This week’s Compensation Clinic is a readers case that happened at the Burdock Hotel in Istanbul, an Autograph Collection property by Marriott where the reader invoked the Elite Benefits Guarantee (or, better said, attempted to do so).
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It’s always difficult to outweigh if one should invoke the Elite Benefit Guarantee which essentially penalizes the hotel for not offering a choice of elite amenity to the customer at the time of check-in.
The property (depending on the brand) is then compelled to compensate the guest up to US$100 in cash as per the rules of the Marriott Bonvoy Program. Hotels often claim ignorance about this and once has to really push to get them to compensate the cash. Usually it’s easier to eventually settle for a larger amount of points as it’s easier for them to post these without being directly out of cash for which a particular individual at the front desk is to blame.
Our reader Jessie stayed at the Burdock Autograph Collection by Marriott and found herself in just this situation. She contacted us, asking for advice since the hotel was stonewalling as they do so often.
Here is the correspondence with the hotel after a verbal in-person attempt to resolve the matter failed.
… I was offered NEITHER any mention of elite member welcome gift NOR any request for welcome gift choice“at the time of check-in (upon arrival)”, guest compensation should apply in this case. While I was at the property, Ms Xxxx has already checked the fact (with me & check-in agent) that this procedure was not executed at the time of my check-in (“upon arrival”)
So it’s quite unfortunate and shameful that your newly opened Marrriot property is trying to ignore Marriott’s guaranteed procedures as it’s started and promised.
I did raise this issue and did request my due compensation “while I was at property” as Marriott Terms & Condition states, you have refused(or delayed) with an excuse of counseling with the management. If you or your management have now changed the words and have concluded as follows, “they conveyed that there is no loss of your rights” after me checking out, I disagree in this part and there is no other way but to escalate this issue with Marriott headquarter. …
The hotel then responded to the readers email:
Dear Ms. Xxx ;
I greet you again with my warmest wishes and thank you for your loyalty.
First of all, I would like to start with the issue of your membership benefits.
The welcome gift you have in our Autograph Collection brand located in the Middle East and Africa region can be found below.
Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America, the Middle East, and Africa:
1,000 points per stay or F&B amenity per stay or breakfast in restaurant per night of stay for Member +1
Based on this situation, all of the options including free breakfast, F&B amenity and 1000 points related to your stay are offered and provided by our hotel without your request.
- Your room has been upgraded to suite room option.
- VIP F&B amenity placed in your room.
- Free breakfast served every day during your stay.
We always show complience to Marriott policies regarding the service and compensation we provide to our guests.
I would like you to know that we will be happy to see you again in the near future in order to provide you with the best service,
I wish you a wonderful day.
Mind you that the reader used a suite night upgrade certificate and these are guaranteed hard benefits.
It appears (as per their email) that the hotel does serve breakfast for all guests complimentary and automatically deposited 1000 points to the account, although there is no proof this was their original intention as no such information was conveyed at the time of check-in according to the reader.
As she felt this was getting nowhere she called Marriott and opened a case file. Another email was sent to the hotel in reply to the above:
Dear Mr Xxxx & Ms Xxxxx,
Seriously, I have already spent quite an extensive amount of time to educate Ms Dila & yourself at your property with Marriott’s “guaranteed” policy, and I can’t spare any further effort to educate yourself for being short of knowledge of Marriott’s policy (eg. breakfast is not part of the elite welcome gift option EXCEPT autograph collection in the resort which is not the case of your property, SEE BELOW).
As for $100 due compensation :
Did I receive a welcome gift (either points or F&B amenity) “during my stay” regardless of my choice ? YES.
Was I offered with any mention, explanation or request for a welcome gift (choice) “upon arrival (check-in time)”? NO.
Then, Guest compensation applies.
As I said at your property, I had similar situations over the last decade with other properties, which indeed deposited 1K points as a welcome gift “at their choice” not asking & mentioning it “upon arrival” to guests. They all, in the end, paid guest compensation.
Anyway, I just talked to the Marriott Customer Service center and a Marriott Case was created and already sent to your property. You can just reply to whatever you want to say (e.g. emails you sent to me), and then we will escalate to the Specialty Loyalty Program team to take a further look onwards. If your property keeps refusing this eligible due compensation violating Marriott Terms & Conditions, your property will be ticketed (red-flagged) and in any case, Marriott will/need compensate me for this on behalf of your property. …
This could be considered nitpicking but the hotel could easily get around this by simply handing out a welcome letter stating that they are extremely generous and offer not only one but TWO elite benefits (Points + Breakfast) automatically. This would satisfy the requirement and would take away any basis for guests asking for compensation.
The only alternative here would be the “Local Gift” which is rarely anything useful, although the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit has a very nice notebook to carry around if you’re one who likes to write down notes on paper. Most properties don’t even offer the local gift anymore.
Eventually, the reader resolved her case with Marriott Customer Care:
I opened up a Marriott case. I am told that the Hotel responded again to the case saying they indeed provided appropriate platinum benefits (1k points, breakfast, f&b amenity in room, suite upgrade – btw I used a SNA efc) although I repeatedly told them Marriott guest compensation policy is not about that point.
Anyway finally talked to a managerial person at Marriott customer care, she deposited 20k as I requested, she will send a warning(?) note to the hotel, she closed the case.
This was the first time the hotel kept delaying to pay due guest compensation till you checked out even if you did raise the issue while at property. Is this really the one way to do it when the hotel refuses to admit their fault with welcome gift offering?
Ok, so the reader received 20,000 points for this in the end, rather than US$100 cash. To resolve the case I think it’s a fair ratio even though this is a borderline case in my opinion. Yes, technically they should have offered a choice or provided a notice.
I think the only thing here at this new property is that they have to find a way to plug this loophole which then prevents guests who are good at looking for them to be able to request the Elite Benefits Guarantee.
We have covered the Marriott Elite Benefits Guarantee a few times previously:
I’d also keep in mind that this usually reflects negatively on the front desk employee who checked you in. In some countries, this probably doesn’t matter, in others management wouldn’t take too kindly on people who caused them to lose $100 due to a mistake. It doesn’t apply in this case as it was a technicality based on hotel policy, rather than an oversight by one employee.
Just something to take into account depending on the circumstances, I don’t really want to get somebody fired over a welcome benefit dispute.
Our reader has a disagreement with this Autograph Collection Hotel in Istanbul about a choice of Welcome Amenity upon check-in and subsequently invoked the Elite Members Benefit Guarantee. The case was eventually resolved through Marriott Customer Care which offered the reader 20k points after the hotel declined, stating they fulfilled their obligations.
Over the years I have had a few cases (not many) where the guarantee would have applied. W Kuala Lumpur and W Seattle come to mind, the latter of which was a complete disaster in the end and ended up as a Compensation Clinic for reasons unrelated to the Benefits Guarantee.
Usually, I let this slide when the hotel is nice and provides guest service above and beyond what is required. Attitude matters as well. Would they not care at all and then be defensive about it I’d almost certainly invoke the guarantee.