The Marriott Maze: Navigating Customer Service Over $11, When Does It Stop Being Worth It?

This past week I gave the closing keynote at the State Government Affairs Council’s National Summit. It was a great group. Maybe you wouldn’t expect a frequent flyer talk with a group of advocates for their companies and associations – but these are road warriors, many of whom are looking to leverage their miles, points and status on their travels. And the organization supports them professionally – part of their government advocacy work is getting to where they’re going, so it made sense!

Naturally the conversation also veered towards policy and regulatory issues (like Durbin-Marshall) in the Q&A, because these are legislative minds.

The event was held at The Adolphus, Autograph Collection hotel in Dallas. The property has a really interesting style. I liked it a lot.

There was a little bit of confusion at the desk when I checked in. Though I was only staying at the hotel the night before my morning talk, the group had gotten me a room for the full length of the event. The desk clerk, who was new, had to get a manager to assist in checking me in. She explained that the hotel room nights were covered, she’d just need a credit card for incidentals, and that:

  • The club lounge was closed, but I could take breakfast in the restaurant or have 750 points. I opted for breakfast and she gave me a voucher.

  • As my amenity choice I could have 1,000 points or a $10 food and beverage credit. I took the points, not anticipating needing an additional food and beverage credit since…

  • The hotel’s resort fee would include a $25 food and beverage credit. All I used it for was a morning coffee in their coffee shop which was really quite good.

I had a bit of an odd shaped room. The room itself was modest size. The closet was huge and the bathroom somewhat oversized. It certainly worked for me for a night.

Public spaces at the hotel are especially nice.

Breakfast is at ‘City Hall’ restaurant, motto: you can’t fight city hall.

The breakfast voucher is good for their ‘American Breakfast’ with choice of juice, coffee, or tea. That’s more generous than Marriott requires, and it’s inclusive of tax and tip (they did not bring a bill) but I’d certainly prefer the option of a credit towards other items on the menu if I preferred.

Breakfast was fine. I had a better coffee from the coffee shop so just stuck to the American breakfast, ate half a piece of bacon, half a piece of the toast and some eggs, and didn’t have any coffee or juice. I sat in the restaurant and worked for a bit before my talk.

Afterwards, the stay posted to my account with the 1,000 point amenity and with points for my coffee. I was charged for the coffee and it wasn’t removed from my bill.

When I contacted Marriott about having the charge removed I was told I needed,

While I realize that Marriott isn’t really Marriott – you have a loyalty program and central reservations, but hotels are owned separately – you have to go to Marriott to get a bill in order to give it to Marriott which seems absurd. They used to make you fax in the bill.

I didn’t get a bill at check-out. I don’t know why Marriotts always promise to email folios to me, and never do. It wasn’t accessible in my online account, even though the stay had posted. And I didn’t have the reservation number. The booking was made for me. But the stay posted to my Marriott account. I gave them my Marriott number and a screen shot of the stay. I also had a screen shot of my credit card charge.

They responded asking for… my reservation number that I already told them I didn’t have, and my… name? At least Marriott Ambassador status means having an Ambassador again and hopefully better customer service than you get over the phone. But boy Hyatt is better on Twitter DM than Marriott is and I appreciate having my Hyatt Concierge, which doesn’t require $23,000 spend in addition to 100 nights.

At what point does fighting over $11 stop being worth it? I’m going to spend more than $11 worth of my time getting this addressed. Yet it will bother me more than $11’s worth for Marriott to keep the $11.

I really liked The Adolphus hotel. I don’t like resort fees, but appreciated at least the food and beverage credit – had it been applied – and just wish that Marriott customer service at the individual level were better. I don’t think I’ve ever had a clear, helpful interaction there in the past dozen years. But the State Government Affairs Council folks and their attendees were awesome.

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. You fight for the principal of the thing. Their cost will be greater than yours if you spend time on their call center while you sit in the taxi or on the toilet. Small charges that are not disputed are a revenue stream and they know it.

  2. Thieves are thieves. I’d go after them for the $11 until the day I died.
    Words matter and if you can’t get customer service to respond keep taking it up the ladder until it gets solved. This lets Senior Management know how shitty their customer service is and how embarrassing their company has become.
    It’s more pain for you but it might influence future behavior and if it doesn’t put them on the never again list and vote with your feet.

  3. First, thanks for having the balls to post publicly about this. Many high profile people want to complain about stuff exactly like this, but shy away due to fear of being labeled petty (or worse).

