Overbooked Starwood asking Plats to voluntarily cancel?

Discussion in 'Starwood | Preferred Guest' started by jmgriffin, Jul 26, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. jmgriffin

    jmgriffin Silver Member

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    Is this a typical result? Full post of experience here: Weekend Blitz -- How-to: Benefit from an Overbooked Hotel

    I had a reservation at a Sheraton property that I made many weeks ago at the Fed/Gov’t rate. On the morning of my check-in date, I received a call from the hotel manager explaining that they were overbooked for the night and were starting by calling all SPG Platinum/Gold members to see if they would be willing to accept Starpoints for having their reservation cancelled. He said that they’re offering 7,000 Starpoints for volunteers (this is equal to 1 free night at the property)–I paused and thought about my travel plans: they were, in fact, flexible and I didn’t have to stay at that particular property. Suspecting that they could go higher, I told him that if he could do 10,000 Starpoints, then I’d be willing to accept the cancellation. He said no problem, thanked me for my flexibility and told me to look out for the points in my account within 2 days.

    [​IMG]

    As promised, 10k points were posted to my account!

    I was able to rebook at another Sheraton just a few miles away for the same Fed/Gov’t rate of $91, so it was as if I’d just received 10k Starpoints for free, with little to no inconvenience.

    If it is truly Starwood’s policy to start by calling SPG Platinum members, then I imagine I was one of the very first on the list because I would assume their next step was to start calling those that booked at the cheapest rate first. I booked my room for $91 and their standard flexible rates are around $229 (but can go for as high as $400) so it makes perfect sense to try to bump me and then rebook my room for $400. If I had insisted on staying, they would have been getting $91 in revenue and would likely have to book me at a neighboring property for a much higher price.

    So again, is this typical for Starwood to call ahead of time and ask for volunteers to cancel in exchange for points? It seems like it makes good business sense.

    Weekend Blitz -- How-to: Benefit from an Overbooked Hotel
     
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  2. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    I've never experienced a call like this. I imagine this was a hotel decision and not necessarily something they'd be thrilled about, having an elite member with a guaranteed reservation moved. Sounds like it worked out really well for you. 10K points to move to a property down the road for the same price sounds like a good deal to me. :)
     
  3. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Sounds like a hotel decision and a win-win one. They know their elite members are probably going to value the points and may be flexible, so they keep everyone happy and pay less out of pocket to make it so. Sounds like a great proactive and creative move imo.

    I don't know that starwood would get that shook up over a plat volunteering to move. If this was involuntary things would obviously be different.
     
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  4. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Perhaps this a new policy if so kudos to SPG in implementing it.:)

    Having read that thread on FT that turned into a ridiculous spectacle of all that is the stomach turning side of the FF world ( involving a member who was informed some 10 months before his stay that the Pasadena property would be unable to honor his booking) I sincerely believe some (most???) of those posting there might not be happy with anything less than 100k points or lifetime status. :rolleyes:
     
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  5. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    I think it's a good/great idea. Just like being high elite used to get me to the top of the vdb list on overbooked flights, the option to get some points or whatever if you choose is GREAT.

    This is VERY different from a hotel cancelling a booking 10 months ahead in an area where all hotels are known to be sold out for a special event newbluesea.
     
  6. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    If you were on a government rate were you actually on government business? We you not receiving a benefit from your job that would amount to an illegal bribe? Government employees must be held to a high standard of integrity and it appears you abused your status by accepting these points.
     
  7. Pizzaman
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    I don't think it's earth shattering. But, I do think calling a top-tier elite on the day of check-in and asking them if they want to move isn't something I would consider to be a good business strategy. While it's great for a points junkie I think most travelers aren't thinking about alternative properties on the day of check-in. Now, if the hotel had said, "Hey, we're oversold and were wondering if we could accommodate you at a different property, is that okay?", I'd applaud this move more. Or, if they called prior to the morning of.

    But, this just strikes me as a hotel not planning far enough ahead on an oversold situation and then asking a very loyal customer of the chain to solve their problem for them.

