Home Hotel Loyalty Marriott Bonvoy This is the kind of nonsense Marriott Bonvoy needs to cut out

This is the kind of nonsense Marriott Bonvoy needs to cut out


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There are a number of serious issues with the Marriott Bonvoy program and a lot of them are a result of Marriott allowing various brands and individual properties to plow their own furrow and to pick and choose what aspects of the Bonvoy program they want to adopt.

Because most of these issues are well-known (some are even written into the Bonvoy terms and conditions), they’re annoying but they usually don’t lead to disappointment or anger because they are what they are.

Most people know, for example, that the rules surrounding complimentary breakfasts for Platinum and Titanium members are more convoluted and complicated than quantum physics but because the rules are written down in black and white, they’re not usually something that causes an issue in the days leading up to a stay or during a stay. Guest know ahead of time what they’re facing.

We also know, for example, that Marriott allows quite a few of its properties to opt out of honoring Suite Night awards and while the list of properties allowed to do this is nowhere to be found, a Bonvoy member can tell within seconds of making a reservation whether or not they’ll be allowed to apply a Suite Night upgrade to their booking and can then decide whether the reservation is worth keeping. It’s annoying but it’s also something that can be addressed at the time of booking.

The key thing with issues like these is that although they can be irritating, their nature means that Bonvoy member expectations are kept in check and guests know ahead of time (more or less) what benefits to expect during their stay.

Where things really start to fall down is when properties claim to offer certain Bonvoy benefits and then don’t deliver on those benefits when the mood suits them. This is happening more and more right now and it’s happening because Marriott is allowing properties to get away with this kind of behavior.

Essentially, Marriott cares a lot more about keeping the owners of the hotels happy than it does about keeping the members of its Bonvoy program happy.

A recent trip to the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London gave me a very good example of what I’m discussing here.

Before making my booking, I already knew that the St Pancras Renaissance likes to play a little loose with the Bonvoy rules because although it says that it allows guests to use Suite Night Awards, it doesn’t offer guests the option to use these awards to upgrade to a full suite. A Junior Suite is the best that you can hope for.

Still, I knew that when I booked so that wasn’t an issue.

When requesting the Suite Night upgrades, I was given a choice of three rooms to which I could ask to be upgraded and I selected just the top option.

My thinking here was that as a Titanium Elite member I probably had a pretty good chance of getting upgraded to a Premier King Bedroom (the bottom option) without using any Suite Night Awards and I didn’t want to give the hotel an excuse not to give me a Grand Junior Suite by suggesting that I’d be happy with a Chambers Junior Suite.

Properties only begin to consider Suite Night Award requests in the 5 days leading up to arrival so on each of the 5 days leading up to the day of my arrival I checked to see what rooms the St Pancras Renaissance was selling.

On all 5 days, a Grand Junior Suite was available for all 3 nights that I would be staying at the property (I had made three back-to-back 1-night bookings) but there was no news on my upgrade request until the day before I was due to arrive.

On the day before I was due to arrive, I received an email from Marriott to tell me that “despite [their] best efforts” my Suite Night Award request could not be fulfilled.

That email was sent at 14:25.

At 18:05 the same day (approximately 3.5 hours later), the St. Pancras Renaissance was still happy to sell me a Grand Junior Suite for all 3 nights of my stay.

In fact, as late as 11:49 on the day of my arrival, I could still have booked a Grand Junior Suite for all 3 nights of my stay.

So why wasn’t my Suite Night Award request fulfilled? My upgrade choice was very clearly available in the window during which these awards are supposed to be processed and yet no upgrade was forthcoming.

By the time I got to the property later that day, neither a Grand Junior Suite nor a Chambers Juinor suite was showing on the Bonvoy app and at check-in, the desk agent was about to assign me an upgrade to a 2nd tier room (one up from the entry-level room) until I pointed out that the Bonvoy app was showing that the property was still selling considerably better rooms – the Premier King Larger Room in the Barlow Wing.

