Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Starwood Preferred Guest - Four Points LAX

Compared to airlines, hotel chains are often much more accommodating when something goes wrong. They also have many more options to help correct a situation or offer good will gestures for unavoidable events. It does help to be a member of their loyalty program (elite or not) and keep in mind that bookings made through 3rd party sites like Priceline/Hotwire will not help your cause. 

On Monday night I was looking for an inexpensive hotel to stay at near LAX before our upcoming international flight that we cannot afford to miss. With most decent airport hotels in the mid $100 per night range, I started exploring options for redeeming points. With airport hotels in Los Angeles being seemingly high in demand, many hotels required more points than I was interested in spending. After checking Hyatt, Priority Club, and Hilton, I remembered I had a very small collection of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points from a few years ago. Having just 3200 points, I would only have enough for a category 2 hotel. To my surprise, the Four Points LAX hotel was available and only 3000 points per night. Knowing I did not want to pass up this offer, I tried to book (from my iPad in bed at 11:30 at night), only to reach an error page before getting to the end of the booking. I figured it was just an iPad browser issue and gave up for the night, figuring I would book the next day. 

The next day, I was checking my favorite travel blogs for news and deals and I see the headline, "Starwood raising hotel category for Four Points LAX without any announcement or advance notice." My heart sank, realizing that my plans had just fallen apart. I thought perhaps this was just a mistake, but it was soon confirmed that the hotel made the change overnight. 

In the terms and conditions of the program, the hotels are allowed to change their rates at any time without advance notice. Having attempted to book the hotel at the advertised rate and having the booking fail, I felt this was worth an email to SPG. I did not mention that I attempted to book and failed, I just sent an email asking if it was at all possible to book at the old rate. Within a few hours I had a response. 

The agent informed me that they had spoken to the hotel and confirmed that the rate had in fact gone up, and they would not be able to book the room at the 3000 point value. However, as a gesture of good will, they would credit me with enough points to make the new booking at the 7000 point cost. After about 30 minutes chatting with a customer service representative, they were able to make me a tentative booking while I wait for the points to post and my plans were saved.

I have definitely had experiences with hotels that resulted in less desirable outcomes, but I think its important that you keep in mind, it does not hurt to ask (unless you are a "Diamond Guest" who needs a suite for your Giraffe). If you really feel you have been wronged and don't feel that you are getting anywhere with customer service, I would recommend reaching out through social media channels (Twitter/Facebook). They often have a stronger incentive to offer a solution.

In the end, it is up to you as to what you feel is worth asking/complaining about.      

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