Patience Over For Marriott-Starwood Integration: Lifetime Status Must Be Re-Earned Each Year?

I’ve been corresponding with readers throughout most days about their frustrations with the Marriott-Starwood integration. It’s the number one subject of reader emails. So I’ve been staying in touch with Marriott for updates on their progress.

To be fair it’s possible to make reservations at hotels, to check into hotels, and more often than not to receive status recognition on property and even points for your stays.

However there are still plenty of issues relating to some points crediting, to points transfers to miles, some incorrect account balances, and cancelled Starwood award reservations crediting back properly to accounts — to name a few.

Logging into Marriott there’s an attempt to better communicate with members about the challenges that have been faced. Marriott’s integration status page was updated on Thursday acknowledging a limited number of issues. And I received this popup in my account assuring that any data not reflected in an account isn’t lost.

Logging into my account I see an ad for all of the exciting changes coming in August. I guess it’s good that they haven’t spent time updating that when there are more important IT priorities.

I had to cancel a legacy Starwood award reservation. I called the Marriott Platinum line and was told “this system still hasn’t updated, I need to put you through to SPG.” Instead of a warm handoff, after waiting on hold for a Marriott rep I got placed on hold again in the queue for another agent.

While holding the phone message promoted ‘elite status match and points transfers between the programs’ something that’s also so three weeks ago.

After cancelling the award the agent told me that points are already back in my account, just log out and log back in and I’d see them. Yeah, not so much.

I didn’t receive a cancellation email either, and my Marriott account now says,

Unfortunately there’s an issue displaying some of your reservations. Please check back later. We apologize for any inconvenience.

This can only refer to my cancelled booking, since everything else is there. All I need is for the hotel to bill me for the stay once I’m inside the cancellation deadline.

Meanwhile, did you know that you have to requalify for lifetime status every year under the new program? An industry insider sent me this screen shot from their account:

IT is hard. No IT project ever has come in early or under budget. Things take longer than you think they will even accounting fro the fact that you know they’ll take longer than you think they will. However Marriott chose the date. August 18th. It was self-imposed.

It’s now been two and a half weeks. It’s past Labor Day. People are back at work, business travelers are about to start getting back on the road. The reasonable amount of patience that members have given has pretty well been exhausted.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Hpe you’re kidding that one has to requalify every yr for Lifetime status. Marriott is a basket case right now. Hotels aren’t even answering the phone.

  2. “IT is hard. No IT project ever has come in early or under budget.”
    That’s like saying no one ever cooks breakfast perfectly, so let’s just expect mediocrity and be happy with that.

    There are plenty of companies that manage to do technology well. And plenty of IT projects manage to complete on-time or earlier, and under budget. Just a matter of spending adequate resources correctly.

  3. It goes beyond the IT, though. The T&Cs are still a disaster as well. What does Marriott mean by you can only earn bonus EQNs once for Rewarding Events? Once a year, once a month?

    Of course, a large variety of different IT issues continue to plague members. One only has to look at the Marriott Rewards Insiders community to see how frustrated Marriott’s most loyal members are.

  4. agree with Oleg. I represent an IT consulting firm – if we were over budget/timelines on every project we would not be in business 37 years later.

  5. My SPG Amex card spending rewards bonus did not post in August. The agent can see the points but cannot do anything. Total F*U*.

  6. Also to note on the transition they have my lifetime status short by two years. I called and spoke to a supervisor and there is nothing they can do because they believe the computer system calculates it correctly. I was told there is no option to fight it or have it looked into further. Completely absurd.

  7. Welcome to what the rest of us have been experiencing for quite a while. 2 hours wasted today after being on hold and then NOT reaching the department I had pressed the “key” for (everything else not making a reservation or cancelling, etc.)- EVERYTHING IS GOING TO RESERVATIONS – who cannot handle the issue(s).
    One of my issues is b/c my status is not showing correctly I missed an ug on my last stay that I would have received (checked with GM) if status had shown correctly! I have multiple upcoming stays and if this is not corrected I guess I have no choice but to cancel and book elsewhere 🙁
    Of course this is on top of losing many benefits due to policy changes, being locked out of changing award reservations, stay points not posting correctly due to status incorrect.
    Frankly I have better things to do with my time than trying to track everything I’ve lost with their “integration” (spg points not credited correctly among others)
    Shame on them

  8. “IT is hard. No IT project ever has come in early or under budget.”

    Almost right.

    Not too many people understand serious project management (as practiced since the 1960s). First, the only way to come in early and/or under budget is to either do some real innovation along the way, or stumble across some opportunity you didn’t anticipate. Both are and should be rare events. And second, anyone that says they always come in under budget and/or ahead of schedule either

    1). doesn’t know how to estimate the schedule & cost of the projects in advance (or allocates a huge slush fund of $$s and time for each project’s “risk” i.e. they also don’t know how to do real risk management), or

    2). is a serial liar.

