Sunday, December 9, 2007

Why Hotel Points Aren't Worth It

In consulting you accrue airline & hotel points rapidly, but they are really a racket,for three reasons:

1) You don't get nearly enough reward out of the pain
2) You self-select out of the best lodging while on project
3) You self-select out of the best places to stay while on vacation
I’m a Marriott guy, closing in on platinum for the year (I had a few in-town projects earlier in the year). First, let’s look at the economics. I stay Monday-Thursday at a Marriott.

- Room rate + tax x 3 nights
- 500 point bonus for platinum status each stay
- Hotel breakfast & dinner
- Dry cleaning
- 20-30% points bonus for status
= 10,000 points!
That's an awesome sounding number. I’m just racking it up! Let me break down the unfortunate reality.

First, you'll be damned if you travel for vacation and stay in a Residence Inn. You want to stay in a Marriott or a JW. That means each night will cost you 30,000 points. For instance, if I work on a 3 month project in Calgary, 12 full weeks, I'll each enough for only 4 days in a nice Marriott. That's a 1/4 of a year, and all you get in return is a M-F stay in a hotel! To me that's a lot of pain for not enough benefit.

Second, you then are corralled into staying at a Marriott during the client stay. The truly intrepid consultants I've found call around to the B&Bs in the area, find a super-nice one and negotiate a steep discount for during-the-week stays. Then you're set - each week you basically stay at a home with a nice couple who will feed you, care for you, and let you feel at home, as opposed to an antiseptic hotel room.

Third, and most important, your vacations are now defined by where there are Marriott hotels. So here's your situation.

You work hard for 6 months, flying away from home 4 days a week, staying in a Marriott hotel.
You take a vacation, flying away from home for a week, to STAY IN A MARRIOTT.
Wait a second. I’m telling myself that I want to take a vacation, yet I do the same fucking thing that I do every other week of the year? How did I get to be so idiotic as to think that this is the way that I wanted to go?

For some people this is what they want. I would think that most consultants would not. Let me give you a concrete example. I got married recently. We traveled through several cities, staying in 7 hotels in total. 1 was a Sheraton (used points), 1 was a Marriott (used points), and 1 was another chain, while the other 4 were boutique hotels.

Hands down, WITHOUT A DOUBT, the boutique hotels were nicer, friendly, more relaxing, more enjoyable, more authentic, more just plain REAL than the chain hotels. When we stayed in the chains it felt more antiseptic, more clinical…. More like work.

Why would you want to do a program that causes you to take vacations that are just like work?

Oliver Wyman has a good insights article on this.


Anonymous said...

Starwoods combined with the Starwoods AmEx isn't bad at all. Yes, you are locked into using your points at their facilities, and yes, a B&B is probably more comfortable --- but you can take some pretty nice vacations on Starwoods points. I find their properties to be generally a lot better than the Marriotts.

Consultant Ninja said...

A co-worker pointed out that using a Marriott Visa will give you 5 points for every dollar spent, whereas Amex is only 1 point (at roughly a penny per). At that rate We're talking almost 20 points per dollar... it's almost enough to keep me loyal.

Sunday, December 9, 2007