Shame On You! How Choice Hotels Robbed Me Blind

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Choice Hotels Stole My Points

If you listened to this week’s podcast episode then you know where I am going with this. I have never given Choice Hotels much of a thought, to be honest. They are useful in parts of Europe and down in Nassau but they aren’t one of my top 4 or 5 options domestically. The increased transfer rates from Citi ThankYou points made me pay a little more attention to the program and I did grab their card as a throw in application like a year ago. All of this led me to booking a hotel room with them for my sister. That turned into a whole fiasco where Choice Hotels stole my points.

Where I wish we could have booked.

Booking

My sister and her family were up visiting us at the cottage a few weeks ago. We had a family reunion of sorts so my parents had come up as well but covid ended up messing everything up. My parents, sister and her kids had rented an Airbnb a street over from us that was for Saturday to Friday. After everything went down my sister wanted to stay in the area an extra day if possible so I looked at hotel options.

It happened to be boat night weekend, the busiest weekend each summer for the area. That meant that my go to Hilton Doubletree (pictured above) was all booked up. This is one of my favorite staycation hotels and where I put everyone up when they visit.

With the Hilton booked I was left looking at last minute options but the pickings were mighty slim. That is when I settled on the Comfort Inn Port Huron. It had 3.5 stars on TripAdvisor and the pictures looked okay. It was a Comfort Inn, so it was expected to be very underwhelming, but I figured it would do. My sister isn’t one to care, or complain, usually so I booked it and added her to the room for check in purposes.

Check In & Dirty Rooms

I got a call from my sister at check in that she couldn’t stay there. I figured it was an issue with me not being there and figured I would need to head over. But, she said it was because the room was so disgusting that she couldn’t stay there. I guess there were stains and dirt everywhere. Reminded me of my Hampton Inn Michigan City experience.

She went back down to the front desk to say the room was horrible and that she was going to go somewhere else. They apologized and said they would cancel the room (spoiler alert – they didn’t) and that the hotel couldn’t refund the points and we would need to contact Choice Hotels (lies).

After hearing this I booked her a room half way to her home to southern Ohio. I figured this wouldn’t be a big deal since Twitter teams for Hilton and Hyatt can issue points and make adjustments. It was a cost of 25,000 points, I’ve gotten more then that from Hilton for poor service and a closed pool.

Using Points And Miles As A Digital Nomad - Life On The Road Ch. 2

Reaching Out To Choice Hotels Round 1

After the phone call with my sister I went to the Choice Hotels site and filled out a missing points form / complaint form. Here is what I said:

Here was the bizarre response I got back 5 days later.

First off, the response did not address my issue in any way. And, I have to admit, to act like signing me up for a promo I’ll never use is good customer service made me chuckle. Also, suggesting that I should go to customer service and click the contact form and submit my issues was really the cherry on top. How do you think I sent this message in? I already did that to get to you. If it isn’t your department then loop that department in and attach me to that email. This isn’t difficult.

I responded to this email saying this response didn’t address my concern in any way. I received no response back.

Round 2: Trying Social Media Shame

I decided to fire up Twitter after I hadn’t heard anything in 5 days. I received the response email above around the same time as the first tweet went.

Choice, being all Choice, didn’t respond to that tweet but tweeted to someone on my thread that said they would contact me. Huh, what?

I followed up my original tweet with another one after seeing the email. It said they didn’t address my issues at all but signed me up for a promo I didn’t want, so there is that.

Choice finally figured out how to respond to me but with their patented non response. Saying they were sorry but offering no help or solution of any kind. Why have a social media team at all then?

After figuring out that Twitter, and social media, was a non starter with Choice Hotels I went back to the drawing board.

Round 3: Filling Out A Stay Survey

Next up I decided to fill out a stay survey that Choice Hotels kept sending me, wanting to know how good my experience was. I filled it out as all 1’s and said the hotel was filthy and that we never stayed but were still charged. That got a response from the front desk manager at the Comfort Inn Port Huron Michigan. Progress … or so I thought!

This was some light at the end of the tunnel. Surely the hotel would help me out, right? I responded to Kaitlin’s email the same day, July 22nd.

