Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (right?)

Yesterday I received an email from Hilton HHonors. The opening line: “We’ve missed you!”

"Aw, gee. I kinda miss you too," I said out loud, "don't I?"

They were writing to let me know that it’s been nine months since they noticed any activity on my account. (Okay, so they did not say they missed my cutesy-pie face, or my natural beauty mark on my right cheek, or the sound of my perky voice, but I’ll take it.) In fact, they were so personally and tenderly sad about my absence that they took time out of their busy day to remind me of our long history together. “Remember, to keep your account active, you must earn HHonors points at least once every 12 months. Otherwise, your membership may be cancelled and all of your points forfeited.”

So, if I am unable “to be one with them" some time during the next three months, our entire history together--including my previous decades of brand loyalty--will be erased. Gheesh. Kinda reminds me of a traumatic high school breakup.

But still, Hilton HHonors loves me more than United Airlines because at least Hilton HHonors took the time to warn me I’ll lose my points (not brownie points, but points I earned by spending money with them) if I don’t activate. United? When I got within a couple months of losing all my points, they gave me the silent treatment: they stopped sending me statements, which is even worse than a text message break up. Next thing I knew, my nearly 40,000 points were simply gone, as was my desire to ever “be one with them” again.

The truth is, even though Hilton HHonors is, at the very least, threatening to break up with me, I do still like and miss them. Comfortable beds. Reliably clean and consistent. Easy-to-use alarm clocks. In the case of Hampton Inns, cutesy pictures near the room doors and in the elevators to help me find my weary way back to where I belong.... In fact, I was recently so lonesome for them that while making travel arrangements, I instinctively clicked on the familiar face of their website. However, after checking a few prices, I discovered that brand loyalty would cost me twenty to forty bucks more per night over the Holiday Inn Express, so I two-timed and booked with them. I must say, the Holiday Inn Express' free breakfast made me think twice about bragging on the free breakfast at the Hampton Inn. Plus, I chalked up some Priority Club points with the Holiday Inn Express stay, including 1000 extra points for staying two nights and skipping full service for my room! (Call me a point hussy if you must.)

I’m gearing up to book two more stays for an upcoming trip. Of course I don’t wish to intentionally break up with Hilton HHonors, or to have them erase me from their memory. But seriously, if I have to spend more money to date them, to keep my relationship going with them, how am I ultimately coming out ahead just by racking up points—which can disappear due to my lack of travel plans?

Hilton HHonors did tell me this in their not-quite-dumping me email: one of the ways I can keep our relationship hot and steamy is to purchase a resort condo with Hilton Grand Vacations. Within the next three months.

You know, if I could afford to do that, I wouldn’t be writing about trying to save twenty bucks. I guess all relationships are relative to what matters most. Right now, it’s my pocketbook.


Margie said...

Charlene, you are hilarious. The Bookstore misses you to, but in a good way! We promise not to kick you out of our Frequent Buyer program! Can't wait for your next book signing!

Carol Margolis said...

My husband and I were both uninvited to the Hilton party when they zeroed out our two accounts a few years ago. I'm still not over it :-) United also set me back to zero when I moved away from Chgo and started flying other airlines. So now I have no loyalty to either and use them very little. Why start a new relationship with them when there's a great chance they'll turn their backs on me again?
Marriott and Continental have been friends forever. I'll stay loyal to those who have been loyal to me.