Experience Awards: Even Google is Suspicous

I’m not a fan personally of the “experience” redemption options for loyalty points. Mostly because of the economics behind them and my understanding of how they work relative to other options. Plus, for me, more travel is still my ultimate goal. But that doesn’t mean I think they are illegitimate efforts by a manipulative company to separate people from personal information and possessions. Apparently Google does.


I received an email from Delta SkyMiles the other day with a bunch of offers for experience awards like attending a University of Georgia football game which somehow reads like a NASCAR event or watching the Teen Choice Awards in person in LA. And Google decided to flag it for me, noting that the message “contains content that’s typically used to steal personal information.” Oops.

I figured that, with all the bragging airlines have done lately about how they’re getting better at understanding all the “big data” they have about their customers, maybe the offers would at least be relevant to me. But it is hard to believe that a guy in his late 30s with no kids is keen on attending the Teen Choice awards. And Delta should have in its history of my account the fact that I spent the early years as a member in the program as a resident of Gainesville, Florida; it is quite unlikely that a Georgia football game is going to attract my attention unless it is the one in Jacksonville every year.


Three of the other offers are located in my hometown which is great, especially since they do not include the airfare. I might even bid on one if I could trust the published details of it. On one screen the auction end date is listed as being a month away. Another screen has it as two days away and a third screen has it as one day away. Almost as consistent as the SkyMiles award charts.

It makes sense that the programs are expanding the redemption options available. Not everyone wants to book more travel. And these “experiential” rewards are some of the most lucrative to the programs because it is often not realistic for members to calculate a true point value rate on such transactions; how does one assign a retail value to “once in a lifetime” events?? At the same time, however, he companies must do better in customer targeting. Waste my time often enough with events so far from my interests and there’s a decent chance I stop opening the emails pretty soon.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. I love that Google is suspicious of these too… I’ve never paid for one, but I do look occasionally, which I’m sure is half the point.

    Based on the numbers of miles/points they’re asking for, I’m pretty confident that they aren’t losing on offering these experience packages in terms of cost – and besides, they probably are getting these seats, etc as part of an overall sponsorship deal of the event.

    That said, the number of them being flogged nowadays is making them all a bit less distinct. And your point about knowing the customer is spot on… if they could really micro-target offers accurately, they might reclaim the unique special aspect of them.

    I’d also highly suggest that companies start ASKING their customers what kind of events they’d like to go to… or offer bidding for events that they’ll execute on organizing if they get to a ‘reserve price’ and see what the crowd actually wants. Now I’ve just created a new business idea…

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