Does free elite status really make you elite?

I’m currently in NYC right now, and I just finished my university exams, so I’m still taking a bit of a breather from all the posting after that exciting post yesterday. Anyways, I ran into this Flyertalk thread while I was doing my reading.

We all know that Accor gives away it’s top tier Platinum status away for free which I’ve written about here and here (the signup offers in the posts have already been removed by Accor). So it’s also not very difficult to get many other hotel statuses for free or next to nothing.

That’s why I found this post particularly amusing:

A few months ago was checking into an MGallery , small queue at the checkin desk. My turn came, and I asked whether there would be any chance of an upgrade, as a gold member. The young receptionist checked and said there was just one junior suite left, and she would be happy to upgrade me.

The chap behind interrupted, quite rudely pushing in front of me, and said that he was platinum, and should therefore have the upgrade. She asked him to wait his turn but he was quite insistent to the point of beligerence. I really didnt want a scene, and shrugged and stepped back.

The receptionist took his card, tapped away at her computer, and asked him when was his last stay at an accor hotel. He foundered for a moment, and then said “I dont remember, not long ago”. She then very politely asked him how he came to be a platinum member, as he had no stays or points recorded at all, looking at him quite pointedly. He mumbled something about loyalty, and she handed his card back to him, She completed my checkin, providing drink vouchers and also complimentary breakfasts (which was good, and unexpected).

The only problem was enduring the slightly venomous glances from the other couple for the two night stay.

So it seems that there is a way for the reception staff to check, and some of the more switched on hotels in the chain are aware.

The person being really rude might have something to do with it, but this isn’t new. IHG has Royal Ambassador status which is only available through actual heavy hotel stays (50+ nights) unless you get a referral certificate invite for a real nice friend (which I wish I had), and most hotel chains have secret super elite tiers above published top-tier status. I think what’s also really interesting that it seems that it’s the first time that I’ve read about a lower tier elite status holder who got status from stays who got an upgrade while a freeloader didn’t.

Of course, we can’t be sure that this is consistent across the Accor chain. But I still found it really interesting how the “free” Accor Plat might not be worth as much as we think. If you legitimately get elite statuses I also think (as an armchair CEO) that this might actually be a really good way of ensuring loyalty, by having very few published benefits but going above and beyond for loyal members. Technically, AMEX “pays” the hotel chains for elite status in the case of holding a credit card, but it’s probably very little compared to actual loyalty by paid nights.

I guess that’s something to consider next time you’re using your Accor Plat!

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  1. When you say “Amex pays the hotel chains for elite status”, doesn’t that apply to all chains? If you hold the Chase co-branded IHG, Marriot, or Hyatt cards you automatically have elite status with each chain. The same applies for the Citi Hilton Reserve card, so I have to believe Chase, Citi, and Amex are all paying their partners for elite status for cardholders.

    • Of course. I mean when for example you can get Hilton gold or Accor plat through the offers that occasionally come out. Or also when you status match.

  2. Well, as we all know ‘acting’ like you are the most loyal customer can get you a lot further than actually being a loyal customer. However, in the long run we may be bested by big data.

  3. Yep, I’ve found return visits to a specific hotel results in much better treatment than any spend based credit card status, such as say Hilton Diamond, which are generally only good for the published benefits.

  4. “The only problem was enduring the slightly venomous glances from the other couple for the two night stay.”

    I look at that quite differently. That’s a plus, not a minus.

    If some jackass is going to actually step in line in front of me, to try to take what is mine, and then get completely rejected by this awesome front desk clerk, I’m going to go looking for this person’s reaction.

    That’s right. This is mine. You can’t have it. What are you gonna do about it?

    (That is, once I actually have my room card in my hand. And, also assuming that the front desk clerk didn’t say my room number out loud at any point during the transaction.)

    We all endure enough loudmouth idiots that we should take time to savour the moment when we can see someone getting their comeuppance.

    (Merry Christmas everyone.)

  5. I found the treatment I received as an Accor Amex Plat with only one previous stay to be abysmal. On the other hand, I found the treatment I received as an SPG Gold has improved remarkably since I began qualifying on stays vs being granted it by AMEX, so there is a lot of truth in this article. I have found the best treatment has been with Fairmont Plat status I received as an Aeroplan Super Elite. So much so that I have been staying more at that chain.

  6. I agree that the treatment I received from Fairmont has been very good. I initially got Fairmont Platinum status through the fast-track 5 nights with Amex Platinum, about 3 or 4 years ago. I got staying there more often because of the status, and looking back at my stay history for 2013, it seems I’ve unexpectedly reached enough nights to requalify without the help from Amex.

    My wife and I stayed 33 nights with Fairmont this year (still not sure how we fit it all in with only 4 weeks vacation) just on a few Canadian vacations and a rather expensive trip to the Savoy in London this summer. So, even if Amex wasn’t paying them, I’d say that Fairmont has likely come out way ahead on the Plat benefits they extended to me. I probably never would have done that had it not been for the fast-track promo. If you’re going to offer a guest a certain status, there’s a danger in treating them as only a pseudo-status guest, since every regular guest started out as an occasional guest at one point, and you won’t convert them by treating them as second class elites.

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