The Problem with Hotel Loyalty Programs

The Problem with Hotel Loyalty Programs is–

The “Wrong People” Get In

The management of Executive Lounges in luxury hotels should make us where a badge.  By ‘us’ I mean travelers like me who invade prestigious hotels and their ‘executive lounges’ by using Hilton points cards to charge gas, public television, trash pick-up and dog food. Nah, probably no badge is necessary in my case, the overstuffed cargo shorts tell the story.

Still, I could probably keep my status secret if I could just keep my mouth closed. Which I cannot. On the morning I had the idea about the badges, the ‘members only Executive Lounge’ was crowded due to the prestigious hotel’s outrageously expensive Independence Day dinner and dance the night before. (The Cinco de Mayo hoopla is an USA chain restaurant promotion to sell more tequila.)

I, too, had attended a Diez y Seis shindig. In fact, it was my childlike enthusiasm for this event that put the loser ‘L’ on my forehead and identified me as a patron in the lounge for the free food rather than to avoid the crowds at the regular restaurant.

I’d reached the lounge at 9:56 with the buffet closing down at 10:00 and asked to share a small round table next to the glass wall with a gentleman and his late twenties daughter. We exchanged basic information with the daughter saying she’d had just begun her professional life after six years of college.

The table here on the 26th floor would provide an excellent view of the parade to begin in an hour. The daughter asked about my Zapata tee-shirt from El Mercado Restaurant in San Antonio and that was enough to flip my “Viva Mexico!” switch.

Me: “Yes, I thought this was perfect to wear to the big fiesta.”

The daughter (eyes narrowed): “You went to the Zocalo last night . . . by yourself?”

It doesn’t say much for me as a psychologist that I didn’t pick up the distain in her voice and save my dignity. But, apparently, I have no social survival skills at all.

Me: “Sure.”

The daughter: “Now . . .  where did you say you are from?” Her tone suggested that, surely, I must be out of a treatment center on a pass.

Me: “Texas. And get this! For the first time in my life, last night, being a woman was a giant free pass, because after a couple of hours the policia said all the women could go in first! What a deal! Viva! Viva la Revolución! Viva Zapata!”

The daughter, her eyes now slits: “Actually, I think that’s still a common practice in more primitive cultures.”

Me: “Still, it took almost three hours to get to the security check point. But, you know what? (Sounds like a question, but I was only taking a breath.) Even standing in the crowd was a blast because I met all kinds of people–farmers, students, couples with their kids, old men with great stories. Zapata and Pancho Villa mustaches. Flags, some people painted gold, sombreros and all! The thing is, the party’s not about politics or ‘Yea our country … or, we’re number one, you know. It’s about the concept of revolution, about hope of equality of for all people. How cool is that?”

Apparently not so cool. A gurgle bubbled up from the daughter, similar to cry of a doomed damsel in a horror movie.

The daughter: “Well, okay. The people from the country are mostly illiterate. They cling to the past like children. Pitiful, really. Lazy, most of them.”

Me: “Oh. I guess I don’t see it the same way.” My Inner Revolutionary was now engaged. “One of the things I love most about Mexico is the idea that art and music must be available to everyone, not just the rich. Like Diego Rivera only painting murals in public spaces. Some of the people last night even carried crosses.”

The daughter gathered her things to go: “Yes, it’s rather sad, really. The poor in this country are quite backward and superstitious.”

Me: “You don’t need to leave we can all see the par . . .”

The daughter: “Oh, no, dear. We will be watching the parade, but we have a reserved section in front of the hotel.”

Me: “Of course, you do. Maybe I’ll see you later. By the way, what’s that new profession you hinted about?”

The daughter: “I’m in wealth management.”

I wondered if any of the wealthy people ever broke the rule against attending free events and realized what they were missing?




I'm a psychologist who goes to way too many movies, for the same reason I chose this profession. I love stories. I use movies and novels working with people in my office and during speaking engagements. "You should write some of this down," I kept being told. So, this is it, folks.

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