July 25 2015

Bonefish Grill, Chipotle, Shutterfly, and Choice Hotels Promos

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Here are a few deals…

 

Bonefish Grill

Obtain a Bonefish Grill $10 off coupon here and enjoy a free(ish) dinner on the house.

Although I haven’t been to Bonefish Grill in a while, I recall some entrees priced in the low teens (or maybe even single digits?), so $10 off is a great deal since there is no minimum required for the coupon.

The lobster tails pictured above don’t look too bad.

Terms do say “one coupon per table” so…everyone sit separately at the bar? 😉

The coupon expires August 3.

 

Chipotle buy one get one free

Get a Chipotle BOGO free coupon playing their Friend or Faux game.

Just click “play now” to play the game. Took me about a minute, and you don’t have to get the correct answers. At the end you’re asked for a phone number where they’ll text you the BOGO coupon.

It says the coupon comes within 7 days but mine came in under 2 hours.

I didn’t notice an expiration date for the game, but the coupon itself expires August 15.

 

Shutterfly $20 off $20+

Shutterfly $20 off $20

Also free-ish is this Shutterfly $20 off $20+ offer. Use code JOLLYJULY and note the offer expires July 28.

 

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels GC

Finally, Choice Hotels is offering a $50 gift card after two qualifying trips.

Gift card options include Amazon, Walmart, several gas stations, and a handful of restaurants.

Do note the promotion requires two separate qualifying “trips.” Per the FAQs, consecutive nights at one hotel only count as one trip, regardless of check-ins or check-outs.

Also, a trip is defined as one night or more at some brands (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria, and Ascend Hotel Collection) while 2 or more consecutive nights at other brands (Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, or MainStay Suites).

And note the somewhat-convoluted redemption process. After the two qualifying trips you’re awarded 8,000 points which can then be redeemed until 10/31/15 for one $50 gift card.

If you value 8,000 points more than a $50 gift card to one of the participating retailers, then don’t redeem them for the gift card. To help you decide, I previously wrote a long analysis when they ran this offer last year.

Registration is required (register here) and check-in must occur by August 19.

 

Have a great rest of the weekend.

January 22 2015

Hotel Review: Quality Hotel Dorval (Montreal)

I had an overnight layover in Montreal. In the dead of winter, with a nighttime temperature of around -5°F, little discretionary time, and an early flight out in the morning, there was no point going into the city.

In such circumstances, my ideal accommodation is not only an airport-area hotel but an airport-connected hotel. In Montreal, that would be the Montreal Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel. Alas, I was light on Marriott points and paid rates for that night were more than I wanted to pay.

None of my award redemption options elsewhere provided great value either, and I ultimately decided to just get the cheapest airport-area hotel I could that was at least 3 stars.

That’s how I ended up at the Quality Hotel Dorval.

Main room
My room

If you don’t want to read the rest of this post, let me summarize by saying it was – to be polite – a dump. I had read the TripAdvisor reviews – which cautioned as much – but booked it anyway, reasoning that it’s just one night and I’ll not even be awake for 85% of it.

The room was gross, the service bordered on unethical, and the complimentary shuttle was a disaster.

(Note: there are several other airport-area hotels with the word “Quality” in their name. Don’t confuse them with this one, located at 7700 Cote de Liesse.)

Bath

Location

Arriving after dark and departing the next morning in a very tired state, I couldn’t discern much about the surrounding area. All I can say is the location indeed seemed airport-close (about 3.8 miles away, per Google Maps).

The shuttle service to the location, however, was a fiasco.

At Montreal airport, all hotel shuttles seem to pick up from just one location. So there were hordes of arriving travelers and lots of shuttles jostling around. This is nothing new, but it’s chaotic.

You never know where along the curb your hotel’s shuttle will stop – if you’re lucky it stops right where you’re standing and you get on right away. If you’re unlucky it stops like 30 yards away and you hope that by the time you make your way to it there’ll still be seats.

It’s problematic when a hotel doesn’t provide a shuttle with enough seats. Not everyone can get on, and the unlucky are left to wait another 15+ minutes for the next shuttle.

At the next round, it’s luck of the draw again. And if you’re unlucky again, you wait again. Your odds don’t improve with each round because in the interim new passengers arrive with whom to compete for spots.

Several guests complained they waited several cycles for a seat. Remember, it’s nighttime and -5°F outside.

A well-managed hotel would provide bigger and/or more frequent shuttles to accommodate the volume. They should know how many reservations they have for a given night, so I don’t see why they couldn’t plan properly.

The shuttle back to the airport in the morning was less chaotic, but every last seat was occupied (at 5:30 AM). If just one more person had turned up he/she would’ve been refused – not ideal when one is negotiating a tight schedule to catch a flight.

Room

Good: The HVAC. Well-functioning heat is much appreciated in winter.

Bad: Almost everything else. I’ll just mention a few.

Water stains (and mold?) all over the bathroom:

Water stains

Chunks of paint – they’d apparently flaked off the walls/ceiling – were sprinkled throughout the room:

Paint
Paint that had flaked off the ceiling

Defective, potentially past-their-expiration-date toiletries. The soap broke into pieces right out of the bag:

Soap
The soap self-destructed on contact with oxygen

Service & amenities 

To be fair, most employees I encountered were either friendly or at least polite. But one should expect that of any service establishment.

