Friday, July 25, 2008

This just in: Changes to the BRG program (that I think we'd all figured would come eventually)

Let this be the take-home message of this post: You can't run a blog with over 120,000 visitors per month and expect life to flow perfectly with an indefinite stream of free hotel rooms coming in. Instead of keeping this promotion a secret, and have it be a self-serving method of me saving money while the rest of you would be paying top-dollar, I've (from the get-go) shared my wealth of knowledge, tips, and the BRG opportunities themselves that we find with you, my faithful readers, so that there would be a bit of equality in all of this mess.

Well, the day has come that we've all been dreading. Now, don't panic - it's bad, but it could have been much worse. The staff here at the blog have had a gut feeling for a while now that things were about to change, which is why we probably went on room-booking sprees a couple of weeks ago, hoping to lock in as many as we could, as that gut feeling was getting stronger each day. And it truly was the harbinger of things to come, and I'm glad I finalized some travel plans while I could.

Without further ado, I'll cease rambling like a madman and tell you what has happened: Wyndham Rewards has changed their terms and conditions.

The changes are as follows (at least from what I can see):

"Due to rounding and other issues, rates within $.25 of our Best Available Rate will be considered a match and will not qualify for Best Rate Guarantee claims."

-This means that your beloved $69.99 rate won't work against a $70.00 WR rate any longer. I'm not too worked up about this particular one.

"Only one valid claim can be submitted per person, per e-mail address, per calendar month."

- This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. They now are refusing to truly honor whether they have the "Best Available Rate" more than 12 times per year, per person. Luckily, I have friends that I travel with, so this won't sting as much as it potentially could. A big SHAME ON YOU to Wyndham Rewards for basically saying that your guarantee is only valid once per month - why even have a guarantee? For a long while, you've been on top of the game in the business, having a solid guarantee. Now, well, it's almost useless, and its really not a guarantee at all. To all the Todd Tucker's and Jonathan Gould's up in Wyndham's head office on the Great Plains of South Dakota, I ask, what the hell are you thinking?

I urge everyone to write letters of objection to Wyndham and their staff. You can start by emailing this address and ask them why they will only honor their "guarantee" once per month - what about the countless other times that their rates are not lower. Oh, I forgot, its not the "Guaranteed Best Available Rate" it's the "We Have No Staff and Have to Shut You Up Somehow so Here's a Dozen Free Rooms Per Year Promotion". Someone really screwed up on what the essence of this guarantee is all about - honoring the fact that you don't have the lowest rate available.
If they don't have the staff, then hire more - but don't call this new thing a "guarantee" of any sort.

"All reservations must be for personal use only and booked by the guest who will actually be staying at the hotel. Reservations booked by brokers or agents will not qualify. Best Rate Claims and any free nights issued under this program are not transferable."

-I've only transferred one hotel room from another person to me, and that is when they were severely ill and couldn't make the trip. I don't disagree with this new addition at all. If you are booking a claim for another person, then there is a simple solution - get them to book their own room and stop doing the work for them ;)

Days Inns reserve the right to reject a Best Rate Claim and/or to cancel any free night previously issued by it in the event of fraud or abuse of this Program or non-compliance with these Terms and Conditions.

-Wow, I hope what we do here on the blog isn't "fraud" (sarcasm). I might be egotistical, but I think that this is directed towards me and my staff. My response: If getting free nights based on the fact that we find cheaper rates on other websites is "fraud" or "abuse" then so be it. I probably book 1 out of every 40 hotels listed on this blog, and the same is true for the other writers. Two words: Idle threats.

Okay, okay, so I'm using fighting words. But, I'm serious - this is no longer a guarantee, it's a charade. As for us here at the blog, we will continue searching out free rooms for you every day until this thing sinks for good. We'll be continuing to support you in your search for free and frugal travel, no matter if the BRG exists or it does not. For now, choose wisely, tread carefully, and as always, help keep us on the internet, doing what we do best, by continuing to visit our main sponsor, Kayak Inc., for all of your comparison searches.

We're going down with the ship, folks!

Please consider "taking it to the streets" with this and protesting the changes in claims. Even "one claim per person per day" or "per week" would be better than "per month". Is this a joke?


SterlingMist said...

I agree... The $0.25 delta doesn't bother me any. Just makes the program more of a challenge! However, this one worries me:

"Only one valid claim can be submitted per person, per e-mail address, per calendar month."

That is ridiculous! I can submit only 1 claim per month? At least one per week, just to make it fair.

I also hope they don't start abusing the existing free rooms some of us all have. I actually have a free one tonight, and if I drive to my destination and don't have a free room I'll be severly annoyed.

sltrwe said...

One per 24 hour period would be reasonable, but one per month is ridiculous.

Not Surprised. said...

