Sally Savona books a vacation at Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club, where she's promised a 25,000-mile bonus. But the loyalty points fail to show up in her account, despite repeated calls to the hotel. It's been months since her visit. How can she get Marriott to make good?
Q: Marriott is holding 25,000 of my frequent flier miles, and I need your help getting them back.
In December 2006, we signed up for a promotion through United Airlines that featured a six-day, five-night stay at Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club. We took our trip the following May, and I understood that the miles would be in our account six to eight weeks after our visit.
When I contacted the hotel, I was told that "for some reason" they didn't process the miles. A representative promised to expedite the process. I phoned back in September, and discovered that the miles still hadn't been transferred to my account.
I asked for a manager, but he was too busy to talk to me. A representative assured me I'd have my miles within two weeks. But three weeks later -- nothing.
I've left numerous voice-mail messages for several Marriott supervisors, but still don't have my miles. What else can I do? -- Sally Savona, Sacramento, Calif.
A: Why use just one weapon in your arsenal -- the phone - when you have several other effective choices? There are plenty of ways to apply pressure to a hotel that's not giving you what it promised, including e-mail, the postal service and even an overnight service such as FedEx or UPS.
But before telling you how you can make your resort bend to your will, let's get this out of the way: Marriott should have credited you the 25,000 frequent flier miles days, not weeks, after your stay.
Wait. Scratch that. You should have gotten the loyalty points the moment Marriott took your cash. I can't think of a good reason why the hotel would wait until after your visit to give you what it said it would. (I mean, how would Marriott feel if you decided to wait until six to eight weeks after your visit before paying your hotel bill?)
When you don't get what you've been guaranteed, picking up the phone can be helpful. A quick call might fix your problem. Then again, it might not.
Sending a brief, polite e-mail to the hotel -- and copying Marriott's corporate office -- might have worked better. By following up with such a missive, which dispassionately describes what Marriott had offered you and how it had so far failed to meet your expectations, you would send an important message to the company. You're not going away until they give you your miles.
If that doesn't work, I would have ratcheted up the pressure a little. Try faxing the hotel, sending a letter by registered mail, or even sending a letter by priority overnight service. That tends to get their attention.
I contacted Marriott on your behalf, and a manager called you and apologized for the delay. A week later, your 25,000 miles were in your United Airlines account. Marriott also credited you with $200 as a goodwill gesture.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of "What You Get For The Money: Vacations" on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2008 Christopher Elliott Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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