Well with my new web site design up and running and summer in full swing, Alaska conquered and many changes in my business life, I thought it time to expose Marriott Hotels and Vacations, who this week have, in my opinion, hit an all time low with their customer service, or lack of.
About 15 years ago I went to Palm Springs to play golf. I liked the course and resort so much, I ended up buying a weeks time share at that particular Marriott property. It was relatively inexpensive and as the years went by and my experience with Marriott grew, I decided to purchase two more weeks at different resorts. One was in Breckenridge Colorado and the other in St Kitts. Both costing more than just a pretty penny, but both, I believed, a great investment. In the early days of my Marriott experience, every second year, instead of going to your purchased resort to vacation, you could trade your week in for Marriott points and use these points to travel anywhere that Marriott owned hotel properties, providing they had availability. You could also bank your week with Interval International, but I soon found out that the alternatives offered through Interval were inferior and those that weren’t were extremely hard to tie down, especially for popular holiday destinations such as Hawaii and the Caribbean. Then the shit hit the fan when their somewhat modest maintenance resort fees started to skyrocket! It was out of control and so was I. Eventually I got pissed off with the aggravation caused whenever I received a bill for fees or I just wanted to book a simple vacation and use my week, only to find it impossible to get in anywhere. I was done. My love affair with Marriott had ended and I was determined to do something about it.
Having been a timeshare owner for years, I knew that to sell my timeshare was going to be difficult. I came up with one or two ideas, none of which ended up making sense. Then, in one last effort to rid myself of this nightmare, I called Marriott and told them I was willing to give them the three timeshares back, free, gratis, and without any personal gain. I remember the conversation clearly. The gentleman at the other end of the phone was sympathetic and understanding and also very courteous. After I explained to him in great detail my reservations and experiences, and after telling him how upset I was with the way their timeshare worked, he calmly listened and suggested I gave their NEW and improved system one more chance. He explained that I no longer needed to use Interval and that Marriott was implementing a new points system where I could bank my weeks and then go any place on the planet where Marriott owned similar resorts, at times to suit me and without the stress of having to deal with a third part. I listened and decided I would give it a chance. After all, there seemed no point in giving them back my three weeks, losing all my money and starting from scratch each year. With Platinum status, and a desire to travel to most of the places where they owned nice resorts, what did I have to lose? Everything worked well, they new system was great, the service impeccable and the resort maintenance fees easily paid for themselves with the introduction of this ‘stay where you like’ policy. I was happy, they were happy and then, well this week, Hurricane Flossie hit the Hawaiian islands and Marriott Vacation Club lost all their credibility, all their personal service and all their ability to be warm and fuzzy and caring when trying to deal reasonably in the midst of a crises.
Phone conversation, word for word.
“I am stuck at San Jose airport. There is a hurricane in Hawaii and all flights are canceled. I would like to re book my week vacation”
“Sorry, you cannot do that. You will lose all your points”
“Perhaps you never heard me correctly. There is a hurricane in Hawaii, I need to re book or you need to give me back all my points.”
“Sorry, we can’t give you your points back. You should have taken out travel protection.”
“Alaska Airlines just gave me my money back and I have no protection with them. Hertz just accepted my cancellation and I have no protection with them. The tour I was booked on did the same, and yes, I had no protection with them.
“Well Marriott cannot help you.”
“Take the points for one night and give me the rest back”
“Sorry, that won’t work”
“Let me talk to your boss”
Pause, music, more music, ten minute wait.
“This is Heidi”
“Heidi, I need someone to be reasonable here and introduce some common sense into my situation.” I began a 5 minute diatribe on the circumstances involved and just why I needed to cancel my trip. I told Heidi that if this was my business, I would bend over backwards to assist my client and make sure that some compromise could be reached on such an unfortunate situation. I also told her that these were extenuating circumstances and that with all flights canceled it was impossible to get to the islands, not just on Monday, but on Tuesday too.
“Sorry Mr. Zoltie, you should have taken out travel protection. We cannot get the points back to you and there is nothing I can do other than offer you two nights in Tahoe as a courtesy compensation.”
“That won’t work. How about I just give you all my timeshares back, no cost to you, and we call it a day?”
The next words out of Heidi’s mouth were astounding.
“OK, providing you don’t owe us any money or fees, here’s the number, feel free to call them and we can arrange everything”
I was blown away. I have been a Marriott timeshare owner for 15 years, a Platinum card member for 12 years, and this woman was making no effort to reach a compromise over a situation that had been completely out of my control. An act of God! Well, with smoke billowing out of my head, I put the phone down, took a deep breath and counted dollar for dollar all the money I have spent with Marriott over the past 15 years. It amounts to quite a princely sum and for them to have this ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude over such an unfortunate set of circumstances, totally pissed me off. This is not a way to deal with any customer, no matter what their situation. Marriott need to take a long hard look at their policies, customer service and they way they handle ‘valuable’ clients. This issue that I have is not going to go away, as they hope it might. Hiding behind ‘cancellation policies’ is fine, unless the cancellation is due to an act of God. Compromise would have been and should have been so easy, but instead of someone, anyone, at Marriott making a common sense decision, they have now isolated me, and I hope all of you, from every booking one of their hotel rooms again, obtaining one of their credit cards or indeed purchasing one of their timeshares. My next move will be to call the 800 number Heidi gave me earlier today and cancel all of my timeshares for good. This is a drastic step, but when I do the math and I listen to their BS, it’s well worth the effort and the aggravation.
I receive many phone calls, often 3 or 4 a month, from people or corporations who start off by saying, “Mr. Zoltie, are you desperate to get out of your timeshare?” Now, instead of putting the phone down and laughing at yet another sales call, I might just say ‘yes, get me the fuck out, and do it today!” Unless Marriott have either redeemed themselves ( I highly doubt this will happen) or I have ‘donated’ my hard-earned cash back to them in favor of eternal peace and quiet.
Stay clear of timeshare, stay clear of Marriott. If by chance anyone from Marriott is reading this, call me, I am around, because I’m certainly NOT in Hawaii. The image above says it all. The coconuts have all gone, and so have I.