Why I started an Air Miles petition

September 27 2016 by Ellen Roseman

Many large companies treat consumers badly. I pick up new examples every day.

But LoyaltyOne, parent company of the Air Miles program, crossed the line. That’s why I started a petition campaign at Change.org.

Please read and sign, using the link above, and share with others. We have already reached more than 1,000 signatures. Momentum is building on social media.

I blame LoyaltyOne for creating a five-year expiry date for Air Miles points and failing to communicate to members as the deadline draws near (Dec. 31, 2016).

Why didn’t it keep in touch? The company said members should have known about and remembered the announcement of five years earlier. Bad faith!

I also blame LoyaltyOne for poor communication when introducing a cash rewards category in 2012. Members had to opt in to get get cash rewards. Many people said they knew nothing about it.

Finally, I blame LoyaltyOne for devaluing the existing dream rewards category. Members complain about lack of choice and inability to use their expiring points.

The company said Air Miles collectors can enter a sweepstakes. Is that the best it can do?

Please let me know what you think. Even this trade magazine blamed LoyaltyOne for poor communication. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the best and simplest ways to begin rebuilding trust would be through a public apology. Since the program changes were announced, Air Miles has been quiet, letting the customer complaints pile up.

By acknowledging and owning their customers’ dissatisfaction, Air Miles could help re-establish their brand as one that understands and appreciates their customers.

An obvious fix would be to ‘make things right’ and exceed customers’ expectations with some kind of corrective action. This could be removing the policy, extending it or something similar.

25 comments

  1. AS

    Sep 27 2016

    The company that owns and operates Air Miles makes money in two ways, when new businesses sign up and when consumers shop and use their AM card.

    If consumers stop using their cards or shop at non AM retailers, then the owner of AM loses out from a financial point of view.

    So I have stopped shopping or getting gas at AM affiliated retailers. Sure, I am not earning AM points but I am earning other types of points.

    For example, Shoppers points instead of AM points at Rexall, Presidents Choice points at Loblaws, instead of AM points at Metro.

    If consumers started boycotting AM affiliated retailers even one day a week, that would put pressure on AM to change their ways.

    The real issue with AM is not that points will expire. The real issue is that dream points are worthless. Who cares if points expire if they are worthless?

    When AM created two categories of points, that’s when they started down this dark road. Creating a category of almost worthless points was shameful.

    I am one of the people who knew that points were going to expire, but I fully intended to use my points to purchase gift cards at Metro, as I had done in the past.

    Then I found out my points were useless as I only had dream miles. Then I discovered there was nothing I could redeem my points for, save for some contests or I could get a $100 gift card for $95 plus 100 miles!

    Life is too short to get too worked up about this situation. I am just doing my bit on my own.

    If AM does the right thing – converting all miles to one class of miles – that would be great. But if they don’t, then I will carry on ignoring their retailers.

  2. LK

    Sep 27 2016

    You have been a beacon of hope for ordinary consumers who are being deliberately deceived by companies cleverly using the Internet and opaque administrative practices.

    Like many of your readers (and Air Miles Collectors), I receive many emails each day offering or proposing sensational deals.

    There isn’t enough time to read or examine in detail each email, so the change from regular Air Miles to Cash and Dream Miles caught me by surprise.

    Then followed the innocuous notice that Air Miles will have a 5-year expiry window, commencing on Jan. 1, 2016, which I wasn’t aware of until your recent column.

    Trying to redeem Air Miles for travel is exasperating. The system is not transparent or user-friendly.

    Air Miles makes it difficult to make a satisfactory choice of what to do to obtain perceived “fair value” for the miles that collectors believed were worth something.

    I strongly support extending the deadline at least six months to allow collectors to plan for any subsequent disqualification of accumulated miles – especially given the impediments to using the current programs.

    In fact, Air Miles management admitted that they need to do a better job with collectors, but to date have not done so.

    I also support your recommendation that Air Miles management provide for a satisfactory cash refund of Air Miles for any collector not wishing or not able to satisfactorily redeem Dream Miles.

    The example of the $100 Gift Card that can cost a collector more than the value of the Gift Card acquired affirms that Air Miles has debased the value of an Air Mile substantially.

