Marriott Hotel Making Up Room Categories To Block Points Redemptions?

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

Oh Marriott Bonvoy, why does this have to be the program where the most gamification nowadays is happening on the part of hotels, rather than members?

Marriott’s Blackout Date Policy

With the introduction of the Marriott Bonvoy program, Marriott has a pretty lousy blackout date policy, at least in comparison to the old Starwood Preferred Guest program. Marriott advertises “no blackout dates,” though the definition of that varies by brand:

  • Legacy Starwood hotels (those that used to have SPG as their loyalty program) are supposed to have no blackout dates, meaning that every single available standard room is bookable with points
  • Legacy Marriott hotels (those that used to have Marriott Rewards as their loyalty program) are supposed to have no blackout dates in the sense that they need to have some standard rooms available on points every night, but on a select number of dates they can just make a subset of standard rooms available with points (in other words, they could block half of standard rooms if they wanted, as long as they make some standard rooms available with points)

Luxury Collection is a former Starwood brand, meaning that every standard room at a Luxury Collection property should be bookable with points. Lots of hotels play games with inventory, though one particular hotel is playing games in a way I haven’t ever seen before.

Las Alcobas & The Mysterious “Standard” Room

Las Alcobas in Napa Valley is a hotel that has been on my radar for quite a while, and which I’ve been trying to plan a getaway to using points. However, looking at availability over the next several weeks I see very little points availability, yet a vast majority of nights have availability for “1 King Bed, Room.”

That’s a standard room if I’ve ever heard of one, no? It doesn’t get more standard than a room that is just described as the bed type.

So then I looked at the few dates in the next several weeks that actually have points availability, and I noticed something peculiar. It appears that one of two room types needs to be available in order to redeem points. You need a room that’s described as one of the following:

  • Deluxe Estate View, Guest room, 1 King, Beringer Estate view, Garden view
  • Superior Guest Room, Guest room, 1 King

Sorry, ummm, what? Then I flipped back to cash rates for the same dates, and they showed six different room types for sale. But guess what? None of them matched the room types shown with points.

I figured this was a one-off, so looked up some other dates as well. Nope, this is consistently the case. The Las Alcobas room types that are bookable with points aren’t actually bookable with cash, and vice versa.

Can a room really be considered “standard” if you can’t pay cash for it?

What’s Really Going On Here?

What’s really going on here? Does Las Alcobas really have some rooms that are exclusively bookable with points, and not cash? When I looked at the listing of room types, I noticed that the two types of rooms bookable with points are in fact listed as room types, yet rather mysteriously the “1 King Bed Room” that they sell for cash isn’t listed.

I wouldn’t put too much weight on it, but when you look at the pictures of all three room types, the same picture is used. Also when you click on that room type for the “1 King Bed, Room,” you’ll see that it lists “Deluxe King Estate View” as the full name of the room type, which… exactly matches the award room type.

I called the hotel and asked them about the difference between the room types, and they didn’t have a good explanation of what the “1 King Bed” room was, and just explained it could face the estate or garden.

Essentially what the hotel seems to be doing is selling their “general” type of standard room for cash, and then those redeeming points book the same room that’s described differently. From the hotel’s perspective this gives them full control over whether or not to open up awards.

Sure, they’ll let you pay cash for a “Deluxe King Estate View.” But you want to redeem points for a “Deluxe Estate View 1 King?” Sorry, we have no standard rooms available!

Bottom Line

It makes me sad how many games hotels are playing with the Marriott Bonvoy program. Marriott has some great properties globally, and they’re huge, so it would be so easy just to be loyal with them. But it’s also incredibly frustrating when hotels play games all too often, and nothing is done about it.

In the case of Las Alcobas they’re only letting you redeem points for a room type that doesn’t exist when paying cash. Can that really be considered a “standard” room by any definition?

Comments
  1. Wow, this is so shady! I hope you bring it to Marriott Corporate’s attention, assuming it’s a property specific one-off issue and not company wide.

  2. They play games because we play games. It’s all really just a game, isn’t it?

    Hotels love to offer 100,000 points, or even 150,000 points, just for taking out a credit card. But when it is time to use those points, well, it’s frustrating.

    Maybe lower your valuations for hotel points?

  3. I guess that’s the retribution for what we miles & points junkies are doing.
    I bet it would be interesting to see a discussion panel of hotel owners.

  4. LOL, You have been Bonvoyed.

    It’s funny but possible that properties are gaming the system too. Normally it’s the opposite where the generic 1br is for points or one cash price and the sub set city view, beach, garden, etc view, high floor, low floor, near elevator for multiple cash price. (And low status points would get you the worse room).
    This reminds me of some places that have 10 different ‘standard’ room half with the same description but different price.

