The headline on the landing page for Choice Hotels' new promotion fairly shouts the offer's purported proposition: "Stay Two Separate Times, Earn One Night Free."
But as is sometimes the case with travel-industry marketing, the reality is a bit more complicated.
Between May 19 and August 11, Choice Privileges members will be awarded enough bonus points to earn a total of 8,000 points after the second stay at Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, and Ascend Collection hotels.
For purposes of this promotion, a "stay" has two different definitions. The normal sense—one or more consecutive nights—applies for bookings at Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, or Ascend Collection hotels. But at Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, or MainStay Suites hotels, a stay is defined as "two or more consecutive nights at one hotel regardless of check-ins or check-outs."
The 8,000 points are significant because that's enough to redeem for a free night, but only in Choice Privileges' two lowest award tiers, which account for just 1,500 of the more than 6,000 hotels in Choice's network.
Choice Privileges General members and Gold elite members may earn the bonus up to four times, for 32,000 points. Platinum and Diamond elite members may earn the bonus up to 10 times, for 80,000 points.
Qualifying stays must be booked at ChoiceHotels.com or 1-800-4CHOICE.
Deal or No Deal
The communication of this offer is woefully short on clarity and transparency.
A free night? Yes, but only if you're willing to settle for a stay at one of Choice's least expensive properties.
Two stays to qualify? Yes, but only if each stay comprises two or more nights at some Choice brands.
The copywriters (and their bosses) need a refresher course in business ethics and communications.
There is also a strange (intended?) effect of awarding a total of 8,000 points for the qualifying stays. Those earning more points for higher-cost stays earn fewer bonus points. In effect, you're penalized for paying a higher room rate. Aren't marketing incentives normally designed to do just the opposite?
Quibbles aside, this is a solid offer, especially for those staying at lower-priced Choice properties, who stand to earn a hefty bonus relative to their spend.
Reader Reality Check
Am I being unduly harsh in my critique of this promotion's communication?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.