    How Air Miles’ management chooses to play fair with their collectors is up to them. But the consequences for Air Miles’ business model are serious. Consider:

    Air Miles real customers are the retailers, merchants and companies that “buy” Air Miles to distribute to their consumer customers.

    If these corporate customers were made aware that Collectors no longer found the Air Miles program to be fair and worth their time and effort, why would the merchants and other companies want to continue to participate in this program?

    What would happen if unhappy Collectors were to organize petitions using social media?

    If the senior executives of sponsoring companies became aware just how debased the true value of Air Miles has become, coupled with the poor treatment that Collectors have received from Air Miles management, do you believe these sponsoring companies might have second thoughts about continuing with the program as it currently exists?

    Please continue to show how Canadian consumers are being defrauded, directly and indirectly, by unscrupulous management practices.

    Thank you.

  3. ML

    Sep 27 2016

    You are on to a marketing fiasco. About 2-3 years ago Air Miles added Cash Miles, which have proved transparent and easy to use.

    The window to convert Dream miles was narrow and many of us missed it. Since then, I have not found an opportunity to use the so-called dream miles.

    On their website, the only thing I could find was a DeLonghi toaster, vigorously condemned by buyers on other sites.

    My points (which i estimate cost me $26,000 in purchases over many years) wouldn’t quite make it. So I would have had to buy more, in increments of 100, leaving another 75 points, though cheap points equaling only $22.70, to expire.

    Too much to bear. The choices of merchandise are slim, the discounts are hardly worth it, the website is hard to use.

    Excuse me if I stop before I begin babbling in frustration.

  4. JA

    Sep 27 2016

    Can someone explain why the LCBO participates in the Air Miles program when it has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol? It’s not like it needs to compete for business. And how much does it cost the LCBO to participate in Air Miles?

  5. AL

    Sep 27 2016

    I e-mailed the office of the president on Sept. 7. No response. Again on Sept. 14. No response.

    I emailed bpearson@loyalty.com on Sept. 20 and received a call from a manager on Sept. 22. I wasn’t satisfied so I emailed Bryan again on Sept. 23, but no response so far.

    Let’s keep up the pressure. Here’s what I said:

    Good morning Mr. Pearson,

    With reference to my e-mail from Sept. 20, I wish to thank you for having one of your managers call me.

    Unfortunately, she was not able to resolve the problem. She said there was nothing she could do to help, other than open a Cash Rewards account for me and add 95 miles.

    This was not acceptable, given the 2,965 I currently have in my Dream account that cannot be used as I’d always intended and also in light of the looming deadline for points expiry.

    When I told her I intended to contact you again as I was still not satisfied, she said she could not give me the 95 miles after all.

    She repeatedly told me how the Cash accounts were created to satisfy customers, but it seems this was done at the expense of people who had miles in their Dream accounts that could no longer be used for cash rewards.

    If customer satisfaction was really the motivating factor, at least as a gesture of customer good will, card holders should be given the one-time option of transferring miles to their cash accounts, particularly in light of the looming deadline for points expiry!

    I therefore respectfully once again request your office to implement a procedure to allow the one-time transfer of miles from a collector’s Dream balance to Cash balance.

    I look forward to hearing from you that this has been done.

    Thank you again for your time and consideration,

  6. les taylor

    Sep 27 2016

    LoyaltyOne through its Air Miles program has let down its 10 million collectors in every possible way.

    Business is business and changes are inevitable. How a company makes those changes is what determines its success or its failure.

    Air Miles changed its rules and other than a quick news release in 2011, did not proactively communicate with collectors to explain or tell them about the importance of the changes. Collectors became aware that their miles were going to expire only because of the media.

    Due to the looming expiry date, collectors have tried to redeem their miles, only to find out there is a serious lack of availability of rewards.

    Small redemptions, such as gift certificates, were mysteriously moved to the Cash Miles category. Flights, hotels and cars are not available. Merchandise only seems to be visible to those who don’t have enough miles.

    You cannot reach Air Miles by telephone. The website and live chat are often down.

    Collectors are understandably frustrated and have lost all trust in Air Miles. The company has shown total arrogance in refusing to address collectors’ concerns and has remained totally silent and missing in action.

    Come January 1, millions of miles will expire because collectors weren’t aware of the change or could not redeem them. Those miles were bought and paid for by the sponsors who awarded them to collectors.