I never got a response to this email which I found strange. Why send the first email at all if you weren’t going to respond or do anything? Do you think an insincere apology would make me want to give the property another chance?

The plot thickens though. I checked the receipt from the hotel and it shows a check in and check out person. And wouldn’t you know who did the check in…

Now there is a chance she did the check in but wasn’t there when my sister came back down. Or, she could have just been logged in at the terminal I guess. The chances are high that the front desk manager would be at the hotel during their busiest Saturday of the year though. Because of that I think it is likely she was aware of the situation when I responded to the email initially.

Round 4 Calling Choice Hotels

I finally decided to give headquarters a chance. I was doing everything I could to avoid calling in but it appeared there was no other choice (pun intended). The system didn’t seem to be the best when calling in. There was no option to talk to someone about points, or your Choice Privileges account, like there is with other loyalty programs. I hit the number for report an issue with your stay or something like that.

I was connected to a very nice women that was a bit hard to understand but cheerful. She seemed like she really wanted to help too, which I appreciated. After giving her the run down of everything she was unable to find any notations on my account. Great! We went through the story and she said she would need to confirm everything with the hotel and get their approval to refund the points. So Choice doesn’t have the power in these partnerships, the hotels do? I was surprised by that.

She tried calling a few times but she said no one at the hotel answered the phone. That right there should give you all you need to know about this property. She said she would forward the inquiry to the hotel and they would have 3 days to respond. I was then informed that I would need to call back after that to check the progress. Uh, excuse me? You put the burden on your customers to follow up?

That is when I asked, what happens if the hotel doesn’t respond? Will you brute force me my points at that point? She seemed a bit flabbergasted by this question and said I should call back and they could go over it then. So, a no was what I gathered there.

Of course, immediately after the call I get an email to rate the service of the call center employee. Choice Hotels sends 14 emails to rate them after every interaction, but when you need something they have a system where operating procedure is kick the can down the road or ignore it and hope it goes away.

Round 5 – Filling Out The Form Again

After the call I filled out another form updating the situation. I asked them to follow up with the hotel so I could get my points back. This was the response:

So I guess picking missing points makes it so they can’t address the issue? The guest feedback team will be better? I bet all of these forms go to the exact same group of people. I laughed when I saw the call our Member Service Center, which is what I had done just before filling out the form, but a good suggestion for sure.

Round 6 – Trying The Property Once Again

This was the point when I actually noticed that the front desk supervisor was the person that likely had done the check in. I decided to email her one more time with a copy of the bill that showed she did the check in. Hopefully this would rejog her memory, or at least add some guilt, so that I could get a response. Alas, a response never came. Shocking, I know!

Choice Hotels Stole My Points: Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Choice Hotels officially has the worst, most incompetent, customer service department I have ever dealt with. They don’t empower their agents to correct the issue, the hotels seem to have all the power and it appears that some of them abuse it.

The 25,000 points they robbed me of are probably worth around $200. You could throw in the 30,000 Hilton Honors points I had to use to book another hotel on top of that I guess. The thing that really bothers me is I had a transfer a few thousand Citi ThankYou points to get to the 25K level. I don’t mind losing the Choice points much, since I’ll never be staying with them again, but the ThankYou points could have been used elsewhere.

At this point I want the points back out of spite and so the Comfort Inn Port Huron doesn’t get a free lunch. Avoid this hotel at all costs! The management team should be embarrassed by the way they handle their business.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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27 COMMENTS

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27 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been a Choice points member for many years and their whole schema was great till about two years ago. The points are a lousy deal now, over this past couple of years inflated well beyond the $$ cost of their rooms, and getting in touch with them over any issue is a struggle indeed.

  2. I’ve been in loyalty programs for about 30 years and its hard to know if a bad experience is the chain or the particular hotel. I’ve had bad experiences at 2 Hiltons and 2 Doubletrees. But great experiences every time at Hampton Inns, to the point this year we gained Diamond status as a result of stays at one. I’ve had at least disappointing experiences at Holiday Inn and Kimpton. So much inconsistency with Best Western that I haven’t stayed at one in many years. I sent an email question to Accor and didn’t even get a reply. I’ve never had a bad experience at a Marriott, but routinely read about others that have. Never had a bad experience with any Choice brands, but obviously you and others have. But by far the best has always been Hyatt for me. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if others have had very different experiences. I doubt you’ll never try that Comfort Inn again, which only seems logical and because of your article, I suspect their business will hurt. Although, who knows, maybe like an experience I had once, the next time I went to a problem hotel (convenient location and free nights) I discovered all new staff and a new manager and everything was great.