  5. Please address this with corporate since you have done all the homework. Also, it would be interesting if you called and tried to book a room with points? Give that a shot just to take this a step further.

  6. Can we just start compiling a list of the hotels that do this? Like that, I can add them to my “NEVER BOOK THERE” LIST

    As much as I love the St. Regis brand, they are also doing stuff like this regularly, and it is starting to get tiresome.

  7. @Tom It’s all a game, sure. And posting this piece about their latest sleazy stunt is Ben (Lucky) ((Ben)) {[(Lucky)]} saying “I’ll see ya your unbookable Standard Room and I’ll raise ya my audience”. Hey Punk Hotelier! Can you say “Influencer”?

    “Game” On.

  8. “Legacy Marriott hotels .. can just make a subset of standard rooms available with points (in other words, they could block half of standard rooms if they wanted, as long as they make some standard rooms available with points)”

    They can only do this on a limited number of “high demand dates” (10 per year though they can petition for up to 60, the ability to do so is supposed to be going away for 2020).

    Most hotels have to offer up at least 30% of their rooms in the standard category, although hotels that are all suite, all villa, or all ‘club’ don’t have this same minimum requirement.

    See https://viewfromthewing.com/how-marriott-award-availability-restrictions-actually-work/

    It looks to me like Las Alcobas – even if it were a legacy Marriott property – would be violating Bonvoy rules. Please flag this for corporate.

  9. Don’t waste your points @Lucky- this is an over rated property with exorbitantly high rates given the overall experience. Yes the location is central to popular wine country spots, but not worth the premium they charge. This could also be said for my of the properties in the area- little competition = high rates.

  10. Looks like hotel point redemption games are much worse than what airlines do with their award availability/pricing.

    Speaking of pricing, 140,000 Marriott points = 56,000 Alaska miles. A business class ticket from East Coast to Sydney on combination of AS/QF, with a stopover in San Francisco or Melbourne, would be worth a lot more to me than the $600 room rate.

  11. Most hotel companies are crooked but Marriott has historically been the most greedy and the most criminal of them all.One lawsuit at a time or more
    Let the buyer/guest beware.No way am I ever going to make them my main go to program
    I’ve been Bonvoyed by their horrible customer service and corrupt properties (not all of them)
    a few to many times

  12. To be fair, this has happened before way back before the merge and it’s the property’s shady move, not the corporate. I’ve encountered this kind of situations several times before. On the bright side though, calling the SPG customer representatives helped and I was able to booked by points each time. Not sure if you can do the same with Marriott customer service.

  13. Marriott definitely playing this game. And they know it, as I’ve spoken to Ambassador supervisors about it, and explained they’re even operating outside their program’s terms

    They take rooms used a lot, and call them something else so they don’t appear on points, even though they appear for cash.

    Most blatant example is the Aloft Gainesville, where standard 2 Queen rooms were not available on points, but are available on cash… and only King rooms are available on points. Per their terms, standard queen rooms are no blackout. But the hotel refused to make them available even after I raised with Ambassador service

    Also had it happen in Costa Rica at the Autograph resort where my SNA upgrade to a “One bedroom suite”, while you all would think would imply a suite with one bedroom, actually just meant a big room with no separation between the bed and the rest of the room.

    Definitely happening in multiple other examples I’ve seen when trying to book places next summer in Europe.

  14. Transfer you points to an airline and be done with them. “Fake” Hilton Diamond status with the Aspire and Platinum Ambassador IHG status for a few hundred bucks are worth a lot more than Marriott status , especially overseas.
    Check Club 1 Hotes and other 3rd party sites and pay lower rates.

  15. This is the very reason Bonvoyed is still an accurate description the merger.

    Whatever good might have come out of the merger has been destroyed by Marriott.

    I still collect points on my cc whenever no better card can be used but they are worthless! Lousy exchange to airlines but still better than some scummy room somewhere I’d rather not be.

    Sad. Starwood you are sorely missed.

  16. I was looking at booking here for next spring, but to be honest there’s so many other nice hotels in the area. Manipulating the room definitions to ban points bookings leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I think I’ll book elsewhere.

  17. PLEASE flag to corporate and report back when you hear anything. This has become increasingly frustrating with many properties doing the same thing.

  18. Lucky, when you finally jump in bed with the cruise lines, you will understand.
    It’s called a guarantee.
    Don’t panic.

  19. I have noticed this exact issue with Orlando area Marriott Vacation Club properties. I booked a premium room point redemption stay prior to the peak/off peak pricing set in. After the peak/off peak pricing took effect I became curious to check availability and point cost. The hotel I previously booked was not available for point stays. I received an error message saying no point redemptions were available and to “please book a stay using cash”.