    The miles belong to collectors and not to Air Miles. But Air Miles stands to make huge profits, double dipping, as the miles have already been paid for.

    Air Miles could do the right thing and extend the expiry date by one year. This would allow collectors to transfer their dream miles to cash miles, where they would be worth something.

    Such action would buy enormous goodwill for the company and go a long way to being fair to collectors. Seems to me it’s a small price to pay for the continued loyalty of millions.

    How long before the sponsors who pay for the program decide Air Miles is no longer a good loyalty tool? How many Air Miles cards have to be ripped up?

    A class action lawsuit, social media rants and significant media coverage should send a strong message to Air Miles about its survival.

  7. RL

    Sep 27 2016

    Thought you might be interested in hearing about a positive experience I had when redeeming my Air Miles.

    On Sept. 12, I started reviewing the options available to me on the Air Miles website. I narrowed these down to three choices I’d be interested in and shared them with my partner, so we could make a decision.

    When I went back to the website on Sept. 14, the item we had chosen was no longer available. I used the web chat option to connect with a customer service representative and waited about 45 minutes for that.

    She said the item was temporarily out of stock and recommended trying back a few days later.

    I followed her advice and was able to successfully place my order on Sept. 21. I expected at least a 4-week delivery, but received it at my house last night – only 4 business days later. That’s a pretty good delivery time for any online order.

    There are lots of reasons to feel cheated or displeased with the way Air Miles has been handling the issue of expiring point. They could/should have handled this better.

    But I actually think they have the right as a business to set expiry dates. It’s probably a massive financial liability for the company to have people like me, with 20 years worth of points to be redeemed.

    That’s separate, of course, from the problematic nature of some other aspects of the business, such as the actual value of the air miles themselves. It shouldn’t take 4,700 miles to get an item I could purchase for $600.

    At an average of $20 per mile, I had to spend $94,000, and I am getting back about 12.7 cents per mile. Not to mention the extra costs for me by shopping at those businesses that offer miles.

    But that’s something I as a consumer have signed up for, so I figure the onus is on me to shop elsewhere and not collect the air miles if I don’t feel I’m getting good value.

    Anyway, I thought I would share an example of Air Miles doing a good job.

  8. Ted T

    Sep 28 2016

    Hello Ms Roseman,

    I have just read your article #2 on the Air Miles Situation and have to conclude that LoyaltyOne is not listening. By stonewalling, LoyaltyOne can earn quite a sizable pot of gold. All they have to do is stand fast.

    Air Miles does not need more time – speaking with collectors is not a serious option with a 2 hour waiting period; stocking up the catalogue is not in the cards or we would already have had thousands of gift card options and thousands of cameras available. Hiring more staff for only the next 3 months will not solve the problem of LO intransigence.

    Writing to the president of LO is not, to me, the most effective method to get Air Miles to listen. Why would you not include a recommendation that Collectors write directly to the CEOs of the retail sponsors of Air Miles. If the sponsors withdraw or switch their rewards program, Air Miles will be bankrupt.

    So please, get your readers to write to the CEOs and give us a list of the pertinent e-mail addresses. That is when we will see some action when Collectors start threatening to boycott the retailers. Why even the Bank of Canada might step in to prevent disruption of the Canadian economy?

    I have written to customer care at Lowes U.S. and have had my letter passed on to its management. How high that is, I do not know but I expect an answer soon. I have also spoken with a Store Manager at Staples. He himself is a collector and was dismayed by the treatment of his AM customers. He promised to take the issue “up the line”.

  9. Linda

    Sep 28 2016

    Ellen,

    I’m not one who jumps to the defence of business companies, but have to say that the reactions from Air Miles users that you are reporting are way out of line.

    Users are complaining that a plan that is free to them is being altered? That is just silly.

    As for fair warning, am I the only one who read the emails from Air Miles that informed us of plan changes? (These were sent a number of times over the past few years. )

    Surely not and surely these folks who either don’t read their emails or simply don’t like change have no right to complain about a free program.

    As a result of the informative emails from Air Miles, I changed to a cash back program and have been happy with it for a few years now. I fear you are catering to a bunch of whiners.

    By the way, I have no business interest in Air Miles. I’m simply a regular user of the program.

