Marriott has become a toxic brand, needlessly alienating loyal elite members by not holding its franchises accountable, resulting in wildly different treatment for guests depending upon where you stay. This is the opposite of how loyalty should work. When the word “Bonvoy” has become a derogatory verb, you know you have a problem.
Marriott Alienates Loyal Elite Members
The value proposition of loyalty is simple: look beyond the transaction to a pattern of practice. A road warrior who spends 100+ nights on the road each year in Marriott hotels is more valuable to the Marriott brand than a leisure traveler who pays more for a room, but only for five nights.
Loyalty programs have spurred innovation and immense profits, but also mechanisms of accountability. Yet as Marriott has continued to grow, it has given far too much leeway to its franchises to run roughshod over not only reasonable customer expectations, but the very benefits it promises to offer in exchange for membership in the Marriott family.
- Credit card surcharges
- Bait-and-switch upgrades
- A steep devaluation of breakfast benefits
- Late-checkout games
And while Marriott is not alone in failing to hold its franchises accountable, it does have the largest footprint and is the most egregious violator.
At the end of 2019, Marriott worldwide portfolio consisted of:
- 7,300+ properties
- 1.38 million rooms
- Operations in 134 countries and territories
Marriott talks a great game about brand consistency and will reach out when there are egregious issues (like credit card surcharges at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort), but doesn’t stop the Aegon Mykonos from selling suites in a wing of the hotel that is closed.
I wonder if the portfolio is too big meaningfully exercise control over its members?
Nope. I think we give Marriott far too much plausible deniability that it has no control over its rogue properties. It’s very simple, really: you play by Marriott rules or you are out.
If it were only that simple…
The Sad Reality: This Will Continue
I wish that was all – just a charge to Marriott to hold its franchises accountable and don’t think so short-sightedly about elite members.
But the sad reality is two-fold:
- Hotels are full
- Hotels can and will continue to get away with a whittling away of elite benefits
Being consistently inconsistent is nothing to boast about. But Marriott serves not only its guests, but its larger and more lucrative clients: those who pay to use its name. Don’t underestimate the length Marriott will go to continue its growth and maintain its market share.
Most travelers will just shut up and say nothing and that becomes a tool to perpetuate the status quo.
You can do your part in holding Marriott accountable by speaking up, not rolling over, when hotels staring engaging in funny business and particularly when they decline to honor published elite benefits.
As more and more people rip up their Bonvoy credit cards, perhaps the only entity that can actually hold Marriott accountable is American Express.
But this all seems so needless to me. If you confirm an upgrade, honor the upgrade. If suites are available, do not lie and say they are not. Breakfast is not a cup of coffee and bagel. 2:00pm checkout really means 2:00pm checkout.
Is that too much to ask for, especially when the majority of Marriott hotels do it so well?