When loyalty programs don’t think through promotions

I’m betting many of you didn’t take advantage of Accor’s recent promotion, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. Why? Well, probably because you weren’t planning on staying at an Accor hotel. I almost didn’t take advantage of it either, but I said “meh, why not.”

To recap, they were offering anyone that signed up for a new account 2,000 points, which can be redeemed for a $60USD voucher to be used at an Accor hotel. The Accor brand I care most about is Sofitel. Anyway, while the promotion was supposed to run through September 31, it got pulled a few days early, and this is the perfect example of what happens when the loyalty programs assume everyone is a “role model” customer.

So, what did they do wrong that made them pull this? Well, first of all, these vouchers are combinable. There’s also no limit on how many accounts in the same household can qualify for this offer. What does that mean? People signed up their family members, pets (including pet rocks), and stuffed animals. Some people reported getting as many as 300 vouchers. Of course that’s the extreme, but that’s $18,000 in Accor stays, and I’m betting Accor has to compensate the individual hotels at close to full value for those stays.

I took advantage of the promotion, but I was pretty moderate about it. I signed up for an account and also signed up for accounts for two family members. So that’s three vouchers worth $180. I’m going to United’s Fleet Week this weekend at SFO and was going to stay at the Crowne Plaza at the airport, which has some of the smallest rooms anywhere. Instead I’ll stay at the Sofitel, which is much nicer. My rate was $130, which includes a $50 “hotel credit,” which I have to spend. I also want to use up the entire $180 voucher, so I have another $50 to play with at the hotel. In other words, I’ll have to spend $100 on food/beverages.

So while I’d like to think I was moderate with this promotion, I’m pretty sure someone at Accor is regretting this as people book week long stays at the Sofitel London, have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the hotel, and don’t pay a dime.

Filed Under: Hotels
  1. I’ve learned never to ignore a promotion just because I don’t think I’ll have a use for it! It’s kind of like college — never sleep through a course because you think you’ll never use the material. It’ll come back to bite you!

    Anyway, I got tired of creating email accounts, and thus only got about 15 or so…..

  2. And they are starting to show up on Ebay! 10x 40 Euro vouchers (i.e. 400 Euro) are going for over $400! I could have made a nice living signing up for these!

  3. And to top it off, they are spending E1.70 to mail each one to us! (Just got my first in the mail.)

  4. @hobo13: I too grew tired of creating new accounts, too. Between setting up an e-mail alias on my server to creating the A-Club account to redeeming the points, it was all too boring to continue for more than a few accounts at a time… and I have auto-fill on my web forms.

    Those people who signed up for 300 accounts need a hobby or a therapist or maybe both.

  5. It is a drag to see that a generous offer from Accor was abused.

    This is an example of why I do not report mistake fares and hotel Best Rate Guarantee offers I frequently find.

    I posted this offer on Loyalty Traveler after signing up my wife for a new account. She received the 2,000 points and then received another 500 points as a birthday gift two weeks ago.

    She is A-Club Silver elite now.

    My cats and bird are not members of any hotel loyalty program.

  6. Darn it, I need to pay more attention to these things. As hobo13 said, you should never ignore a promotion (lesson learned). Oh well, between all the free Hyatt nights I’m earning, the need to stay 60+ nights at IC’s to maintain Royal Ambassador, and the 50 Friday nights a year I spend sleeping on redeyes, I wouldn’t have time to use $18,000 of vouchers anyway.

  7. When booking the hotel did you have to use the flex+ rate to avoid prepaying on your credit card? I’m trying to find some way around this as the non-prepaid rates are 30-50% higher than the base.

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