Reader Email: Frustrated With The Marriott Bashing

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us an email about frustration that he has over our coverage of the Marriott and SPG merger.

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Here’s the email from the reader:

I have never emailed before and have waited quoted a while before emailing now. I just didn’t want to take the energy and time it takes to address the multiple problems I see with attempting to compare SPG to Marriott.

There are so many differences between the former programs that are not being addressed and it has become very frustrating. Let’s not dial to mention that Marriott has been a better machine with much higher standards than SPG.

As a long time Marriott customer who has occasionally been forced to patronize SPG, I have noticed the differences throughout the years.

Let’s start with the fact that Marriott purchased SPG. Many acquisitions take place because the company being acquired has not been as profitable as they should or could be.

Secondly, Marriott standards have always been much higher than SPG. I did not enjoy most of the SPG properties that I patronized because they were often old and run down. SPG did not require the same level of upkeep as Marriott. This means that Marriott has a lot of work to do in order to bring SPG properties up to the minimum standard level that they require of their properties. I am personally familiar with a few properties that lost Marriott certification and moved under the SPG franchise for the same property.

Let’s next focus on point values. The award and redemption for Marriott properties were very different than for SPG properties. Yes Marriott, in general, required more points for a redemption, but Marriott awarded points different than SPG. For instance, a 10K point redemption for Marriott would be a 3300 point redemption for SPG. I have earned and redeemed for both. So it makes perfect sense why Marriott and SPG have a 1 to 3 point difference.

I am not sure how some of these very simple observations have been overlooked, by I have spent more than my fair share of time in hotels.

I spent a lot of time in Marriott as a Marriott gold and platinum elite over the years. I also spent time in various SPG and Hilton properties. I always appreciated Marriott for have the absolute cleanest and most cared for properties of the brands. I also appreciated the attentive customer service over the years when there were problems. They had a streamlined system that worked very well for me.

In conclusion, there are major differences because they were very different franchises which required very different service levels from their properties. Customers that have not spent time across the aisle would have no idea about these differences, but from well travelled blog writers I would expect more critical analysis of ALL of the differences between the properties. When you compare an apple to a watermelon, you are definitely going to say one simply doesn’t fit. When you compare a lemon to a lime, you see and appreciate the subtle differences of the two fruits.

I would definitely like to see all of the differences of the properties, including quality level discussed before attempting to bash Marriott. They have had some very loyal customers in the past for a reason.

Last but not least, no one likes change, but change is constant and ever present. If you give people the idea that this is a bad change, they will embrace the idea. If you give people the idea this is a positive change, they will in turn embrace that idea. Please be critical and unbiased to allow people to embrace the change in the manner they perceive this change.

Let me start by saying that I am very glad that the reader took his time to send us this email. We have received so many emails and messages from frustrated SPG and Marriott members with all the problems that they have had with merging of the programs (that unfortunately still continue) and the perceived and real downgrades in benefits (especially SPG ones).

I have spent roughly an equal amount of my life at both Marriott and SPG properties – two or so years at each so I would say that I knew both programs (before the merger) rather well. I rarely stay at non-full service properties, however.

When Marriott decided to go after Starwood, I knew that this would not end up well. These two companies were so different.

Marriott was very conservative, strong with their select service properties and the marketing message was dull. Marriott Rewards had run same MegaBonus promotion as long as I have been a member and still does.

Starwood launched new brands, was stronger in the higher end, had brilliant marketing and social media presence. They run different promotions from year to year.

Note that I am not saying that what Marriott did was wrong or financially unsuccessful, but just that these two companies were very different and merging them would be a challenge.

Also, Marriott Rewards and SPG members were very different. Many SPG members were very attached to the program, truly liked it and very vocal. Also, their spend on average was much higher.

Marriott Rewards took quite good care of ALL members while SPG really cared about their Platinum ones.

If you looked at the number of points earned and needed for free nights, I found Marriott Rewards to be a more rewarding program overall. They didn’t have the most luxurious properties in far flung destinations like Starwood did, however.

We don’t re-post press releases blindly here on LoyaltyLobby, like some other blogs do, but report changes as they are whether positive or negative.

Conclusion

It has been really rocky road for the past four weeks and I have on purpose stayed mostly at non-Marriott/SPG properties and let the dust settle with the madness that has ensued (only three nights since August 18).

Marriott made a huge mistake with the program integration on August 18 when the technological platform simply wasn’t ready. I hope that they are able to turn everything around.

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