pastries. It was sufficient in quantity. And yes a $2 per night sustainability fee was charged.

  5. Does this surprise anyone given the current Marriott CEO’s position on his franchisees? The problem “FNT Delta Diamond” is not Marriott managing the properties its have the *^&*^*(^ to stand up and make the owners adhere to their contracts and obligations. These same property owners do some horrible things in maintaining those buildings which I will not go into but as a contractor I have witnessed first hand.

    The days of rabid loyalty is gone folks it’s now the “best deal wins” I have a ton of Marriott left when gone that how we will be booking

  6. Pulled something similar last month at Grand Wailea Maui where we had 5 night stay for 280k points and cash rate was over a crazy $1600 a night. Was supposed to include continental breakfast for 2 as plats at either their Starbucks or Whales Tale (Forget the full buffet that would’ve been at Humble Markit Kitchen that charges like 50 bucks per person for breakfast)

    At Whales Tale a food truck at the resort our voucher was supposed to include choice of pastry, coffee/tea, fruit, and juice for two. For pastries their menu had either Banana Bread or Cinnamon Roll listed for 7 bucks, and had a variety of juices listed for about 10 bucks. When presenting our voucher, we had to pay separately for either the Banana Bread or Cinnamon Roll and what was included with the voucher was couple cheap mini croissants or danishes/whatever they had that looked like came out of some big Costco packaging. And for the juice if paid for would come in something like 20 ounce cups, and with the voucher was reduced to a little kid’s cup!

    Talk about super cheapness, for a hotel that had a real full buffet restaurant as well that maybe a few years ago would’ve been included for plats. Made us feel like beggars to use the voucher!

  7. Your summary of the breakfast benefit is not correct. At legacy Starwood brands, it is “breakfast in restaurant” — not a “continental” breakfast. This is the same for resort-designated legacy Marriotts. At non-resort legacy Marriotts without an open lounge, it’s 750 points per day or a “continental breakfast.”

  8. Do Marriott’s Corporate officers or guest relations staff ever respond to any of these comments/criticisms? It is clear that Corporate has no control over the action of a property’s manager,nt. For example, I booked a stay at a new Towne Pace Suites property in NYC for last Thanksgiving. When I called the hotel to confirm my reservation, it went straight to VM. When I called Marriott;s (Titanium ) reservation call center, they insisted that the hotel was already open. Finaly on the Friday prior to my Monday check in, I rec’ an email from the hotel telling me that they were excited about their upcoming opening; however, they wouldn’t be open on the date of my scheduled arrival and indicated that they made a reservation for me at a Hilton property. When I sent them an email as to other options, there was no response.

  9. Hey Gary,

    why not create a list of the hotels and their “breakfast generosity” here on VFTW? The good thing about the Marriott footprint is that most major cities have plenty of options and we can vote by our feet. Even we as pesky loyalty customers create decent margins for every room we rent, once analytics show that a lack of benefits translates into a lack of guests I would expect benefits to improve.

    Over here in Europe I encountered a few Ritz Carltons who give free breakfast to platinum and above because they realized that our employers don’t pay extra for the breakfast and therefore people actively book away from the chain where you would go hungry in the morning.

  10. @FNT Delta Diamond – assume you realize all the big chains are basically franchises that actually own and manage very few of their properties. Also, I don’t like it any more than others (I’m Hilton Diamond, Marriott Titanium and Hyatt Explorist BTW) but also realize the REAL customers of the hotel chains are the owners of the hotels, not the people that stay in them. Sure in a perfect world it all aligns but given the downturn during COVID and ongoing staffing issues (plus increased salaries for staff they have, increased supply costs and supply chain issues) I give them a pass. To bitch and moan about something as minor as breakfast comes across as petty and a “first world problem” in 2022.

    People be a little more self aware – it really isn’t about YOU all the time.

  11. I’d suggest it’s time to stop wailing about yet another instance where Marriott and their hotel owners promise one thing and deliver another because complaining assumes the other party cares and it’s clear they don’t.

    As a Lifetime Titanium Elite with coming up on 30 years as a Platinum or above this year I’m headed to Hyatt since the world is a better place when people avoid patronizing unethical organizations and it’s clear to me that Marriott has long since past the line into that territory.

