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I have a certain “process” when putting together a travel itinerary. It goes something like this:
- Find award availability for flights (or occasionally a mistake or special sale fare)
- Book “placeholder” hotel using points (or flexible rate) – I don’t want to actually book flights without guaranteeing myself a hotel within my price range…
- Book flights
- Revisit hotel options occasionally in an attempt to improve upon “placeholder” option
- Pack bags 🙂
Unless I am specifically travelling to a certain location BECAUSE of the hotel – say the Conrad or Park Hyatt in the Maldives – I am usually willing to consider a variety of hotel chains. And what might an “improvement” entail?
- An interesting promotion comes along that tempts me to change hotel chains or to switch to paid stay(s)
- Room rates have reduced nearer to arrival date
- I do more research on hotels in the area – Tripadvisor, Flyertalk, etc. – and decide to stay at a nicer hotel
- I find a Best Rate Guarantee to claim
Although it involves more effort than most people are willing to dedicate to holiday planning, I usually find myself making substantial savings (or receiving a higher “rebate”) between the time of inspiration and the time of travel.
Recently I was revisiting a planned trip for early 2019. It doesn’t really matter where… but my “placeholder” hotel is a week’s stay at a Marriott hotel using a Travel Certificate. One of the great advantages of Marriott Rewards is that you can book reward stays without actually having the points in your account. You simply book your stay using “Points Advance”. So I duly booked a one-week stay using “Points Advance”.
After reading about Joe’s travails in dealing with Marriott regarding Travel Packages, I started to wonder to myself whether that hotel reservation was a reliable placeholder. After all, I haven’t actually gotten around to calling Marriott in order to attach an “old” travel certificate to that specific Marriott reservation. It used to be a simple five-minute phone call. Post 18th August, almost anything can happen…
As a result, I was inspired to look for a two-night paid stay, which I could combine with a five night award stay at the same Marriott hotel, or perhaps a different Marriott / SPG hotel or even one from Hilton Honors (all fifth night free). I would then be completely confident of having somewhere to stay, in the event that Marriott’s IT and customer service nightmare continues until the end of 2018.
And after a quick check on Kayak and Trivago, as I always do when seeking Best Rate Guarantees to claim, I found a straightforward BRG candidate and quickly made a 2-night reservation and filled in Marriott’s “Look no Further” claim form. To my surprise, this is the response I received from Marriott:
Please note multiple claims for a stay consisting of two or more nights in the same week at the same Marriott Hotel or Marriott Hotels in the same geographic location (e.g. city) may be treated as one claim for one stay, even if booked through more than one reservation. As you have two reservations for the same night and within the same geographic area, I must review this as one stay for seven nights.
When I reviewed the comparison source provided for the entire length of your stay, the best available rates found were:
Rate: XXX, per night, before taxes
I can approve this rate and modified your reservation to reflect the following rate: XXX
Huh? I don’t have multiple BRG / LNF claims in the same geographic location. I do have an award stay at a different hotel that I would rather not cancel until replacement plans are in place.
Now… here’s what I believe Marriott’s policy is intended to prevent…
You aren’t allowed to hotel hop within the same city. i.e. claim a 5,000 point bonus for a short stay, then move to a separate hotel to earn another 5,000 points. Therefore if you make several LNF claims within the same geographic area, they will all be combined into one. This allows you to choose the 25% discount, but not 5,000 points per stay.
What actually happened on my claim was more like…
It seems that you plan to stay a full week in that city, so we will process your claim – i.e. check the competing rate – as if you would be staying an entire week at that specific hotel. Then we’ll apply that average nightly rate to the two nights that you actually booked.
Try as I might, I just don’t get it… The competing rate for my two nights was the equivalent of £50 per night, whilst the competing rate for the whole week was £70 per night. So my new rate was confirmed as £70 per night, even though the actual flexible rate on marriott.com for my two specific nights was only £65. Confused? I certainly am, and I attempt dozens of Best Rate Guarantee claims per year.
Can you guess what’s going on? Is it just a poorly trained customer service rep trying to be a lawyer? Or perhaps you can spy the travel hacking opportunity this interpretation might occasionally present? Let us know in the comment section.