No, SPG upgrades policy does not "entitle" platinum elites to suite upgrades...

Discussion in 'Starwood | Preferred Guest' started by NYCUA1K, Dec 13, 2016.  |  Print Topic

  1. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    For years, one of travel blogosphere's dogma has been that SPG complimentary room upgrades policy "entitles" their Platinum elites to suite upgrades when available, whereas other programs offer no such "guarantees" to their top elites. It has often been cited as one of the differentiating features of SPG. I knew from the git-go, after comparing the policies that the claim was bogus and that it was just one of many cases of travel bloggers claiming benefits for their preferred programs that were more expansive than stated by the program offering the benefits. However, after the claim was made recently in a manner that convinced me that bloggers and their followers did truly believe that SPG Platinum elites are entitled to suite upgrades, I decided to"investigate". The following is the result of my "investigation."

    I started the exercise by posing the following challenge over @gleff's(Gary Leff's) blog (making the following a cross-posting with very minor modifications):

    THE CHALLENGE:
    Can the smart ones out there tell us how the following complimentary suite upgrade policies are different?

    SPG policy on complimentary upgrades:
    • Platinum members receive upgrades to the best available rooms, including Standard Suites, subject to availability for the entire length of stay at time of check-in.
    HHonors policy on complimentary upgrades:
    • Diamond HHonors guests will receive upgrades to preferred rooms, including Standard Suites, based on availability at the time of check-in. [Marriott Rewards’ policy is similar]
    World of Hyatt policy on complimentary upgrades:
    • Globalists will receive the best room available at the time of check-in at Hyatt hotels and resorts, including standard suites and rooms with Club lounge-access.
    Because, except for predictable (and wrong) answers provided by a flailing and desperate commenter, no one seemed willing to take the challenge, I went ahead and gave the simple correct answer and then elaborated.

    It was not a trick question and under any other circumstances anyone would have provided the correct answer, which is that those complimentary room/suite upgrade policies are identical.

    The way to get around the usual noise that drowns this "debate" was to reduce the policy statements to their minimum so that they are directly comparable. What has thrown everyone off for years about the SPG policy was that, on purpose or inadvertently, it did not spell out explicitly what “best available rooms” meant, whereas HHonors and Marriott Rewards — the more mature and stable programs — did spell out what they meant by “preferred rooms” or the types of rooms that would be considered an upgrade, up to standard suites. Bloggers latched onto SPG policy’s lack of clarity and re-interpreted it as “entitling” or “guaranteeing” Plats a suite upgrade if available, oblivious to the fact that hotels had the final say on what was a suite and whether it was available as an upgrade.

    The best way to know whether a loyalty policy is being interpreted correctly is by the volume -- both meanings of the word -- of complaints it generates from members claiming its “violation” by individual properties. Whereas (because of policy clarity), you will find very, very few instances of HHonors or Marriott Rewards members complaining that a property failed to upgrade them to a suite when suites were clearly available, a quick search of the web reveals virtual “reams and reams” of complaints by SPG loyalists about properties that failed to upgrade Platinum members to a suite. The straightforward explanation for why this has persisted is that SPG wanted it both ways: (a) leave the impression that their complimentary suite upgrade policy was a “differentiating” feature of the program, as touted by bloggers, knowing fully that the interpretation was erroneous; and (b) quietly enforce the correct interpretation in the background! The result has not been pretty, as self-entitled top SPG elites, many of them self-anointed ‘travel gurus’, took to the airwaves to denounce SPG’s duplicityfor correctly interpreting their own policy!

    Here are some of my very favorite examples of a policy misinterpretation gone awry, likely because a program wanted to have their cake and eat it too:

    2014 — Starwood Platinum Suite Upgrades: Why Does It Have To Be A Fight?

    2012 — I am Sick of Arguing for Starwood Upgrades.

    2013 — Platinum SPG, best room upgrade: please change the language.

    2015 — Destroying Loyalty: Starwood’s Lies & Expectation Management.

    Well, you get the picture, which did not include thousands of comments by travel gurus’ sycophants chiming in with their own stories about how such or such Starwood property violated “the policy.”

    Another policy that was simply made up by travel bloggers and was more egregious in its hubris because it was not even in the T&C, was that HGP suite upgrade awards are not “capacity controlled”, meaning that if a suite is bookable with cash, it is available for upgrade using a DSU. However, things did not work that way and, like the misinterpretation of the SPG upgrade policy, this resulted in reams of complaints accusing HGP of “violating” a policy they never even stated!

    Bottom line: The next time you read a blogpost claiming that SPG Platinum elites are “guaranteed” or “entitled to” suite upgrades if available, just remember this commentary [that’s what erudite comments are called in academia]. Like under every loyalty program, individual Starwood properties have always had the final say on deciding what’s “best room” or a “suite” and whether it's available as an elite upgrade, something that bloggers have usually conveniently left out in claiming the “guarantee” or “entitlement” [emphasis added]:

    “…subject to availability at check-in for the length of the stay, provided the room was not booked through a pre-paid third-party channel. Specialty Suites such as, but not limited to, premium view, Presidential, Honeymoon, and multiple bedroom suites are excluded. This benefit does not apply to all-suite hotels. BEST ROOMS ARE IDENTIFIED BY EACH PROPERTY and may not include upgraded Towers level accommodations unless Towers level accommodations are booked originally. The upgrade benefit is available for one room for the personal use of the Member only, regardless of the number of additional rooms purchased by the Member. This benefit is not offered at Aloft and Element properties.”

    This concludes the documentation of how for years and years self-anointed ‘travel gurus’ and their followers have flunked a simple, grade school-level English comprehension test. I left very little wiggle room for continued misinterpretation of the SPG suite upgrade policy by providing stark evidence of the ridiculous and absurd consequences of the misinterpretation, using a device known as reductio or argumentum ad adsurdum.

    With that, I am done here as I must begin preparing to leave in a couple of days on my month-long 2016 Year-end Asian Escapade(tm).
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
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  2. MSPeconomist
    Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    When I parse the wording in the three policies you quoted (without looking at the official wording in the T&Cs), Hilton's seems to be weakest. HHonors elites are entitled to a preferred room if available but not necessarily the best available room. For example, upon arrival, there could be rooms available that would be one, two, and three category upgraded, but the property could choose to only give them one category upgrade.

    SPG and WOH seem to require giving the best available upgrade.
     
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  3. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    You can interpret the policies as you like, but there is no difference among them since only one who is brain dead would choose his/her "preferred" room to be less than the best available room, which, BTW, is at the discretion of each property in all the programs and not the elite member's. Thus, I have no idea what makes Hilton's policy the "weakest" when, in practice, HH Diamonds are "guaranteed" at least an upgrade to the exec floor with lounge access, and as a HH Diamond I have cleared better than 90% of my complimentary suite upgrades since they became a stated perk in late 2012.

    The real point of the post, however, was to dispel the self-anointed travel gurus' canard that SPG elites were "entitled" to suite upgrades while top HH or MR elites were not, when the policies are virtually identical. The volume of complaints that the misinterpretation of the SPG policy has generated over the years is all one needs to consider to know that this post hit it right on the head.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017

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