Here is what you posted back on April 22:

"Now onto the matter of when exactly the next BRG opportunity will be posted. Out of respect for the claims department, I'm going to hold off on posting the reader contributions and anything I've found on my own until Friday or Saturday. I might post one or two before then, but posting 10+ BRG opps will inundate the claims staff to an unmanageable level, and I fear that that will only make things worse regarding the BRG's future. I'm going to wean myself off of posting lists of 6-8 different hotels at once (other than Expedia) since from what I understand, the claims staff are now working weekends to catch up with the influx of claims. While I want you to have free rooms, I want it to be manageable and not a headache for the claims staff. If they're working overtime to get the claims filed, we're seriously screwing them over, and that's not what this blog is about. "

Now since that time, the blog has averaged more than 3x more posts than were being made before.

I can't really say I'm shocked. I would imagine that Wyndham really doesn't want to continue to pay to manage the program and process claims while the workload continues to grow.

I think to, as you picked up, the fraud/abuse may be somewhat directed toward the blog. Does this now mean that they can deny a claim because the hotel was posted on the blog? I guess they were annoyed that another site (this blog) was making money (through referral links, etc) while increasing Wyndham's workload and "abusing" (their word, not mine) their guarantee.

FreeRoomGuy said...

I believe it isn't so much about our postings (how many or how few) as it is just the mere fact that this blog has alerted the public about this BRG program and educated a vast many people on how to go about filing claims for themselves.

We could end this blog today and yet still, so many have learned about the guarantee and have told their friends, and their friends have told friends, and so on.

But you know, what really matters when all is said and done, is sharing our finds with our faithful blog readers and simply helping each other out. So no matter what becomes of the BRG program, we, and all of our countless numbers of loyal readers are the true winners here!

Dave (the manager of this blog) and I are very grateful for all of your input, contributions and loyalty you've given this blog since the very start! We'll continue the search for you until this guarantee (if you can now call it that!) is dead and buried!

Brian said...

Sorry but I'm going to disagree with the blog here. Basically - it's their ball, and their rules - if they want to change them, they can. If I'm running that business, I'm probably going to do the 1 every month thing as well. Which would you rather them do - close the entire program, or do 1 a month? The more popular these BRG sites become, the more it's going to tip the scales to the point that the BRG Guarantee is no longer profitable to the hotel chain. That's the whole point of the Guarantee, after all. It's always about money. They get money with the BRG by trying to make sure normal customers don't wander off their booking site trying to find a lower rate.

Yes, we are taking advantage of a program that isn't intended to work this way. Period. Yes, I've taken advantage of BRG opportunities. It's not illegal. BUT, from a business standpoint, it WILL get to the point that is causes the hotel chain to lose money.

To put it in perspective - I own a restaurant. I may hand out a coupon to a customer for a free side item on their next visit (a "bounceback" coupon). Now, 99% of customers, if they come back, will present the coupon, get the free side, maybe buy something else, and be done with it. But there's always one person that decides they are just going to copy the coupon and try to use it every day, or perhaps copy it and give it to a bunch of people so they can just walk in and get free food. That's not the purpose of the coupon, and it will make my business lose money. So my normal customers lose out because I can't do that coupon anymore because of that 1 person that messes it up for everyone by trying to take advantage of the program. It would be stupid of me to allow that, so it's either come up with a coupon that can't be copied or no coupon.

So, bottom line. Stop whining that they changed the rules of THEIR game - at least the game is still on. How many other hotel chains have a BRG?? Exactly. Give them some credit for that.

(No, I do not work for any hotel)


Dave @ The BRG Blog said...

I'll agree with you to a large extent. I know that they are a business and that they can't just give out free hotel rooms. The difference is, if I were them, I'd actively make sure that it was impossible to get a free room by merely making sure that prices were homogeneous. Make good on their guarantee, and limit the amount of claims by simply having no BRG opportunities available. But, they've taken the approach against their own guarantee, and this only hurts those who truly would be staying in these hotel rooms regardless if they were free or not - those who find the lower rate unexpectedly and file a claim, those who don't seek a free hotel room out. Now, I have gotten a ton of free rooms, and I do thank Wyndham for making that possible. Personally, I'd rather it have been completely pulled than turned half-assed, but that's me and my own personality - I like all or nothing. But, I guess I will (hesitantly) book my one free room per night, and hopefully still save some money in my life through this "guarantee".

I just think, from a business stance, they are punishing the consumer far more than the hotels who are going against their B.A.R. and making side-deals with competitor websites. I'd say, deal with them, before dealing with us. From here at the blog, we can clearly see the spike in BRG opportunities - they're a dime a dozen these days, and there is something not right about that.

BearlyAmusing said...

Yes, WR has an absolute right to change the terms of their program. But these new "enhanced" terms read rather poorly and seem to be a quick way to reduce the workload of their BRG group AND to allow member hotels the ability to fill their rooms with guests booked through non-WR sites.

I imagine that the second reason is more critical. As I travel this summer, I am amazed how empty many properties have been. $4+ gas has had an impact. "Staycations" are all the rage. Hotels are desperate for paying customers and no doubt that hotel owners were screaming that they need paying customers. And WR finally threw in the towel. By amending their terms, the hotels can now strike up "deals" with booking engines which are far more popular than WR. Since most travelers go to orbitz/expedia/travelocity, WR properties can now offer deals to snare paying guests without being bombarded with free room stays.