  10. RJ

    Sep 28 2016

    TO: generalpublicenquiries-ca@shell.com

    I would like to express my dismay with the manner in which LoyaltyOne is redeeming my Air Miles points.

    I have purchased Shell gasoline for many years and collected Air Miles points along the way. I assume you pay LoyaltyOne for the points and give them to me with my gasoline purchase.

    I also assume you are aware LoyaltyOne is taking away points that I own after Jan. 1, 2017. Where is the money trail here? Are they reimbursing Shell Canada for the points you paid for?

    If so, I expect Shell to reimburse me as I purchased your gasoline and therefore indirectly purchased points from Shell.

    I am not a lawyer and I assume you will be able to refer to fine print somewhere to remove yourself from any legal responsibility on behalf of Shell Canada in this matter.

    However, I am of the opinion Shell Canada has the ability to ensure LoyaltyOne treats their customers in an ethical and responsible way.

    The only way I can express my concern over this bizarre situation is for me to stop purchasing Shell gasoline immediately.

    Thank you in advance for accepting this correspondence and I look forward to your response.

  11. MR

    Sep 28 2016

    Air Miles must be the biggest joke ever perpetrated on unsuspecting consumers.

    We have been “collecting” Air Miles for about 15 years and we have a grand total of 194 points, which would be worth about $20 if we could cash them in.

    But they are worthless in the “Dream” category to which we were assigned, unbeknownst to us.

    In order to “collect” before they become defunct, I have tried to find some merchandise we could cash in on, but there is nothing worth this little. You need to have thousands of points in order to get anything.

    The agent I spoke with suggested I order something from their catalogue and pay the difference in cash! What a ridiculous suggestion. Why would I buy something I don’t need and pay more money, just for the sake of using up these worthless points?

    How have they been able to get away with this scam? There are very few businesses who participate in this plan, hence, the few points we have managed to accumulate after all these years.

    They should have to offer customers the option to convert their points to cash, rather than stick them with useless points for even more useless merchandise.

    Oh, and you’ll love this one – the agent suggested I could use the points, at 50 a pop, to buy raffle tickets to “win” another dream vacation. I might as well flush them down the toilet!

    I hope your petition goes somewhere.

  12. MG

    Sep 28 2016

    Dear Ms. Roseman: I have signed your change.org petition (thank you for that forum in addition to your excellent Toronto Star column).

    After having my own (unexpected) problem contacting Air Miles for a points redemption question, I realized my difficulty on the telephone was just a snowflake on an iceberg of grief for all Air Miles points holders looking to “use them or lose them” by December 1st.

    I have taken the additional step of writing to the Honourable Charles Sousa in his capacity as Ontario Minister of Finance and overseer of the LCBO, a reward miles vendor, to request that his ministry review their business relationship with LoyaltyOne/Air Miles.

    A copy of my letter to his ministry office is below:

    Dear Minister Sousa,

    In light of a planned class-action law suit to be filed on behalf of all Canadian Air Miles members against Air Miles/LoyaltyOne at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, I would like to reiterate my original request to have the management of the LCBO review their agreement with Air Miles.

    While I knew my personal experience trying to redeem Air Miles could not be unique, I wasn’t aware that the problem stretched across Canada, and as the comments on the news sites indicate, it is a rewards program that is causing more frustration and anger than happy faces.

    Please see a copy (below) of my original communication to your office (mistakenly sent to your constituency office) regarding my frustrations in dealing with Air Miles and my request to have the MOF/LCBO review their relationship with Air Miles/LoyaltyOne.

    Kindest regards,
    MG

    Message: Dear Minister Sousa, I am writing to your office in your capacity as Minister of Finance and overseer of the LCBO. This message is in regard to the LCBO’s contractual agreement with Air Miles reward points.

    As an Air Mile provider (LCBO), I believe it is important for your office to know that the customer service provided by Air Miles is almost impossible to access via telephone and through their online “Chat” service.

    After three very frustrating days of attempting to contact their customer service office for a travel related question (including a 45 minute wait when they called me!), I have given up.

    If the LCBO is paying anything, and I mean ANYTHING, for the privilege of providing Air Miles to its customers, I think you are getting a very poor deal for the taxpayers of Ontario.

