You Are Where You Book
From time to time, I come across posts by other Travel Bloggers that I find extremely useful or exceptional. Side Note: If you are interested in Guest Posting, feel free to email me or tweet me.
The reason I am re-posting his post is because over the last month, I have had real issues with Starwood Hotels and how they treat Reservations made on 3rd Party websites like Expedia, Priceline, USAA, etc.
For some reason or the other, Hotels think that if you make a Reservation on one of these 3rd Party Sites (99% of the time because the price is cheaper), then even as an Elite Member, your Elite Benefits shouldn’t apply.
I understand that Hotels want you to book on their Website so they don’t have to pay commission (10% – 15%) to 3rd Party Sites, but at the same time, it isn’t the Customers fault that the 3rd Party Sites are cheaper.
The Hotels solution to this is to say, if you find a cheaper 3rd Party Rate, then you should submit a Best Rate Guarantee Claim to us. In reality, as many of us have experienced, Hotels will try to use any possible excuse to get out of validating a Best Rate Guarantee. Not to mention it can take a while while the claim gets investigated!
My issue with Hotels not providing Elite Benefits on 3rd Party Reservations is that regardless of where I booked the reservation, when I walk thru the door I am still the same person.
If I am a “valued” Gold Member when I book on SPG.com, then I should also be a “valued” Gold Member when I book at Priceline.com or wherever. At the end of the day, I am still being “loyal” and staying at a SPG Property regardless of which website I booked it on and SPG is still getting paid for my stay!
Just imagine if Airlines did this…
United Agent: “Umm sorry sir, even though you are a Global Services Member, you booked your ticket on Kayak.com and not United.com, so for this flight, we have “reserved” you a Middle Economy Seat, you will not receive any Miles, and we are unable to provide any Elite Benefits. Have a great day!”
Madrid & Istanbul Experience
When I went to Madrid and Istanbul earlier this month, the Hotels were booked via USAA because they had an amazing 40% off sale. There was obviously no way SPG was going to validate a Best Rate Guarantee and match that rate, so we just ended up booking via USAA.
The Starwood policy for 3rd Party Reservations is kind of vague and if you Google it, you probably won’t be able to find anything on Starwood’s Website. I knew off-hand that “normally” you aren’t suppose to get Elite Benefits for 3rd Party Reservations, so I went ahead and emailed the Westin Madrid and W Istanbul informing them that I was SPG Gold and to please add my number to the Reservation.
When I checked-in to the Westin Madrid, they asked for my SPG Number, so I provided it and they honored the Gold Benefits even though it was a 3rd Party Reservation. Since I had already emailed them my Number, and they asked for it again, I am pretty sure my email did nothing…
When we checked in at the W Istanbul though, they refused to provide Gold Benefits, so we ended up having to pay for Internet.
I tweeted SPG about this and they said that basically, it is up to each individual Hotel to decide if they want to extend Elite Benefits to 3rd Party Reservations. In practice though, that policy actually translates into each individual Front Desk Employee deciding if they want to extend Elite Benefits.
It would be nice if at a minimum, there was an “official” stance on this policy.
Anyways, I came across Jamison’s post too late for it to benefit me, but hopefully it will be helpful to others who have made 3rd Party Reservations at Starwood and want to receive the Elite Benefits they have earned.
How To Receive Elite Benefits On Starwood 3rd Party Reservations
Note: Jamison’s original post can be found here.
Sometimes you’re just stuck with a third party reservation whether you booked a package deal with a tour group or a travel agent flight + hotel combination package.
I like to use American Airlines miles on http://www.useaamiles.com since I get a heavy discount for being an Executive Platinum elite member and sometimes you can find bargain mileage redemption (think of it like hotel mistake fares).
Last year I booked the W New York hotel for 5,000 AAdvantage miles on 4th of July week when the hotel was asking $350 + taxes for a standard room on SPG.com.
After you have booked your third party reservation, I would call the hotel directly to ask if you can confirm your arrival. Make sure the hotel operator does not transfer you to Starwood’s main central reservations because they will not be able to help you out on third party reservations.
When you get a front desk agent on the phone, simply ask if you can add your Starwood number to your reservation.
If the agent can’t find your reservation, then your third party booking company might not have faxed over your reservation details yet. Don’t fret because this happens all the time with third party reservations. In that case, I would give them a call back a week later or a few days before arrival.
This is important – Before hanging up, ask what your confirmation number is and write this down. If the agent refuses to add your Starwood number because he noticed that you booked through a third party, I would simply say “I just want to see my reservation on my spy.com profile” or “I understand, but I can earn Starpoints for incidentals correct?”.
