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CT Watchdog: A loyal customer treated shabbily

George Gombossy

Publication: The Day

Published 06/30/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 06/30/2013 12:03 AM

For more than 30 years West Hartford resident Don Reder has been a loyal Hilton customer collecting hundreds of thousands of Hilton reward points.

This Spring Reder discovered that he was about to lose his remaining 250,000 points because he did not have any activity in his account in the previous 12 months.

He wasn't notified of the impending loss by Hilton, rather by his free Android App AwardWallet.

AwardWallet notified him that he could continue to keep his points alive for another year if he paid $12.95.

"I thought it was a bit strange that I had not received an email from Hilton regarding this and logged on to my account to check my points status," Reder told CtWatchdog.

"I checked my messages...nothing. I confirmed that they had my correct email. I spent ten minutes clicking all the options regarding points and never found anything that addressed the expiration of my points."

"I finally called Customer Service and spoke with a very pleasant woman who confirmed that, yes indeedy, my quarter million points were about to expire. She, also, could find nowhere on the HHonors site to see this. She could also not explain why there had been no email to me and nothing in my messages regarding this."

Reder asked CtWatchdog to look into whether his case was a mistake or if Hilton was trying to get rid of points it had on its books by pulling a fast one on its customers.

"Maybe their system was supposed to notify me and just burped at that moment, but the fact that I could not find the expiration status when I was signed on makes me a tad suspicious," Reder said. "Because of the overhang of these programs, lots of companies are changing their plans to make it more difficult to use points and there is no such thing as a free ticket on some of the airlines anymore since they charge you a $100 or more "processing fee" to get you your "free" flight."

I contacted Hilton and promptly received a response from Anthony Martucci, a public relations official working with Hilton.

Martucci, in effect, said that Hilton reward customers need to discover the terms of its program and it wasn't Hilton's responsibility to notify customers when their points are about to expire.

"Members who do not have eligible activity in any 12 consecutive month period may be removed from the Hilton HHonors program and are subject to forfeiture of all accumulated points," Martucci responded to Reder's questions.

"We strongly encourage all members to review the HHonors terms and conditions to be informed of the program's policies. For more information on this specific policy and to understand what is considered eligible activity, please visit HHonors.com/Terms."

I took a look at www.HHonors.com/Terms and I encourage you to look at it.

It is page after page of small print delineating "HHonors Terms & Conditions."

Reder did read the fine print and discovered that among the pages the contract "absolutely allows them to vaporize my quarter million points if I've had no activity in twelve months."

"But that's not the point," Reder said. "Hilton seems to have the capability to email me when there's some type of special they want me to take advantage of, so I find it curious that they don't have the ability to email me when I'm about to lose all of my points? And they not only didn't email me, they didn't send me a message through their own HHonors web site OR provide any way when I logged into my account to determine that my points were in jeopardy."

Reder is absolutely right.

This is no way to treat loyal customers.

You can reach The Watchdog at george@ctwatchdog.com and George Gombossy will answer for free as many emails as he can. Please check out www.ctwatchdog.com for comprehensive consumer, health, finance, shopping, nutrition, elderly issues, media, internet, computer, travel, auto, and education tips. And check out www.CtCondoNews.com for condo consumer news in Connecticut.

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