Thursday, June 4, 2015

Not all "Glitches" are Fair Game: Choice Hotels Brings the Hammer Down on a Scammer

In today's news is a story about a points enthusiast who went a bit too far.  From the ABA Journal:

Suit accuses Florida man of exploiting glitch in hotel rewards program

In this case a member of the Choice Hotels's "Choice Privileges" program noticed that the Choice Privileges website was awarding points for reservations made, but later cancelled.  Now, if this had simply been a "Bank Error in Your Favor" sort of situation, I'd argue that the man had done nothing wrong and had little duty to see the error corrected.  That is to say, if he'd simply noticed an extra few thousand points in his account I wouldn't expect him to go to great lengths to make sure Choice clawed them back.

However, that's not what happened here.  It is alleged that the gentleman (Ed: is that the term you're going with?) made hundreds of reservations and subsequently cancelled them.  Then he cashed out the points for gift cards, resulting in an easily calculable financial loss to Choice.  I'm all for gaming the system and exploiting every rule to your advantage.  Banks and travel companies write the rules that govern the points and miles world, so I can't weep for them when savvy customers discover ways to exploit them.   The problem is that in this case the customer went outside the rules.  

As Choice pointed out in its suit: “Frequent-stay programs are common throughout the industry, and neither Choice nor its competitors offer rewards for frequent reservations.”  By making reservations with intent to cancel and earn points to which he was not entitled, it seems that the defendant in this suit has unclean hands.  Although, I do note that the defendant is quoted as saying "I stayed at over 1,100 Choice hotels in the last five years," so perhaps he's already been punished enough.

P.S.:  The Tampa Bay Times story linked above closes with an anecdote regarding "The Pudding Guy" of points and miles fame, citing his story as example of "consumers who jump at the chance to take a promotion to the extreme."  The analogy is rather poor, though.  The Pudding Guy's story is wonderful: he lived up to the highest ideals of our hobby by finding a deal and exploited it to the Nth degree, but all within the letter of the rules.  Moroever, the Pudding Guy proved to be a real mensch, donating 12,150 cups of chocolate pudding to the homeless.

No comments:

Post a Comment