Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Diamond Status Challenge Fail And Why I Won't Stay at Hyatt Properties Any More

So, I'm relatively new to the travel / points / status game. I'd heard of hotels matching elite status via various challenges so I thought I'd take a shot at one with Hyatt. I should have done my homework first because my journey was fraught with a series of unfortunate events. If one person can learn from my mistakes, the time writing this post will have been well spent.

Back Story: Hyatt will match your elite status with another hotel chain if you ask nicely. You can keep that status for an extra year if you stay at their properties x amount of times in x months. Since I was a Marriott Gold Member and had at least one Hyatt stay coming up, I thought I'd give it a shot. I heard that you get this opportunity once per lifetime but since I have a lot of international travel on my plate in 2012 it seemed like perfect timing.

The Initial Call: I called Hyatt for details on this program and was told they would upgrade my status to Diamond and that in order to maintain that status until February 2013 I needed to stay 6 nights in the next 60 days. Easy Peasy. Then he told me that it took 2-3 business days to process that request. Here is my first mistake: I was scheduled to travel the next day! After much pleading, several phone calls, faxes, and emails I was able to get Hyatt to expedite my request.

Off to San Francisco I went. When I checked in to the Grand Hyatt it was confirmed that I was a Diamond member. Did I get upgraded? Nope. Did I get free breakfast? Nope. Actually they didn't mention anything about any diamond benefits and as new member I was unaware of what I was entitled to. I don't even know if they have a Club Lounge there. Mistake #2.

I stayed my three nights in my standard room, and my account was updated pretty quickly after checkout. I got a lot of bonus points too so I was pleased with that. Three nights down, three to go!

A Few weeks later I was scheduled to attend a trade show at the Orlando Marriott World Center. My plan was to go a couple of days early and play at Universal Studios with my daughter, so I figured I'd stay at a Hyatt then transfer hotels on Sunday. Note a couple of days is two, not three, which would leave me one night short of my challenge. I went ahead and reserved three nights at the Hyatt Place Universal and paid both hotels for that overlap. At $100 a night, one extra night's stay seemed like a good investment for the Diamond status perks Hyatt supposedly has.

We checked into the Hyatt, unpacked, and headed to bed so we would be rested the next day. When we turned the sheets down guess what we found. Socks. Dirty socks. In our bed. Can you say gross?! We called the front desk and asked that they come change the linens. In both beds. We figured if housekeeping didn't change one set of sheets between guests they probably didn't change any of them. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. The employee standing there wasn't holding sheets though. She wanted to see the sock. Seriously. So we showed her the sock and she left.

A few minutes later our phone rang. Apparently housekeeping was gone for the night and they asked if we'd like to change rooms. Since we'd already unpacked and had spent the last 9 hours traveling, we told her no, and repeated that we would like for them to come change the sheets. Silence. Finally when I said nothing more she agreed to come change the sheets. Two employees came with sheets in hand and we were finally able to go to sleep. There's an hour I'll never get back.

I know you probably think I'm just venting but there is a reason I'm including these details and not just reviewing on Tripadvisor.

The next morning we went to breakfast. (Since I'm venting, it was awful. The sausage gravy was cold and the fruit was over-ripe). On our way to toss our plates (yes, paper plates) the manager greeted me, apologized for the night before, and said last night was on him. Very nice gesture and it did make me feel better so I thanked him and went on with my day. The rest of our stay was uneventful. I left the next day but kept the room for another two. Diamond Status until Feb 2013 achieved!

Mistake #4.

A few days after we returned I logged into my Gold Passport account to check my status and was dismayed to see that Hyatt only credited me 2 out of 3 nights for my Orlando stay. Back on the phone with Hyatt. They told me that since the hotel manager comped one of my nights it doesn't count towards a qualified stay. I thought that was total BS and after jumping through a few hoops the points department to give me full credit for my stay.

Ok, catastrophe avoided.

