I’ve been battling for the past day with the Starwood Corporation.  They are the group that own hotels like the Westin, Sheraton, the W, etc.  Personally I love the beds at the Westin and try to stay at one whenever I’m traveling for either vacation or for business, but probably not any more…

It seems that I signed up for a promotion way back in February where if you earn one free weekend night for every six days that you stay in Feb, March, April and May and that these nights you can redeem from 5/15 – 7/15.  Well guess what?  Unbeknownst to me I earned at least four free nights.  That’s pretty cool, I could have arranged a great mini-vacation somewhere at one of the top notch hotels in the chain.  Why didn’t I know about this?  Well guess what, they don’t tell you that you when you’ve earned them, don’t show you that you’ve earned them, nor do they necessarily tell you about them as a result of these promotions.

Towards the end of May I got an email message indicating that I had free night(s) that were valid from 5/15 (15 days ago) to 7/15.  They didn’t tell me why I had earned the free night nor how many free nights I had earned.  I figured that I had just earned a single one since why would I think I had earned more than that?  So Sherri and I plan for an evening out in Seattle to stay at the W without the kids and start working out the who can watch the kids, when can we go, etc.  So last night I called them up to make the reservation.  At that point in time, he asks me how many nights I want to book.  I say one.  He then asks me if I want to do anything with the other 3 nights!  I’m totally astonished at this point, what other nights?  How come you didn’t tell me about them, etc?

Well after talking to this person and then the customer relations department, they’re like “You have to track them yourself” and “We’ve never had any complaints on this before”.  To me this is completely frustrating as I can go to their website see an accurate accounting of every visit, rebook the same hotel probably even get into the details of the hotel bill, but ABSOLUTELY no where on their site is any information about the “rewards” that I’ve earned as a result of this promotion.  Sure the “points” I’ve earned for stays are there, but not this other information.  I ask them about this and they say that they don’t do this.  I ask them how am I supposed to remember what I signed up for and when it’s all valid?  “You’re just supposed to remember”.

Am I crazy or is this just totally unacceptable?

I ask them to at least allow me to use some of the free nights at a later date.  “Sorry you can’t do that”.  I ask to talk to someone in the promotions department since this is just a total farce.  “Sorry there isn’t anyone you can talk to – you can go to our website and leave an email message and it will get routed to the proper department”.  Can I just get the direct email address?  “No” and it goes on.

So I go to the email website write an nice long email asking for my rewards to be used at a later point as well as to indicate to them that I feel they’re being negligent in the way that they run their promotions and how they don’t notify in advance or as rewards are accumulated nor that there is any tracking or even remnants of the promotion available on their website. 

Today I got an email message back (snipped):

 Please be advised, regrettably we cannot extend the usage dates of the 'stay 6 nights and earn 1 free Weekend night' Promotion.  We appreciate the time you have taken to share your comments. Please be assured that your input will serve as a valuable tool in the evaluation and enhancement of our frequent traveler program. 

Pretty much a stock email message that reads to me as “too bad…”.  No apology about the way that they run the promotions, just thanks for the feedback.  I know I’m not insane, but this is the kind of answer I expect from a Kmart not a hotel change that’s trying to have some of the more upscale facilities.  A Nordstrom like answer would have been.  Thank you for indicating the deficiencies in the current process used for promotions.  We regret the inconvenience this may have caused and will look into provide a better solution for our valued customers.  An answer like that would have gone a long way, they don’t need to even provide me with the usage of the rewards, but it’s a real apology recognizing their issue.

How do you treat your customers?

I know at Microsoft at least in the groups I have worked with, I can’t speak for the company at large or even for the company we try to be upfront an honest and acknowledge our problems.  We made the mistake, it’s our software, we designed it, we screwed up; how can we fix it for you, personally?  Am I just expecting too much?

P.S. if you know someone at Starwood who’s willing to take this on, I’d love to talk with them.