    What good is a rewards program where the customer can’t access the rewards in a timely manner?

    Currently, their wait message informs callers that only callers travelling with 5 days can use their telephone service to book travel rewards.

    If that was the case for me, I would have wasted three days attempting to contact their customer service department.

    This level of service is almost tantamount to fraud; fraud the Ontario taxpayer is paying for if the LCBO/Ministry of Finance is paying Air Miles Canada for this ‘perk’.

    I would appreciate your office bringing this matter to the attention of LCBO executives in charge of the Air Miles program.

  13. ABW

    Sep 28 2016

    Air Miles is acting just as banks do regarding dormant accounts.

    Because points are a liability of the balance sheet (deposits Are for banks, loans are assets), every year the unclaimed balances are transferred to the Bank of Canada and under standard account practices, they are deemed recovered liabilities.

    So what LoyaltyOne is trying to do it to wipe those thousands of accounts with less than let’s say $20 worth of points (LoyaltyOne, I think, values each point at 15 cents).

    This will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the balance sheet and make the stock price rise dramatically.

    The only one powerful enough to stop this is Shell Canada. A boycott of Shell, the gas company partner, is one true way to force Loyalty One to back down.

  14. NH

    Sep 28 2016

    Dear Bryan Pearson, CEO of LoyaltyOne:

    Like many Air Miles collectors, I am extremely disappointed with the manner in which Loyalty One is handling the expiry of unused points.

    The approach is not likely to promote the Air Miles Group mission of “developing meaningful customer relationships for the world’s leading companies.”

    Given your collector base’s reaction, it will have the opposite effect.

    Instead of buying gas at Shell, groceries at Metro and drug store needs from Rexall, it will likely lead to more shopping at Esso, the Weston Group and Shopper’s Drug Mart, all of which have loyalty reward programs that show a far greater respect for their customer base.

    It may also prompt collectors to ask stores they frequent to shift from Air Miles points to other loyalty plans that demonstrate greater corporate responsibility.

    I consider myself well versed in the use of technology and a fairly sophisticated manager of my financial interests. Yet I did not learn of the change in expiry policy until relatively recently.

    Certainly, the type of communication effort that would have demonstrated interest in client relations did not reach me. I suspect that is the case for many of your collectors.

    To continue to maintain that collectors have many valuable opportunities to redeem their expiring points — when all that is available is an opportunity to “gamble” on sweepstakes, a limited range of overpriced merchandise, few flights and insufficient customer service representatives to assist clients — merely heightens the feeling of disrespect.

    Your approach is unfortunate, since there are options to assist the companies that use Air Miles to maintain and develop meaningful customer relationships.

    Allowing a one-time transfer of Dream Miles to Cash Miles or extending the expiry date of miles earned in 2012 would go a long way in collectors regaining trust in the Air Miles brand.

    Of course, that assumes that Loyalty One’s interest is in customer service — rather than maximizing profits through your expiry policy.

    Doing this would also eliminate the current social media campaigns with their attendant bad publicity and negate the current class action suit’s potential costs to LoyaltyOne.

    I thought someone whose expertise is in the fields of “enterprise loyalty and coalition marketing” would have known better — or at least, could have been able to learn from the ill-fated attempt by Aeroplan to enact a similar policy.

    The courtesy of a reply to these concerns would be appreciated.

  15. AC

    Sep 28 2016

    Dear Mr. Pearson:

    I have a problem with a topaz pendant I purchased with Air Miles. Many Air Miles: 7,500 to be exact.

    My problem is straightforward and should have been resolved by now, but not with your customer service, which I believe is the worst I have ever experienced.

    Here are just two cases:

    · A customer service person was to transfer me to a supervisor. I was on hold for two hours before I hung up.
    · I have received scheduled calls. When I answer, I get put on hold for as long as 20 minutes.

    You want customer loyalty? This is no way to get it.

    My problem:

    · The description and image of the topaz pendant on your website indicate the pendant lies flat on the chest. They do not indicate that the housing for the pendant tapers back toward the chest, such that the housing is narrower in the back than in the front. This is misrepresentation of the product, enough reason for a refund of my Air Miles points.

    · The description and image of the topaz pendant were removed from your website the day that I had a discussion with one of the supervisors. Interesting, don’t you think?

