If you think loyalty programs are a win-win, meet Elizabeth Poon. She doesn’t feel like much of a winner right now.
Poon is a loyal IHG Club Rewards program member and recently decided to cash in some of her hard-earned rewards for four nights at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora.
The cost? An eye-popping 60,000 points per night.
Assuming she could get it.
“I have been searching for the availability for two months,” she wrote to us. “It looks like they block off every day for the next 365 days. No one day you can redeem points.”
Poon had emailed the property and contacted it via social media.
“They’ve given me different answers,” she says.
“The reward club promise is that there are no blackout days for any properties,” she adds. Poon wanted our advocates to ask IHG for help.
Normally, we would would not get involved in a case like this. But for our team, this wasn’t so much a loyalty case as it was a broken promises case. (Indeed, IHG guarantees no blackout dates on its site, leading the average guest to assume that actually means no blackout dates.)
Poon wants to take her husband to Bora Bora for his birthday next year, and she wants her rewards the club promised.
The paper trail between her and IHG looked pretty standard. Here’s the boilerplate answer to her request for a room:
It seems that there are [sic] no availability yet for your requested date (June or May/July of 2017). We encourage you to try to book your reservation at a later time as the hotel may have not allotted room availability yet for these months.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us as we value your patronage. Should you require further assistance, please feel free to contact the IHG Rewards Club Service Center again.
This seemed like a reasonable request to our advocacy team, so we reached out to IHG on her behalf.
The response? “At this time it is too early to book that far in advance,” a representative told us.
Something doesn’t make sense here. IHG allows you to book rooms 351 days in advance. If there are no blackout dates, is it possible the hotel is already sold out? I checked with the property and there were still plenty of rooms available — for sale.
Poon faithfully collected IHG points, having been promised that there were no blackout dates. She feels betrayed by the program because it won’t let her cash in the points for the stay she wants.
Now, I know those of you who participate in these manipulative loyalty schemes will use the comments on this post to explain that IHG isn’t under any obligation to make its entire room inventory available to its Rewards Club members — indeed, that’s not how these programs work.
But shouldn’t IHG throw its customer a bone on this? Can’t it offer her something?
And why offer canned responses to one of their best customers? Is it that they got what they wanted (her money spent on all of those previous hotel stays) and that they couldn’t be bothered with helping one of their best customers?
You might be forgiven for thinking so.