For more than 25 years, James Bolaney of Beverly Hills had stayed at hundreds of Holiday Inns across the country as part of his job.
Bolaney had accumulated over 350,000 Rewards Club points during those years. He and his wife, Marcia, had anticipated using all those points for free stays at Holiday Inns when he retired.
But representatives with IHG Rewards Club — which oversees the program for Holiday Inn — had wiped out all Bolaney’s points because of a change in the rules. All those years of staying at Holiday Inns and accumulating points were out the door.
Bolaney, 73, outlined his plight in a Chronicle Sound Off and the Chronicle tried to see if there was anything that could be done to help the Bolaneys.
Last week, IHG reviewed the matter and reversed its decision — not only restoring the points, but upgrading the Bolaneys’ Rewards membership to platinum elite status for a year, which entitles them to extra privileges and upgrades.
To say that the Bolaneys were surprised is an understatement.
“That’s unbelievable,” James Bolaney said.
Bolaney said IHG pays out 10 points per dollar. So how many free nights he will get will depend on the location of the Holiday Inn, time of year, room choice and seasonal prices.
The points can also be used to purchase merchandise and are transferable to family or friends, he said.
During his career as a fuel technical support specialist for Volvo Construction Equipment, Bolaney figures he stayed in Holiday Inns four or five days a week while traveling from New York to Florida. That’s not counting the occasional non-work visits with his wife.
But in 2016, the Holiday Inn loyalty program implemented a rule stating that any member that had not had any points-earning or redemption action within the last 12 months will lose their points.
IHG claims it sent a letter to Bolaney explaining the loss of his points, but Bolaney said he never received it. The letter went on to say the hotel chain had sent him an earlier notice explaining the imminent expiration.
Bolaney said he called IHG to complain. He said he never got further than a customer service representative.
IHG spokesman Neil Hirsch said the company looked into the matter and, while Bolaney would have received appropriate notice about the change in rules, it decided to restore all his points “given his longstanding loyalty to our brand.”
“We value our member relationships and have apologized to this member for the confusion and reinstated his points in this specific instance,” said David Canty, vice president of Global Loyalty Programs at IHG.
Marcia Bolaney, 72, was as surprised as her husband when told the news.
“I figured we could kiss those (points) goodbye,” she said.
Marcia said she and her husband are already thinking of where they will go to cash in on their good fortune.
“I want to go back to Washington, D.C., and see the World War II monuments and other monuments,” she said.
Then it might be off to Ohio and Texas to see their five grandchildren. She didn’t think they could have afforded it before.
“It will save us quite a bit of money,” she said.
The Bolaneys said they hope their story will alert residents who might have hotel or other reward club memberships to keep up to date on membership rules to avoid losing their hard-earned points.
“Check out the current hotel rules that have their own little program policies,” Marcia said. “Know what you’re dealing with.”