Marriott Bonvoy Customer Service
After ignoring Marriott for years, I jumped back in a couple months ago. But I’ve already been Bonvoyed without even staying in a property. As Ron Burgundy once keenly observed, “That escalated quickly.” During my recent experience, I caught myself simultaneously thinking “how could this happen?” and “of course this happened.” Perhaps some of you can identify. For cathartic purposes, I’m sharing my disappointing Marriott Bonvoy customer service experience and how I plan to avoid it in the future.
We found ourselves with free night certificates and Bonvoy points to burn recently, primarily thanks to a solid welcome offer on the Marriott Bonvoy Business card in the fall. The welcome offer bonus points and certs posted without issue. I had my eyes set on a spring redemption of the FNC’s and a good chunk of points. So far, so good.
Our Planned Booking
We just postponed our winter 2022 Disney World trip for a second time. I found that the new Walt Disney World Swan Reserve was available for our seven night trip in the spring. The 50k certificates I held thanks to the Business card matched up great with this hotel. I would be able to redeem the certs at a property which intrigued us, and I wouldn’t have them hanging around unnecessarily. No free night certificate problems this year.
Even better, pricing for our stay reflected that we could stack the fifth night free benefit on the points portion of the stay in addition to using two free night certs. Instead of using 170k points and four free night certificates for a seven night stay, we could use 220k points and two free night certs. We picked the latter over the former. Essentially, we selected to hold onto two free night certs over 50k points. Since each cert is redeemable for up to a 50k point per night stay, we were easily coming out ahead.
Here’s how the pricing broke down:
Since we didn’t have enough points in one account for the reservation, we transferred about 85k Marriott points. After ten minutes on hold, we accomplished this with a helpful Marriott representative. Everything was on track for success.
The Wheels Fall Off
Next, it was time to book. I reviewed the reservation and clicked Book Now. I was greeted by this page:
Sure, Marriott, you’re on it. But I tried to be glass half full here – I decided to quit for the night and try again the next day. I got the same error page then. My next task was equally obvious and dreadful – a call to Marriott Bonvoy customer service.
Phone Call #1
After about ten minutes in queue waiting, a monotone rep picked up. I explained that I was unable to book online due to an error message and requested her assistance. After repeating all the particulars for the reservation, the rep was surprised to see that she couldn’t book it, either. I wasn’t. She had to transfer me to “Loyalty Care” to make the reservation.
After a 15 minute wait, a bubblier agent picked up. I explained the situation exactly as I had to the original rep, and, of course, I got the exact same response from this agent. She was as equally puzzled as the first rep and put me on hold. She returned to the call ten minutes later and happily reported she was able to make the reservation. One catch – she requested that I call back “in a few hours or tomorrow” to confirm that the certs were attached to the reservation. Alternatively, she said I could wait three to five business days for an email confirming the manual attachment of the certs.
I’ll spare you the next ten minutes or so of discussion. Long story short – questions, sort-of answers, and politeness from each phone call participant. When I asked how she made the reservation, she finally said it was currently a points advance reservation – basically the same thing anyone can do online. She confirmed it’s a points advance reservation until the certs could be applied.
I thanked her and advised that I would wait for the email rather than calling back. I felt I had spent enough time on the phone with Marriott that day. Indeed, the call lasted one hour and 36 minutes. I had a points advance reservation and a case number for my efforts.
Phone Call #2
After three to five business days, I hadn’t received the email. Fun times – another call was necessary. For good measure, I didn’t call back until six business days had passed. After ten minutes in queue, I provided the case number to a rep. I waited another five minutes for the agent to review. He said that due to a tremendous amount of calls and IT/system issues, the certs hadn’t yet been applied to the reservation. He offered to attach the certs but warned that IT issues were ongoing. At this point, I pulled the ripcord on the whole effort. I requested that the agent cancel the reservation and case.
Why? I was soundly defeated by the process. I didn’t want to sink more time into a matter involving additional people, broken promises, and opportunities for screw-ups. Looking ahead, I foresaw more phone calls, time on hold, re-explaining the same stuff, and waiting for emails that never show up. I just wanted to be done. Marriott Bonvoy Customer Service 1, Benjy 0.
How I Adapted
Another reason I gave up on this reservation is while we would benefit from the Reserve’s location, we weren’t in love with the hotel. It’s still fairly new and seems to be working out the kinks. Nonetheless, I knew I could book the same property online with four certs and 170k points. But I haven’t yet.
Instead, I booked the Doubletree Suites next to Disney Springs. I’ve stayed here multiple times and enjoyed the property’s spacious rooms, dependable benefits, lack of stuffiness, and self parking ease. I booked that online in about five minutes. It seems to take that long for the clunky Marriott site to load. Down the road, I may have a change of heart and book the Reserve based on how things develop. I don’t expect to, though.
During the process, I learned a lesson that many probably already have. Some may think I’m a caveman for not knowing it already. I will make every effort to never depend on support from a human with Marriott Bonvoy. Not that I really wanted a person to help with this effort – I was forced into it based on a chintzy website. I remain hopeful that I can use up my points and free night certs without any people involved in a future booking process.
Of course, it could have been worse. I wasn’t on a vacation experiencing a Bonvoy beatdown. Marriott Bonvoyed me out of my time. I’ve otherwise found myself recently enjoying the trip planning and booking processes with hotel chains, airlines, activities, etc. Dealing with Marriott Bonvoy is the complete opposite. I feel it’s absolutely not a pleasure to work with Marriott. Doing so seemingly requires wasting time, facing IT issues, and acquiescing to incompetence. Marriott doesn’t seem to care, and neither do I. I’ll continue my relationship with Marriott, but it’ll be purely transactional. I’ll burn my certs and points and maybe go after the Brilliant card. But there won’t be any loyalty building. How have your recent Marriott Bonvoy customer service experiences been?
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