    Second, I’d let this slide. I wouldn’t always have. As a PhD student making $19,000 a year? You bet I was after every dollar. I’d probably even have complained the coffee tasted burned, could they make up for it by throwing 1k points my way? Kidding (a little). But when you make $19,000 a year, every dollar counts.

    Now I’m a high end professional making a lot more than $19,000 a year which does not give any entity the right to rip me off. And, I’m not so arrogant as to believe certain charges aren’t worth my time. I’m paid the same irrespective of how many hours I work. The time I would spend fighting a charge isn’t time I would otherwise spend making money. There’s no opportunity cost to me to fight a charge like this.

    But I still wouldn’t.* These kinds of charges are part and parcel of staying in hotels.

    *Meaning, I’d make a token effort via chatbot or some such to get the charge removed, but failing that, I forget it and move on.

  4. I try to make that point to them: 1. as a long-time customer, if I am devoting my time to the item, perhaps they can accept the correction without requiring hours of correspondence, and 2. how much time do they want to spend arguing about X dollars.

  5. I’m not sure if souring the customer’s experience for a disputed coffee charge that should have gone against the allowance in the resort fee is clever on the hotel’s part. It may end up being reversed but the impression that the hotel was hard to deal with will last no matter what.

  6. Uber Eats has it right here. Most of the time, my order is fine. There are cases, however, when something isn’t right. I click a few buttons in the app, explain what the issue is. Sometimes they ask for a photo of the item if it’s wrong or there is some issue with it (assuming it’s not missing from the order entirely), and then–boom–would you like an Uber Eats credit or a refund back to your card? That’s it. In 30 seconds I’m a happy camper.

    Sure, I wasn’t thrilled that I got regular cream cheese instead of the scallion cream cheese I ordered on Sat, but when they refunded the item entirely, it made amends. Uber is far from the poster child for good service, but in this case, Marriott should learn a lesson or two. If it’s an adjustment for a modest amount of money, just give the customer the benefit of the doubt. If Marriott Corp doesn’t have the ability to charge back the property in these sorts of cases, then they need to re-think their contracts with them.

  7. Personally, I’m with @WileyDog. Is this worth my time if I’m “on the clock”? Absolutely not. But I view it as a hobby, and yes, have fired off texts when sitting in cabs, while my wife is in the bathroom when we’re out for lunch, or while waiting for the movie to begin at the theatre.

  8. This kinda reminds me of the crap nights I spent at the Holiday Inn Kensington in London a few years ago. The lack of response, discourteous service and down right arrogance caused me to cancel my IHG Chase card, transfer all of my points to my airline account (at a loss but…) and cancel my IHG membership. I will NOT set foot in an IHG property again. Either the states or the congress should force all travel industries to include all fees in the daily room rate.

  9. It’s $11 today. But the same problem could make it $110 tomorrow. Good companies fix their problems but need to know. Bad companies don’t care so we shouldn’t let them keep the $11.

  10. I agree too, it’s the point of the matter to follow up in this thievery. Also, kudos for naming the hotel too to warn others as well… Too many bloggers just make up stories like these and don’t even name the offending hotel.

  11. You got much more in value that $11 and likely will include the $11 as a business expense (which you should) so let it go. There is much more to worry about in the world than what amounts to a rounding error in charges. Also, as you stated, not worth your time. For anything under $100 if I can’t resolve it in one call I just let it go.

  12. Interesting observation about the failure to email folios. Another data point on this: I had a delayed flight and booked an extra night at the Autograph Port of Spain. I filed a claim with my Chase Travel Insurance, and needed a folio to support my claim, which wasn’t emailed to me after checkout as promised. I had to call several times over a 6 week period and eventually had to get Marriott involved to get the folio.

  13. The website doesn’t mention anything about a 25$ FnB credit:

    A 45-minute guided historical tour
    24-hour access to our in-house fitness center
    Access to the Rooftop Pool Deck
    Ice cold longneck or craft soda at Rodeo Bar for up to two people, daily
    Access to Cowboy Fit at AT&T Plaza for up to two people

    But even so, why would you be happy with a mandatory spend of $25 that you didn’t use?

    Even worse, they’ve listed rooftop pool access as a resort fee benefit when it’s listed as a hotel feature right below!


  14. Gary,
    I think trying to get Marriott CS to be helpful here is pretty useless.

    I’d call the hotel GM or front desk manager. Explain it, get an email to follow up and expect them to refund the money.

    Good luck.

