How To Avoid The Wait When Calling Marriott Or SPG

Filed Under: Marriott, Starwood Preferred Guest

Marriott and Starwood’s loyalty programs were combined nearly two weeks ago, and there are still lots of problems. On the plus side, I appreciate that at least now acknowledges some of the issues, while previously they made it sound like everything was great.

While I’m not usually someone who has much of a need to call Starwood (I either self service my reservations online or email my awesome ambassador), there have been some issues that have required calling in.

If you’ve tried to reach Marriott Rewards/Starwood Preferred Guest customer service, chances are that you’ve encountered really long hold times. I called the Platinum line today and waited for 30 minutes before hanging up.

I hung up because I realized that I was stupid for even waiting on hold, when there’s a much better method to get through to a call center agent.

The way to quickly get through to Marriott customer service

This is advice we often give regardless of the airline or hotel, though it’s a point that’s worth reiterating given the particular situation.

US customer service phone numbers for US airlines and predominantly US hotel chains seem to have consistently long hold times, even if you’re calling one of the elite customer service numbers.

Generally the way to get through much faster is to instead call one of the foreign customer service numbers. Non-US numbers almost always have shorter hold times than US numbers, and typically there are also English speaking agents at those call centers.

So in my particular case, after waiting on hold for 30 minutes I hung up and called the SPG Platinum phone number in Ireland, and someone picked up right away. I felt so dumb for wasting 30 minutes on hold. You can find the global contact center numbers for Marriott and Starwood here. The elite numbers can be found on the back of your elite cards.

While on the call I asked about having the points redeposited for an award I had canceled over a week ago, which seems to be a common problem. I figured an agent would be able to manually do that, since the points aren’t going back automatically. Nope. The agent informed me that unfortunately that isn’t even possible. I find it ridiculous that Marriott is taking so long to deposit points back, and hasn’t provided a timeline for when this will be fixed.

Be nice to frontline Marriott & Starwood employees

If you’re frustrated with the hold times or with the lack of help that frontline employees can provide (which I sure as heck am), please don’t blame them. Several frontline employees have shared the completely inadequate training they’ve received during the transition, and also how little they can do in many situations.

So I’ve gone out of my way to thank them for working hard during this transition, and noting that I imagine it’s much tougher on them than on me. I highly recommend doing the same — don’t be mad at the person who is doing their best to help, and who is probably more frustrated than you are.

Bottom line

In general it’s always a good idea to call a foreign call center to minimize hold times, and this is especially useful with Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest right now. So rather than waiting on hold, I suggest calling one of the other global contact centers to get help with whatever you may need. Though unfortunately the reality is that they may not be able to do all that much for you right now.

What has been your experience with Marriott & Starwood hold times since the merger?

  1. i call the malaysia center, hold time is less than 5minutes everytime. agents are great on most tasks but sometimes not as spot on as the us agents.

  2. I never keep the physical SPG card. I usually use the iPhone app but I only see US numbers there. How can I find the Plat numbers for different countries if I don’t have my physical card?

  3. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) online and via phone to book a points res. They’re in rather bad shape. Web doesn’t get to end of job, and often agents can’t figure it out. Or I get put on hold while they check something and no one comes back. Best to wait a bit for this transaction.

  4. I’ve called twice in the past 2 weeks, both times I regretted the investment of time and got no resolution.

  5. Complete waste of time if seeking answers/resolution for the things wrong with the account. They don’t answer emails submitted online ( 10 days, still no reply); while the international contact centres might answer the ‘phone more quickly, they’re no better able to resolve/expedite, even explain issues ( I got through easily enough but my question had to be referred to the team dealing with integration….but they weren’t answering the phone, even for the SPG staff member. “No problem, I’ll log the issue and they’ll call you back” ( 4 days, no return call, I’m not holding my breath).

