This weeks edition of our Compensation Clinic has a case about Starwood Preferred Guest Buy Starpoints Promotion where I wanted to buy points but received the lowest available bonus offer.
I always purchase the maximum allowed amount of Starpoints each year to use them strategically when paid rates are through the roof or to transfer them to frequent flyer programs such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
Additionally now you can transfer Starpoints to Marriott Rewards in a 1:3 Ratio and then redeem them for lucrative Travel Packages. John wrote about the Buy SPG Points promotion last month (access here).
You can purchase for your account or receive as a gift A maximum of 30,000 Starpoints in a calendar year (this used to be 20,000). The account that receives Starpoints must have been open for a minimum of 14 days.
You can access the Starwood SPG Website for this offer here.
My SPG Platinum account however was far away from the advertised maximum bonus of (up to) 50%. Once signed in I discovered that I should receive only 25% Bonus.
Some colleagues who ended up jumping on the offer and haven’t had a stay in years saw their accounts targeted with the full 50% bonus.
As I haven’t purchased any points yet this year I decided to buy anyway before December 31st (accounts are eligible again for purchasing points starting January 1st once the calendar year resets) but I wouldn’t let this go away and called Starwood to complain about this targeting. After a somewhat rocky conversation with a supervisor I escalated the matter to Starwood Executive Consumer Affairs.
Here is an excerpt of what I wrote to the department:
… As stated before, I understand the promotion is designed to offer members varying amounts of the discounts but for the reasons outlined I don’t believe this to be a very thoughtful choice of running a non-stay based promotion that would have an impact of bringing customers physically into a hotel. Promotions such as Select Member Exclusive are a different matter and allow to target members based on their hotel stay activity and it makes sense to offer absent customers an incentive to come back and visit a Starwood Hotel. The matter of selling points outright is different as SPG or any other loyalty program who sells their currency isn’t actively presenting the customer with their core product, it doesn’t build loyalty to the brand.
The above stated is the reason why I feel the points purchase/discount promotion is extremely poor designed as members feel discriminated against when they don’t receive a decent bonus. Even worse when these members are Gold, Platinum or even Lifetime status customers. This is a judgement solely from a psychological perspective as it does Starwood as a brand more harm than good as customers feel offended when they have the impression their loyalty isn’t valued by a company they supported with x amount of revenue over the years. A standard discount of 40% for everyone would have been a better choice as it’s a) a very generous bonus and b) provides equal opportunity. …
Starwood Executive Consumer Affairs replied after some time of research:
I hope you have had a great week so far.
The Global Marketing Operations team have replied back and regret that the intent of this promotion was not found as beneficial as other campaigns in the past. As you predicted in your previous e-mail this campaign promotion was an opportunity to simply engage all members of all tiers, they do, as mentioned in their e-mail to me have a promotion on the horizon for the specific tier levels.
Your feedback was presented to them and heard and I do hope your next e-mail promotion when purchasing starpoints is found to be of more value. I would be happy to extend the gesture of 7,500 starpoints back into your account for the initial interaction on the telephone and the distaste this has left. Please confirm if you are accepting of this and I will see to depositing those at my earliest opportunity.
This kind of feedback allows us to ensure we are doing the right things for our guests. It also helps us create the ideal guest experience for the future.
A credit of 7,500 Starpoints (or respectively US$262.50) is what I outlined to them as the 25% difference between the maximum 50% Bonus and the 25% I was targeted with. Obviously the US$ 262.50 would have been better than receiving 7,500 Starpoints but I’m glad it got resolved in the end.
It has to be noted though that as per communication they credited these points for the unpleasant experience with the Platinum Desk supervisor. Apparently there was (thankfully) a record of the entire phone call and the lady was completely out of control.
I don’t think Starwood would have given me anything if my behavior during that call would have been unreasonable or rude (which it wasn’t since I knew I’d have to eventually escalate this matter).
I don’t think having tiered purchasing promotions for loyalty points is a very good idea. If you target your top tier members with the lowest bonus amount and others with no stay record in years with the maximum it creates dissatisfaction.
With the compensation points from Consumer Affairs I was able to up my SPG balance by 37,500 points for a very reasonable rate and transferred 95% of my account balance to Marriott Rewards to redeem a travel package.