    I don't agree with your assertion that an elite member is any more likely to be flexible then a regular guest. Look, I applaud the hotel for dealing with "walking" a guest prior to a guest showing up tired at the end of the night. And it created a great situation for the OP. But, I doubt there are many times where you'd find another property close by for the exact same amount of money the same day and have time to deal with it while you're likely traveling to your destination. There are better ways to prepare for a severely oversold situation, IMO. :)
     
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  8. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    I would say that these are very different cases. The pasadena situation is a serious and deliberate attempt by the hotel to ignore contracts they entered in to. That isn't acceptable. This is a hotel asking for volunteers. Much different.
     
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  9. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    It sounds like good creative problem solving by the management provided that they're not offering less that a Plat would get for being walked and provided that there's no implicit coercion along the lines of agree with this or we will make sure to walk you when you arrive late at night and you won't like it.
     
  10. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    I think the key here is "asked" not "told" - giving someone a choice is never a bad thing. If you don't like it you just say no. I, for one, would always like to be given a choice. There is NO indication here that the hotel would have not honored the reservation and, as I said, for me it is an extra bonus that if I am elite I have priority for special offers in oversold situations, be they hotel or airline.
     
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  11. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Well I just happen to disagree.
    In any event we don't know the reason the hotel was overbooked in this instance.

    In the case of the Pasadena property the OP was given a plausible explanation as to why it couldn't accommodate him ( which IMHO he most likely would or should have known that the Rose Bowl would fall under the Extraordinary Period backouts)

    Anyone who has attempted to book hotels during those big events knows that quite often all rooms are bought out in block and controlled by external groups and the chain booking system is no longer in control... and the OP got a whopping 11 months in advance notice.
    My beef was not the unfortunate turn of events affecting that OP but the over the top, ridiculous, silly and often stupid postings by the herd in response.:rolleyes:

    When I had a booking for SPGs the Western Cape Hotel in South Africa and the property was taken over 6 months after my reservation for the Nelson Mandela charity golf tournament and thus unable to honor my booking. I just put it down to bad luck and moved.
    BTW I was told not asked... the semantics being irrelevant.

    It wasn't the end of the world as some of you seem to want to make it.
     
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  12. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I think it's an interesting strategy... but it would have to be a serious oversight in planning to exceed capacity nowadays. Maybe they had an event come up last minute -- wedding or some other large block -- that required them to go out of their way and seek a few volunteers.

    And of course I would imagine that they look at the accounts, and figure Platinum / Gold people are more into "the game" than Average Joe and therefore more likely to accept points as a compensation for their "troubles"

    It sure beats taking a chance and having to walk a guest to another hotel, then having to offer them compensation just the same.
     
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  13. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    I did stick around for quite a while in that thread and did not see that.
    There's no doubt that block sales occur (and did in this case). When the control switches from the chain system to to the external group, the rooms are no longer bookable through the chain site - not the case here. 11 months advance notice is not that useful when comparable rooms either don't exist of go for many multiples of what the parties involved were willing to pay, and the hotel is unwilling (not unable) to accommodate the parties that it booked, even while the rooms remained available for sale.

    Those times when areas book out a year in advance is precisely where the integrity of bookings is most important.

    Yes, there was some over the top response for sure, but the hotel's actions and inital response were a big deal too.
    It's not the end of the world, but at the same time there need to be enough balances in place to make practices like revoking reservations suitably painful for the hotel, at least in cases where substantially similar alternative arrangements cannot be arranged.
     
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  14. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    A bribe, or inducement, would require some form of a quid pro quo. In this case, this was a customer-service issue that the guest was compensated for. It wasn't for him, specifically, or because of his position/employment - it was because the hotel needed a room and the room he was booked into was one they needed.

    In other words, despite being chosen because of status (and he INFERRED rate, but that was never communicated by the hotel), he wasn't personally singled out for any special treatment. Furthermore, the manager indicated it was optional and that others were being asked them same thing.
     
  15. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    In the United States, government workers are allowed to keep frequent flier and hotel program points. Is the law different in Canada?

