Wednesday, March 18, 2009

my self-worth is dictated by my rewards card level

I had a great title for this entry, and also a fantastic introduction. I wrote both in my head at 4 o'clock this morning, when I was lying awake on the couch in our Astoria hotel room. Both the title and the first sentence have now gone the way of most thoughts conceived before the sun has risen-- and now I'm sitting here in the evening, trying to think of a way to tell you that my husband is obsessed with his Hilton Rewards status.

Here's the story: there is a whole Travel Hierarchy that I have only ever glimpsed from afar - making flight and hotel reservations for bosses whose DIAMOND, PLATINUM, and SUPER-DUPER DOUBLE-PLATED UNOBTAINIUM cards opened doors that I never even knew existed. There is an entire Travel Royalty, y'all, and I doubt that many of us will ever even glimpse the luxury these folks enjoy. And I'm not talking about free upgrades of flights or free bottled water in a hotel room or two. I'm talking about a whole industry of complimentary food, treats, entire hotel stays, free flights, special tours, special rental cars, and access to hot-and-cold liquid GOLD. There are free receptions, special toiletries (the BIG size - not the puny ones made for elves), entire CHECK-IN DESKS just for these people who are considered frequent travelers.

Because Chip travels so much, he's had one too many brushes with this kind of plush treatment to just ignore that it goes on. Keep in mind, this is a dude who travels to places like Pe Ell, Washington (population 500, if you include the animals). He does his best to stay in bigger towns, not only because Pe Ell doesn't even HAVE a hotel to stay in, but also because he needs at least some creature comforts. With this kind of hectic travel schedule, the guy isn't going to be staying at the neon-sign blinking Sunset Inn anytime soon. I certainly don't blame him. In fact, his company prefers that he stay at large chain hotels (preferably Hilton). But Chip's choices are few and far between owing to the fact that his "big city" stays are actually more along the line of "small town that seems big because it sits in comparison to places that don't have a gas station". So Chip doesn't have a lot of hotel choices. Luckily he can usually find some version of the Hampton Inn - a fine establishment, to be sure, but not really the Waldorf Astoria. And here's where this whole thing gets even weirder: you might be thinking that places like the Hampton Inn don't have the special rewards, the precious metal-graded (SILVER! GOLD! PLATINUM! DIAMOND!) cards, the extra special super duper presents given to those people who frequent their hotel... but they do.

Enter my husband, apple of my eye, sweet goodly man that he is. My dearest chip is only at Silver status, and boy does it just ZING him every time. He traveled with his boss last week - a guy who has been doing this gig for four years. A guy who is easily a DOUBLE-BLACK-FIVE-POINT-DIAMOND SPECIAL SPECIAL card holder. They stayed at the Hampton Inn somewhere in Smallish Town, Washington. Chip was booked in a nice-ish room: clean, a king bed, a nice television, a microwave, a refrigerator. And his Boss? His Boss was given (no lie) THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE. I didn't think they even had a Presidential Suite at the Hampton Inn, but they do. With (according to my husband) a full-size kitchen, a full-size living room, leather furniture, and (possibly, if reports are true) a gold-plated bathroom complete with its own butler. It turns out that the Hampton Inn automatically upgrades Boss to the largest suite available every time the dude stays with them. Chip was a little... jealous.

Since this time, he has been counting his points - adding up his stays - researching the Hilton website within an inch of its LIFE to find out when he, too, will be treated like the King of Someplace That's Very Important.

I've been calling it Operation Gold Member - and it has its own theme song, which sounds very much like the theme song to James Bond's Goldfinger. If I see Chip so much as open a web page, I know he's looking at the Hilton site and I'll start in with "Goooooooooold memberrrrrrrrrrrrr!" He thinks I'm charming. Wouldn't you?

