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It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone when I say that you should never take at face value anything a loyalty program representative says/types when they announce something. Loyalty programs have been lying to members for as long as I can remember and, while the person delivering the message may not be aware that he/she is lying, someone higher up inside the loyalty program always knows exactly what they’re doing.
A very recent change to the Hilton T&Cs appeared to be a stealth devaluation of the 5th night free benefit which I wrote about on Friday.
What I didn’t know while I was writing the blog post on the devaluation was that a Hilton Honors representative preempted the change in the T&Cs with the following post on Flyertalk last Tuesday.
We’re making it a little easier for our Silver, Gold and Diamond members to see how many Points they need when booking a Standard Room Reward stay for five nights or more. As many of you know, when you used to book a reward stay of five nights or more, the 5th Night Free benefit was shown as a discount to Standard Room Reward stays of 5 or more nights. The total discount was equal to the average nightly Point price for the stay dates and was then divided across all nights of the stay.
Going forward, Elite members will now see every 5th night of a Standard Room Reward stay will now be discounted to 0 Points, up to 4 free nights per stay. All other nights of the stay will be charged the applicable full Standard Room Reward price.
The T&Cs will be reflective of this change starting September 27, 2017, and wanted to give you all a head’s up!
That’s a completely innocuous post and comes over as saying “hey guys, we’re just tweaking how we display the 5th night free benefit, nothing major, we just wanted to give you all a heads up”
In my post on Friday I showed that it looks as if the net result of this change is to make “5th night free” awards (where the cost of the room isn’t already at its maximum for all 5 nights) more expensive.
In the two examples I cited the award cost for a 5 night award increased by 15% and 26% respectively….and I suspected that the increases at other properties may be even higher than that.
The new wording in the T&Cs makes it sound as if the prices for award nights in a “5th night free” award will all be increased to the full standard rate…and my calculations on Friday appeared to bear this out.
But another Hilton Honors representative added this on Friday:
The “applicable full Standard Room Reward price” does not mean that the Point prices will be increased to the property’s maximum. When the 5th Night Free benefit is applied after logging in as a Silver, Gold, or Diamond member, the price of every 5th Night is dropped to 0. The reward prices for all other nights are calculated based on the room rates and demand for your stay dates and will often still be below the property’s maximum Point price. To see how the 5th Night Free is applied, you can try searching a 5+ night Standard Reward stay before and after logging into you Hilton Honors Silver, Gold, or Diamond account.
That didn’t tally with what I had seen online.
Here are the costs for 5 separate nights at the Capital Hilton in Washington DC….
…and, if the representative is correct, that should mean that the cost of the 5th night is dropped to zero and the cost of all the other nights remains the same.
But, when I log in, Hilton’s website tries to charge me 240,000 points for a five night stay covering those exact nights.
It looks as if, when I try to book this stay as 5 nights all in one booking (as opposed to 5 individual nights), the website zeros out the cost of the 5th night (as the Hilton Honors representative said) but then it increases the cost of the remaining 4 nights to 60,000 points per night (the maximum rate at the property).
That’s exactly what the Hilton Honors representative said would not happen.
If that was the end of my research I would have come to the conclusion that we were being lied to….but I’ve done a bit more digging and I think there could be more going on.
I have a suspicion that one of two things is happening – either Hilton’s IT systems are malfunctioning or Hilton has done something dumb.
Here’s why I think that.
Here are the prices for 5 separate nights at the Hilton Seattle:
If we assume that Hilton isn’t being disingenuous this is what should happen when I go to book this as a 5 night award:
- The 5th night is reduced to zero
- All other nights stay the same in cost
That would make the 5 night award come to 195,000 Hilton Honors points
So why is the website trying to charge me 1,000 points less?
If Hilton was upping the cost of the remaining award nights to the maximum then the award would be pricing up at well over 200,000 points.
Sure, 1,000 points is a completely insignificant difference….bit it’s still a difference and I don’t understand why a system that is supposed to be black and white is giving a result like this.
Here’s another example….
This time I’ve selected 5 nights at the Hampton by Hilton London Docklands.
These are the individual nightly rates….
…and if the Hilton representatives are correct this is what should happen:
- The 5th night (30,000 points) is reduced to zero
- All other nights stay the same in cost
That would make the 5th night free award come to 107,000 Hilton Honors points.
So why is the website pricing up the 5 night award as 99,000 points?
I can’t see any mathematical way of manipulating those individual nightly prices to make a 5 night award come to 99,000 points so I have no idea what Hilton is doing.
Here’s one last example….and it’s another example where Honors members actually benefit.
Here are five nights at the LondonHouse Chicago:
The math here should be very simple – reduce the last night to zero and then add up the remaining nights to give the cost of the award….which should be 141,000 Honors Points.
But that’s not what it costs!
The Hilton website prices the 5 night award up at 122,000 points.
Under the old rules (involving taking the average cost of the nights) this award would have cost 148,800 (22% more than it costs now) and under the new rules it should have cost 141,000 points…so what’s going on?!
122,000 split across 4 nights would be 30,500 points /night (which doesn’t correlate to anything showing on the Hilton website) and, across 5 nights, it works out at 24,400 points /night which doesn’t correlate with anything either.
Let’s not forget that Hilton said that the reason for this change is to make it a “little easier for our Silver, Gold and Diamond members to see how many Points they need when booking a Standard Room Reward stay for five nights or more“…..but how does any of this make things easier?
The only explanation I have been able to come up with for all these variances is this:
It’s possible that the website is re-calculating the nightly points cost when a 5 night award is selected and there’s no way of seeing what that re-calculation looks like.
As I showed on Friday the rates can sometimes go up and, as I’m showing now, the rates can also be more favorable….but I can’t understand why Hilton would want its website to do this.
Individual nightly award costs are already set based around the nightly cash rate which, in turn, is based on an algorithm that takes into account a number of variables such as season, demand and probably historic demand too…so why would there be any need to recalculate the nightly award costs just because someone is booking a 5 night (or greater) stay?
There are a number of unknowns here but, unless I’m missing something, one thing is very obvious – nothing here has been made clearer by the change Hilton has put through.
The award’s are not costing what we can reasonably assume they’re going to cost so….
Either Hilton has a big issue with its IT system or it has decided to add a hidden level to the 5th night free award calculation. Considering we’ve been told the aim of the change was to simplify matters that would be an exceedingly dumb thing for Hilton to have done.
I’m not longer sure that this is an outright devaluation as the prices of awards under the new methodology appear to go down as well up…but this is all still very bizarre.
Anyone else have any suggestions as to what is going on?