One of my favorite topics to blog about is travel, but it’s hard to stay motivated and come up with ideas when I’m not actually traveling!
A disappointing side effect that comes with having no trips planned for the near future is expiring reward points. Most airlines and hotel chains have customer loyalty programs, and most of them will never actually get you much of anything. For every billion round-the-world trips you take you’ll get a single, one-way ticket from your home airport to the nearest other airport in a city you have no desire to visit. Taxes and fees not included. Only valid for flights on Wednesday. Thank you for choosing our airline.
I’ve never come even close to getting a free flight anywhere, but I can’t really blame the airlines. I’m not particularly loyal to any one company. I don’t fly often enough to make it worth it. I go where the sales are. When I build up a (very) small balance of miles, I usually cash them in for magazines or something similar.
Hotels are another story. I have a few favorite chains, here in the US and abroad, and I try to stay in them wherever I go. When I lived in France last year, I did a lot of travelling, and after I discovered my first Mercure hotel, I basically stopped staying anywhere else. Mercure is a mid-level chain in the Accor brand. They’re clean, inexpensive, and most often centrally located. They also have quirky touches like mechanical pencils instead of pens. My absolute favorite Mercure I stayed at was on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. It was newly renovated, and beach-side “deluxe” rooms had espresso machines and 180-degree views of the Mediterranean.
I left France with a sizeable chunk of reward points in my account. It’s nothing extraordinary, but probably enough for a free night at a Mercure. There’s a slight problem. There are no Mercures in the United States. Actually there are no Mercures in North America. In fact, there are only a handful of Accor hotels in North America, all Novotels or Sofitels. I don’t have enough points for a night at the Sofitel in NYC.
I’m sorry. I’m lying. There are more than a handful of Accor hotels in America. Accor also owns Motel 6. But I’m not going to stay at a Motel 6. They don’t accept reward points anyway.
You can probably guess where all of this is going. It’s been nearly a year since I came home from France, and Accor club points expire after a year. I wrote to the company and asked if they’d extend my account for another year. I received a very impersonal response that simply reiterated the loyalty program’s expiration policies.
I don’t understand why loyalty program points expire. I suppose I do understand. Companies want customers to keep coming back, frequently, consistently. This isn’t some sandwich shop on the corner that I’m choosing not to visit for more than a year. I can’t drop money on a European vacation once a year just to maintain my Accor club points. I have every intention of returning to France one of these days and staying in a Mercure hotel when I do. It’s just not going to happen in the next week and a half. On second thought, maybe next time a won’t. A little customer support goes a long way, and loyalty works both ways.