One of the key benefits of Bonvoy Titanium Elite status is that holders of that status are entitled (per Bonvoy rules) to an upgrade to the best room available at check-in (up to and including entry-level suites)…so why did I have to ask for that upgrade?

Eventually, after the desk agent had gone into a back office to talk to the room allocations manager (I think that’s what she said his title was), I was given the Premier King Larger Room that I should have been given by default.

At no point during any of this did I let my annoyance with the property show to the desk agent (none of this was her fault) but I did ask for a manager’s contact details and despite having emailed that manager a week ago with a briefer version of events, I have yet to hear back…and I doubt I ever will.

Now, before I have a bunch of keyboard warriors launching into various versions of “you entitled ******” in the comments section, allow me to be very clear about what really annoyed me here because that’s pretty important.

I don’t like the fact that Marriott allows properties and brands to pick and choose what Bonvoy rules they follow (I think every property and every brand should stick to the same rules) but I appreciate that there are exceptions to the rules and because I know about these exceptions in advance, I can work around them.

What really, really, annoys me is when we get properties claiming to offer certain elite benefits and then choosing to ignore them whenever they feel like it.

Remember, these are rules set out by Marriott, not me, and they’re written in plain English for everyone to see so there’s no ambiguity here.

It’s Marriott’s rule that says that my Suite Night Award should be processed if there’s availability in the days leading up to my stay, not mine.

It’s Marriott’s rule that says that Titanium Elites should be upgraded to the best available room at check-in, not mine.

There is no entitlement here. At least not in the derogatory sense in which that word is often used.

The deal with Marriott is simple – we Bonvoy members have to credit a certain number of elite nights to our accounts in a year to earn status and in exchange, Marriott says that we then get access to a series of benefits as set out in the Bonvoy rules. The rules say that we are entitled to those benefits. They do not say that we may or may not get those benefits.

Based on the fact that Marriott writes the rules and expects us to adhere to them, the very least that we should expect in return is that Marriott upholds those rules too. But it doesn’t. There is no sign that Marriott takes any action against properties that go rogue.

Put bluntly, this is BS, and until Marriott changes the way it behaves and starts to make the Bonvoy rules apply as intended, the Bonvoy program is going to continue to be viewed as a series of comic memes on social media and “Bonvoyed” will continue to be a word that hangs like an albatross around the program’s neck.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely agree, and when people with a platform don’t even point out these issues, the hotels think they get away with it. These should be highlighted in any reviews so that the contract between hotels and guests can be adequately highlighted and adhesion to rules can be improved.

  2. Well said. The one ambiguous and undefined “benefit” is the comp for things included in the resort fee. The hotels charge -10-15 per day for internet. So offering a few points isn’t equivalent compensation.

    This program has so many exceptions and loopholes that it would take a quarterly seminar to keep up.

    I’ve had a few SNAs honored, but many more not. Like you, I only ask for the top level suite or don’t bother.

    Good writeup.

  3. Similar thing happened to me this past weekend at the JW Marriott Charlotte on a Sunday. Hotel was less than 50% full per the front desk. I’m in Ambassador and was staying on a paid rate. Applied SNA 2 months prior to arrival. Suites and corner rooms still available to purchase on day of arrival. SNA denied one day prior to arrival. I didn’t even get a corner room.

    Found it the owners of the hotel are the notorious White Lodging Group, known for sticking it to elites. Google their hotels and avoid them like the plague if you are looking for elite benefits.

  4. I just experienced a different issue at the Bonvoy hotel across the street from the St. Pancras…the Great Northern Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio brand. Asked for late check out as a Titanium and was told to call on the day of check out because it’s “subject to availability”. I tried to push back but they said they were “fully booked”. So annoying!

    • Another property making up rules. IHG’s program only offers late check-out (when available) but Bonvoy guarantees it. I wouldn’t have moved and then would have forced them to give me another room when I got back at 2pm to find all my things had been packed up

  5. I’m lifetime Titanium and have a slightly different view. If you book a 1 night stay I can see an upgrade to best available room but if you have a multi-night stay and the hotel believes they can sell the upgraded rooms why give them away? Sorry but owners do take priority over Bonvoy members.

    Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the upgrade but also never assume I am “owed one” since they show available. You have no idea what the predictive analytics of their system show with respect to probability the rooms can be sold during your stay. Their priority is to maximize revenue, not meet your expectations. If they align great but often they don’t.

    Again I have stayed in hotels probably 3000-4000 nights over the past 35 years and appreciate the benefits I receive but also have a balanced view and understand it isn’t just about me. People are so selfish and don’t see the big picture.

    • Unfortunately their “analytics” mean nothing. Bonvoy T&Cs state very clearly when upgrades get processed – hotels that claim to accept Bonvoy rules don’t get to make their own exceptions.

    • Loyalty is a two-way street! If I’m loyal to a brand I expect them to live up to the promises they outline in their loyalty program. I also know that hotel companies don’t treat all owners the same which just add to the confusion on when and where you can receive the benefits of being a loyal customer. Maybe they should just drop the term “loyalty” from any future programs.

  6. Just wondering what happened with the other 2 nights, as you noted you made “(I had made three back-to-back 1-night bookings)”

    Did you apply SNA’s to each of the other 2 bookings, and if so were those declined by the system also?

    • I hold lifetime Titanium elite staus so that’s not really something I want to walk away from. More importantly, the solution to this shouldn’t be for Bonvoy members to walk away, it should be for Marriott to get a grip on what hotels under its loyalty program banner are doing.

      • I agree, we shouldn’t walk away after all our years of loyalty! In my opinion when Marriott bought the Starwood everything went downhill for us consumers. I just reached lifetime Titanium elite status and was looking forward to all the promised benefits, like the “auto upgrade to a suite” is what I was told when I upgraded my ownership with Marriott. Please don’t tell me I was doomed 🙁

  7. You are missing a key thing here, the property may have been full on that category BUT had a higher category that they were willing to put that Jr. Suite guest into.

    I’ve watched this exact thing play out over 15+ years of travel (LT Titanium, almost LT Diamond with Hyatt) and that’s the exact [real] answer I have received many times.

    Back in the day when William was lurking on FlyerTalk he’d look into things and that was the case.

    • I would think, regardless of category, the availability of a room after normal check-in time should denote the Bonvoy member (having EARNED the privilege of this benefit per the T&C allowances of being a high-tiered Bonvoy member) be granted the upgrade to the highest (usually nicest) room available at that time. In the OPs case, 3 individual night stays were booked and even if all 3 nights were not granted, the 1st most assuredly should have been.

      The perception is the establishment is essentially “sitting” on those rooms, and for what reason? Housekeeping? Short-staffed? If a Bonvoy member is checking in, a room needs to be cleaned regardless of size. If rooms are viewed by category only, then why isn’t this noted as airfare is? If we are being ‘herded’ into only specific categories, as dedicated and earned lifetime Bonvoy members shouldn’t we be aware of these ‘behind the scenes criteria’? Don’t give me a choice and then say, it was another category of room I had opted to be upgraded to and therefore it was not granted. OF COURSE it would be a much larger, more costly room I would opt for! Categories seem to apply to the hotel name and location, not individual rooms within a specific hotel. I would love some more specific information on this ‘category’ classification within a specific hotel.

  8. Thanks for pointing out the hotel names . I am ambassador and will put St. John’s and jw charlotte and great northern on my black list. I hope others do the same as the best remedy Is to simply boycott these hotels.

    On the other hand I should point out that I’ve gotten excellent suite upgrades in the past Year at

    many properties In Europe and the Middle East

  9. So I continue to be a great fan of Marriott. Amazing treatment at all of the Marriott brand hotels in Warsaw. And at some of the hotels in Istanbul and Germany and Austria and France. Despite the shortcomings still by far the best loyalty program out there

    • I have had amazing treatment at Marriott-family hotels in Europe too. Fantastic upgrades with no need to use SNAs, just based on my Titanium status. Actually, I got great upgrades in Europe when I was only Platinum too.