I also imagine that the "Days Inn" reference in the new T+C is the result of some DI properties being victimized by some type of abuse. I don't think a "blog" can be blamed, However, I am certain there was some geeky PC-jockey scamster type who was wildly booking hotel stays at certain properties, selling them, and transferring the free nights. Heck, the thought crossed my mind a few times when I found a property that ALWAYS had BRG options.

Sadly, this "one-per-month" deal will not stop the scamster types. Multiple email accounts and virtual credit cards will still enable them to "profit" from the BRG.

But the big winner is the individual hotel. They can now manipulate their rates to draw in paying customers without worrying about freebies.

Anonymous said...

The 'one submission per calander month' restriction seems to actually hurt most those guests who make the most legitimate use of the BRG program - those who are making the trip and staying at the hotel whether the night is free or not. Casual users may not deliberately plan one trip a month just to get a free room, but rather might find 2 or 3 lower rates within a week's time, but not see another BRG request for six months.

I'd prefer a restriction of twelve (or whatever number; twelve seems low for frequent travelers) BRG requests per year rather than one per month, and such a clause would make the program far more fair and reasonable to most Wyndham customers. As it stands now, if I've already used my monthly BRG quota, I actually have an incentive to book the room somewhere else other than through Wyndham, since I know they won't guarantee my rate in such an instance, but other booking sites will price match at least. The $.25 matching rate and prohibition against transfer of rooms seems reasonable and prudent; The once-a-month clause is unpopular here, of course, but it could have been phrased better for everyone's benefit.

Finally, anyone know if we have already submitted and been approved for a BRG earlier this month under the old terms, can we get another now under the new terms or do we have to wait until August 1st?

The said...

Possible Loophole: Wyndham Rewards, Days Inn, Ramada, etc, each have their own "best rate guarantee". The terms specify booking at different locations and and the terms are with you and the brand. In theory, you are entitled to 1 valid claim, per person, per email address, per calendar month, per brand.

The way the terms are worded, each site has it's own terms, and own claim form.... even though they are handled by the same team. In other words, the BRG terms on the Days Inn site should not conflict with the BRG terms on the Ramada site. You just have to book and claim through different sites.

Odds are that this won't fly, but it's worth a shot.

Still no limits on Wyndham Resorts and Hotels.

Anonymous said...

OK, so things are even worse. You should all CHECK YOU ALREADY APPROVED BRG's for future dates. All mine were changed back!!! I only have three future nights, all claimed back on May 1. They were all changed back to full price.

I've emailed and asked for them to be changed back. But as I have a vacation planned and no hotel, I'm not sure what I'll be doing. I do have the emails from the company. If worse comes to worse, then I'll be disputing my credit card charges.

Any suggestions/opinions?

Anonymous said...

To answer an earlier asked questions, if you have had a previously approved claim this month they will NOT allow you another. And I would check the rate on your previous claim.

Anonymous said...

What amazes me more than anything is the fact that they actually gave away free rooms rather than matching the lower rate...

Once a month is fair enough to me.

Hate to burst a bubble, but booking a room with no intention of staying there unless a BRG is accepted, could easily be construed as fraud...

Anonymous said...

I encourage everyone to write to Todd Tucker and whoever else at Wyndham Rewards, and let them know that this change in the BRG has soured us all on their company and will discourage us from staying at their hotels in the future. I think the change is totally disingenuous and is basically admitting that their rates are NOT the lowest. Their "Guarantee" is now a total joke, and I personally do not want to support a company that treats its customers like this.

Mike said...

Here's my take on BRG hotels. I see the program as a way for the hotel to earn my business. If it weren't for the BRG, I wouldn't be staying at these WR properties, I'd be crashing at the airport, or staying at a nicer property with a comparable price.

If I have a pleasant stay, I'll talk the place up with friends, I'll write a review on tripadvisor, etc. That may well earn the hotel a bit of income down the line.

It is their program, and they can do with it as they will, but I'll still be out pounding the internet looking for brg's.

For the record, I have one upcoming BRG booked ($350 nightly place that I had to fight tooth and nail to get) and it has not been changed back.

njpokemon said...

Please CLOSE THIS BLOG! This, and the Slick Deals Post, made it WAY TO EASY to do this. You don't have to spoonfeed people. If they want a free room, they can do a little work and research it themselves. You made it way too easy (as did SlickDeals). This blog has way more solid BRGs than the thread and abuse WILL HAPPEN when it is that easy. The simple solution - CLOSE THIS BLOG AND CLOSE THE THREAD! If the blog keeps going the way it is, the BRG will be completely over.

The said...

Are you guys getting denied now?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for singlehandedly ruining this program for people who haven't lived their entire past year in a Wyndham hotel. There are places out there for people like you to live without burdening society with your existence. Society has no place for freeloaders like yourself.