Marriott Hotel Caught Playing Games With Loyalty Perks & Upgrades
A reader reached out to us recently to help investigate a Marriott hotel that was playing games with suite upgrades. From the mountain of evidence he sent us, we decided to look into it. We saw the same thing and started writing this article.
Then, something changed.
A property in Hong Kong got caught and got a slap on the wrist from Marriott HQ. We want to let you know about this property that was playing games and also let Marriott know that customers are watching. Here’s what happened.
The Perk Involved – Refusing Suite Upgrades
Within the Marriott Bonvoy program, people with elite status are entitled to room upgrades at check in.
- Gold Elite members are eligible for upgrades within room category but not suites. Info here.
- Platinum / Titanium / Ambassador Elite members should be upgraded at check in, including eligibility for suites. Info here.
All of this is contingent on availability, of course. When you check in, if the hotel is full, suites are all sold out for paying customers, etc. then you won’t get upgraded.
The Hotel Involved – Courtyard Sha Tin Hong Kong
The Marriott hotel that was playing games is the Courtyard Sha Tin Hong Kong.
A reader contacted us with a month’s worth of evidence that this hotel is refusing to provide upgrades to eligible loyalty members. In order to not upgrade members, they have to have no available “upgrade” rooms. Let’s look.
The Marriott Courtyard Sha Tan Hong Kong claims to have 39 suites. They also have “studio” rooms, which would be considered an upgrade from a standard hotel room.
Gold members would be eligible for studio upgrades, but you need Platinum status or above to be eligible for a complimentary upgrade to a suite.
What The Hotel Was Doing
From the evidence (our research built on the mountain of evidence emailed to us by a reader) shows that the hotel was removing all suites from inventory at 1 minute after midnight. Thus, the suites (and often the studios) are “unavailable”. Because of this, you can’t receive a complimentary upgrade. The rooms aren’t available, sorry.
When I started digging into this, I saw INCREDIBLE amounts of suite availability for the next day, next week, next several days…you name it. A ton of suite availability.
At 00:01 am, a minute after midnight, all suites for “same day” check in disappear (based on local time of the hotel). It was available a minute ago, but not now. That’s oddly conspicuous.
It’s even more conspicuous when a reader records this for multiple weeks on his computer and sends us a video of it. Because the reader is identifiable in the video, we won’t post it publicly.
All of this is to say that when you show up to check in, you won’t get a suite upgrade. They’re not available. If you check your phone app to see what’s available, there’s no suite available for today, and the hotel will point that out. The hotel doesn’t have to provide free upgrades to elite members now.
It Gets Worse
This is not the first time someone has pointed out the Marriott Courtyard Sha Tan Hong Kong is playing games. In a TripAdvisor review of the hotel posted here (from March 2021), a Platinum Elite guest was told no suites were available for check in. However, she was able to search 3rd-party booking sites and find suites available for that night / through the end of their stay.
When the guests attempted to escalate, front desk staff said no manager was available. Staff said the manager would contact them on his return. Management never contacted the guest, according to the review. A very formulaic response came from Marriott HQ when they attempted to escalate it to corporate.
This begs a few questions: who knew this Marriott property was playing games? Was every suite really selling out at midnight for the next day…every day…for several weeks? Or was the hotel pulling them, in order to refuse upgrades? If that’s the case, how far up the food chain does this go? Are front desk staff being told to lie about the availability by management? Or does someone pull the suites and just count on others to see “no availability” and fall in line?
And the bigger question: after trying to escalate this to corporate, why did Marriott HQ not really dig into this to see if this property in Hong Kong is playing games?
We can’t come out and say we know for certain what’s happening. However, this is really suspicious. How could a hotel sell every suite at the stroke of midnight for several weeks running? It doesn’t pass the common sense test. When there are a TON of suites available at 11:59pm, something seems fishy that there are 0 available at 1 minute after midnight.
We can’t say for certain without more, but it’s “perception is reality” in customer service, as the saying goes. It creates a perception that the hotel refuses to offer suite upgrades to customers. In order to not have to argue and say “no, we refuse”, the hotel can circumvent this by just making all suites unavailable in their computer system. They’re refusing to honor a key perk of the loyalty program, but they can pretend that they aren’t.
After Meeting With Marriott HQ & Hotel Manager
After gathering data and confirming with other Bonvoy elite members that they were refused upgrades, this customer contacted both Marriott HQ and the hotel general manager. This happened in the background during our research for this article.
On September 11, 2021, the hotel manager (Mr. Peter Sih), our reader, and someone from Marriott headquarters had a meeting. They discussed the data and what it looked like on the surface: it seems the hotel is playing games.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, the hotel has changed its ways. I’ve checked daily for the past week, and there are “same day” suites available every day. It’s amazing that the hotel supposedly wasn’t doing anything wrong, yet things are different after the meeting.
After originally writing a scathing analysis of what the hotel was up to, something magically changed the night before our article was scheduled to post. To be fair to everyone involved, we stepped back and collected more data. It looks like the hotel has stopped whatever it was doing, and we hope people from Marriott headquarters will find a way to watch for this (here and elsewhere) in the future.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had to draw attention to anti-customer practices at a Marriott property this year. Luckily, the Ft. Lauderdale property that was fleecing its customers was reigned in by corporate after I spoke to them.
After a meeting with the hotel manager and Marriott HQ, our intrepid reader got this hotel to stop playing games with suite upgrade perks. Lesson learned: people are watching. We hope this can be a lesson learned for Marriott to keep an eye on its hotels. And we hope it also serves notice to hotels to not be shady, because people will find out and call them out.