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Dr. Redeye and I had an interesting back-and-forth regarding the value of elite status at hotel chains. You can read my post (in favour of elite status) here. Dr. Redeye’s rebuttal can be found here. No matter your perspective, you have to admire Dr. Redeye for taking on the uphill battle – after all, most people read InsideFlyer UK in order to learn about loyalty programmes and travel hacking tips, not to be convinced to forget it all and just stay at independent, boutique hotels.
But our debate did remind me of some things I would rather forget… what I’ve done thanks to elite status that I really shouldn’t. (but somehow managed to convince myself that it’s worth it in the long run…)
Paying a Higher Room Rate than Necessary
I’m sure that most of us are guilty of this one. Maybe it’s paying that dodgy Bonus Point Package rate from IHG because we’ve convinced ourselves that the extra Elite Qualifying Points will be worth it. Or perhaps it’s paying an extra £20 to stay at a Hampton because we need a Honors stay credit, when we know perfectly well that there is an equivalent, but cheaper, option nearby.
If your company or client is paying, then go for it. Otherwise at least make sure that you know the precise value of points, cashback, etc received thanks to your over-payment…
Staying in a Clearly Inferior Location
You are a Honors Gold member, but the Hilton is located on the outskirts of the city and you decide that you don’t mind the extra travel time. You’re desperate for some Hyatt night credits, so you stay at the Hyatt Place near the airport because that’s the only way to stay within your budget and still stay at a Hyatt.
I don’t have any friends in London that live anywhere near the Excel Centre or Heathrow, but they do suffer my running for the last tube to get back to my hotel (Aloft / Hyatt Place respectively) and avoid a night bus or expensive taxi fare. Even worse, some have stopped offering me their spare bedroom because they know I care more about picking up a stay credit for status purposes. Yeah, I’m not proud of it…
Do I REALLY need to change hotels every day in order to pick up stay credits, or shouldn’t I just stay in the same place for a few days and have more time to enjoy the city?
Making a Mediocre Meal Out of “Canapes” in the Lounge
I’m not talking about those executive lounges where the food options in the evening make you think “wow, I haven’t eaten that well in ages”. (i.e. several Grand Hyatts, Conrads, the Hilton Budapest, etc.)
I’m talking about those boring, depressing lounges where some de-frosted and re-fried food is thrown at ravenous hordes of “but I’m a Diamond member” guests.
It may be free, but sometimes you need to have a bit more pride! (at least sneak out for a kebab or fast food whilst your other half isn’t monitoring you…) 🙂
Assuming that the Hotel / Chain Actually Cares About Your Loyalty (i.e. DYKWIA)
Let’s face it, travel is a business, one of the oldest ones in fact. If a hotel chain loses money thanks to your travel hacking exploits, you will quickly be invited to stay at a different hotel chain in the future. Elite status benefits most certainly exist, and can be quite substantial, but don’t ever forget that businesses want your cash, not your love. Loyalty programmes exist in order to tempt you to spend money today and in the future.
This doesn’t need to be negative. One of the main insights I developed from negotiating major deals with banks was the following. If you frame the negotiation as a one-off transaction, you will get screwed over at every turn. If you make it about the relationship and the potential for future business, then the counter-party is incentivised to behave in a way that keeps the customer generally happy. It is this insight that puts me off making every hotel stay a one-off transaction with a boutique hotel. Some might care about their Tripadvisor rating or want to attract a repeat guest; many others will just take your money and give you the worst room.
Hotel chains, on the other hand, can see your past business and are incentivised to retain it going forward. Don’t believe in lifetime status, but trust that a hotel chain wants to retain your business (and get its hands on your future cash).
I love mattress runs. I almost treat it as a separate category to travel hacking. I even wrote a guide to it on my Flying Piggie blog.
I don’t actually do it much any more. Maybe I’ve kicked my addiction… 🙂 or maybe recent promotions haven’t been good enough… 😉 But if you want to receive looks from acquaintances that suggest “this person has lost the plot”, try explaining to them that you reserve hotel rooms, check in, but don’t actually spend the night.
One or two mattress runs per year is probably fine, especially if combined with a SPG Best Rate Guarantee or some other promotion that substantially reduces the cost / increases the benefit.
But if you sign up for a Honors Diamond challenge and need to mattress run all 8 stays, perhaps you should stop and think…
You read an article on InsideFlyer UK, or you regularly visit www.statusmatcher.com. “Ooohhh… I can status match my SPG Platinum to Choice Privileges Platinum!!”
Yeah… get some professional help… You have a thing for shiny plastic cards that you will never use…
Much of the above is written tongue-in-cheek. I strongly believe in the value of hotel chain elite status, although I am now much more selective about the chains and levels of status that I really care about. Since I pay for my hotel stays myself, I maintain a spreadsheet tracking the cost and benefits of my stays and can usually justify my hotel choices.
But if you recognise yourself repeating a few too many of these bad habits, perhaps you should question whether you require an intervention. I’m sure the good Dr. Redeye would make himself available for one…
Are any of you willing to admit in the comment section to one or more of these bad habits, or others I haven’t thought of?