So let me tell you the unexpected.

I had just arrived in Canada and had no Canadian currency on hand. Since the in-room guest binder implied currency exchange was available at the front desk (technically, it said “inquire at front desk”), I went down hoping to change money.

The desk agent (who seemed new) simply said “no” when I asked to change money. I mentioned what the in-room binder said. So he called out a manager-like person and asked if they change money for guests.

The manager said “yes we do,” but only after belittling this colleague – in front of me – for ineptitude.

Hall
Hallway

He said their exchange rate is 1 USD for 1 CAD. That’s significantly worse than the market rate (84 US cents for one Canadian dollar) at the time. Since I had zero local currency on me, I changed $40 just to have cash in case of an emergency.

When a business provides a service, I think it’s fine to mark it up so the business can make a profit. I mean, if we don’t allow businesses to be profitable then no business could afford to stay in business.

But gouging hotel guests with a 16% markup for simply reaching into your wallet to make change is absurd.

Which brings up my next point: this manager made the exchange with money from a wallet he pulled out of his own pocket. I don’t know if he had a “side business” changing currency for his employer’s guests, but I thought the whole thing distasteful and possibly borderline unethical. (I do understand I could have simply declined the currency exchange.)

As for amenities, there is a business center and an on-site restaurant. The restaurant was closed when I arrived, but there is also a small concession shop with frozen meals (and a microwave nearby) if you are desperate.

Summary

Pros: Beats sleeping at the airport (possibly).

Cons: Poorly-maintained room and poorly-delivered service.

Cost: I booked through TravelPony. The $77 room rate was reduced by 15% with a promo code and $25 from a referral credit. Net cost was $40 pre-tax, $56 post-tax.

Link to hotel website.

December 30 2014

Choice Hotels Winter Promo – Triple Points on Midweek Stays

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday week!

Choice Hotels’ winter promotion, awarding triple points for midweek stays, has started – so don’t forget to register if there’s even a remote chance you might end up staying at a Choice property during the promotion period.

The promotion runs through February 18, 2015.

Choice Hotels Promo Banner

If you’re unfamiliar with Choice Hotels, its brands include Cambria Suites, Clarion, Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge, and Ascend Hotel Collection, among others.

Choice Hotels Brands

Choice Privileges base (non-elite) members normally earn 10 points per dollar spent on most brands (5/$ on some of the lower-earning brands).

With this triple-points promotion they would instead earn 30 points per dollar on midweek stays (15/$ on the lower brands).

Since a reward night starts at 6,000 points, one could be earned with $200 in spend through this promo.

 

Additional tips

If you’re not already a Choice Privileges member, have an existing member refer you. You’ll each receive 500 points after your first eligible stay. (I’m happy to refer if you shoot me a note through the contact form. I’ll need your first name and email address for the referral.)

Also check Choice Hotels’ promotions page for potentially combinable offers.

And if you have one, be sure to use a credit card that awards bonus points on hotel charges.

May 23 2014

Choice Hotels Summer Promotion: 8,000 Points After 2 Stays

Choice brands

Choice Hotels’ summer promotion is out. It’s a decent promotion, albeit mostly similar to past promotions they’ve run.

The promotion

It’s advertised as “earn a $50 gift card” after two qualifying stays. In reality, what you would earn is 8,000 Choice Privileges points which can be redeemed for a $50 gift card. (Participating gift cards include Amazon, Macy’s, and several gas stations and restaurants.)

Some other terms:

  • Must register in advance.
  • Qualifying stays must have arrival dates between May 22 and August 20, 2014.
  • For certain brands (Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban, and MainStay Suites) a qualifying stay must be a minimum of two consecutive nights.
  • Redeem points for the gift card by September 30, 2014.

Be sure to read the full details and T&Cs on the website.

 

Choice Priv banner

Analysis

Depending on your preferences, you might be better off redeeming your points for a free night rather than the gift card.

Since reward nights start at 6,000 points, earning 8,000 points after two stays is not bad – especially if your stays are at properties with cheap rates. (Eyeballing it, I saw that most rates are below $100/night and a fair number are even below $60/night.)

A quirk of this promotion is that it sort of penalizes those who spend more money. The promotion doesn’t award a straight 8,000 bonus points after two stays. Rather, per the T&Cs, it awards “enough bonus points to reach the 8,000 point level.”

Normally you earn 10 points/$ at most of their hotels. So the “bonus” you earn with this promotion is just the difference between 8,000 points and the normally-earned points. The more you earn in normal points, the less you’ll get in bonus points.

As is often the case, the optimal “play” is to have your paid stays take place at properties with cheap rates.

(In prior similar promotions they said you would earn at least 5,000 bonus points, but I didn’t see that in the verbiage this time around.)

Additional tips

If you’re not already a member of the Choice Privileges loyalty program, have an existing member refer you. You’ll each receive 500 points after your first eligible stay. (I’m happy to refer if you shoot me a note through the contact form. I’ll need your first name and e-mail address for the referral form.)

Also check the promotions page of the main site as well as that of a specific hotel you’re considering for potentially combinable offers.

And if you have one, be sure to use a credit card that awards a bonus on hotel charges.