  6. Points missing after I was searching for a point stay at a Westin (didn’t actually finalize booking but somehow the points have vanished. No reservation and no activity in my account. Tried twice to call and hung up after 30 minutes of hold time. Extreme irritation.

  7. The only thing you are saving is the hold time – the agents still cannot do anything when you get thru. Total.Mess.
    IT issues are understandable but the communication FU is not. Its not the fault of the agents either, MRR Corp are to blame.

  8. Call the spg 800 number, not marriott. Realized yesterday I didn’t get the 5th night free on a 3 week old sheraton rez. Marriot number didn’t help…and eventually hung up on transfer. Called the spg 800 number….not fast but fixed in 10 minutes. Platinum.

  9. Waited on hold for 30 minutes earlier this week. The line went dead. I was so frustrated – this must be fixed. Marriott and SPG we know you can do better. Hope this gets resolved soon.

  10. I called late at night thinking I’d have a better chance, silly me. I gave up after 45 min. because I wanted to go to sleep.

  11. @ Lucky – have you been able to get a definitive answer on when $300 credit starts for upgraded cards – upon upgrading / after prorated annual fee is charged / when first full annual fee is charged?

    FWIW, upgraded immediately but no card yet.

  12. Day 14 and my 1.1 MILLION starpoints are missing from my account. Was supposed to convert to 3.3 million Marriott points and when I logged into my account my balance is at zero. 6 phone calls, 3 emails, and 4 supervisors later and I’m absolutely nowhere with them

  13. I can say I have never had to call another country or wait on hold for a long time to contact Hilton. And I am only Hilton Gold.

    Sounds like a great workaround calling Europe, but maybe the root cause is the loyalty program?

  14. The whole thing is completely ridiculous and heads ought to be rolling among whatever managers planned this out, though it still doesn’t sound like Marriott thinks anything is wrong. My points total and annual nights now seem to change randomly every couple of days (with little to no tie to what’s listed in “my activity”) but are still missing lots of things that are supposed to be there. At least I can track how many nights I ought to have this year but they could easily end up shorting me on points balance and it would be hard for me to even keep track of what I’m supposed to have.

  15. (For example, easy step #1: why wasn’t the change to people’s SPG account numbers handled separately months ago? Every airline loyalty program merger carefully paced out changes like that and had few to no issues in the process.)

  16. Ya know, I covered banks as a stock analyst 20 yrs ago when NationsBank (now BofA) and First Union and Bank One were acquiring comparably sized banks every 2 years and gobbling them down faster than you could keep up. The “systems integration” part of the mergers was always the one that took the longest to fully integrate, sometimes a year, sometimes 18 months. And from the customer perspective, there was never any big announcement of outages or the banks asking for time to work through errors in your account. It all happened gradually and behind the scenes to the point where as a customer we had no idea such a thing was occurring, nor did we care because nothing was showing up wrong in the account. That was with far more voluminous financial data and with 20 year old technology.

    In 2018, for it to go this poorly for Marriott means many many people need to be fired and they essentially need a wholesale review of their technology strategy. Perhaps it is something they just do not have the expertise to do well and need to consider outsourcing their back office or hiring a completely new management to rip it down and rebuild the department.

  17. I had the same problem waiting for Marriott customer service. Finally transferred to Marriott Rewards and waited again. Person then did quickly credited me my Marriott points for another reservation I had cancelled.

    I am still not seeing my accurate rewards points on my Marriott account or seeing my recent stays.

    Marriott is disappointing me compared to SPG when it comes to benefits of Platinum level membership. So much harder to accrue sufficIent points under Marriott for free hotel nights.

  18. So I had roughly 7k SPG points after using most for air + hotel packages. When I combined my accounts they combined at a 1:1 ratio. Shouldn’t it had equaled 21k MR?

