The Psychology of Loyalty, and the Horror of Hearing No.

This post was written by First2Board Co-Founder and Business Manager, Casey Hines and is a VeryGoodPoints guest blogger.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a loyal and avid fan of Starwood, and (basically) all of their brands. It is for this reason, that I have been a member of Starwood Preferred Guest for many years, and have always carried loyalty with them. For a wide variety of reasons, primarily the fact that I have recently been living in Australia, I lost my status (oh, the horror) with SPG. I was however, upon my return to the US, able to regain status without much effort. My business affords me the opportunity to travel with a respectable level of frequency – much to my wife’s delight, I am quite sure!

As soon as I achieved gold status with SPG – well on my way toward Platinum – the unexpected happened, and I fell quite ill. A summer of brain surgeries, therapies, umpteen doctors visits, more radiation than has been emitted from Fukushima, and insurance co-pays that would make a wealthy man cringe in fear, meant no platinum status for me. At least not yet.

As the boys from Monty Python say: “You never expect the Spanish Inquisition”. And with that, I understand that the year is far from over, and I am delighted to say that I am bouncing back to health and again working with clients in the far reaches of the US!

Unfortunately for me, Starwood does not service every American city, and I have just signed on with a client in Amarillo, Texas. Yes, my friends, the panhandle of Texas. In winter. But, I digress.  Since Amarillo does not have a single Starwood property (get building, folks), I must look to an alternate program in which I can quickly build some loyalty. The best alternative, especially in Amarillo, appears to be Marriott. My client, located downtown, has recommended the Courtyard by Marriott, and I am certainly not opposed. It looks like a nice property, very conveniently located and respectably reviewed on TripAdvisor.

If you are reading this post, I assume you have a great fondness for loyalty programs. I am no different. If we are to subject ourselves to regular Sunday evenings and Friday nights away from our families, in unfamiliar places, in beds that aren’t our own, in aircraft made for abnormally small humans, we at least crave a sense of belonging. A program that knows our name, our likes, our wants, our nuances and rewards us for our patronage. It’s really simple psychology – we, as human beings, want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Thus, a loyalty program that promises to reward us with points, free internet access, room upgrades, and – wait for it – special lines at the check-in desk. Trivial and unimportant? Not a chance. Very important, indeed, for it gives us a sense of purpose, allegiance and, dare I say, belonging.

With that, I phoned the kind people of Marriott Rewards to enquire about a status challenge. I do not expect anything for nothing, so I did ask them (nor did I have any anticipation of) a status match. In fact, I find the concept of match a bit perplexing. In this case, I asked Marriott to simply allow me to conduct a challenge by which I would agree to a minimum number of nights in a Marriott property, and in return be given a level of status equal to my current level in a competing program – in this case, Starwood Gold. It’s a simple case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. It seemed a simple request, and one that has been written about with great frequency.

My first call to the Marriott Rewards service number resulted in a very quick and curt, “no”. It never feels good to hear no, but it’s especially stinging when it is so abrupt. So with that, I took the advice of a fellow blogger and friend of F2B, Becky (who writes The Girl and Globe), and emailed them, in accordance with her post: Spotlight on Marriott Rewards: Membership Levels. Again, this seemed reasonable and quite straightforward. My email to them basically highlighted my situation, indicated my intention (and existing bookings) at the Courtyard in Amarillo, and a screenshot of my current Starwood status level. After a four-day wait, I received the following response:

Dear Casey,

 

Thank you for contacting Marriott Rewards.

 

We regret to inform you that neither Taste of Elite Challenges nor status matches are available at this time.

 

Our Elite levels are determined by loyalty which has already been demonstrated by our members accruing the required nights.

 

Elite levels are calculated each year based on the number of Elite nights accrued in the calendar year, January 1 to December 31.  Marriott Rewards members need to reach 10 Elite nights for the Silver level, 50 Elite nights for the Gold level, or 75 Elite nights for the Platinum level. 

 

Please visit the following link for additional information concerning Elite membership:

 

//www.marriott.com/rewards/terms/elite.mi

 

We appreciate you choosing Marriott.  Thank you for your understanding in the matter.

 

Regards,

 

Erin H.

Marriott Rewards Guest Services

Actually, Erin, I don’t understand this matter, and quite frankly I am really disappointed. I offered to switch my loyalty to a new hotel chain (which I may just fall in love with) and in return asked for a very simple membership into a mid-tier reward program. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I feel rejected, unwelcome and actually a bit patronized. Perhaps I am over-reacting, and if you knew me at all, you’d know I don’t take life too seriously. But in ALL seriousness, I am let down.

Though I received the letter above, I wanted to open a letter that read:

Dear Casey,

 

Thank you for enrolling in Marriott Rewards.

 

We are thrilled to have you as part of the Marriott family and we are delighted to inform you that we are pleased to extend a status challenge to you.

 

In return for your upcoming stays with Marriott, we have enrolled you in our Gold tier program, in the expectation that you’ll stay a minimum of X number of nights.

 

Your new status affords you the following benefits of our Elite membership:

 

//www.marriott.com/rewards/terms/elite.mi

 

We appreciate you choosing Marriott, and we thank you for your business and your loyalty.

 

Regards,

 

Erin H.

Marriott Rewards Guest Services

 

But, alas that didn’t happen. It wasn’t to be. And now, I question my desire to be loyal to Marriott. Perhaps I’ll choose another brand, one who actually wants me.

What are your thoughts? Was my request to Marriott:

[poll id=”4″]

 

7 Comments on "The Psychology of Loyalty, and the Horror of Hearing No."

  1. Time to switch to IHG, i.e. Holiday Inn and Intercontinental. There happens to be a Holiday Inn in Amarillo! Or you could go the dreaded Hilton route with Fairfield Inn and Suites. Hilton is offering a Gold Status challenge after three days.

  2. Marriott discontinued status matches because there were too many people leeching off the status match. You must have not been keeping up with the blogs. 😉

  3. First2Board | November 6, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

    @Susan: I am definitely considering IHG…thanks for the nudge!

    @Jeff: I didn’t ask for a status match, I asked for a status challenge, so it could have been taken away as quickly as it was awarded. Oh well!

  4. Courtyard’s in the US give virtually no enefits to “elite” MR members by the published benefits. Marriott’s response was rather inflexible though.

    You could always get a Hilton credit card or buy Milepoint premium membership to get HH Gold and skip Marriott.

  5. Sorry that a policy change is leaving you hanging. However, I’ve found Marriott’s treatment of elites inconsistent, so I’m not sure this is the end of the world for you, especially if it’s your secondary program. For best benefits, I’d look into Hilton if that’s an option. Otherwise, I hope you move up the ranks organically in a short amount of time!

  6. First2Board | November 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

    @U600213: Thanks for the tip. I like your idea about a Milepoint premium membership! Appreciate it.

    @Becky: I’ve heard the same “inconsistent” comment many times so, no big loss! I think IHG or Hilton will be the best choice.

  7. Well, I understand they rejected you, but it does take quite a few nights to hit Gold in the Marriott World (50), but maybe you can get there pretty quickly by getting a Marriott credit card, it would give you Silver immediately, it’s a start.

    I’ve stayed in just about 100 Marriotts this year and I don’t think there is an inconsistency, I think that that various types of Marriotts are just completely different. A courtyard is definitely not a JW Marriott. A Renaissance is always quirky, a bit hip sometimes, they might be the most inconsistent within a category. But if you are staying at a Courtyard or a Marriott, those tend to look and behave pretty identically across the US.

    Anyway, just some feedback. Good luck whichever way you go.

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