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Middle Age Miles

Losing Trust: Marriott Blocked Award Availability; Now It Magically Re-Appears After Prices Increase

marriott bonvoy losing trust blocked award availability before devaluation

I have a saying that those close to me have heard many times: “Trust is earned by the thimbleful, and lost in buckets.”

Marriott has lost my trust. In buckets. In fact, recently, by many buckets.

Many bloggers have noted the myriad issues with the Marriott loyalty program, primarily beginning last summer. There are so many issues and articles that I won’t recount or even recap them here. And it didn’t help when Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson infamously dismissed the problems as “noise around the edges.”

This week, Marriott implemented a major stage of what we’ve called the Massive Marriott March Devaluation. Award prices went up for almost 400 Marriott properties – most importantly, including 66 of the most desirable, aspirational hotels in the entire Marriott portfolio, which increased by a whopping 41.7%, from 60,000 points per night to 85,000.

[And remember, there is another shoe yet to drop, when Marriott introduces Peak/Standard/Off-Peak award pricing.]

We wrote extensively about the upcoming Massive Marriott March Devaluation and urged Middle Age Miles readers to make their award reservations before the category changes on March 5:

One hotel we identified in our articles as being a great aspirational place to book before it increased to Category 8 was the St. Regis Rome. When we published our first article in late January, we noted that the St. Regis Rome had award availability for the majority of days in May, 29 out of 30 days in June, and every day in July and August.

At some point, though, Marriott pulled award availability from the St. Regis Rome. By the time we published our “final reminder” article on Monday, there was no award availability for at all for 5 straight months – April, May, June, July and August (save for 1 lone day in June).

We were fortunate to grab a screenshot. As of Monday, when the award price was 60,000 points per night, here was the award calendar for the St. Regis Rome in July:

Not one single day of availability.

Magically, however, once the award price increased to 85,000 per night, award availability somehow re-appeared. Here’s what it looks like today:

How about that?

Likewise, now every single day in August miraculously re-gained award availability at 85,000 points.

It’s clear that Marriott played games with award availability prior to the award price increase. It clearly blocked award bookings at pre-devaluation pricing.

Marriott, you have lost my trust. When you disrespect your customer, it will eventually catch up to you. Maybe not today, but it will catch up to you at some point. And at that point, it’s too late – you simply can’t regain the trust you’ve lost.

I’m a points-and-miles and travel blogger, and Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world. I can’t just ignore it. Our mission at Middle Age Miles is to help you live your dreams through travel and points – and we simply can’t fulfill our mission without talking about Marriott.

Thus, we’ll still have Marriott stays, and we’ll still write about them. We’ll also talk about Marriott promotions and how to earn extra points from your stays. It’s all part of our mission. But we’re very sad to do this for a company that has lost our trust.

What are your thoughts and experiences on Marriott and the current state of affairs? Please share with us in the Comments.


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32 thoughts on “Losing Trust: Marriott Blocked Award Availability; Now It Magically Re-Appears After Prices Increase

  1. MSer

    Meh. Marriott has had the worst award program for years. There’s no trust to lose. It is simply living up to it’s well-deserved bottom-of-the barrel reputation

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      It’s a sorry state of affairs with Marriott, isn’t it, MSer? Thanks for reading Middle Age Miles, and thanks for the Comment! ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Eli – Thanks for the additional data point. Shameful indeed. We appreciate you reading Middle Age Miles and hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

  2. Jeremy

    For me. it was when Marriott sent me an email saying that my complaint against a property had been resolved and closed — which was news to me. I called in and they said they no longer handle customer disputes and they leave that up to the local properties to handle and in fact if you complain to corporate, they do nothing but forward that on to them where if they choose to, it can be summarily ignored.

    Their logic: the local management will always do the right thing, even if you are complaining about the local management.

    Nope. Flawed system, flawed company.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Jeremy – Many thanks for the comment and additional information. This is unbelievable to me. Who in their right mind designs a customer service system like this and expects it to work? Another data point telling us that Marriott needs a complete customer service re-build from the ground up. We appreciate you reading Middle Age Miles and hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

      1. gogowisco

        I have had many similar results. I had to complain about 2 properties in the last 6 months of very legitimate complaints. Both times, Marriott responded by saying that the property will reach out. After not hearing from the property for a week, I replied to Marriott and they said the case had been closed. It seems like their whole mentality has shifted from customer focused to hotel/property focused. I guess the properties are still technically their “customers” but this has really shown in how they do business with actual customers.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hi gogowisco – Thanks for the comment and data points. This approach by Marriott blows me away. We appreciate you reading Middle Age Miles and hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

    2. Jim

      You’d think a company would at least be bright enough to train it’s employees not to tell customers their case had been “closed” when the customer is calling about the case. Make up something if you have to. Tell me you’ll send an urgent request for follow-up up the chain, hang up and surf the internet. I don’t care. But don’t be stupid enough to tell me the one thing I won’t want to hear.

      Illustrates that not only does the company not care about it’s customers, but it really doesn’t even care about putting it’s own employees in the line of fire when they’re talking to customers

      1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

        Hi Jim – Thanks for the comment. So true, and you made me laugh – although, we’d vastly prefer an actual effort by Marriott to be customer-centric and ensure that its individual properties do the same. Thanks again for reading Middle Age Miles, and we hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

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  4. rocky4ny

    Absolutely agree ,
    Marriott is nowhere close to any other hotel program.
    Even my village grocery points work better and are simple.
    Marriott is becoming a headache with resort , destination fees to their small properties.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Rocky4ny – Thanks for the comment and support. You made me laugh about the village grocery points. We appreciate you reading Middle Age Miles and hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

  5. Weibull

    This OP is just wrong. Marriott has ZERO trust to begin with. How can it lose trust if it has nothing to begin with?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Weibull – You made me laugh. Can’t say I disagree with your point. Marriott has certainly done a lot of things to lose our trust before now, especially in the past few months. This one was just really egregious and we were fortunate to have a straightforward smoking gun to call them out. Thanks for your comment and for reading Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  6. John

    Well, i had 2 stays 5 nights at st. Regis bora bora and st. Regis Maldives for 48000 points per night so cant complain. Marriott really came through. who cares about some European hotel for this many points????

