Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bumbershoot 2016: The Rock Emerald VIP Experience with Starwood Moments

The Blind Boys of Alabama at the Starbucks' Stage with a Seattle icon in the background.

I've written about Starwood's excellent "Moments" program before. In 2013 I was able to take my Dad to see the Cubs in Starwood's luxury box at Wrigley. While there have been some fantastic auctions on the Moments website, none have them have fit in with our schedule. That changed earlier this summer when I saw an auction offering two "Rock Emerald VIP" passes to Seattle's Bumbershoot festival, one of the longest running arts and music festivals in the country. We'd never been to Seattle before, so I was intrigued.

I looked into the festival a bit more and learned that a couple of bands that we liked were playing, after checking our calendar and talking with Mrs. Points Ninja, I pulled the trigger and started bidding. I'd set a bid ceiling for myself, and ended up getting the package for around 25,500 Starwood Starpoints.  I value Starpoints at around 1.5 cents per point (CPP), so, by Points Ninja Math, I paid $382 for a pair of tickets that retailed at a minimum of $1,400. Not bad!

Well, now that I had the tickets I wanted to figure out exactly what I'd gotten. For the first three decades of its existence, Bumbershoot was run by either Seattle citizens or the city government. Then, a couple of years ago, AEG Live events took over the management. Among the changes that they made, in addition to raising prices (and the ire of Seattleites), was to introduce a VIP option. The description of just what "Rock Emerald VIP" meant was pretty sparse:

One of the more amusing items on the list is the invitation to the Mayor's Arts Awards Ceremony, because, as the Seattle Mayor's website makes clear, that event is open to the public. Well, as we later learned, there was a nice reception at the Seattle Science Center after the Arts Awards at around 1:30 on Friday afternoon, and our tickets got us on the guest list.

There was music, a pretty decent buffet:

and several local beers on offer. It was a nice little event, and I got to ride the death-defying, pendulum bicycle:

Video to come, I promise!

The VIP lounge was open-air, and located on the rooftop just behind the Fisher Green Stage, but that didn't matter on what turned out to be a pretty nice weekend:

There were a number of seating options, including some sort of air-filled bean bag thing (that had a tendency to blow away every time the wind blew).

There was an open bar all-weekend that had a variety of offerings, from mixed drinks to some classic Northwest beers:

The Emerald Lounge also featured food at various times throughout the weekend.  Top Pot Donuts where typically available in the early afternoon, along with breakfast tacos (a bit strange, but, presumably, some guests had just rolled out of bed). Later in the day there was Sizzle Pie pizza and a variety of Chipotle burritos. Snacks of various kinds were always available.

There was a second, smaller, lounge at Memorial Stadium, that offered massages, food, sodas, and a few other attractions.
Sadly, I never got around to having a massage.

Commemorative t-shirts, screen printed while you wait!
 But, of course, getting close to the bands is what music festivals are all about, and event organizers did a good job of providing un-crowded VIP areas, at least on Friday and Saturday.

By Sunday, the VIP areas where packed as organizers began letting vendors, artists' hangers-on, and various others into the VIP area.

It was a good event, though the VIP operation felt a bit disjointed at times. I wouldn't be happy if I'd paid $1,400+ for the tickets, but I expect they'll get the hang of it in future.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Always Check Your Amex "Offers" - Up to 25,000 Membership Rewards Point Bonus for Amex Business Gold

I was looking at my Amex Business Gold account page to check the Amex "Offers" when I saw an offer that mentioned the possibility of earning an extra 25K MR points. I was intrigued and followed the link that led me to the landing page for the offer:
5,000 bonus Membership Rewards Points for each $5,000+ purchase (up to 25,000 ) from now until December 15. Now, this offer is only valuable to folks who can make large purchases like this, but fortunately, I just happen to know a way to make that happen.

UPDATE: Just looked at the Ts&Cs:
Since this offer appears to be restricted to the Business Gold Rewards card, it might be worth delaying any plans to take advantage of the an offer of 50K MR points to upgrade from BGR to Business Plat.

UPDATE: While the full Ts&Cs indicate that gift card purchases don't count, I'm aware of some data points showing that they do actually count.