Marriott Hotels: Is Standardization and Profit a Problem?

I am staying this week at the Marriott World Center where I have done speeches and stayed many times over the past three years.  Every other visit has been for business, but this visit is different . . . this one is the family vacation.  You know . . . wife and two kids “vanilla variety, see Mickey and Minnie, play golf” vacation.  I have almost always been upgraded at this hotel as it is a huge, massive place.  I really never needed the upgrades when by myself on business.  But now that I am on vacation with 3 others, I wanted to be sure I would get a place with plenty of room.  I requested an upgrade half expecting one and when I called a week ahead of time, it was confirmed I would get one of the big rooms.  The internet description confirmed from room details also indicated I would get this large King suite room with sofa pullout and two TVs and pool view. 

Armed with phone and internet confirmation I felt pretty confident when I strolled into the lobby on last Friday morning that my upgrade would be imminent.  When I checked at the front desk I was immediately told no upgrades were available and that the fact I was using points would get me the least of the rooms available.  WOW, Platinum elite and glad that my points were so valuable when I really needed to use them.  I was sent to the front desk training manager who informed me that I couldn’t get the room I needed until Monday (3 days latter).  I relented weary of finding a new spot at this late date.

On Monday, I checked with the front desk in the morning and the room still wasn’t ready, “but would be later that evening.”  Never happened (late that evening) and spoke again to a front desk manager who informed me that not only would I not get a suite, but that she would see what she could do for Wednesday.  I’ll let you know what happens from here.

What I have learned is that the reward points cut into the profitability of a single hotel and this is why they prefer that even Platinum guests not use their points at their destination.  Their customer management process and selection of the “lowest grade” rooms for those using points will discourage a guest from using points at their hotel in the future.  The problem is they take the value from the entire Marriott hotel network and frequent travelers talk about this stuff a lot when they speak with general travelers or amongst other frequent travelers.  The casual traveler seeks the frequent travelers opinion about destinations and experiences . . . word-of-mouth not accounted for on a balance sheet or income statement, but all the more important than all the commercials they run.

Additionally, I learned that the internet confirmation room detail sheet is a standard and in the words of one manager “not representative of the actual rooms we have” therefore the reason for my misunderstanding.  I have no other source to go to than what they represent to me on the internet.  Another failure of standardization and technology in the eyes of the customer. Customers only know the truth by what they see and hear, they can’t read service organizations minds on what is valid and what is not.  Further, these standards also inhibit the absorption of variety that customers seek in services something again not accounted for in Marriott’s customer management process.

All I can hope for is that someone from Marriott or other hospitality industry folks read this and start down the path to systems thinking the industry’s service is in a decline and they are sorely in need of business improvement that will keep them focused on the customer and not the financials.  Value before profit needs to be the mantra.

To learn more about systems thinking, download “Understanding Your Organization as a System” from or read the blogs at  These are free resources to a better way.

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