      Unfortunately, great treatment seems unable to make it across the Atlantic, because here in the U.S., the vast majority of Marriott-family hotels seem completely unappreciative of their Bonvoy elite guests and almost never give out meaningful upgrades.

  10. I love that you’re calling Marriott out on this and from what I’ve been reading, this crap is happening with all the big hotel chains. But, what is Marriott corporate going to do to correct this? What’s the point of having elite status if it’s arbitrarily recognized and/or accommodated?

    Any chance you can copy Marriott into posts like this and put them on social media to force them to respond?

  11. Thank you for that article! This exact problem I’ve faced numerous times, with no good explanation. Just thought it was me :/

  12. I totally agree there are many recent problems with Bonvoy. I am lifetime titanium and have yet to get a suite or any other major upgrade. Some of my favorite hotels like the Marriott Copley Square in Boston used to have a very nice free breakfast for certain classes of members but not confusion reigns as to benefits at this and other hotels.
    My certificates are harder to use and often you can’t see the expiration date on the site. I am told you can combine points and certificates but I believe you have to get help via guest services.
    I earned these benefits working out of town and don’t feel switching to another program is the way to go.

  13. Wowee. Here’s something that may or may not fit your example: staying at Powerscourt (Co. Wicklow, Ireland), an autograph collection now co-branded as a Ritz Carlton), always included a breakfast (quite a wonderful buffet as well as a la crate selections). This last time, May of ‘22, we were asked if we wanted breakfast or points. Huh? I pointed out it was always included without a choice of it or points. We got a shrug. We knew from many stays here the breakfast is worth WAY more than 1,000 pts. In reading your article, I wonder if this is a case of dealers choice.

    • I understand your point. I am a lifetime Titanium Elite. However, the Powerscoutr representative did give you an option. There are some who do not want to partake of breakfast and in lieu of that, the hotel is offering them points. I realize 1000 points is not much, but it is better than none at all if one does not want breakfast.
      By the way, my wife and I always do breakfast when it is offered.
      We have stayed at the Shelbourne in Dublin, Ireland twice and have always gotten free full breakfasts. They lay out a really nice spread and one can also have things done to order.
      We are scheduled to return there in October, so we will see if anything has changed.
      In any case, members should keep at Marriott to try to get it to ensure you get the benefits it says you are entitled to.

  14. Bonvoy does do what Bonvoy wants to do, I suffered for it recently and at my checkout for an open parking lot with a homeless guy squatting in the corner of the lot, out of view, mind you we were in Camarillo California, they charged me 10 dollars a night for parking. I wondered did they charge the homeless guy too??
    I have been lifetime platinum for many years and over the years I have tried to use my upgrades, 6 out of 8 will expire on June 30. I have NEVER BEEN ABLE TO USE THEM! even for short middle of the week stays. They are a useless gift as useless as Congressman Jim Jordan.

  15. Ok, just lowly platinum member here. I’ve had a lengthy chat about this exact same issue with a knowledgeable Marriott Bonvoy rep. The way I was told is that for SNA (say Grand Junior Suite in your case), Marriott allows the hotel to designate the capacity they want to allow for SNA. So that means if the hotel has 10 Grand Junior Suites for sale, they may opt to put in only 5 Grand Junior Suites for SNA processing. This would explain why you can still BOOK a grand Junior suite on the app but get a declined SNA. I have not done a deep dive in the T&C but this left a bad taste in my mouth if Marriott is allowing capacity control of the same room type for SNA purposes.

  16. Totally agree. The uncertainty of the benefits is annoying. I honestly don’t care much about room upgrades but today they’re picking on room upgrades, tomorrow they might just cut breakfast or give everyone $10 vouchers

  17. Thy could care less about their long term customers- they simply look down upon their customers with this corny fake mistake rewards program
    Save the trouble of arguing with people at the front desk or a hostile front desk manager- stay somewhere else where you know what you’re getting

  18. Spot on analysis of their lack of consistency or actual policy they follow. Glad you jumped in front of the inevitable reference to be entitled prior to the backlash. I am LT with over 2500 night stays. Also, stayed at SP and the lounge had a major mouse problem they blamed on the train station. I was not comfortable eating in the lounge during my stay. Hope this moves the conversation forward with them at the HQ level.