    On the other hand, if you know how to properly estimate the schedule and budget for a project (IT or otherwise), and if everything goes according to plan (sometimes, especially if you and your team have lots of experience similar to the project), then you can come in on schedule and on budget. Even do so most of the time if you do that kind of project on a regular basis.

    For this kind of an IT project (combining different systems is harder than most projects) and with few people having lots of experience with this kind of IT project, of course you have to try to get it right before going live. I would have taken an image of all the relevant data in the two relational database systems on some random Saturday (way before August 18), and gotten all my queries developed and tested (and I mean serious testing) on that offline image – so that the combined test system worked perfectly (again, lots and lots of testing to see that there aren’t any errors). Including all the regression testing that’s normally done on the SPG/Marriott platforms when any change is put in place. Then, when Aug 18 comes around, it should be relatively straightforward – because now you’ve done this before and worked out all of the bugs… Well, easier said than done I’m sure.

  9. Welcome to the club Gary. Now, is there any way to use your clout and contacts to help all of us in the same “SPG refund not received yet” boat as you as well?

  10. Besides having one account number and combining lifetime totals, what did they do? I can see an SPG hotel on my searches. If I click it, I’m redirected to Starwoods website.

  11. Exactly, Gary, tell them if they don’t fix it, you will be on tv every night and in the USA Today and WSJ. You have more clout than you think!

  12. Wow, having to requalify for lifetime status is a gigantic insult and devaluation of lifetime status. Hopefully it’s a mistake but with how badly Marriott has devalued their program and elite status I wouldn’t be surprised if it were intended in some level and accidentally implemented wrong and ahead of time.

  13. Do they deserve a grade any higher than F at this point?
    It is the fact that this was a self imposed deadline that earns an F grade in my book. If they weren’t ready, they should have postponed until they were, instead of imposing on millions of members to be patient with them for a month or more. They spin that 90% plus is correct, but I haven’t seen one member comment that their accounts are completely correct. Maybe that’s because only the people with problems are posting comments so I want to ask if anyone reading this would say their accounts are correct right now with no need to contact Marriott to fix something?

  14. One of the most infuriating things is that there is no end in sight. They don’t even seem to actually know what is going on for pete’s sake. FUBAR website, lifetime status, points, reservations.

  15. Obviously, for Marriott, the loyalty programs are not a top priority now that they have expanded their footprint enough that people won’t seek alternatives. Not!

  16. @SE_Rob – Thankfully we’ve evolved project management a bit since the 1960s. If your idea of project management is delivering a “spec”, getting a cost/date back, and crossing fingers, that’s unlikely to be fruitful. But you can break up a project into smaller and more manageable milestones, and adjust accordingly.

    For example, one of those milestones might be getting both systems to write data into a converged the system but not actually use the new data. Then another milestone might be to compare data from the old and the new system. If results vary, log it (without telling the customer), then investigate why you screwed up the data migration and what else needs to be fixed and backfilled. Only flip the switch (start using the new system, to which you’ve been writing to for a while) once you’ve confirmed data accuracy. And this is just an example – numerous ways to break up projects.

  17. Also, if you don’t budget for unknowns/risk, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you’ve budgeted too little or chose to not adjust based on new information, that’s again a choice (which speaks about what you’re prioritizing).

  18. It’s nice to see Marriott finally admit that the only thing gained by “combining” accounts is the choice of which set of preferences survive. I’ll pass.

    I’ve had enough. Even after 97 Starriott nights this year, I’ve cancelled my future reservations and I am staying away. I cannot believe people are still booking with Marriott and putting themselves through this. Hilton and IHG are getting my business, and if I don’t like them, I’ll reevaluate returning to Marriott next year.

    I have to echo some previous comments. Gary, you are giving Marriott too much benefit. It is just unconscionable that Marriott rolled this out w/o more testing. Especially after some recent high profile merger disasters, namely UACO.

    The merging of the 3 sets of hotels into one awards chart should not have been done on the same day as the member account merging. Obvious to anyone who doesn’t work for Marriott.

    All Marriott could talk about was the savings coming from this. Well, where is your savings now?

    https://www.hotelmanagement.net/asset-management/how-marriott-plans-to-save-starwood-owners-real-money

  19. I love the comments from those trying to school everyone in how IT projects work. Whatever. IT sucks. Nothing is reliable. And it’s never “user” friendly. Get over yourselves. No one cares what “you” would do.

  20. I accepted a Hilton status match. No Starwood/Marriott stays since a July. I’ll be back when they sort it all out.

  21. But at least the Book of Mormon is now in all former Starwood hotels (other than W, Moxy, and Design hotels), right? #priorities

  22. Booked a Hilton stay and a La Quinta stay. I’m platinum premier, but I couldn’t take it anymore on hold, and my reservations don’t even show up on my account. Thank God for AwardWallet because it had saved all of my previously booked reservations !
    Melvin

  23. System not transferring anything over 60k to CX, so unable to get the 25% bonus. Transferred the points anyway to GTFO of this broken rewards system 5 days ago. No record of transfer showing up in my Marriott account to prove the transfer. Nothing in the airline account. Just sock drawered my Ritz carlton card and my Marriott biz rewards. Will not be renewing obviously. Sticking with Hilton and IHG.

