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Why Did Hilton Award Brian a Free Night?

Frequent Flyer Q&A
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Man on laptop and phone (Photo: Index Open)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 4, 2010. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Frequent Flyer Q&A, Hilton, Tim Winship.

The following pertains to the experience of a reader, Brian, who participated in a recent Hilton promotion offering HHonors members a free night after four qualifying stays between early January and March 31.

Brian's story is as follows:

I completed four stays, the last I checked in March 31 and out April 1. Hilton refuses to give me promotion credit for the stay, saying "it was not completed prior to April 1."

I responded that I checked in March 31, and my hotel bill showed me being charged for March 31, so therefore I DID meet the requirements.

First, what do YOU say, and second, can you shame Hilton into honoring their deal? (That's an unintended pun: Hilton HHONORS won't HONOR their agreement.)

The terms and conditions of the offer are clear: "Members must check in and check out during the offer period." So a check-out that occurred after March 31 would invalidate the stay, even if the check-in was within the promotion period.

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Nevertheless, I contacted Hilton to see whether an exception could be made in Brian's case. After all, he fully satisfied three of the four conditions to qualify for the free night. And he only missed satisfying the fourth condition by a day.

Technically, of course, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. But it never hurts to ask, and I've known Hilton to exercise flexibility in such matters in the past.

As it turned out, while I was trading emails with Hilton, Brian was on the phone with Hilton representatives himself. And not just any representatives—as a top-tier elite in Hilton's program, Brian had a direct line to the Diamond Desk. Here's his report on that conversation:

I did call the Diamond Desk back on Thursday and after speaking first with a "regular" person, then a supervisor, with a lot of emphasis on customer loyalty and moot technicalities, etc., the supervisor said he would "award the certificate this time only and never again," and would document it in my record ...

So, with no help from me, Brian was able to resolve the dispute in his favor by leveraging his elite status.

There are actually two factors in Brian's success. First, he earned Diamond status, awarded in Hilton's HHonors program after 60 nights or 28 stays in a year. That makes him a proven customer, and proven customers get listened to.

And second, he was politely persistent. Many consumers would have given up after the first "No."

There aren't many HHonors Diamond members in the world. And of them, fewer still have the time or inclination to aggressively press for special consideration. But there's a lesson here for the rest of us as well: If you carefully read the rules of a promotion, and follow them, you'll earn the bonus without either elevated status or energy to spare.

 
 
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