    The only sure cure for Marriott’s behavior is competitive pressure. I’m sure what is going on has not escaped other hotel chains notice and moving business towards them can only be helpful in convincing them, their peers, their bankers, etc that moves to grow and consolidate in order to provide an alternative to Marriott will be rewarded.

    A Hyatt or some other chain with enough reach so that Marriott wouldn’t be necessary is the best way to shift the balance of power away from the hotels and back on the consumer.

  12. Arne Sorenson told me to my face (and I also have it in print) that “Marriott has no control over its owners”. Now we see the results of “giving away the brand” for rapid profit and growth. Customer are the losers and should vote with their feet

  13. @AC:

    Not true. Until recently, Marriott managed a majority of its upscale full-service brands. You never used to find a JW Marriott or Ritz-Carlton operated by the franchisee or a third-party management company. That’s no longer the case.

    As far as I know, Hyatt still manages the vast majority of its full-service properties. With some exceptions, only the Hyatt House, Centric and Place brands are generally operated by the franchisee or a third-party. That’s why Hyatt can, in part, have such consistency.

    I believe Hilton is on the Marriott model but keeps most of its high-branded property managed in-house.

  14. Gary,

    Specifically what show someone actually do when a hotel pulls these shenanigans and decides to “color outside the lines”?

    Pay for it……..and then initiate a dispute with the credit card company?

  15. @John: That is probably true at the more than 70% of properties directly operated by the franchisee or a third-party. Especially if something as simple as what constitutes breakfast isn’t defined.

    I will concede that Marriott may be constrained by some franchise and license agreements from changing some of these things in our favor.

    Marriott has made the decision they would rather make less money by allowing hotels to operate hotels or contract the management to third parties than require that some brands be exclusively operated by Marriott. While they make less money, this means more growth and, of course, reduced costs and liability since Marriott doesn’t have to employ the workers, etc. Marriott can sit back and collect 3-6% revenue from a property without incurring much, if any, expenses.

    This model has risks, however. Marriott seems to think they can have a hotel on every corner because they have so many brands. But increasingly long-standing owners are not happy about Marriott allowing a new owner to open a competing property nearby. You have seen this becoming an issue in Southeast Asia. In fact, I believe there is some litigation over this.

  16. @Narita: I assume that you were writing about Westin Hapuna. That hotel used to offer the full breakfast to Marriott Elite but switched to continental in Feb (?) 2021. We have stayed there this January and their continental option includes
    – fruit plate
    – plate of pastries
    – coffee
    – juice
    – oatmeal served with fresh berries
    – yogurt parfaits.
    You can actually order all of these items and all of them were of good-to-excellent quality. While this certainly falls short of the full breakfast buffet, it is certainly not the worst breakfast in the Marriott portfolio. Finally, the $2/day fee you mentioned is for Legacy Reforestation. This is a program to plant more trees in Hawaii. I am not sure you can opt out but I think this is something hotel is participating/contributing to.

  17. @Ajay: I would refuse to pay, ask for the most senior manager, invoke the language of the terms and claim $100 cash compensation if they wouldn’t give your breakfast.

  18. @Luke: Grand Wailea Maui is a Waldorf Astoria resort which is HHonors portfolio (i.e., not Marriott). Congratulations with finding 95K/night standard rewards for a stretch of 5 days – this is almost impossible to find! Because it is Waldord Astoria, as Hilton Gold/Diamond you should be getting #25×2=$50/day credit towards breakfast of at least two of you were staying. I stayed at that hotels a few time but that was long time ago and I was in a section of the hotel with a lounge access with food and drinks throughout the day.

  19. @FNT Spoken like someone who doesn’t know the business. Aimbridge HEI and Highgate operate zero RCs, StRs, or JWs.

  20. @Alex77W……My bad…….I meant Wailea Beach Resort Marriott in Maui, only that hotel has the Humble Markit Kitchen!!!! Messed up as the Grand Wailea was next to our resort and had some meals and spa treatment there as well.

  21. I have a money saver for Marriott hotels: Get rid of The Book of Mormon and use the money towards something more customers will want.