    I’m lifetime platinum with Marriott. I recently started splitting my business 50/50 with Hilton and Marriott. I’ll likely switch next year to 60/40 Hilton and Hyatt. Way to ruin a brand!

  20. Why should any hotel care about points customers or even the brand as a whole? As long as sites like this and boarding area as a whole exist to teach people to game points by constantly switching cards instead of building value by using one brand one card then the hotelier has every right to game the system in the same fashion. I for one would like to see points eliminated for anything outside of basic economy on flights and super Low end hotels. Bravo to United who understand loyalty is based on spend. Upgrades for loyal spenders instead of lack of availability for points chasers.

  21. The Residence Inn Center City Philadelphia no longer accepts points at all. I think we will see this escalate.

  22. I worked hard to get SPG Lifetime Platinum before the change over and now that I have it, I find I book Marriott properties less and less. I just get so tired of all the games and nickel and diming they pull. I’ve been booking my rooms through American Express and I like it better. I can’t think of the last time I wanted to accumulate Marriott points, they seem to worth less and less.

  23. Would want to see how Marriott Corporate deals with this.

    My suggestion is for Marriott CS to tell the hotel to toe the line or deflag from Marriott.

    There is no point having a Marriott branding when not upkeeping brand standards.

  24. @Lucky – did you ever find space?

    I’m ambassador elite and have been looking at this property for quite sometime myself. I finally managed to find one night 8 months out. ONE! That night is coming up in 2 weeks and it’s at the old 60k level. I have never seen a hotel play the games the Los Alcobas does. I reported them to corporate earlier this year and hope you do too.

    This kind of stuff + the move to dynamic award pricing (which wasn’t Marriott’s representation before roll out) is pushing me to Hyatt more and more.

  25. So tired of all this. I am Lifetime Titanium and made it on nights and points as well as nights and years, but 90% of my stays were historically Marriott. They weren’t perfect but their CSRs were pretty good and always took care of me. I trusted Marriott more than I trusted any airline. Since the acquisition of SPG (and well before Bonvoy), it all fell apart. Customer Service is still terrible (even on the Titanium phone line). Having issues with both former Marriott and former SPG hotels that never happened before. So frustrating, and incredibly disappointing.

  26. Perhaps a merger or at least a strategic joint venture between American Airlines and Marriott is in order. They seem to share the same corporate philosophy towards their most loyal passengers and guests.

    I hear their new merged loyalty program might be called Bonvoyed Oasis.

  27. Unsurprising. Lifetime Titanium and it’s worth roughly nothing. My spend has moved to other brands. Absolutely heartbreaking. Executive leadership needs a huge shakeup. #noisearoundtheedges

    Also, can’t wait for the lobbyists to convince our very dedicated congresswomen and men that resort fees are, in fact, in our best interest as consumers!!

  28. There is only one decent hotel point system it is the Hyatt one. If I can avoid any properties in Europe with the Bonvoy brand I try all I can do do so. Except for a few Ritz Carlton that I love. Btw Marriott Bonvoy life status is not recognized at Ritz hotels. That was confirmed to me at checkin

  29. I’m finding the inconsistent breakfast benefit very annoying. Just left Milan, where we ended up staying at the Hilton, and were pleased with the lounge and location. I had called the Marriott loyalty desk before we left and was so frustrated with how many hotels didn’t even offer breakfast for platinums in Milan. The Moxy at VIE provided a little more than half the cost as a benefit for what it cost to buy their breakfast. The other marriotts we’ve looked at in northern Italy are pretty cheap in point cost, but not well located. Writing this, from hotel with perfect location in old city immediately next to Roman arena in Verona (recommended by Rick Steves and Michelin. Elaborate breakfast included, no “status” needed). In a way, a useful experience learning more about how erratic Marriott can be since it helped me definitely make my decision not to try to requalify for platinum for next year( which I only have by virtue of the old Ritz Carlton card).

  30. Ben – please go behind the curtain on this issue… what does Marriott ‘pay’ the hotel property for an award room? Is there only one payment amount or are there multiple categories of award payments and might that lead to this crazy new award pricing scheme? Thnx.

  31. Stayed there when we still used spg points ! Thy required more points than the standard room even though standard rooms were available . Got a nice upgrade though .