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi John – Thanks for the comment – and congratulations on the awesome redemptions! It sounds like you did a great job nailing down these stays early, before the game-playing with award availability aspirational properties kicked into high gear. We have our own upcoming award redemption at the gorgeous-looking Prince des Galles in Paris. The fact that Marriott has lost trust with us won’t prevent us from enjoying that stay one bit. Your comment provides a good lesson – take advantage of the good stuff when you can, because it may not be around later. We appreciate you reading Middle Age Miles and hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

      1. john

        You are right although the February Bora Bora availaibility showed up fairly recently when there was one day where systems merged. Most february dates were available for few hours and the weather was beautiful. I don’t usually use my points for European hotels since you are rarely at the hotel. Made that mistake with Hyatt Vendome (using 2 hyatt certificates) was kind of a waste. I still have 2 reservations at St. Regis Bora Bora for September/October which probably will not use….

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Thanks for the follow-up comment, John. I’m glad SR Bora Bora was great. And I hear you about Euro hotels. We tend to do more Euro travel than beach resorts – but your comment makes total sense in that you enjoy the hotel property for far more time on a resort vacation than a city stay. Thanks again for the Comments! ~Craig

  7. blackbird2150

    I am sorry to hear that people may have been screwed by Marriott’s shitty practices. My wife and I are planning a blowout trip in Sept to Japan before looking to have children. ANA F, luxury hotel, etc. etc.

    We planned to use all our Marriott points up because of the massive changes, and frankly devaluations. I booked 3 nights in Ritz Tokyo and 5 in Ritz Osaka. Location wise, I would prefer the Osaka Ritz over Kyoto (based on our trip plans) but the reviews for the Kyoto Ritz are so good it’s impossible to ignore.

    So at the very end of feb, I crossed my fingers, and click search… They had availability in Kyoto! I clearly got more lucky than I realized as I wasn’t quite aware of the scope of the scandalous practices.

    Still though, that’s kinda the nature of the game. Always changing. Use it while you got it in my opinion. 8 nights at some of the best Ritz’s in the world is not a bad way to bow out of the hotel points game. From here on it’s just a focus on flights and convertible points currencies. No need to stay loyal if they’re just gunna screw us over.

    Thanks for writing!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Blackbird – Man, that sounds like an awesome trip! Congrats on scoring the Ritz Kyoto at the old rates. Great redemption, and excellent planning on your part. Totally agree with your last paragraph – the game is always changing, and hit the good redemptions when you can because they might not be around tomorrow.

      You’re most welcome for us writing – it’s a labor of love – and we hope you continue to read and enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  8. Charles Webb

    The ONLY way to deal with the Bonvoy fiasco is just to move business away from them to other hotels – only then might they realize that they injured their reputation with their high value clients. Actions, only not words could make a difference. Lifetime Titanium and booking elsewhere!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Charles – Thanks for the comment. Definitely agree that action is necessary and not just words. Given our blogger voice, we’ll use both. Hopefully we won’t just be “noise around the edges.” Thanks again, and we hope you continue to enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

  9. Dan

    I’m sorry, but I don’t blame Marriott for wanting to pull this. I wish they were more transparent about it, but who can blame them when a number of people are booking 10, 15, or more reservations. Trust works both ways, and some members gaming the system are ruining it for all of us.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Dan – Thanks for the comment. Marriott was clearly shady and playing games here. That said, we don’t condone people abusing the Points Advance feature either. Seems to me that the solution is not to play games with award availability, which completely breaches trust, but instead to solve for the actual issue by putting some reasonable parameters around Points Advance reservations if Marriott believes people are making too many of them. Thanks again for reading Middle Age Miles, and we hope you continue to enjoy it! ~Craig

  10. Nick

    Well, you’ve explained the problem I’ve had booking a couple of nights using points at the Ren Beijing. The first five nights were already locked down in January but our itinerary was in flux. The remaining nights disappeared from points availability several weeks ago and then popped up at the Cat 4 rate. Funny how that works.

    I was a Lifetime Platinum with SPG and received wonderful treatment for years. Frankly, I stopped staying at Marriott and Starwood properties after the merger due to the lack of customer service. Instead of answering within a few rings, the Plat line regularly put me on hold for 30-45 minutes and the website was constantly being updated or unavailable.

    I’ve stayed at some great Kimpton properties and tried Hilton Diamond. We will see how Bonvoy Titanium plays out going forward.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Nick – Thanks for the comment. I hate reading stories like this where you were directly impacted by Marriott’s game-playing (and frankly, dishonesty). It sounds like you’ve been all the way to the end of the road in terms of Marriott losing trust with you. Our experience is similar. SPG treated us well. Marriott, not so much. The legacy SPG properties still do better job on our stays, but we can definitely feel the distinction eroding as time passes. Thanks again for reading Middle Age Miles and contributing, and I hope you continue to enjoy the site! ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Amen, Maria. Thanks for reading and commenting on Middle Age Miles. I hope you continue to enjoy it. ~Craig

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