    Participation in these kinds of loyalty programs does create a small conflict of interest not only for government employees, but for any business traveler who has a fiduciary responsibility to his or her employer. Most businesses, as well as the government, deal with this by establishing approved providers and negotiated rates. As long as the employee remains within the approved, negotiated provider and rate structure they're considered to engaging in appropriate behavior.

    I'm not sure why you're insinuating that the OP did anything improper. He or she was staying at an approved provider on a negotiated rate and replaced that stay with another at the same rate using the same approved provider. Where does the question of integrity enter into it?
     
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  16. Downunder girl
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    Downunder girl Silver Member

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    Slightly different situation, but as a Plat, I volunteered to be "walked" once because the hotel I was going to be "walked" to was far superior IMHO than the hotel I was checking into :). I had spent one night on points at the Royal Hawaiian hotel and was going to stay at the Sheraton Waikiki. I had been watching my reservations and had noticed my pre-upgraded suite room had disappeared two days prior to check in and was back to a city view. I went over to talk to the Sheraton Waikiki in the morning and was told they were oversold and there was absolutely no way they could give me even a partial ocean view, let alone a suite. I would be getting the city view that I booked and in fact they would be walking customers to the RH later in the day, due to the oversell. Well I thought hmmm I know where I would rather be! A full Sheraton Waikiki (SW) is no fun. I was still checked into the suite they gave us at the RH from the night before so I thought if SW are going to be walking customers, why not walk me. I asked to have a chat to the manager at SW. He agreed to walk me to RH and the RH honoured my rate with the inclusions (35% off dining etc) and gave me the junior suite for the one week reservation . I was not offered points for the "walk", but that was completely fine for me since I had volunteered to be walked. I got the better hotel, same rate, and the suite for the entire stay :)
     
  17. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Not to mention that's literally a short walk... right next door. :)
     
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  18. Downunder girl
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    Downunder girl Silver Member

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    Yes, its a very easy and pretty walk through the lovely gardens and across the RH driveway. I am heading back to the RH again soon. Since that very first stay, I have made a point of going back every year :)
     
  19. Camino Cielo

    Camino Cielo Silver Member

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    Bravo to the hotel for thinking this through. To me, this is exactly like a VDB on an airline, and I would want to have the opportunity according to my status, just like when offered DBC. It's the opportunity - not like an IDB. I can take it, and I would. Over the years, I've been walked - the hotel's version of "IDB'ed" - albeit seldom - at 0100 hr. with far less quid pro quo.
     
  20. jmgriffin

    jmgriffin Silver Member

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    Completely agree, although the more I think about it this Sheraton probably had an advantage that allowed them to do this. They have a somewhat strict cancellation policy: even on "Flexible Rate" you must cancel by 6pm DAY BEFORE check-in to avoid a penalty. This means that they were able to make calls on the morning of check-in since they had a firm list of guests by that point. Hotels with a 4pm or 6pm DAY OF check-in cancellation policy don't have this luxury and it leads to more people having to walk.
     
  21. Camino Cielo

    Camino Cielo Silver Member

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    And they are sharing the benefit of their advantage. They can offer the other hotel, "We have a prepaid. Will you take them?" ...making it a win-win-win.

    I'd like to add a "moreover". Moreover, this is worthy of the hotel, or industry, for that matter, putting a marketing effort behind the concept. Call it "Our Goodwill Alternative Program".

    "Everyone knows that it's a common business practice to overbook. Airlines do it, hotels do it, we do it because there are often no-shows. Well, we did it this time, and we overshot. So, we have a program for our elites in this situation. We're offering to put you into our "Goodwill Alternative Program". Here's the offer: ...* [Buttons to accept or not accept the offer] *NOTE: This is voluntary. You don't have to take the offer, but since this is a special program, we are unable to make another one." (Or maybe it is better to do it by phone.)

    OK, subject to much better marketing and copywriting, I suggest that this can be buffed up, and since it's already an appealing concept, would strongly tip the scale in favor of a deal.
     
  22. studio253
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    studio253 Silver Member

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    I hope that was a sarcastic joke. As a former government employee it's insulting to see something like that written. There's enough bad behavior and abuse that goes on on a daily basis that people don't need false accusations slung at them.
     

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