How Marriott saved my parents’ rewards

By | June 21st, 2016

Sharon Strelzer’s parents have been Marriott Rewards members for 16 years. But when she tried to use their points recently, they were all gone.

Missing. No explanation. In the Twilight Zone.

A dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over … wait, never mind.

But Marriott found the points (sort of), and guess what happened?

As an occasional Marriott customer myself, I have along the way enjoyed my points rewards as they accumulate. Not everyone likes rewards programs. And neither do I — if membership costs money and patrons are influenced by insincere “incentives” or layers of restrictions. (Hey, I heard this guy Chris Elliott doesn’t like them. Don’t tell anyone.)

If you are spending the money anyway, why not get some of it back? I have used them the same as currency without any restrictions whatsoever. It seems the Wall Street Journal and US News and World Report agree.

Strelzer, of Fairfield, Conn., learned even Marriott can stumble — but not fall.

“Would you like an incredibly nice story about Marriott?” says Strelzer. “It relates to my parents, who are nearly 90 years old.”

I’m listening.

“Since we have so many steps in our home, for mobility reasons I had my parents stay at our local Trumbull Marriott to visit us for my daughter’s graduation,” she continued. “When I tried to reserve a room for them with rewards points, the rep, Stacey Fitzgerald, found they were gone — zero points.”

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Before Strelzer could react, Stacey — Marriott’s version of Rod Serling — discovered the points had been steadily diverted to a now nonexistent US Airways (merged with American Airlines) account per a possible forgotten setting. So where are they now? Apparently in another dimension not accounted for in physicists’ current version of string theory of the universe (look it up).

Yikes.

“My parents thought that they were earning Marriott Rewards for the last 16 years and never received one email or postal correspondence from anyone about this — and all those times when they stayed with Marriott, no one noted it at check-in,” said Strelzer.


Anyone would think that and expect the same. Stacey told her she will contact American on her own to see what happened and what she could do. Past veterans of rewards program wars might say don’t hold your breath.

“Then I received an email from Stacey literally beyond expectations!” Strelzer adds. “First, I didn’t have to follow up with Stacey. She followed up with me as promised. Second, she restored my parents’ account and provided them two free nights for their upcoming reservation.”

Wow. That is a serious level of making things right.

Many rewards account holders will lose their points under certain conditions, and Marriott is clear that points are gone after two years of inactivity. But Strelzer’s parents had stayed active enough not to trigger this. We may never know what looking-glass adventures the points went through at American or what Stacey learned, but the rep made it right and then some regardless of fault.

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In travel, stuff happens and perfection is elusive. True customer service is recognizing loyalty. Marriott was really sorry, and they showed it.

But wait — there’s more. While this is about Marriott, there might be some kudos left for over for American, which unfortunately could use a little positive press. They created a new account for the parents based on the old account number Stacey provided to Michelle, an American rep at their Fort Worth office, who as a goodwill courtesy added 4,000 miles.

“Marriott could have looked the other way, but chose to do the right thing,” Strelzer concluded. “And with American, it was the thought that counts. My dad can gift these to his granddaughter toward her future travels. I think it is nice to applaud when companies do something right for a change. I hope you agree.”

Absolutely.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of this story are Strelzer’s parents themselves, and how caring individuals rallied around them regardless of who did what. And while Marriott (and American) might set an example for other businesses of real customer service, the parents might also teach all of us a lesson of steadfast positive attitude and resolve at their age by not letting anything keep them down — or home.

May you have many more years of travel.



  • Annie M

    A great story about a Customer Service rep. who not only did their job but went beyond what she had to do. Kudos to Stacey Fitzgerald and I hope her bosses at Marriott realize what a gem they have working for them.

  • AAGK

    If they thought they were earning points for 16 years, why didn’t they use them once? They are already 90.

  • vmacd

    Great service Marriott. I just lost over 10 years of points with Sheraton – over 200,000 points because I was unemployed for a year and didn’t stay at one of their hotels for over a year. Now that I’m traveling again, I won’t be staying at a Starwood hotel.

  • Bill___A

    That was very nice of them.

  • joycexyz

    It’s so nice to read positive stories! The goodwill generated is immeasurable.

  • jae1

    I haven’t stayed at a Marriott property in a while. I was appalled back in the 1980s to find out that, thanks to their Mormon founder’s beliefs, they had limited “women’s hours” in the gym and pool facilities, as well as limited hours of availability to womeon of other services (I no longer remember what). Aside from the general offensiveness of that, the hours were such that they clearly assumed no female business people were staying there, since the access was all mid-day only. That’s what’s not to like.

  • jsn55

    Enjoyed this story … but what happened to all the miles at USAir/American that must have accumulated from Marriott point transfers for 16 years? Since there were regular transfers in, AA can’t say that the miles were forfeited from inactivity.

    And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind travellers that they are solely responsible for their loyalty points anywhere: hotel, airlines or whatever. Nobody else will keep track of things, only the member.

  • jae1

    I have no reason to make this up. I was staying at a Marriott in Chicago in about 1981 or ’82, and the information was right there in the description of their amenities. They may no longer do this, as the times have certainly changed, but at that time your room key didn’t open the fitness center. You had to be let in, and they would only allow women between the stated hours. They also offered some “women only” concierge services between those hours. Perhaps they thought they were serving wives who traveled with their husbands, while the husbands attended meetings.

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