The recent offer of £400 credit for American Express Platinum cardholders to spend at eight UK luxury Marriott-managed hotels created quite a stir.
In particular, a lot of people who did not sign up for the offer have been complaining that they were discriminated against by Amex in not receiving it.
I have been doing some digging into the offer and how it was set up. The bottom line, for absolute clarity, is that I have been told that all Platinum cardholders had an equal opportunity to register.
This may or may not be correct but that is the official line. What may add to the confusion is that the Amex mobile app will often show fewer offers than the desktop site.
(EDIT: this article has been edited since publication to reflect the – fair – comments that I had uncritically reproduced an official statement.)
How the launch day panned out
First, some background. This offer launched on a unique day. I was leading with an exclusive story – that Tesco and Avios were splitting up. Then, prior to the stock market opening, IAG announced that Alex Cruz was stepping down as CEO and Chairman of British Airways.
These two stories meant that I was already at my computer at 6am, even though it was a school day and I had children to deposit. Even by 6am, a couple of (clearly insomniac) HfP readers had spotted the £400 Marriott offer on their Amex Platinum accounts and emailed me about it.
By 7.45am, all three stories were live on the site. It ended up being our biggest ever day, with almost 110,000 page views.
If it hadn’t been for the Tesco and Cruz stories, I wouldn’t have opened my laptop until at least 8.30am and things may have gone differently.
Who received the offer?
Amex and Marriott had a plan. The offer was meant to appear on ALL American Express Platinum and Centurion cards overnight, although in reality it dripped out across the morning. My own version only appeared about 10am.
The only exceptions were:
supplementary cards, and
cards where the cardholder had asked not to receive any marketing offers
What happened with registration?
As was clear in the offer terms, registration was limited to 2,000 people.
HfP has a disproportionately high number of Platinum-holding readers. We are a key third party channel for sales of The Platinum Card in the UK, and even if you didn’t apply via us, our reader profile is the sort for whom The Platinum Card is often a logical choice.
On a normal day, I would have popped up an article by 10am and it would have been modestly read. Our peak readership time is 8.45am to 9am and then people get down to some work. Registration slots may still have been available by the time the Amex email blast went out.
As it turned out, HfP was having a day like no other day due to the Tesco and Cruz news. The Marriott story was also pulling in its own traffic from our social media feeds.
Within a few hours, all 2,000 registrations had gone and the Marriott offer was automatically removed from the Amex system. People who tried to register after this did not see it.
Whilst there were probably a few exceptions, almost all 2,000 were HfP readers. How many other Platinum holders religiously check their card account for new offers before breakfast?
American Express and Marriott had to cancel their email blast. This may not have been a bad thing, since the offer would have filled up within minutes and many more people would have known that they had missed out.
So …. I am told that all Platinum and Centurion cardmembers were targeted with this offer. If you didn’t get to register, it is apparently simply bad luck that you did not read HfP in the window before all the slots were taken.
Had it been a normal news day, with the normal level of traffic to the site, it would have lasted longer – although the way it turned out meant that we maximised the number of readers who got in.
Of course, the big question now is whether readers can get to the participating hotels by 19th December when the offer is due to end. I believe that The Westbury, one of the eight UK hotels, is not reopening for some time, choosing to bring forward a refurbishment. I am still hoping to squeeze in a night and a decent meal by the 19th, if only to pick up 10,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (what a Platinum gets for spending £400 with the current promo) for the stay!