How Marriott saved my parents’ rewards

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.”

Related story:   This hotel charge has me fuming!

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).


“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.

Related story:   No refund for my canceled vacation?

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.”


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.

Andrew Der

Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations

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