  15. Low quality companies (which is what Marriott has become) build stealing into their business plan when we’re they conclude they can get away with it; with CRM they also know “which* customers they can steal from with impunity.

    $1 or $11 it doesn’t matter, you have to stop them before they make the conclusion that you (or people with the same profile as you) are easy to steal from.

  16. I had a Hyatt add themselves a tip even though I crossed out the tip line because of atrocious service. You bet I went after that $10.

  17. Just curious why you would not contact the hotel directly for a credit versus Marriott corporate. The hotel will easily be able to correct it since all Marriott will do is send a note to the hotel .

  18. Someone else said it. Call the hotel directly problem solved in 10 minutes or less. But then you wouldn’t have had an article. Also I get my bill emailed to me 99 percent of the time. And the rare time I don’t, its on my account page a few days later.

    Bonyvoy has become worthless as the only thing worthwhile is the 4:00 checkout and points have been completely devalued but this author clearly looked to create an issue to write an article. Be better!!

  19. Quick picking on the good folks over at the Marriott Bonvoy Ponzi Scheme
    They are doing the best they can (roll eyes)

  20. It’s not $11. If you allow them to get away with it it’s $11 today, $3 another stay, $9 another, and so on.

    So what you are doing is avoiding lifetime of small charges, which is several hundred / thousand dollars.

  21. The fact is Marriott customer service is atrocious. Even getting the email address for a hotel can require multiple inquiries.

    Despite having lifetime titanium status I often get better service at Hyatt where I have the lowest tier status. I am talking about suite upgrades, free breakfast, and even lounge access over half the time. Their customer service is outstanding. It reminds of back in the day with Ambassador status and SPG. Marriott started downgrading the loyalty program immediately despite saying the SPG loyalty program was the best and suggesting they would incorporate its benefits into Marriotts loyalty program. I remember asking my ambassador why I never heard from him like I did when it was SPG and he said off the books that Marriott had dumped each ambassador with three times the number of members almost immediately after the merger.

    If Marriott doesn’t change they will keep losing customers despite their large footprint.

  22. I wouldn’t fight for the $11. I’d fight for the $25 resort fee, since they have the audacity to charge one but not know how to apply its benefits.


  23. If there was common sense:

    Guest “I was charged $11 when I shouldn’t have been”
    Marriot “This guest stays with us quite a lot. $11 is very little in the big picture. Process a refund.”
    Guest “Thank you – I value that service and it will entice me to keep doing business with Marriot.”

    But that would take effective mgmt to understand that the lifetime value of a guest is more valuable than the one time pittance of $11.

  24. I would love to see a start up form a business where people with not worth it situations could assign their rights of recovery to anyone willing to take on the fight.

    It could be gamified to a points based system with rankings and awards for the best collectors.

    What fun to read the leader board of loser companies and winning individuals.

  25. Keep posting! When they figure out it has cost them a hundred booking, they will change their tune!

  26. Marriott is NOT a hotel company. It is a booking platform for hotels. This becomes a problem with independent hotels in soft brands like Autograph as well as international hotels. For whatever reason, the systems they use typically do not sync with Marriott’s main system. That makes accessing folios impossible.

  27. Gary – It would help you immensely if you chat with hotel employees and managers rather than rely on customer service phone #s and email for small issues like this. The reason why Marriott asks for your bill has nothing to do with hotel owners. It is because the reservation system is different from the Property Management System, which is at the front desk.

  28. @Conceirge – that is my point exactly.

    Use of non-compatible systems within Marriott (and other chains) is a problem!

    But it shouldn’t be the customer’s problem. And it shouldn’t require a phone call, holds, transfers, etc. to fix a mistake by the hotel.

    As for those who wonder about the $25 f&b credit, it was noted as a benefit on a printed card given out at check-in.

  29. Calling the hotel is not an option when the problem is with the manager. During an attempted stay at a Courtyard in Round Rock TX. Recently we had an unreal experience with the manager. I am a Lifetime Titanium, have stayed at Marriott for over two years, and been a Marriott loyalty member for 29 years. I am also 82 and my wife is 80. The manager was so rude she had my wife in tears and threatened to call the police to leave their property as my wife was outside talking to customer service. The complaint was sent to a higher level and she insured that we would have a response within 5 days. The response came from the same manager that had caused the situation and was the most condescending response I have ever received. We were told we were welcome to stay there again as long as our behavior met her standards and she liked to give people a second chance to learn and grow. I am done with Marriott and feel their customer service is a joke.

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