BRG Catch-22 for Next Day Travel, SPG App

Discussion in 'Starwood | Preferred Guest' started by easterly, May 20, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. easterly

    easterly Member

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    I do believe I have found a Catch-22 in SPG's plum colored universe of loyalty, concerning rates for next day bookings.

    A biz emergency came up, and I needed to book a "next day" check-in for two nights at a Westin. I reach for my SPG App on the iPhone 6, dial in the locale, and the Westin I need pops up. The lowest rate offered me, the lowest rate I can book, is $514. So says the App. Seems high, but it is convention season in this locale. I book through the App with my preloaded SPG Amex, and check-in is the next day.

    Hours later. My colleague who will travel with me asks where I booked. The Westin. What rate? $514. Laughter. My colleague, not a rewards/loyalty/affinity guy, but a fervent OTA user, gleefully shows me that on that same day I booked with the SPG App, Kayak and Travelocity are selling the very same room for the same stay dates for $429. "You are some pretty elite stuff," he needles.

    I fill out the Starwood Best Rate Guarantee form online, including the screenshot of the OTA's lower pricing. A reply email comes back from SPG's BRG team. Request denied. "You have not drawn the competing price to our attention more than 24 hours before check-in." But I drew said attention within 5 hours of booking! I say to myself.

    I arrive at the Westin. I raise the rate matter with the reception associate. Show him the screenshot. He leaves to confer with unseen management, returns, and says "We cannot change you to the lower rate, you'll have to pursue a Best Rate Guarantee claim."

    Catch-22.

    So now, I ask the internet, is SPG is intending to create pricing where loyalty members on the App are shown they must pay (in my case) 17% more for a base room than a random buying on Kayak is paying?

    And I ask the internet, is SPG is trying to disallow business traveler members buying next day bookings from the BRG using the 24 notice requirement as a trap door?

    Does SPG want to advise me in the monthly program email "don't use the App for next-day bookings, you'll pay more, a lot more, and then it's too late to file a BRG."?

    My story ended with the reception clerk at my Westin finally dropping my rate down to (but not below, BRG style) the Kayak rate. But I had to make an eloquent and impassioned closing argument for it, and that kind of ruined my arrival and my mood for the day.

    -Easterly
     
  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Is it a "trap" of some sort? I'd say not. It is a published rule.
     
  3. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    My guess is that the price discrepancy existed more than 24 hours prior to your arrival. I can understand why the hotel chains would want an exception from something like BRG 24 hours out since they're more likely to be dumping inventory then. But, it seems at least in this case that leads to animosity from the customer. Glad to see the property lowered your rate, even if you did have to work for it.
     
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  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I'm less convinced this is a good thing.

    I have no problem with negotiating for a rate and trying to get a better deal; I've done it many times. But once I agree to the rate I think it is a bit disingenuous to show up at the property and attempt further negotiations.
     
  5. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    I see your point. But, given the situation where this guest genuinely believed he had best rate protection and did not, I don't have a problem with him voicing those concerns.
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Complain to corporate who manages the program. Throwing a fit at the check-in counter is awkward for everyone, particularly the local staff which has nothing to do with the BRG program.

    This screams DYKWIA to me.
     
  7. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    If they're willing to enforce corporate policies to their benefit and take the booking from the hotels res system, then IMO they need to field the complaints as well.

    However, where we agree is that it doesn't need to be a DYKWIA issue. Very few things need to be, IMO. Even when I have something confirmed in writing from a hotel they won't honor, if the front desk or manager won't yield with a polite conversation, I'm inclined to kick it to corporate and let them deal with it.
     
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  8. easterly

    easterly Member

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    The broader points that interest me more than WA's suppositions about bad motives and individual succumbment to celebrified expectations are:

    1. Is the App offering higher minimum prices according to an algo aimed at business travel purchase timing habits, aimed at gouging those habits under the cover of "shiny intimate convenient app" ....; and

    2. Are Starwood property staff directed to deflect inquiries on rate reduction towards BRG in situations where a glance at the date of booking on the rez system would reveal to the staff that the BRG is blocked by the 24 hr exclusion...

    -Easterly
     
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  9. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    And not an "impassioned argument" I think.
    No.
    Yes and no. The effort to push comments to corporate is for all BRG inquiries, not just the ones made in the past few hours. And that is the only rational approach because the BRG has nothing to do with the local property and everything to do with corporate. It is like fighting with a flight attendant over what miles you'll be credited with for a flight.