  22. @FNT Delta Diamond I agree with you about the risks; the risks are now enormous and undisclosed to the SEC and most stockholders. But Marriott has sold out the brand in both its franchised and licensed/managed properties as Arne Sorenson admitted to me. There are huge regulatory issues involved in this of course. Mr Sorenson also informed me that Marriott no longer has to conduct due diligence on its properties (cf the due diligence that led to the data breach!) and I can provide the evidence to show that Marriott is knowingly operating illegal hotels. Marriott is only constrained by its contracts because a corrupted system has been engineered in order to get easy business particularly in corrupt/developing countries.
    And yes, there are issues in SEAsia. I’m writing about one at the moment, the one I think you may be referring to.
    If it’s allowed here’s the link: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marriott-lamentations-76-minor-dirty-linen-part-1-john-shepherd/
    This entire situation goes so much wider than just breakfasts! It’s about huge global corruption which the regulators are opting to remain silent about. nevertheless, Marriott is deep deep trouble

    @John: That is probably true at the more than 70% of properties directly operated by the franchisee or a third-party. Especially if something as simple as what constitutes breakfast isn’t defined.

    I will concede that Marriott may be constrained by some franchise and license agreements from changing some of these things in our favor.

    Marriott has made the decision they would rather make less money by allowing hotels to operate hotels or contract the management to third parties than require that some brands be exclusively operated by Marriott. While they make less money, this means more growth and, of course, reduced costs and liability since Marriott doesn’t have to employ the workers, etc. Marriott can sit back and collect 3-6% revenue from a property without incurring much, if any, expenses.

    This model has risks, however. Marriott seems to think they can have a hotel on every corner because they have so many brands. But increasingly long-standing owners are not happy about Marriott allowing a new owner to open a competing property nearby. You have seen this becoming an issue in Southeast Asia. In fact, I believe there is some litigation over this.

  23. @Aegnor “Over here in Europe I encountered a few Ritz Carltons who give free breakfast to platinum and above because they realized that our employers don’t pay extra for the breakfast and therefore people actively book away from the chain where you would go hungry in the morning.”

    Very interesting!

  24. I hate to be the bearer of good news, but as a Titanium member, I got a lovely free buffet breakfast (including a delicious omelet) at the Ritz downtown LA in December — and I was actually staying at the attached JW Marriott.

    I also got two free breakfast vouchers for every day of my stay at the W Hollywood; they were good for breakfast at the restaurant or room service. They also upgraded me to a genuine suite despite paying a super cheap advance room rate and not using any suite night awards.

    Also the resort fee at the Marriott was actually worth it for the number of real benefits it conferred.

  25. @ BonvoyedAgain:

    Ritz-Carlton in Chicago is operated by a third-party. Sage Hospitality or whatever they’re called.

    Rtiz-Carlton in Malaysia is licensed to YTL hotels.

    Dozens of JW Marriotts are not operated by Marriott.

  26. Let’s be clear: “The Points Guy” has long had a “special” relationship with Marriott. He is a complete shill and should be boycotted.

    There’s a reason he’s disabled comments on his site: everybody would call him out on his total BS and shilling.

  27. Simple: stop going to Florida. I haven’t been in 5 years since the crazies really showed themselves. I have always hated the place but tolerated it since our company does a few tradeshows there a year. Now, I pass on them. Between the old people driving, the tourists not knowing what or where they are going, the crazy rightwingers, it is just chaos.

  28. @Ray the only Marriott worth it in FL is the Hollywood beach Marriott. The service and amenities make it worthwhile with status of gold and above. Free champagne 5 hrs in lobby, snacks, bikes, sit down restaurant breakfast, early/ late rooms, free drinks daily, beach service, etc.

  29. I have to agree with @GS Guy. I actively do not interact with anything The Points Guy or his affiliates write/peddle as he has zero credibility.

  30. You need a friggin’ decoder manual to figure out elite benefits at Marriott these days, especially breakfast options. I think Marriott corporate intentionally keeps it like this so the hotel owners can offer only the cheapest food option and still stay within guidelines. Marriott has long made it clear their prioritity is the hotel owners, not the guests….

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