A reader shared with me an interesting message he received from “SPG Member Account Integrity,” which I figured was worth passing on, since I’ve never heard of something like this before.
New hotels are notorious for having delayed openings
I don’t know how it’s possible that this is consistently the case, but hotels seem to almost never open on time. They’ll start selling rooms, and then they’ll reach out to those who are booked and inform them that they won’t be able to honor their reservations. Sometimes openings are delayed by weeks, sometimes by months, and sometimes by years.
I understand construction delays happen, but I’m surprised that hotels haven’t learned not to start selling rooms when these delays seem to happen almost every time, especially since many of these hotels are managed by international chains.
There are people out there who will speculatively book hotels right around when they’re scheduled to open, and then when the hotel can’t honor the reservation, they’ll request compensation. I think it’s reasonable to compensate guests in the case of a delayed opening when they had a genuine intent to actually stay at the hotel, and were planning a vacation around it. At the same time, for those who only book reservations with the intent of canceling, I have less sympathy, and I don’t blame the hotel groups for cracking down.
This brings me to the email a reader received.
Starwood warns member to stop booking new hotels
Here’s the email a reader shared with me (which seems to be generic, so presumably was sent to quite a few people):
Dear SPG® Member,
If you are receiving this message, access to your account has been temporarily disabled as your account appears to be included in one or more of the emerging trends described below:
Confirm reservations for grand opening dates at SPG® participating hotels with an invalid guarantee method
While we greatly appreciate genuine interest in experiencing any Marriott property, there have been reports of invalid guarantee methods being used for rooms reserved at hotels that have announced their grand opening date. This is of great concern to us and the hotels as some of these reservations are either canceled late or not at all leaving the hotels with no recourse for recovering the lost revenue as the reserved rooms sit empty on opening day. This message serves as a reminder that any reservation confirmed with a credit card that will not authorize the forfeiture amount is subject to cancelation at any time and without notice. Hotels have been advised to preauthorize the late cancel penalty amount as soon as the reservations show active in their systems and to cancel any booking where the credit card declines.
Request compensation for delayed hotel opening
While our hotels will absolutely consider compensating any guest for genuine inconveniences or issues they determine they are responsible for, a pattern is developing which increases our concern as to the authenticity of some of these reservations.
Please understand we have placed your account on an alert list and are monitoring all pre-opening reservations at SPG® participating hotels.
Please reply acknowledging receipt and your understanding of this message so that we may reactivate your account.
SPG® Member Account Integrity
Did the reader do anything wrong?
The reader who reached out to me asked if I had ever heard of something like this before, or if he did something wrong. He was very forthcoming about his situation:
- He has never used an invalid payment method for a booking (which frankly seems like an odd concern for Starwood to have)
- He only received compensation for a hotel that didn’t open on-time once, and that was for 500 Starpoints (not exactly much of a bounty)
- However, he does tend to book new hotels, and cancels reservations about 95% of the time
- He actually paid a no show fee for a new hotel stay once, because he didn’t cancel in time
While it’s clear he didn’t have the intent of completing every stay, I also get the genuine feeling that he wasn’t trying to game the system for compensation. Rather it seems he was just enthusiastic about new hotels, and booked them as he saw they became available, and then later firmed up plans (which ended with him usually canceling).
He realizes he may have overdone it a bit, and will take it easier going forward.
My recent experience with a delayed hotel opening
While we’re on this topic, I wanted to share my own recent experience with a new hotel opening. For the record, I’ve never speculatively booked a hotel with the intent of trying to get any compensation out of the delayed opening. However, I did book Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel that’s supposed to open in Los Cabos on September 1. I booked it for opening day, and booked refundable award flights to go there.
I booked thinking it would make a fun getaway, and the timing worked for me. I have the intent of going, though at least I have flexibility, because it’s fully refundable. Starwood’s website continues to show a September 1 opening date, though they’re now only selling rooms as of September 16.
On May 10 I received the following email from Starwood Executive Customer Service:
Dear Mr./Ms. SCHLAPPIG,
As a valued Starwood Preferred Guest member, we are writing to inform you of a delay in the opening of the Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Los Cabos. Due to unforeseen circumstances the hotel is now expecting to open on September 1, 2018.
We see you are currently holding reservation XXXXXXXX, arriving on 9/1/2018 and departing on9/5/2018. We will need to cancel this reservation in the coming days due to the delayed opening and wished to advise you that this update will be reflected online through your SPG membership once completed.
Our team at the Solaz is happy to recommend the below properties as relocation options for you during your travel to Mexico. They have worked locally to ensure the discounted rates highlighted below are made available to you upon your request.
- JW Marriott, Los Cabos at a nightly rate of $199 USD (prior to taxes and associated fees)
- Sheraton Grand, Los Cabos at a nightly rate of $159 USD, (prior to taxes and associated fees)
Alternatively, the Solaz team would be happy to modify your stay to an arrival after September 1, 2018.
We realize this may be disappointing but hope we can count on your understanding and apologize for this unforeseen delay. We look forward to welcoming you to a SPG property in the near future.
I’m surprised by the unprofessionalism:
- Couldn’t they look at my SPG account to see if I’m a Mr. or Ms.?
- They tell me the hotel opening is delayed until September 1, though that’s the date I’m booked for
- A Sheraton Grand or JW Marriott really aren’t acceptable alternatives to a significantly nicer-looking Luxury Collection property, which is also priced twice as high
I responded to the email asking for clarification, given that I was booked on September 1, and they also claimed that was the new opening date.
They responded as follows:
Thank you for taking the time to reply to our email.
We have every reason to believe that the Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Los Cabos will open on September 1, 2018 as scheduled, however, we cannot guarantee that unforeseen issues may arise. Proactively we can book your reservation at one of the hotels nearby and when it gets closer to September 1 we can take another look at the hotels plan to open and cancel the alternate reservation, prior to the cancellation deadline, if it is no longer required. Please let us know if you wish to book an alternate stay.
Mr. Schlappig, thank you for being a dedicated SPG member. We appreciate your continued support of SPG and we look forward to assisting with your future travel needs.
Alrighty, so they are opening on September 1 it sounds like? Who knows…
I don’t blame Starwood for cracking down on people making speculative bookings in order to get compensation. It doesn’t sound to me like that was exactly what the reader who contacted me was trying to do, though. My guess is that they sent out this email based on a number of parameters, and one of those was having made X number of bookings at new hotels.
Has anyone received similar communication from Starwood, or another hotel brand?