Marriott has once again clarified their new late checkout benefit for Gold and Platinum elite members, this time seemingly making it a real guarantee.
On Tuesday Marriott Rewards announced three new benefits similar to offerings of Starwood Preferred Guest.
- Experiential redemptions like SPG Moments
- A member concierge trial like Starwood Ambassador
- Guaranteed late checkout for Golds and Platinums
This was great news — with Marriott acquiring Starwood hotels it’s clear they need to do something to offer Starwood’s customers the kind of treatment they’ve been used to in order to retain them. These new benefits, without any simultaneous takeaways, seemed like a start.
However the devil was in the details. Marriott quickly clarified that guaranteed late checkout wasn’t guaranteed after all.
Renaissance Boca Raton
The late checkout announcement was:
The guaranteed late checkout benefit will be available to Gold and Platinum Elite members of both Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards who will enjoy a more seamless travel experience when planning their trip. These members will receive a guaranteed late checkout, which could be as late as 4pm.
I gave them the benefit of the doubt in this wording, assuming that “could be as late as 4pm” meant that the member would have the choice when to check out as late as 4pm. It turns out that’s not what it meant at all.
Instead they clarified what they were doing:
- Guaranteeing late checkout of some time to be determined by the hotel
- Late checkout won’t be later than 4pm but it may well be earlier.
There was significant blowback over this. Guaranteed late checkout is important. It’s offered by Starwood (4pm for Golds and Platinums), by Hyatt (4pm for Diamonds and 2pm for Platinums) and by Intercontinental (4pm for Royal Ambassadors). Marriott needs to accommodate its top tier members, and those it will inherit from Starwood.
But even more important the tone that Marriott sets with their members, whether they treat their members honestly and forthrightly, matters. Marriott begins with a trust deficit with frequent guests and “framing” like this damages their brand.
Marriott Boca Raton
I have to give them credit for recognizing quickly that this was a problem and doing something about it because Marriott has once again clarified the late checkout benefit.
Guaranteed Late Checkout
Gold and Platinum members may checkout as late as 4pm if they ask. This benefit is guaranteed at all participating Marriott Rewards hotels, except at resort and convention hotels, where it is based upon availability. Marriott Vacation Club is excluded. Guaranteed late checkout launches globally on May 16.
At Marriott Rewards properties, other than rewards and convention properties (which are similarly excluded by Hyatt and Starwood), the benefit no longer appears to be at the discretion of the hotel. So it’s a real guarantee. That’s great for members. And the whole episode, hopefully resolved over a period of just three days, can hopefully serve as a lesson going forward: how you communicate with members — candidly and forthrightly — is as important or even more important than the benefits you deliver.
There will be many changes to come over the next 18 months as Marriott closes its acquisition of Starwood and eventually ends the Starwood Preferred Guest program. They can carry this simple lesson with them, as there will be many announcements to come.