Friday, September 08, 2006

Forfeiting Frequent Guest Points… UGH!

During the last ten years, I have joined pretty much every airline and hotel rewards program you can name. Despite my membership in those programs, however, I have to admit I have not always earned as many frequent traveler points as I should have. In some cases the fault for this truth lies entirely with me, in other cases I have to point some of the blame toward hotel staff, computer glitches, etc.

The truly astounding thing (and something I had not realized until just this very minute) is that I have at least one horror story about each and every one of them…

To be completely fair, I have had the good fortune to reap formidable benefits, too. Some of my gripes certainly would portray me as the prototypical prima donna business traveler. I hate those guys…even though I’ve been one.

I will try not to whine too much. But I have to report the news from my morning, because it makes me feel incredibly stupid.

This morning I rose with a simple goal: to book a room for the trip Normal Girl and I are making to see the Circleville Pumpkin Show. (Much more on that in the coming days…) We don’t have many lodging choices, especially since folks apparently book rooms for this event a year in advance. No rooms within Circleville city limits. Fortunately, a Hampton Inn stands twenty minutes away, in Chillicothe…a small town that Normal Girl’s maternal grandparents call home.

As with all my frequent guest accounts, I have my number memorized. Upon confirming rooms were available at the Hampton, I proceeded to enter my nine digits and my best guess at my password.

Password Incorrect.

Tried another of my go-to passwords.

Password Incorrect.

Clicked on Forgot My Password, entered my account number, only to learn…

Account number has been deactivated.

I jammed the customer service number into my cell phone keypad.

After a minute or two of indignance, I calmed down and let the very friendly operator (let’s call her Diane) explain that after a year without activity, they purged the points and the account. The points I understood, the account, not so much.

“But I have this number memorized,” I whined.

“Let’s see what we can do,” Diane said, and upon keying my number into the system she was able to retrieve the shell of my old account.

“Oh my,” she said. “You forfeited quite a few points.”

“Yes,” I said. “I know.”

“I mean, a LOT of points,” she said.

“I know.”

“Shoot, you had enough points for a whole week someplace.”

“Thank you, I got it.”

“Mr. Shaffner, you do know that all you need to keep your points active is any kind of activity on your account?” she asked.

“Yes, but I have been staying in a Sheraton the last eighteen months.”

“But you can buy points online. For $12 you can buy 100 points, and that gives you another year,” she said. “You could have kept all those points for $12.”

“Really?” I asked. These are the kind of things I like to think I know. “$12?”

“Yessir,” Diane replied. “Now, I can’t reinstate those points, but I can give you silver status. Would that help?”

What is the point of this story? To capitalize on my own stupidity to remind the rest of you to keep track of the policies each program has for maintaining continuity (activity within one year is pretty common), and tricks for generating activity even if you aren’t planning travel. Many of the programs have options similar to the $12 HHonors offers, or you may be able to transfer points from one of your more active accounts into one that is about to close down.

This advice is especially crucial for those of you who travel less frequently, so you don’t find yourself starting over again and again, never accumulating enough points to surprise your sweetie with a free night of romance and luxury at the Chillicothe Hampton Inn…

- Normal Guy


At 6:13 AM, Blogger SusanD said...

I would seethe about this for years to come.


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