    · Because the pendant tapers towards the back, it flips on its side whenever the person wearing it moves. That’s not very elegant for fine jewelry, is it?

    I’ve been told by your people that you have to put on the pendant “a special way.” Now, how many pieces of jewelry have to be put on a special way?

    Anyway, the “way” doesn’t work. None of this is in the pendant image and description. This is also misrepresentation of the product.

    I want to return this product and receive a refund of all of my points. I do not want another product.

    I trust your company will do the right thing. I am not going away in this matter. If need be, I will continue talking to Air Miles and, as necessary, other people.

    ——————————————————

    To Ellen Roseman, a few days later

    Hi Ellen,

    I want to say thank you for your help with Air Miles. I have returned the topaz pendant and received back my points.

    I spent hours on hold to speak to people at Air Miles. I spent hours talking to people at Air Miles, often to hear them repeating themselves or contradicting themselves.

    Whatever you accomplished with Air Miles, I was not able to do.

  16. SM

    Sep 28 2016

    Dear President,

    I support the public call for you to reverse your decision that restricts miles interchangeability (from cash to dream and vice versa) and allows mileage expiry to begin at end of this year.

    I have been a loyal Air Miles collector since the beginning. In fact, I am a loyal member of most air/hotel/car rental loyalty programs and so, I feel I have some expertise on their merits.

    In my view, Air Miles is the worst loyalty program in terms of the ratios of dollars spent/points accumulated and points spent/reward value.

    That distinction has not hurt your success or loyalty, as most retailers have opted to join your program for ease of administration, and to avoid having to adopt their own program, which cannot enjoy your advantage of wider acceptability.

    Since your program is so widespread and successful, as more and more successful enterprises join your program, maybe more than you anticipated when you came up with your decisions on interchangeability and expiry over 5 years ago, it’s time to re-think these issues and reverse them.

    Such a decision will only increase your popularity and loyalty, which obviously are highly stated goals. Do you really need to make this ‘extra’ profit on miles forfeited?

    Maybe even some of your directors will applaud you for a long-term over short-term goal that enhances your brand and encourages more merchants to join your program.

    I doubt you will ever want to improve the main criteria on which you should be judged; i.e. dollars spent/miles accumulated and miles spent/reward value.

    Anyway, most people can’t do the math, so this is a hidden disadvantage. But at least, you should consider reversing the decisions that will hurt you the most in terms of loyalty and popularity.

  17. Kahina Haffad, Air Miles spokesperson

    Sep 28 2016

    First, I wanted to let you know that we have reached out to every one of the 72 Collectors you sent through to us. We listened to their inquiries and did our best to address their concerns.

    Second, in your article, you reference Customer Care. As of now, we are answering 10,000 calls a day through our Customer Care Centre and currently, 75% of those calls are answered within 10 minutes.

    And while we appreciate you sending us Collector inquiries, because it provides us with another opportunity to hear from our Collectors, the email address you reference in your article is not an effective means for them to have their inquiries answered – it is only used for escalated issues.

    The most efficient way for them to get answers to their questions is by visiting our website (where Live chat is available) or by calling our Customer Care Centre.

    Hours of operation are as listed below:

    Live Chat
    MON-FRI (8 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST)
    SAT (9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST)
    SUN (CLOSED)

    Customer Care Centre Locations

    Atlantic Canada: 9:00AM – 7:00PM local time, weekdays, 9:00AM – 6:00PM EST Saturday
    Newfoundland: 9:30AM – 7:00PM local time, weekdays, 9:00AM – 6:00PM EST Saturday
    All other provinces: 8:00AM – 7:00PM local time 9:00AM – 6:00PM EST Saturday

    * French-speaking Specialists are available until 7 pm Eastern time Monday-Friday and all day Saturday.

    Our goal is to continue to increase engagement in the Program. Collectors are getting more value this year than ever before.

    In fact, the number of Collectors who redeemed for the first time increased 16% with total redemptions increasing 15% this year.

    As a result, we are seeing approx. 42,000 redemptions happen every single day.

    And finally, why don’t we allow Dream to Cash conversion?

    At the core, Dream and Cash are two distinct programs and the ability to convert Dream Miles to Cash Miles is not possible.