  19. Has anyone qualified for ambassador post merger? I did about a week ago, and still haven’t had one contact me.

  20. For anyone with missing points, try logging in with your SPG number, not with your email. It took me a week to realize I was logging in to the Marriott side when using my email, and not the SPG side, which showed 0 nights and 0 points (because I never stayed at Marriott). When I used my SPG number to log in, it took me to my SPG account, and everything showed up as normal, with 22 nights and all my points.

  21. Before I call Marriott or other businesses, I get myself ready. Put ice cubes in a glass and add water. Put fruit or snack on napkin. Check time. Do not call during lunch time or end of day. Call in morning or early afternoon. Check calendar. Get out work, hobby and second phone.
    Call Marriott and put on speaker phone. Record date, time and number in book. I am busy. I don’t wait because I let the phone wait. When the person answers, I record their name and time.
    Also use at bottom of Marriott page. E-mail form page. Received information in 24 hours.

  22. SO…I have called now several times. I’ve lost count. I haven’t really waited on hold that long. I have called the spg my st regis maldives trip that I booked before the merger. After the merger, it comes out that I paid 1 million marriott points when I really only shoudl have to pay 340,000. Thus, I’ld like my 740,00 back! Each time I called, I’ve been told…call back, still working….systems not working….can’t do anything, etc. Called JUST this morning today and the agent told me that because everyone has complained and wants there points back…that now Marriott will be refunding everyone when they check into whatever property it is that they overpaid in points for at the time of check in. For me, that means I have to wait 5 months for my points! I asked if there was a way for them to do it manually and she said no. She also told me there was a supervisor there and she would check with her, put me on hold, and came back and told me, that yes, this was the new way it will be. I had a hard time believing this and asked her if this was new, and she said yes, this is what she has been told. I haven’t read about this anywhere. Do you know anything about it? Has anyone else been told the same story?

  23. Thanks for the tip! Needed to call today for a free night certificate booking at an SPG property (not possible online yet). Called US number and stupidly stayed on hold as automated system quoted a “greater than 5 minute hold time”, which I took to mean 5 to 10 minutes. After 27 minutes I hung up and called Singapore where they answered instantly and booked reservation.

  24. As a lifetime Platinum, Among my favorite features of the former SPG program was the speed and efficiency of the platinum desk phone representatives. I fear that experience is Not going to be replicated with Marriott based upon my experiences the past few months.

    My current greatest frustration is with regard to a Marriott points reservation made in February this year for a stay to take place in October. At the time I made the reservation, the cost was 150,000. Points. I transferred 50,000 SPG points to cover the stay certificate. I then noted on my reservation that these points could be applied anytime prior to the stay and that if the certificate had not been requested by the week before the stay it would automatically be deducted. Nowhere in ANY Marriott communication nor on my reservation itself was there any statement that the Marriott points had to be deducted and the certificate ordered BEFORE the August 18th merger. (I in fact re-checked this the week of August 10th and decided I would therefore request the certificate after my SPG
    Points and Marriott points were combined). When I checked my reservation on August 19th, I discovered that this same reservation is now showing 200,000. Points for the certificate! I called Marriott to explain my situation.I told them that I was prepared to transfer the required points at anytime but I had no way of knowing I should do this before Aug 18th for an October stay and therefore requested that my redemption rate match the rate at which I booked. I have yet
    To receive any answer despite a follow-up email on 8-29. To add insult to injury,
    I was perplexed that I was unable to retrieve the original confirmation from my personal confirmation file on my computer and was informed that the Marriott
    “System” had unilaterally retrieved and removed old confirmations with differing point redemptions. Does anyone else feel that this is a bit “Big Brother” of them?

  25. Biggest fubar IT merger ever. When AA/US merged – they pulled off pretty seamless tech merger. Very little customer impact. Promoted CIO to EVP because of way handled. She obviously hired or had the right people/tech companies helping make
    It happen. Called today to use my “suite upgrades” and as much as I wanted to heed Lucky’s advice to “be nice” being told I don’t understand what i selected when I was reading the confirmation email to the rep, he wanted to read me his internal
    communication on the topic. I was tempted to give him Lucky’s blog for better source of info. Total idiot. Got supv and she said the same – total idiot – anyone could see I was trying to claim/use the “suits award” and this guy kept telling me it was only 5 addtl night toward next level. I am LTPPE so 5 more “nights” not my need. Then me and the supv got the same error when trying to process suite upgrades “system error”. Like I said total fubar.

