Is Club Carlson Hotel Loyalty Program Honest?

Radisson Hotel Sukhumwit Bangkok
Radisson Hotel Sukhumwit Bangkok

The basic idea of being a member of Club Carlson Hotel Loyalty Program is to earn Gold Points whenever you stay in a Club Carlson partner hotel. These Gold Points can be accumulated and redeemed either for free nights in affiliated hotels or in a few other ways. Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn, etc. chains are members of the Carlson Rezidor Group that operates Club Carlson. I joined Club Carlson in 2011 and thought it was ok until Carlson’s house of lies came crashing down. Two incidents happened…

Denial of Gold Points By Hook or By Crook

Incident 1: Club Carlson sent me a promotional mailer offering double the Gold Points or Double the room night credits if I stayed in one of their properties during the Christmas / New Year season. Hotels are usually expensive during that period and so the hotel I booked (Country Inn & Suites Panjim Goa) was really expensive too, approximately 250% of the usual rate that hotel commands during normal days. I checked in on 27th December and checked out on 2nd January. Club Carlson shamelessly denied me the extra Gold Points or extra room night credits claiming that I had checked out on 2nd January whereas the offer was for stay during the month of December only. What? I had stayed from 27th to 31st December, but according to Club Carlson, I had not stayed in December because I checked out in January.

Incident 2: This time I had stayed at Country Inn, Indore. Again Club Carlson denied even the basic Gold Points / stay credit because according to them, even though my booking for this hotel was a paid booking (INR 4200 per night), the rate at which my travel agent (MakeMyTrip.com) booked this hotel for me was not an “Eligible Rate”. An ineligible rate does not earn Gold Points and thus, does not even qualify to be counted for one’s Elite status in the program. And it goes without saying that such a stay will not qualify for any Club Carlson promotion one has registered for.

Here’s the problem: When a customer books a Club Carlson hotel room through a travel agent, online or otherwise, the rate at which the travel agent books the room with the hotel is never known to the customer. Whether the rate is an “Eligible” or “Ineligible” rate will be known to the customer only when Gold Points are credited or denied a few days after the stay. If the agent decides to inflate their profit by doing the booking at a heavily discounted rate, the customer will lose the Gold Points.

I complained about this to Club Carlson Member Services and they sent me some fine print to justify the denial of Gold Points. This is the response that I got from them:

“Eligible stays are defined as the following:

“Eligible Rate” means a rate identified in Carlson’s reservation system as eligible for Gold Points. Eligible Rate does not include, without limitation, the following: employee rates; friends and family rates; airline crew rates; travel agency employee rates; certain promotional and package rates; rates paid using a free night voucher and other complimentary or barter rooms; rates booked through an online travel company, whether such rates are direct, auction or bid rates; rates booked and billed through a master account, including group accounts and tour operator accounts; and certain other rates booked through third parties.”

The words: “and certain other rates booked through third parties” above are really important and a major part of this problem. If only the Club Carlson members can have a way of knowing if their travel agent will book the room at an “Eligible Rate”. As of now, they don’t.

A possible solution?

Other than the obvious solution of never booking a Carlson hotel, the only possible solution to this problem is also an uncertain one. One can always book a Club Carlson hotel on the Club Carlson website. Naturally, that way one would be deprived of any possible travel agent discounts and still not be sure of whether or not the stay would earn Gold Points. Maybe if one books Club Carlson hotel rooms at full rates, one will always earn Gold Points but will the benefits of being a member of Club Carlson be equal to that additional cost? That I do not know. And I am never staying in a Club Carlson hotel again.