    At any time, Collectors can switch their preference from Dream Miles to Cash Miles in order to ensure all future Miles earned are Cash Miles or a combination of both Dream and Cash.

    It is important for Collectors to choose the program that is right for them.

  18. RS

    Sep 28 2016

    I’m sure you’ve heard much about the changes you implemented with respect to Dream Miles and Cash Miles. I too am one of the unhappy collectors who did not realize that you were effectively making our points worthless.

    But my reason for writing today is to discuss your website.

    After spending 15 minutes (which is all I could take) browsing your site, I can only draw one conclusion: It is designed to make it impossible to redeem point for rewards.

    To be fair, I’ve read news reports that talk about people who searched for and found items they wanted to purchase. I commend their dedication. That they had the fortitude to spend the time required to search for items in their ‘price’ range amazes me. They are better people than I.

    1. Search:
    There is no search function that allows me to search items that are below or near my point total. The only reason you do not have that function is to make it difficult to redeem points.

    2. Browsing:
    If a user wishes to browse categories, they are presented with 5 top level categories, each of which, when clicked, contains a number of sub categories – up to 7 in one of them*. Each of these must be browsed separately. That’s potentially 35 categories to be browsed. And each of these categories only displays 9 items per page. You are essentially asking your clients to browse hundreds of pages to find suitable items. You and your design team know that few people will have the time or commitment to do this.

    3. Layout:
    Add to this the fact that your design team likely has gorgeous 24″ or larger monitors. Maybe even two or three on their desks. Did you know your site may not display exactly the same on your customers’ computers? Please purchase some entry level laptops for your design team. Please do your usability testing on these laptops.

    I believe you have turned Air Miles into a monstrously unfunny joke. You should be ashamed.

    *I would go to the site and check which category I am thinking of, but just the thought of going back to your site makes me want to throw my laptop through the window.

  19. Bylo

    Oct 1 2016

    Ellen, thanks for your efforts on this issue. I have signed the petition and have encouraged others to do so.

    There’s another angle you might want to pursue: Contact the retailers who are using AirMiles. Presumably they do so in an effort to cultivate loyalty by their customers. How are they reacting to LoyaltyOne’s inflexible positions over expiring miles?

    These retailers presumably are paying LoyaltyOne to participate in the AM programs and to use their program to cultivate the loyalty of their customers.

    In view of LoyaltyOne’s actions over the issue of expiring miles, the obstacles to redeeming Dream Miles, the inability to convert them to Cash Miles, the slow website, the lengthy waits for customer service, do these retailers still believe the AM program is achieving its marketing objective? Do they still believe they’re getting value for their money? Have they expressed their concerns directly to LoyaltyOne?

    As for Kahina Haffad, Air Miles spokesperson, and the comment, “As of now, we are answering 10,000 calls a day through our Customer Care Centre and currently, 75% of those calls are answered within 10 minutes.”

    1. Has LoyaltyOne reflected on WHY 10,000 members find it necessary to call in for customer service each and every day? Could it be because they’re experiencing customer service issues that can’t be resolved on the AirMiles website? Hmmm… I wonder why…

    2. Haffad admits that LoyaltyOne can’t answer 2,500 calls per day within 10 minutes. She doesn’t acknowledge that this is a problem. Does she consider that to be acceptable? What does that say about LoyaltyOne’s competence in operating a customer loyalty program and in providing a minimum level of customer service?

  20. GC

    Oct 4 2016

    Here is what I sent to the LCBO about Air Miles. Their response is below..

    Why are you using Air Miles (AM) to encourage consumer to purchase some of your products? Hopefully you are aware of complaints about AM introducing expiry dates, the difficulty that people are having in contacting them, limiting travelling options, etc.

    You might be aware that some consumer advocacy groups and the media such as Zoomer Radio (AM 740) and the Toronto Star have brought up the subject of consumer concerns. It appears that Air Miles would like to get rid of people, the likes of me, who are not big spenders.

    The AM goal appears to be wanting to reduce its number of subscribers from the 8 or 10 million to get rid of the riffraff and cater only to the rich. Every time I use my AM card at an LCBO store, I cringe at the thought of being associated with chopped liver.

    I urge you to pull out or get in touch with Air Miles to voice client concerns. Otherwise, you will be party to the same kind of deception that Air Miles is pulling on us.

