May 10, 2013
An incomplete reservation. Bottom tier elite status. No free breakfast. No free internet. Would I survive?
A few weekends ago, I was scheduled to visit Washington DC for the Freddie Awards (Thursday), the Travel Executive Summit (Friday), and Frequent Traveler University (Friday through Sunday). Before going, I thought that my travel plans were all set. I was wrong.
On Wednesday night I packed for the trip and then opened TripIt to review my itinerary. “Thursday morning: Depart DTW to IAD. Friday: Check into hotel.” Uh oh. I was scheduled to fly out on Thursday and return on Monday, but I only had Friday and Saturday night booked at the hotel.
I called Hilton to see if they could extend my reservation to arrive a day earlier and leave a day later. They told me the hotel was sold out. Sure, I could have booked another hotel in the area, but I really wanted to stay in one place, so I logged into Hilton.com to see what I could find.
It turned out that there were a number of special rooms available. All were listed at $300 per night or higher. Luckily, I found some that I could book for “only” 40,000 Hilton HHonors points per night. Compared to the $300 room rate, this was a pretty good value for my otherwise devalued Hilton points, so I booked the rooms with points. Now I had three reservations for one long weekend. Problem solved. But, then I had to face the real challenge….
While researching room options, I discovered that I no longer had Hilton Gold status. I was a lowly Silver elite! Horror! No more free internet or free breakfast! What could I do?
Sure, I could have signed up for free Hilton Gold status by temporarily becoming Australian and making up a credit card number (see this post), but that just didn’t feel right to me. And, it was far too late to get Gold status by spending $20K on my Hilton credit card or by signing up for the Citi Hilton Reserve card. What other options did I have?
I remembered reading this LoyaltyLobby post about Hilton status matches. According to LoyaltyLobby, I could send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a status match. I would have to send a year-end activity report from a competing chain where I had status to prove that I was match-worthy.
Luckily, last year I had completed Marriott’s Taste of Platinum Challenge which resulted in my getting Marriott Platinum status that would last throughout 2013 and I had quite a few Marriott stays on the books for 2012. I couldn’t find anything like a year-end report, but I was able to get Marriott’s website to display activity for the last 9 months of 2012. I copied that info, along with a screenshot showing my Platinum status to Microsoft OneNote and then used OneNote to save the whole thing as a PDF. I then emailed the PDF to Hilton along with a request for a match. I received an automated response saying “Our goal is to respond to all inquiries within a 24-48 hour timeframe from receipt of the message.” Would I get my status match in time? Would I avoid having to pay for internet and breakfast?
On Thursday, there was no response from Hilton about the match. I arrived at the hotel in the afternoon to check in. The desk agent found my three reservations and click clacked away at the keys for many minutes to ensure that I had one room for the entire stay (which I appreciated very much!). My Friday and Saturday night stays were booked as Executive Club Floor rooms (which included breakfast, but not internet), but the club lounge was closed for renovations (no wonder they had such a good rate for those rooms!). Instead, I was given a bunch of breakfast and snack coupons that were valid through Sunday. This meant that I was covered for breakfast for every day except Monday morning, even without Gold status. Whew.
On Thursday night I paid for one night of internet service. I had to work on this blog, after all. The internet service lasted until Friday evening. On Saturday, I called the desk to ask if internet was included in my Club Floor room rate. Nope, but the desk agent offered to make an exception, and she gave me a code for two days worth of internet for free. Score!
I was all set for the rest of the weekend, but Monday morning loomed ominously ahead. That was the day I would have to pay for breakfast. Oh no!
On Monday morning, I checked my email and found a wonderful sight (bolding is mine):
Re: Status Match
Dear Frequent Miler,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding a status match. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us.
First, we are always thrilled any time a member reaches out to us in an effort to attain our most prestigious Diamond membership level.
As you have reached the highest achievable level of membership with one of our hotel competitors, we are happy to extend a special one-time offer to fast track to Diamond tier level. If within the next 90 days, from today’s date, you record 21 eligible nights at any participating HHonors hotel, your account will be automatically upgraded to the Diamond tier status through March 31, 2015. In the interim, we have upgraded your account to Gold membership level so that you may begin to enjoy the benefits while working to earn Diamond.
Sweet. I have no intention of trying to stay 21 nights to get Diamond status, but I was happy to get free Gold status!
So, I got dressed and scampered to the front desk to let them know that I had earned Gold status during my stay. The desk agent was incredibly gracious. She told me to go sit down for breakfast and she would bring the breakfast coupon to me.
At the restaurant, I asked about ordering from the menu instead of the buffet and was told that there would be a $7 upcharge with the breakfast coupon. I was OK with that. When the coupon arrived, however, I was told that this coupon was good for anything on the menu, for free. Score! Breakfast was fantastic.