    Sorry you found out the hard way that the BRG doesn't apply within 24 hours of check-in. But that policy is explicitly stated on the main BRG web page, among other places.
     
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  10. easterly

    easterly Member

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    WA, I can prove the App priced unfairly high. Can you prove otherwise?

    -Easterly
     
  11. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    What is unfair about it? I can prove is that the app offers a price and it is up to the customer to choose whether to pay it or not.

    I can prove that your booking was not covered by the BRG policy as is stated many times, including prominently on the main page describing the policy. I know you cannot prove otherwise.

    You're pissed. I get it. But that doesn't mean that the company is out to gouge customers or that the staff at the property did anything wrong. The staff was trying to correctly charge you for the rate you agreed to pay per the decisions you made when booking a room and 100% in compliance with the T&Cs of all the policies Starwood has regarding such. You fought with them enough that they chose to placate you to shut you up, not because you were in the right about the policy.

    Like I said before, this screams DYKWIA to me. You made an ill-informed decision, regretted it and then forced the company to make up for your mistake.
     
  12. easterly

    easterly Member

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    WA you could never run SPG with such an outlook (borrowed from Lewis Carroll and the Queen of Hearts herself) and such mirror house positions (you get to negotiate (many many times) at check-in, but my plea for the Kayak rate the App ignores is DYKWIA). Perhaps you could use a relaxing vacation.
     
  13. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I've never tried to negotiate the rate AFTER I've confirmed a booking, only before. That's a huge difference.

    And I assure you I'm plenty relaxed. I'm not the one throwing a tantrum because I don't like the rules.
     
  14. easterly

    easterly Member

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    Let me quote how the App presents the rules.

    You pull up the App, you press the "Book" icon at the bottom nav bar of the App's display, you set the search preference to "lowest standard rate," you key in the hotel name or locale, you select the hotel, and then the App automatically populates a window of text entitled "Best Rate Guarantee." And that text states: "Our [BRG] ensures that you get the best available rate when you book on our sites. If you find a lower published rate prior to, or within 24 hours of booking your room, submit a Best Rate Guarantee Claim to us and we'll honor the lower rate."

    As my case study in the OP above reveals, I booked with the App, an SPG "site," and did not get the best available rate. The BA rate was 17 percent lower. I submitted a claim within 5 hours of booking, leaving me 19 hours to spare according to the quoted verbiage.

    The verbiage is, for next day bookings, misleading, the practice of ignoring this verbiage and instead citing a "24 hours prior to arrival" exclusion not included in the App's verbiage is unfair, and creates an atmosphere of disloyalty within a loyalty program.

    WA, enjoy a look at the App's language yourself, maybe hold it to your head as a cool compress. It may lower the throbbing.
     
  15. noneemac

    noneemac Silver Member

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    Wandering Aramean, I'm mystified by your mean-spirited, snarky entrenchment. You dug your heels in from your first post, and you refuse to budge. And I say this as someone who has admired your thoughts and insights.

    If the actual verbiage on the SPG app is, as easterly quoted, "If you find a lower published rate prior to, or within 24 hours of booking your room, submit a Best Rate Guarantee Claim to us and we'll honor the lower rate," then he was entitled (without being accused of DYKWIA-ism) to BRG pricing. AND, I would add, he should NOT have been made to grovel, wheedle, or press for it -- at the corporate level, or at the front desk. He wasn't negotiating the price of the room; he was asking SPG to make good on its GUARANTEE.

    What baffles me is that you haven't acknowledged that BRGs are designed to entice users to make their reservations through the "in-house" channels, rather than scouring the Web for better deals through OTAs (which obviously reduce SPG's net). There's an implicit deal going on with these so-called guarantees: book with us and we'll beat any advertised price. It's a win-win deal: SPG gets a larger net profit, and the customer gets to save time and reduce anxiety.

    (Easterly, note bene: Hyatt won't make you grovel the way SPG did!)
     
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  16. mikel51

    mikel51 Active Member

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    Regardless of blame, it sure points out that you shouldn't use the app if you care about getting a good rate.....you should use a web browser and compare the starwood rate with the rate from other vendors....unfortunately, that means more hassle because you can't trust Starwood to honor the spirit of their pledge.
     
