Nicholas Czapor books four Hilton hotel stays through a double points promotion. But the points never show up in his account, and now Hilton is offering him only a fraction of the promised award. Can it do that? And what recourse, if any, does Czapor have?
Q: I have been a loyal Hilton customer for the past three years, staying about 200 nights a year in its hotels. I have always been happy with the service that I received from Hilton -- until recently.
A few months ago, I booked four rooms at a promotional rate that offered double points. After each stay, I did not get credited with any of the points. I have called Hilton to try to fix this problem. Each time, I also advised them that I had additional reservations under the same promotion and that I wanted to get the problem fixed so that I didn't have to keep calling after each stay.
The answer that I received from various Hilton reps has always been the same: I did, indeed, book the promotional rate and that they don't know why I'm not getting my points. They've opened up various trouble tickets and said that my account would be credited within a few days. I have never received any credits so far and it has been weeks since my initial contact with them.
I finally talked with a supervisor yesterday, who informed me that there was nothing he could do and that the only thing he could offer me was 5,000 Hilton points for my troubles. By my calculation, I am out 39,291 Hilton points and 3,927 United Airlines miles for my first three stays in January.
This whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth. It amazes me that Hilton is treating one of its best customers so poorly. In the past three years, I have spent more than $200,000 at Hilton properties and have amassed more than 3 million Hilton points through hotel stays alone. Please help. -- Nicholas Czapor, Philadelphia
A: Hilton should credit you the double points -- on the double. Dragging this out for weeks and then offering only a fraction of the award points is completely unacceptable.
It would be bad enough if Hilton was doing this to a tourist. But for someone like you, who spends more nights in a Hilton hotel than at home, it shouldn't even be necessary to ask twice.
Is Hilton required to credit you for your stay within a certain time? As far as I can tell, no.
The terms and conditions for HHonors, Hilton's loyalty program, are silent on this issue. (You can read it online here). It says a lot about what your obligation is to the company. For example, if you don't earn points in any 12 consecutive months, you could lose everything. But it doesn't really mention Hilton's responsibility to you. Specifically, there are no assurances that Hilton will credit you with a hotel stay within a specific period of time.
So by failing to put the points in your account, Hilton wasn't violating its own terms. But how about reneging on the double points deal and offering just 5,000 points? Again, Hilton gives itself a broad license in its terms to "add, modify, delete or otherwise change any of the rules, procedures, conditions, benefits, Rewards or Reward levels pertaining to the Program at its sole discretion, with or without notice."
In other words, Hilton did nothing wrong. And it did everything wrong.
You don't treat a customer like this.
I think this might have gone smoother if you'd taken a moment to compose a short, cordial note and sent it to Hilton. A written request is far more difficult for a travel company to ignore.
I contacted Hilton on your behalf, and it contacted you and explained that the Hilton property where you booked your rooms had experienced a "problem" with posting award points. You've been credited with all of your points.
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) 2009 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.