Or so I thought. About a month later I received an email from Hyatt that said, stay only 6 more nights to maintain your Diamond status. WHAT??!! I stayed my six nights, I should be done. So I called Hyatt. Again. Apparently you need 12, not 6 nights, to maintain Diamond status. Now I'm getting angry. That is not what they told me in the beginning, and had I known I wouldn't have bothered with this challenge to begin with. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do about it. I got bad information but there was no way to prove it. I didn't read the fine print; I took someone's word for it instead. Mistake #5!

By now several weeks had passed. I had traveled elsewhere. I could have stayed at Hyatt properties and hit my goal, but didn't think I needed to so I used my SPG points instead. (Mistake # 5½) Time is running out to complete my challenge now so do I hang it up, or do I keep going and try to reach 12?

I'm competitive. I want those suite upgrades. I want my free breakfast, and I want the snob factor that comes along with saying I'm Diamond Elite. And I'm half way there!

So I looked at my calendar. I only have five possible days to stay six nights. What's a girl to do?!

I had a Delta Companion Pass expiring soon, and I love New York. So I booked three nights at the Hyatt 48 Lex. But that wasn't enough. So I also booked three nights at the Washington DC Hyatt for my brother, who I call my husband for the purposes of traveling since we share the same name. I was able to use a suite upgrade for both stays, which I thought was great even though the DC suite was pretty meh. $1200 for New York, $600 for DC, $600 for airfare, and now Broadway shows, shopping at Barneys, and fine dining are also coming into the equation. Now I'm all in. $4000+ for this stupid Diamond Elite status (with the added bonus of a great mini vacation).

So the weekend is over. My wallet considerably lighter but I did it. I - am - Diamond - Elite until February 2013.



Mistake #6. You can only earn one "qualified night" per calendar day. The overlapping nights in DC and NY do not count. The points rep that I spoke with this time at Hyatt said "you can't be in two places at once." It doesn't matter that I paid for them or that my name and account number was on the reservation. (Which makes me sad because when my business pays for our Hyatt rooms they get the points, not us!) So I asked to speak with a Gold Passport Manager who might be able to work some magic. She put me on hold. Checked on me a few minutes later and put me on hold again. Finally she came back and said they were all busy but she would pass on my information and someone would get back to me. I said great, gave her my email, phone numbers etc. and never heard from the Hyatt again.

So here I sit, passed my deadline and I only have 10 nights credited. Elite Challenge Fail. I only take solice in knowing I will never spend another penny with Hyatt for the rest of my life.

The takeaway for anyone reading this post is make sure you know the rules before you play the game.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Energy Drinks and Their Negative Effects on Teenagers

I sent this letter to my daughter's church after discovering that she was buying energy drinks at her Friday night youth group. While I fully expect that the fear of lost profits will outweigh the importance of our children's health (this is America after all), I wanted to post this publicly for other concerned parents to use in their own endeavors.

Energy Drinks and Their Negative Effects on Teenagers

Health researchers and nutritionists are warning parents, educators, and teens about the surprising dangers of energy drinks. The wide range of drinks, which include such popular brands as Amp, Full Throttle, Monster, and Red Bull, have been steadily gaining popularity over the past ten years. In fact, some studies show that nearly one-third of all teenagers regularly use energy drinks.

Unfortunately, in addition to several critical health risks, these drinks may also cause behavioral changes in the teens that drink them. This has forced some parents to lobby for their removal from schools, recreation centers, and churches. The problems related to these drinks are growing and we can expect to see them worsen as manufacturers continue to market directly to our kids.

According to Steven E. Lipshultz, MD, senior author of "Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults" published in Pediatrics, not only do energy drinks provide no nutritional value, many of the primary ingredients utilized in the drinks are unstudied. Unlike colas and soda brands which are considered a "food" by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration), energy drinks are considered a dietary aid. As such, they are not subjected to regulatory actions by the government and are not required to provide packaging information, such as the amount of caffeine or included supplements.

So what are the health concerns associated with energy drinks?

Beating Hearts, Racing Minds

While there are some underlying nutritional issues with energy drinks, the health risks for teens that consume them are much more concerning. Kids who abuse these drinks by imbibing several each day are prone to abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, jitters, and other more severe health problems.