  32. I just went on the Las Alcobas site and found a weekend room available in a couple of months. Its allot of points but its also a pricey property to pay cash. Other great alternatives are either the Westin Verasa which is walking distance to downtown Napa and an easy drive to 100’s of wineries, the Napa Marriott or the The Lodge at Sonora Renaissance Resort & Spa in Sonoma. All great bases for wine country. Also the Hotel Trio in Healdsburg is somewhat more reasonable and is at the entrance to the Alexander Valley ( and Dry Greek area) and Healdsburg is a fun place with lots of restaurant choices. When visiting wine country, spending time in your hotel room is probably the least important activity. Generally after breakfast, its off to some wineries with lunch someplace in there, and then back to the hotel to rest up before a long dinner. I have never really had a problem with getting a Marriott room with at least a little advance planning. But I liked the old SPG better

  33. I would want to see how Marriott Corporate deals with this.

    My suggestion is for Marriott CS to tell the hotel to toe the line or defrag from Marriott.

    There is no point in having a Marriott branding when not upkeeping brand standards.

  34. The hotel we are staying at in Hawaii (Waikaloa Beach Marriott Resort) lists its rooms that are slightly bigger and closer to the beach (Ne Hale wing) as suites even though half of them are not, in fact, in any way, suites. But they don’t want to upgrade anyone to them so they list them as suites. I booked a room and then was surprised they called it a suite when the pictures clearly show a standard room and the only way to “see” the difference is that it lists a slightly larger square footage and it is in this wing nearer to the water. WTF Marriott?

  35. I think it’s time to open a class action lawsuit to address the false advertising and other bs that they are doing. The other thing that has way more impact than consumer complaints is Corporate Travel Departments complaining on behalf of their employees who book all these night as a result of their CORP travel. We have a forum to pass along these things or airline gamification and our CORP travel teams address these things with or air and hotel providers.

  36. @Lara S.

    Reminds me of a time where I got upgrade to a junior suite. So excited, I tipped the front. Once I reach the room it was an extra sink and a separate dressing area, probably 15 sq.ft. bigger than normal. Best part, I was traveling solo, complete useless.

  37. Trying to book a sheraton in hakodate and they even have rooms called for standard and still they block redemptions. They went as far to create a so-called cozy room which is identical in dimensions to a single bed standard they normally allow redemptions on.

  38. In addition to limiting points by raising prices of the participating hotels, they are refusing to provide points to patrons when the stay Price has been negotiated and is medically necessary.

  39. Another game I’ve found that Marriott has begun to play is charging a $30 fee for an additional person when you book a two queen bed room. Why am I being charged a $30 additional person fee when the room clearly says it sleeps four. I have been a member of Marriott for years but this craziness is making me decide to go elsewhere

  40. Yes, it is a sad departure from Starwood days. I purchased timeshares based on the representations made about no blackout dates for using points and the ability to transfer timeshare weeks to points. Now Marriott has devalued the points both at the point of exchange from the time share and also at the time of use. Basically a fraudulent securities transaction.

  41. I can’t find where it says in the Bonvoy rules that a hotel needs to make every room available on points? Does it say that?

  42. As Titanium reaching Ambassador, I have 400K points. Yet I can’t use it at all for a specific hotel as the hotel does not even accept points. It’s all cash, not even mix point+cash.

    Marriott needs to look at its program and make it consistent. Else the devils lie in the details, and it’s just wasting customer’ time trying to figure out what exactly is available.

  43. I see many posts of people clamoring to “call Corporate!!!” without understanding how this whole thing works. The hotel owners are Marriott’s customers, NOT US. Marriott provides brand standards, marketing, the booking platform, and brings guests to the hotel. Remember, even Sorenson called the guests “noise” which tells you exactly how Marriott views us. They don’t care.

    You can call corporate, call an Ambassador, call the head of Marketing — they’ll listen but don’t expect anything to be done unless there’s a lawsuit involved.

  44. So you get upset when the hotels “game” the system (whis isn’t happening here, they probably have a certain number of these rooms guaranteed for a big customer or something of that nature.) But you constantly post ways to game the system and beat it for more points and free nights? Can’t have it both ways!

  45. I can’t believe how much time and energy people waste on points programs. Live your life better by getting rid of all the emotional noise fighting for points. Nothing is free. Pay cash. Have a nice time and move on to another adventure using all the extra time and energy you have by keeping the process simple.

  46. To be honest, Marriott is pricing themselves out of the middle income market. Corporate rates are higher than other chains. Well above the maximum for most corporate travel. Id have 50+ more nights in Marriott’s if they were even close to competitive …so I spend my money at Hyatt and Accor …too bad really.

  47. What’s the possibility of you creating a tab on your site labeled something to the extent of “Hotels that don’t play fair” or something? So we can all avoid spending cash there too, people could comment in the comment section if they have the same experience at another hotel that you could add to the list

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