It isn't just the status and room upgrades that have Chip doing all this research. He's fascinated with the potential freebies, which, on the scale of Hampton Inn, totally crack me up. Here's a place that is geared toward the budget traveler, the family traveler, right? So sure, they have a Presidential Suite in Randomville, Washington - but they have the weirdest freebies ever. To wit: a silver status member doesn't qualify for anything; a gold status member receives one (1) bottle of water PLUS a complimentary room upgrade. You can imagine by the time they work their way up to the membership levels that are for the dudes that are just one step away from living at their hotel, they give them things like one (1) bottle of water, one (1) salty snack (really!), and a guaranteed complimentary room upgrade. They outdo themselves.

At Embassy Suites, it gets even more ridiculous. Silver status doesn't get anything. Gold status gets one (1) bottle of water and a choice of one (1) salty snack. (Chip's comment: Could they demean popcorn any worse than calling it a "salty snack"? Popcorn has earned its right to be called POPCORN.) Diamon status gets a choice of three (3!!!) items: bottle of water, cola, diet cola, lemon-lime soda, diet lemon-lime soda, salty snack.

Chip and I got a kick out of the snack situation when he first read about it - like, can you imagine walking up to the front desk and being all, "Hello Miss? You forgot to offer me my one (1) salty snack."

So last night (and rounding back to this whole FOUR AM business), we had a hard time sleeping. Chip's been fighting a horrible bout of bronchitis, and Alice is fighting some kind of teething cross-over to cold/cough thing. Neither one of them was having a good night, which left me somewhere in the middle: either sleep on the couch out by Alice or stay awake with Chip as he tossed and turned on the queen-size bed. I tried to tough it out on the bed, but finally gave up around 2am and went out to the couch. I lay there for a long while - sleep had abandoned me for other, more receptive, clients. After about an hour, I heard Chip still awake in the bedroom - so I went to find out how he was doing. Lo and behold, I found him staring intently at his computer.

Whimsy: What are you doing?
Chip: Guess.
Whimsy: Goooooooooold Memberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr?
Chip: (Nods head.) The good news is, I now know how many points it would take for us to stay for free at Tobago, Trinidad. 35,000 points.
Whimsy: (Wonders if Chip knows how crazy this sounds. And then wonders if Chip is doing this in his sleep.) Wow.
Chip: And that's not all. We'd get the choice of TWO salty snacks!

And that is when I went back to the couch and lay there for another hour, thinking of all the brilliant ways I could tell this story and make you laugh.

Trinidad: ours for only thirty-five THOUSAND points. AND we'd get two salty snacks. I'm sold.

I feel the need to remind you (as my husband has now reminded me tonight) that Chip is doing all of this mad obsessing for us, for his famkily. He tells me that one day soon I'm going to find myself thoroughly enjoying the free room upgrades (he's not wrong - I like me a free room upgrade) and perhaps I will even be arguing with a front desk person named Maggie that we are owed a salty snack. I believe him. After all, he's done the research.


Kristi said...

My boyfriend frequently travels for work, and I am continuously updated on his points status. Not only does he have a bajillion frequent flyer miles, but he's like a super special triple diamond what's better than platinum member at some hotel. He used to get so excited about his free cheese and crackers platter.

Stacey said...

ha ha. That sounds like Todd. He now has a million Marriott points. We stayed in Maui for a week one year and used 120,000. So a million will pretty much give us 8 years worth of week-long hotel stays anywhere in the world. I keep trying to remind him that we need to get booking our vacation for THIS year. My vote is Mexico.

Alice said...

i am so inappropriate. all i kept thinking about was how many boyfriends i've had who would have offered me their own SALTY SNACK *wink wink* if i'd complained i wasn't getting one.

um, i'm going to blame this comment on my meds.

The Wife said...

I am cracking up laughing.

At some point in time the universe is going to bring our two husbands into close contact and then you and I are DOOMED.

This is so great! Made even funnier by the fact that I caught the Husband investigating his own travel reward points the other day and telling me that we'd only have to spend $2000 more dollars (that we don't HAVE) in order to get a free CRUISE!

I laughed at him and went to bed.

Pickles and Dimes said...

HAHAHA. Chip is great! I loved this whole post.

Especially your theme song. Now it's stuck in my head!