I love Hyatt. They generally have excellent hotels in good locations, their Gold Passport points are valuable, and I feel the service and benefits I receive (even before becoming a top-tier Diamond guest) are excellent. But lately it seems that they’ve made a series of public relations mistakes that, if I knew anything about PR myself, I would predict had potential to annoy more customers than they please.
Most of these examples are not applicable to the general population. Not everyone is a Diamond member, and not everyone is going to be attending the Star MegaDO. But those are also among the most vocal and highly sought-after audiences. I would expect the level of service they receive to set the tone for the business. Bad PR is never good, no matter who it affects. After all, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t have anything to write about, now would I?
Diamond! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!
Hyatt’s random prize of 50,000 United MileagePlus miles to a fraction of their Diamond members is the most obvious and recent example. I’m a Diamond guest, a United Premier 1K, and a United and Hyatt credit card holder. Most of my stays are NOT at cheap airport hotels. But for some reason I wasn’t targeted. Fine, I can understand I won’t get every bonus. United has already passed over me for a lot of targeted promotions this year. I can empathize, though.
Doesn’t it seem weird? What about offending customers who are less understanding? Fifty thousand miles is a lot. A lot. For doing apparently absolutely nothing. I’d value those miles at $1,000. Why not give every Diamond member 25,000 miles, or even just 10,000 miles, so that the benefits are spread out? It would be no less welcome by those who got the reward (they weren’t expecting it anyway), and you wouldn’t end up with a bunch of angry top-tier customers.
The best discriminating factor I’ve come up with so far is that Hyatt targeted guests who had credited some of their stays to United miles instead of Gold Passport points during a promotion earlier this summer. I did try to do this, but their systems screwed up the reservation and never gave me my elite status credit, with the only solution–I was told–to bypass the miles and choose points like usual. In any case, they should have my United MileagePlus number on file, or they could just ask customers before awarding the miles.
Choose Your Own Hyatt Adventure (or Not)
Hint: All paths end up leading to a re-run of Honey, I Shrunk the Points.
A lot of people were frustrated by Hyatt’s promotion for the Star MegaDO. It was originally billed as a “choose your own adventure” where we could write in ideas and they would pick one that was especially popular, or something along those lines. I never expected Faster Free Nights. That would be far too generous. I wrote in with something along the lines of their Spring 2012 promotion, which awarded progressively higher bonuses as you stayed more nights. Darn right stingy compared to some other ideas I saw presented.
Instead we got three months of Diamond status and double points. Triple points for restaurant and spa charges, but oddly enough only if you DON’T charge them to your room. You need to pay for them separately or else you’ll get just the double points. Existing Diamond members get nothing, not even a free suite upgrade. And, oh yeah, old and new Diamonds probably won’t get their welcome amenity of 1,000 Gold Passport points because it’s just too difficult/too expensive with so many guests. I’m not going to argue with the fact we’re getting at lest some free points, but the way the offer is structured is pretty unrewarding to their best customers and existing Diamonds.
At most this offer is worth about 10,000 points to me, someone who will spend 40 nights at their hotels this year. I could get more bonus points by just canceling my award at the Park Hyatt Zurich and staying somewhere else. The PH Zurich was the one optional hotel on this trip, and oddly enough, for a long time there was talk that only people on paid rates (not award stays, not other SMD4 attendees staying at other hotels) would be allowed to attend the welcome reception. Then why fly us out to Zurich in the first place?
The Black Hole of Best Rate Guarantee Claims
Finally, something we can all relate to. Or at least most people should, if you do your homework to file a best rate guarantee claim. Almost all hotels will match a better rate found elsewhere and sometimes give you a discount on top for your trouble. The rules are strict and can be interpreted in pretty bone-headed ways. But I have to give Hyatt credit for processing BRG claims over the phone before you book so you can be sure your lower price will be honored (and without locking you into a nonrefundable rate at a higher price if it isn’t).
Except, over the phone, they can say or do pretty much whatever they want. I went to make a recent claim for a stay at the Hyatt Regency Boston, which posted a rate of around $200 a night. I found three other sites offering rates around $110. But when the representative tried to pull up the competing websites on her computer, she got a white screen. The page just wouldn’t load.
You might think this is just one agent afraid to approve a significantly cheaper rate. With Hyatt’s 20% guarantee, I stood to save over $100. But I called back five times over three days, getting the same message. No problems on my end. No problems according to friends in Boston or Omaha. Just at Hyatt. It sounds to me like Hyatt’s IT department has started blocking domains of websites with too-good-to-be-true rates. And since they have to find the rate themselves, without letting me send in a screenshot, I was screwed until one finally called the hotel manager for me and got his approval for my lower rate (but without the 20% guarantee). A great solution in the end, but it shouldn’t have reached that point.
All of this leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Like I said, I love Hyatt hotels. When visiting a new city, I will often go directly to Hyatt.com rather than search comparable rates with other brands at a site like Hipmunk or Kayak. Any one of these events by itself would not be enough to dissuade me, but the combination of all three in the last month and a half suggests some issues with how their brand is handling customer service and public relations at a corporate level.
Hyatt’s tagline is: You’re more than welcome. The problem is, I haven’t said “thank you” yet.
I’m at the stage each year where I being considering how I’m going to allocate my travel dollars for the next 12 months. I was considering putting Starwood Platinum status on my radar, and now it’s definitely going to be a priority for 2013. I still hope to maintain my Diamond status if I can make it work. Don’t worry, you haven’t lost me. But it clearly pays not to put all your eggs in one basket. Starwood’s Preferred Guest program has made significant improvements since I wrote it off at the end of 2011. I hope these blips with Hyatt are just a temporary issue.