After you have successfully added your Starwood Preferred guest number to your reservation, you will be able to see it on your SPG.com profile under “Upcoming Stays” within the hour. If you do not see your reservation details on your SPG.com profile within the hour, then the hotel might not have added your Starwood Preferred guest number correctly. A phone call should remedy this situation.
When you log onto your SPG.com profile, you will see under the hotel details, “This is a complex rate, we are unable to display your information details” and a “Send Confirmation” button will appear below that text. You are most likely not able to successfully click on “Send Confirmation” since your e-mail address won’t be on the reservation.
Luckily, I have come across a workaround for adding all your details, including name, address, special request messages, and even apply your Suite Night Award upgrades (if applicable) to your third party reservation.
You will need to modify your third party reservation with the Starwood Preferred Guest iPhone App. You will be able to see your third party reservation displayed on the iPhone app if you successfully completed the steps prior by asking the front desk agent on the phone to add your Starwood number to your third party reservation.
On the SPG iPhone app, click Reservation Details, then View All Details, and then click on Modify Reservation. Your screen should look something like this:
You will be able to see what type of room your third party has booked for you.
It is important to not change the Room & Bed or else you will be hit with a change fee.
Under the Rate, you can see that the third party paid $86/night for my room and there are additional details including “Resort fee waived per contract”.
If you scroll down a little further, you will see a lot of empty fields which you will need to fill in, such as your Title, First Name, Last Name (can’t be modified), Address, City, State, and Zip/Postal Code.
You MUST fill in the fields with the asterisks or else you can’t continue to the next step.
You also need to enter in your Telephone number and this is the most important step, E-mail address.
You will need to enter your e-mail address since the whole point of the “Send Confirmation” is to send your reservation details straight to your e-mail.
You are required to enter your credit card number with the expiration date so the hotel can charge you for incidentals.
Don’t worry, you won’t get billed for your room rate under any circumstances since this is a prepaid reservation.
Your SPG number will be pre-populated and leave the StarChoice number blank.
You can enter special requests under “Optional Information”. I always like to enter “SPG Platinum Guest- Please upgrade to the best suite available. Thanks”.
You can also change your time of arrival in this area if you wish.
Click on “Continue To Next Step”:
On the next screen, it is imperative that you click on “Continue To Next Step (Don’t Change My Room)”
You will see that your entered information will be highlighted in yellow.
If you didn’t make any errors entering any of your personal information, then scroll all the way to the bottom and click “Complete Changes Now”.
The next screen will say “Changes Complete” – Your reservation has been changed.
What this means is that you have added additional information to the reservation just as if you had handed over your Credit Card and Passport / ID to the clerk.
You will not be charged any additional fees on the Credit Card you have provided.
Now, go back to your SPG .com profile and you will be able to click on “Send Confirmation”.
You will now be able to receive an e-mail copy of your third party reservation. Refresh your screen and you will now be able to see all you reservation details including applying Suite Award Nights (if applicable).
Note: I was able to apply a Suite Award Night, but the Hotel was completely sold out and the automated Suite Night Award system returned it back to my account a day before check-in since there were no Suites available for an upgrade.
There is a glitch in the SPG.com system where you can receive a Stay / Night credit, but don’t hold your breath because the system will only award you Starpoints for incidentals. Also, when you check-in, do not ask for the 500 point Platinum amenity since SPG.com won’t credit you. In this case, I would ask for a Breakfast voucher or the local amenity.
In some cases, the front desk agent can deny you of your Platinum benefits if they mention that you booked through a third party. Don’t argue with the clerk and accept the reality that hotel can’t offer you your Platinum benefits under a third party.
I always add some kind of incidental charge on my third party stays since it can trigger a Stay / Night credit (sometimes you get lucky). In many cases, I would add a minibar charge or lunch/dinner.
For free Platinum internet, I would add the internet charge to your hotel room and kindly ask at checkout if it could be removed. I usually telephone in the morning after if they can remove the charge since they can see you are a Platinum member (make sure you don’t get the same agent).
Remember, different agents = different responses. Happy booking!
Although having to manually make all these changes via the iPhone app is bothersome, if you have a couple nights stay at a SPG Property, being able to receive your Elite Benefits like free breakfast, internet, room upgrades, etc, can be worth a significant amount of money.
It is unfortunate that Starwood and most Hotels have such a silly policy where they treat their Elite Members different solely based on where they booked their Reservation, and fail to see the big picture (that their Elite Members are STILL STAYING AT A SPG PROPERTY!), but at least this is a semi feasible work around!
Hopefully in time, Hotels will change their tune!
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