So you wanna stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora? Not with your rewards points

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By Christopher Elliott

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 reward points 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.”

An inquiry and “different answers”

“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.

Our team doesn’t usually mediate these types of cases. But for us, 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.)

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Poon wants to take her husband to Bora Bora for his birthday next year, and she wants her rewards points 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.

It’s too early to book

Something doesn’t make sense here. IHG allows you to book rooms 351 days in advance. If there are no blackout dates, is the hotel already sold out? I checked with the property, and there were still plenty of rooms available — for sale.

Poon faithfully collected IHG reward points because the company promised her 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.

Did IHG break its promise to Poon?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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