  26. Jamie, You were lucky. I have a free night from Marriott’s credit card which shows up on Marriott’s computer, but no one can book a room for me. I tried both the reservation agent and the loyalty reward agent (yes, waited about 20 minutes each for both). However, my trip is not until October, I still have some time. I reserved it under hold-for-points, so at least I know I will not lose my room. I asked them to convert it at first, when they couldn’t do that, I asked them to book it directly and I will cancel my “hold” reservation. They could not do anything to book a room using my free night.

  27. You understand don’t you that when you call the UK number you are being charged a premium rate which is usually included in UK residents telephone packages?

  28. Hi Ben, isn’t there a fee to call foreign numbers, whether it be on a cell, landline or voip call. Am I missing something? Is there a way to call the foreign numbers without having to pay a fee? Am I mssing something here?

  29. Yes, Unfortunately, Marriott is experiencing IT problems.
    However, after traveling Europe this summer and staying at beautiful marriott/SPG properties and 2 Hilton’s
    I definitely see the difference between Marriott/SPG and Hilton.
    Appreciate my Lifetime Platinum status and everything Marriott/SPG offered me and my family.

  30. I have platinum life status (1400 paid nights). The status position is now meaningless to their management. Calling them is the equivalent of enduring a hang-over without drinking (I should say I do not drink very much).

    To say that the integration process has gone poorly for the customer is an understatement, compounded to the 12th power.

    Since they announced the program’s pending integration in the spring, Marriott’s has been on a crash spiral. I am surprised that equity analysts have not picked up on the problem in relation to profitability

    I have been trying to resolve a problem for two months. I have called the corp office in Bethesda. The folks receiving my calls understand the scope of the problem. I mentioned once that Arnie or Willard should call, email, text or smoke signal their customer agents and line managers to be answered and subsequently have problems solved. The spokesperson told me that even management cannot get through. For those with issues, my advice is to hope that there is no need for a call in the next 7-8 months.

  31. I was on the phone for over an hour the other night trying to get a certificate back in my account after cancelling a reservation. I felt bad for the multiple agents I had to deal with but was still annoyed. Marriott should give us 3,000 points for every 10 minutes we’re on hold with a legit issue.

  32. Total embarrassement by Marriott. To appease Wall St, he bite off way too much. But who suffers? Not him. Only his customers.

    But management has a back door to blame it on the very large consultant companies who are managing this, just like the big companies blamed their very large auditors before.

    It doesn’t matter your status or if you have an Ambassador, we have a huge amount of points not returned to our account. Our Ambassador says merge your account and all will be fixed. Yet we read on other knowledgeable blogs that combining accounts, member have lost alot more.

    So we wait and wait. Hoping Marriott will realize their disaster and begin fixing what’s broken.

    I have a comparison. I lived in Hong Kong when they moved from the old downtown airport to the new one outside, Overnite! From a Sunday nite to a Monday morning. It was unimaginable at the time, 1997. They did it and they did it well! I have not seen large companies do so. That’s a great case study to learn and implement.

    Oh well, for now we wait for the big American companies to collect themselves.


  33. When it was SPG, I never had to wait longer than 2 minutes. It’s so efficient. But these days, I’d be lucky to talk to someone after 20 minutes. And I just realized that purchasing points will only be credited after 24-48 hrs! It was instantaneous before. I hate to leave SPG. But I guess that it’s Marriott now. Logically, the merger should take the best of both worlds. But I gues it’s not like that with Marriott. I still hope that these are just teething problems.

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