Children like the caffeine buzz and few, if any, recognize the potential health hazards. In several schools across the country, administrators have banned the drinks after students were hospitalized following consumption. However, most schools and other places teens are likely to visit still offer these drinks for sale or in vending machines, leaving many students at risk.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), excessive ingestion of caffeine causes more than an energy rush. Research shows that caffeine can increase the effects of fibrocystic breast disease, blood vessel disease and heart disease. It can increase the rate of birth defects, impact reproductive health, and negatively impact behavior.

Caffeine Rage

While many parents and educators understand the signs and symptoms of alcohol or drug abuse, most are not even aware that regularly ingesting energy drinks can actually cause behavioral changes. A study in The Journal of American College Health, authored by Kathleen E. Miller, PhD, a leading researcher in the field of energy drinks, has drawn a direct correlation between high caffeine drinks and risky behaviors such as violence, unprotected sex, and drug or alcohol abuse.

Making The Change

Taking a step back, it becomes apparent that energy drinks are harmful to teenagers. Like any drug -- and caffeine is a drug -- the answer often lies in removing the temptation. Energy drinks, designed by marketers to attract teenagers, simply have no place in schools, recreation centers, or churches. In addition to the bright colors and other marketing tactics used, many teenagers assume the drinks must be safe simply because they can purchase them from trusted resources like schools and churches.

Too much caffeine is never a good thing and, for teenagers who have easy access to energy drinks, the risks are even greater. Removing energy drinks from our schools and churches is an effective way to protect our children from the potential health hazards and the phenomenon of caffeine rage.

Vending machines have their purpose. In our churches that purpose should not be selling high caffeine energy drinks to our children. Instead of waiting until more kids are harmed, please make a change now. I respectfully ask that you to remove these drinks from the places teenagers are likely to congregate within your congregation.

Energy drinks, should teens worry? (Video)

Monday, February 09, 2009

I love my kid

So last night I was helping Casey with a project (she had to turn a report into a web page), and while I was hard at working coding, she emailed me this poem:

If I could catch a rainbow
I would do it just for you
and share with you its beauty
On the days your feeling blue.

If I could build a mountian
You could call your very own;
A place to find serenity,
A place to be alone.

If I could take your troubles
I would toss them in the sea,
But all these things I'm finding are impossible for me.

I cannot build a mountian
Or catch a rainbow fair,
But let me be what I know best,
a kid who's always there.

My heart totally melted. I love my kid.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Couch-to-5K Running Plan

I recall my friend DocJelly mentioning something about a couch to 5k program he was working on ... I'm guessing this is where he got the idea!

Cool Running :: The Couch-to-5K Running Plan

This sounds like a good idea. I'm getting bored with the Precor anyway. I'm going to start this. Today.

Who's with me?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Aloha Umbrella

There were some helluva storms in Honolulu earlier this month. I found myself out and about in one of them, with a full cart of groceries. Not wanting to melt, I asked the cashier where their non-Barbie umbrellas were and he told me they had sold out. I was weighing my options when the woman in the next line gave me hers. "Take it," she said, "I have plenty."

I was speechless.

So I hugged her.

And then left, with my new aloha umbrella in hand.

You may not find this particularly touching, but it's not often that I stumble across a genuine act of kindness - especially directed toward me! I find myself reflecting upon this often when I help a friend, or a stranger, and think about giving in an entirely new light.

So Mahalo, my umbrella-giving friend, whoever you are.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No mid-life crisis is complete without a tattoo ...

This past year has been one for the recordbooks. I went from being 38 and content to never leave my house, to 39 and a little effin crazy. What better way to top off my bout of insanity than a tattoo!?

This photo was made just seconds after Doug @ Hawaiian Tattoo Company finished torturing me. Does it look painful? Because it freaking was! I don't think I'll be rushing out any time soon to do another (although I am kicking around re-piercing my belly button when I go back).

I've finally been inked, in true farewell to youth style.