  24. Patience is a virtue yet each day is a strange occurrence. For example, I checked into a Starwood brand hotel yesterday and expected that my SPG Amex would be on file for payment. Surprise! Instead my Ritz Carlton card which I used excessively for Marriott and Ritz stays was automatically applied without my consent. I am sure Amex would be interested in this development since it seems that linking SPG and Marriott accounts means that Chase branded cards supersede Amex.

  25. I have had two stays at an SPG property, since the integration. The reservations were successful, I received upgrades and the points properly credited to my account.

  26. Thanks for keeping it real and posting about the real story here. Marriott should be seriously taken to task over this and boycotted as much as possible. Hopefully other bloggers will write similar articles and voice their frustrations.

    It’s 2018, this stuff shouldn’t be that hard. They’ve done everything wrong and it’s laughable lol. Seriously comedy of errors. But don’t worry, they tell us all is not lost lol. I lmaol when I saw that message.

  27. @Rob, you are right that (almost?) only readers were commenting who had or still have problems with their account.
    It took a while, but all my information has been correct now for quite a few days. With my account there was only one problem for a while … that was listing all upcoming reservations. They promised that upcoming reservations would be combined instantly after combining accounts. Well, put it in the other column … the one with stuff to be combined within 72 hours or so … and it’s almost correct.
    I think it was a bit less than a week after combining my accounts that I found all my upcoming reservations listed. But since then? Everything working … for me. So there is no 100% fail 😉

  28. Hey Rob, I am also (like Ralfinho) one of the lucky few whose MR account is basically correct. My remaining odd 141 Starwood points became 423 MR points as soon as I “combined” accounts, which I agree should not have been necessary after “linking” 2 years ago. Also, I had a one-night stay at a Courtyard on Aug. 30, for which my points and night credit have posted. The only small glitch is that the stay itself is not listed on my account activity.
    I have 32 night credits in 2018 incl. rollover from 2017. I have been updated from Old Silver to New Gold. To my happy surprise I’m marked as LT Gold! Possibly because my history of years with 25–49 night credits counts toward the 7-year requirement 🙂 !

  29. On time and/or on budget are irrelevant; the issue is a terrible execution and obviously little to no testing before deployment. I’ve been an IT consultant for 20 years and been on my share of problem implementations, most of which were could have been prevented with a little more dilegence.

    Sticking with Hyatt until this mess is resolved

  30. I called Marriott to ask if it was correct that Lifetime Platinum Premiers would no longer receive United Gold status (the new conditions on the website indicate Silver, which is a clear downgrade). They stuck me on hold until I was cut off. I wrote to ask the same question (and to complain about being put on hold forever after asking an agent a question, and then being cut off) and they never replied. That was over a week ago. Not cool.

  31. I wonder how/if my Amex SPG points will make it to the new combined account which is now under a different (Marriott) number and doesn’t match what Amex is showing.

    Such a mess — good luck to everyone!

  32. This week, my wife and I received mailers with our “new member number” for the combined Marriott/SPG accounts. The only problem–IT DOES NOT MATCH OUR OLD NUMBERS FROM EITHER ACCOUNT OR THE NEW NUMBERS THAT THE COMPUTER ASSIGNED TO US WHEN THE ACCOUNTS WERE COMBINED! The new numbers on the mailers do not seem to match up to anything. The new computer generated member numbers do seem to work, but with the glitches everyone else is reporting. Also, if you look online at our new combined accounts, our member numbers are the new computer generated numbers, not the ones on the fancy mailers.

    By the way, I own a computer networking company and years ago was the lead programmer/analyst on a project far larger than this project (and for a company far larger as well). It went smoothly because we not only planned for it and managed changes, but also because we had a separate test system that would receive the updates first and then would go live later. Marriott/SPG should have had real beta users testing the new system for months before trying to roll out the live one.

  33. Had 3 Starwood rooms booked and paid for the weeknd of the disaster (i.e., the merge). Total bill about $5,000. So far 1 room posted (not mine) and no one knows when the rest will post.

    Just reserved rooms at Park Hyatt’s in Beijing, and Shanghai

  34. @Rob. No problem with my account but that may be because I was on vacation between July 25 and August 25. On Aug 25, I made a reservation for a three night stay in Seattle that I just completed today. No problem with reservation and usual upgrade upon arrival at hotel on 9/2. Points don’t usually credit immediately so don’t know about that.

  35. @DaveS – I did a points transfer for 240k on Saturday and it posted the next day. I did another 240k transfer on Sunday and it is now Wed and NADA. All the flights I wanted are now gone. I’m so annoyed!

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