  19. I am a Lifetime Platinum Elite. I read what you wrote about upgrades. I agree, Marriott needs to do a better job of getting the hotels to do what they should do for us.
    However, I noted that in one sentence, you wrote, “It’s Marriott’s rule that says that my Suite Night Award should be processed if there’s availability in the days leading up to my stay, not mine”. I see the word “should”. To me, that leaves the hotel the option. Must or shall is a lot different than should.
    In any case, I have not travelled in the past couple of years because of the pandemic and other reasons. However, I will be getting back into the travel mode shortly and I will then be able to see how the Marriott hotels handle my status; especially if I request to use my “suite Nights”.
    Wishing all of you Marriott members safe travels!

  20. All of this makes me wary of bothering with the Bonvoy/Marriott program altogether. “Dynamic pricing”? An LT Titanium gets no real, ironclad upgrade?!? Nope, there are alternatives that can be counted on, moving on.

  21. As a lifetime Platinum member I completely agree with your point. This has happened several times to me and it is downright annoying.

  22. I agree. Marriott is trying to make everything confusing so they can reduce the value of points, upgrades, etc. Marriott Vacation Club is the same way. I believe confusing customers is their new corporate strategy.

  23. I’ve had my share of SNA rejects but this portion is just wrong– “Properties only begin to consider Suite Night Award requests in the 5 days leading up to arrival so on each of the 5 days leading up to the day of my arrival I checked to see what rooms the St Pancras Renaissance was selling.” Properties don’t do this at all. Its done by corporate-using an algorithm. He sounds like someone is sitting in the hotel picking and choosing. Not happening that way. Its very possible the system thought it a very high probability that room would be booked one of his nights.

    • Do the Bonvoy T&Cs and the Bonvoy promotional literature tell members that the Suite Night awards they’re being tempted with will not clear if the hotel “thinks” they may be able to sell the room to a last minute booking?

      Stop defending the indefensible, Bonvoy writes the rules. Bonvoy should make its properties adhere to those rules.

  24. Thank you, thank you and thank you! Bonvoy needs to stand behind what they promise and stop hiding behind excuses. Bill Rubin and his fraudulent Facebook page is a reason they continue to get away with this nonsense. They have individuals spread false claims and bully you into agreeing with how you should view their customer service. In return these individuals are treated like royalty and receive everything the average travel should receive. Thank you very much for shedding light on this!

  25. Well said. Marriott took a great program (SPG) and made it worth little more than the digital paper on which it’s written. I can’t even recall anymore how many times I’ve been checking into a hotel, received no upgrade (Titanium here, life time Platinum) and better rooms (not to mention suites) are available for purchase AS I’M STANDING AT THE CHECK IN DESK! And each time I receive the excuse that the website is incorrect. Well if that’s the case the Marriott has a REALLU BAD inventory system.

  26. This article is spot on and my husband and I just experienced this first hand. Traveling for my father in laws funeral, we booked a Marriott property. As a titanium elite, we had no concerns about receiving the guaranteed 4pm check out time. However, we quickly learned at check in time that they were not going to honor that Bonvoy Elite status benefit despite the same room being available two nights in a row, we were staying one night but the following night the room showed available so our late check out should not have impacted another guest.

    We were left scrambling to find and book a new hotel that would honor our late checkout. The original hotel claimed they were a resort even though Marriott does not recognize them as a resort and they are not listed as a resort on Marriotts website.

    This obviously was upsetting not only given the circumstances of the travel but the fact that the manager of the property refused to come speak to us and that despite us offering a multitude of possible solutions (other family members were booked there too), they had zero interest in finding a solution to the problem. Marriott as a corporation has been of zero help and the hotel who finally contacted us after we contacted the elite line, has offered us 30,000 points as an apology. Shame on Marriott for offering a program that benefits them and their hotel owners but not honoring the rules of the program when it comes to their guests.

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