  3. I had a very serious issue with Choice regarding a reservation cancelled by the hotel and customer service gave me the run around like you.
    I used the contact info from Elliott Advocacy https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/choice-hotels-international/ and contacted executives starting with the primary contact, going up a level every two days.
    The executive below the CEO passed the case to a special service desk who was able to solve it on the spot, posted 300k points to my account and made a new reservation …
    My case was more clear cut than yours, but worth a try….

  4. Don’t hold back Mark, tell us how you really feel!
    I must agree with you on many of the observations you’ve made about Choice customer service. I’ve had my share of run ins with them in the past and it’s like chasing ghosts in a coal mine. However, that said, I have enjoyed extreme value at certain hotels which keeps me in the game with Choice. Sure, it can be a crap shoot, but that’s what diversification is for. I recently made a large purchase of Choice points during the Daily Getaways sale and currently have over 1,000,000 Choice Privileges points. My stays in places like Madrid, Barcelona, Stockholm and Copenhagen were fantastic and I was able to achieve 3¢-5¢ per point value. I think you need a trip to Lost Wages to sooth your frazzled nervous on this one buddy. Ya been Bonvoyed by Choice!

    • They have some sweet spots for sure. I had planned to use them in Scandinavia and I am sure that will still be the case at some point in the future.

  5. Part of me wonders if this is by design and with intent. That is, create an endless bureaucratic loop (like in the movie BRAZIL), that so frustrates the customer, they just give up. A kind of breakage, in a sense.

    Anyway, fight the good fight sir!

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. Either that or investing money and time for proper training just isn’t on the list of important things which adds to the bottom line either way.

  6. That hotel is owned by Bridgeview Hotel Associates Limited Partnership. The limited partners are John Weller, Greg Sparling, and David Devendorf. Google is your friend.

  7. Definitely do the trip advisor burn and yelp. Then email ceo and just send him your article.i had a similar problem with delta with missing ecredits. I just kept emailing Ed Bastien till someone got tired of me bitchin.

  8. I’d write a nasty Tripadvisor review. The hotel didn’t provide the basics and that should be shared with lots of people as a warning.

    • I have given up on that now. Focusing more on letting people know what their back end set up is like if you ever have issues. If it isn’t corrected at the hotel you are likely out of luck.

  9. Save for a few details, I’ve had similar interactions with Marriott CS. Mine was with cash and thankfully I was able to resolve via cc dispute. Customer service is pretty terrible across the board these days.

    • They didn’t offer anything up and she said the room was in such a rough state that she wouldn’t even want to look at another room anyway. I guess it was that bad.

  10. Anybody can book a hotel and for some reason decide not to stay there and make up an excuse of a dirty room or whatever grievance they can come up with so they get their points refunded. Choice hotels can’t just refund a reservation because somebody is “unhappy” with the room. Considering that this travel blog is all about taking advantage of hotels and airlines by finding loopholes you can’t really blame them.

    • I don’t think many people get to a hotel and then try to cancel without a legitimate reason once on property. They can always go up to the room to look at it with you if they want to. I have never had a hotel even act surprised when there is a complaint about a dirty room which speaks volumes. I don’t get your argument here at all Cathy. It is a customer service business Cathy. If someone shows up and finds your hotel so dirty they refuse to stay they shouldn’t pay for that room.

  11. Unfortunately this is how most of my customer service calls go to companies these days. People that are not trained in the most basic way and have no ownership or empowerment. I have had to deal with my medical supplier that doesn’t know how to figure insurance once you’ve met the deductible and hospitals and facilities with my Mother that can’t handle basic communication. This reminds me of Wyndham when you cancel a points stay you have to call in, instead of just allowing it to be cancelled online.

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