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More than a month has passed since the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest were “merged” into one, as yet unnamed, loyalty programme. The process has not gone smoothly, to say the least. Because of this, I haven’t combined my old SPG and Marriott Rewards accounts into one.
I don’t pretend to be an IT expert – my usual advice to others is to turn the computer or phone off and reboot it – nor do I doubt for a second that data migration can be difficult. I suspect that Starwood has dozens of systems storing data in different formats, ranging from systems handling standard reservations to those tracking individual points balances. And since the primary concern in any merger is surely to avoid reservations and points balances disappearing into the ether, these systems would be left alone, rather than forced into a format that existing Marriott systems can understand. But nobody OBLIGED Marriott to merge loyalty programmes during August 2018 – presumably after 2+ years of intensive preparations and planning – and yet a month later we are still talking about major issues that have yet to be resolved.
So… I can understand that the “back end” systems continue to work somewhat independently. After all, our favourite photograph is still Alex Cruz and his hi-viz jacket, pretending to deal with yet another BA IT meltdown that probably resulted from somebody pulling the plug on 50 year-old computer code running on some server somewhere.
But I think it is reasonable to expect that the front end, customer-facing, systems have been exhaustively tested before going live. And most of all… if those customer-facing systems aren’t yet ready… postpone the merger! A botched integration is surely worse than the embarrassment of a delay, isn’t it???
Making a Booking at an SPG Hotel
If you attempt to make a booking – sometimes paid, but especially using points – at an ex-SPG hotel, you might see something like this:
OK. You’re trying to stick with systems that work, Marriott. But that doesn’t help me much when I subsequently see…
So I need to be an SPG member to book an SPG hotel then… Hmmm… Good thing I haven’t merged accounts…
I haven’t had any urgent reason to call Marriott, but I have seen several reports on Flyertalk where Marriott Rewards agents cannot handle SPG-related issues and must pass the call over to an SPG agent.
This isn’t very clever for customer goodwill purposes, since hold times are long and people are being dumped at the end of the queue when transferred over… I’m not sure which is worse – being sent to the back of a different queue, or having to navigate a complicated automated voice menu to try and reach a human, to whom you will need to explain your situation again. Both make me want to hang up and stay at a different hotel chain…
Many of us were pleasantly surprised when Marriott Rewards and SPG introduced “account linking” on the day that the corporate merger completed. A Platinum member with SPG could link their accounts and immediately receive Platinum status with Marriott Rewards and vice versa.
Introduce a new loyalty programme 2 years later… and SPG Platinum members with 75+ nights in 2017 are NOT newly-minted Platinum Premier members as expected. Nor is every SPG Platinum member (from 25 stays or 50 nights) still a Marriott Platinum member, although often this is a glitch due to elite qualifying nights or status coming via credit cards. But this one really shouldn’t be that hard – there are only a handful of scenarios that needed to be thought through – yet still not sorted…
Marriott Rewards Travel Packages
Theoretically the restriction has been lifted on “old” travel certificates issued by Marriott Rewards, since a month has passed. Can we spend our travel certificates at SPG hotels? Of course not… rewards at many SPG hotels are still using the old SPG systems. Accordingly they can’t handle a Marriott travel certificate.
So perhaps my backstop plan for those travel certificates – having failed to see them converted into points or receiving a generous conversion into the new award categories – is also going to crash and burn and I won’t be able to spend a week or two at a relatively nicer SPG property somewhere.
What I Find Puzzling
Hotels join loyalty programmes every day. New ones are built and other hotels are converted from one brand to another. Those “re-flags” are rarely that complicated. Existing reservations are maintained. New reservations from the old hotel chain are not allowed beyond the switchover date. Bookings start trickling in from the members of the new loyalty programme. Perhaps the process is done manually, but it seems to work fine from a customer perspective.
Would it have been so difficult to gradually convert “Four Points by Sheraton” hotels into “Four Points by Marriott” hotels? Book stays until 31 December, 2018 on spg.com and stays starting 1 January 2019 on marriott.com. Sure it wouldn’t look “seamless”, but did anybody really expect that a massive merger would be? I’d like to believe that members could be quite adaptable to whatever process works properly…
Like most readers, I have no particular interest in bashing Marriott repeatedly. I’d rather that things simply ran smoothly… But they aren’t, and it seems to me that SPG and Marriott Rewards still haven’t really “merged” yet, despite all of the aggravation we are experiencing.
What do you think? A complete shambles? Or is everything working out fine for you?