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  17. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Still not something to handle at the local level IMO. The individual hotels have nothing to do with the BRG program and no real means to manage compliance. If SPG needs to add a * on the app then that's potentially a problem, but it is one which should be taken up with corporate, not the local hotel front desk. That said, I just downloaded the app to see and on the "Book" screen all I get is "Learn about our Best Rate Guarantee" at the bottom of the page. Clicking on that shows a single page of text which, among other things, clearly indicates the 24-hour advance rule. If easterly is looking at a different point in the app then that might be different, but in the booking process I'm not seeing what was described.

    Photo May 28, 7 29 06 AM.jpg

    At no point other than this do I see reference to the BRG when conducting a test booking, up through entering CC information which is where I stopped.

    Maybe I'm jaded because I know the actual rule, but I have issues when people fight the wrong fight.

    And it works, exactly as the rules prescribe. I was able to claim BRGs with SPG & IHG this week. And most likely a lot of folks who could have done the same did not so SPG made more money off of them than would have otherwise happened. I think the programs are great. But it involves paying just a tiny bit of attention to the rules rather than assuming you know what the rules mean based on a headline.

    And, more than anything, the pitching a fit at the front desk part rubs me the wrong way. I think that was misguided, immature and inappropriate.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  18. adventuress

    adventuress Silver Member

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    I agree with Mike, it is bad business practice and the customer is well advised to do their talking with their feet.
     
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  19. adventuress

    adventuress Silver Member

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    The customer should not have to twist themselves into a pretzel in order to get the company to be honest.
     
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  20. garyg

    garyg Active Member

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    I recently had a similar experience TRYING to get the BRG staff to match a rate a found elsewhere for the St Regis Princeville resort in Kauai. You're forced to report the lower price within 24 hours, so it's "Beat The Clock" race again time from the get go. I submitted my request as I found a rate that was over $100 per night lower. The first two times they responded back saying I had filled out the form incorrectly (I doubt it, and felt it more of a stalling tactic as the clock was ticking....louder and louder!). I then filled out again, exactly the same was as before only now to be told that my competing rate was not "available to general public" and therefore invalid. The offer was for anyone that had a Visa credit card, which is likely 90% of the people who stay at SPG hotels, but it was enough of a loophole to deny the claim. It left me feeling that the BRG staff is there to work hard to deny any and all claims and that the BRG promise is merely a marketing gimick and offers little reassuance that you're getting the Best Rate!
     
  21. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Doesn't qualify. Even if you want it to. The rules are pretty clear on that one, too.

    The program certainly is all about marketing, but it is not a scam. It had rules which must be followed but they're typically pretty easy to understand once you read beyond the headline.
     
  22. easterly

    easterly Member

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    WA your safe place is to return to construing the OP as evidence of bad motive on my part and to construe my reference to a passionate, eloquent plea as "pitching a fit" and immaturity. Why are we not to believe that you are no longer a travel tipster but have devolved to a travel troll?
     
  23. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I do not believe your motives were "bad" in any way. But you did not understand the rules of the program and you're blaming that on someone else. I downloaded the app and included screen shots of references to the BRG in the booking process. Did you see something different when you booked? Do you still see something different if you try to book anew?

    I believe that fighting with the agents at the front desk about a very clearly defined policy which they have no input on or means to enforce is bad form. And, yes, I think that a passionate plea to an agent is a lot like pitching a fit. You are unlikely to change my mind on that point, regardless of how "eloquent" your thoughts on the topic may be. Unfortunately there are at least two sides to every story. Yours is that the discussion at the front desk was reasonable. I'm betting the other side probably saw it differently, especially since it is not a policy that they have any control over.

    It is a shame that trying to explain the rules and provide guidance to others seeking a better outcome is seen as trolling. That's far from my goal here. But I suppose people unwilling to learn and understand the rules might see explanation of them as trolling. I guess. :confused:
     
  24. FriarTuck1943

    FriarTuck1943 Active Member

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    I had a sort of similar experience with Fairmont. I booked a room at the Royal York in Toronto and found a cheaper rate on line using Trivago. I asked them to match the rate and they said "No". This was several weeks before my stay so I simply cancelled my reservation with Fairmont and booked through Trivago. I saved about $50.
     
  25. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    Isn't the wording "or within 24 hours" then contradicted by the asterisk info (must be submitted 24 hours BEFORE check in) one that is poor wording at best and a "set trap" at worst?
     

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