    ——————————————————————————————————-

    Thank you for contacting helloLCBO regarding Air Miles.

    Like other retailers, LCBO established its Loyalty Reward Program (LRP) to provide additional value to our loyal customers and give them the opportunity to collect rewards for their purchases.

    In accordance with established government procurement requirements, LCBO used a competitive process to select its LRP provider. LoyaltyOne was the successful bidder in this process, and entered into a contract with the LCBO in April 2010.

    Please note that the Loyalty Reward Program is not directly administered by the LCBO. If you have any specific questions about the expiry policy and the process of redeeming Air Miles, you can contact the Air Miles program directly by visiting http://www.airmiles.ca/arrow/ContactUs or by calling 1-888-AIR-MILES.

    Thank you for sharing your concerns and we hope this information is of assistance.

    If we have not fully addressed your question, please reply to this email leaving the subject line intact, or please reach out to us directly at 416-365-5900 or toll free at 1-800-668-5226.

    Best Regards,

    Jessica@helloLCBO

  21. AL

    Oct 4 2016

    Hi Ellen, I have an update on my earlier post.

    I received a call from Natasha in the office of the president. She said there was nothing she could do to transfer miles from Dream to Cash, but she upped the offer for new miles. She said she’d put 475 miles into my Cash account.

    I said that was fine as long as she understood that I was still not happy and would continue to do everything I could to object to their position about both expiry of points and points transfer.

    I mentioned your petition. She said they were aware of it, but she couldn’t comment.

    I suggested the fact this petition had gone fto more than 1,300 suggested the size of the issues they had to address.

    Let’s all keep up the pressure!

  22. FC

    Oct 4 2016

    Luckily I am not one of those trying to use Air miles before expiry, having successfully used a large number in early 2015 for a winter holiday.

    However, I do have some anecdotal evidence from recent attempts to book flights to support the contention that Air miles is trying its best to frustrate and thwart collectors who attempt to redeem their miles.

    Early this summer, I was looking for flights to Seattle. A one-way ticket was 3,900 air miles, round-trip about 6,200. I had only enough for a one-way flight but was prepared to book either the outbound or inbound portion of the trip and book independently for the other half.

    The first result given to me said that there were no one-way flights available, just round-trip flights I could not afford with my Air miles. It seems illogical to me that one-way wasn’t available, given that a round-trip involves two one-way flights.

    So, I tried later. I was told that Seatlle wasn’t serviced, that is, that they didn’t provide flights to Seattle. This, too, seems far-fetched.

    Seattle is hardly an obscure destination and is serviced by several major airlines. In the end, I booked through Scotiabank rewards. No problems there.

    Curious about the recent problems, in June I requested an expiry statement. It arrived several days later by email and provided very little information.

    Apparently I have no air miles that will expire before June 2017. No other information was given. So much for planning ahead.

    I have no idea how old my oldest Air miles are, which seems like a simple thing to communicate to customers.

    I remember when Aeroplan adopted an expiry policy and informed customers well in advance of the exact expiry date of their Aeroplan miles. It also informed them of how many had to be redeemed, which we did. As you know, they have since reversed their expiry policy.

    I cannot help but wonder about the major companies that subscribe to Air miles to attract business. Metro and Sobeys, as well as oil companies, come to mind.

    Shouldn’t they be concerned that their customers are being used in this way? Aren’t they remunerating Air miles for the privilege of participating in the plan?

    Their lack of protest almost makes them complicit in this shady business. It seems to me that they would have a lot more clout than individual collectors if they brought pressure to bear.

    I hope I will be able to use up my travel miles in the near future. At that point, I will convert to cash miles. However, this deceptive policy certainly leaves a very bad taste..

  23. GT

    Oct 4 2016

    Our Air Miles miles from the start of the LOYALTY program added up to about 30K or $4,037.

    We have never cashed in any miles.I heard indirectly about the scooping of miles by the end of year. and requested my mileage summary for expiry on the website.

    Reply: 15K this year and about 1000 each quarter thereafter.

    Like others, I started on the website. For me, it was complicated even to get product. I then started my phone attempts, now a crusade.

    On the website, I could get flights only if I wanted a package. My first telephone attempt going through all the menu got me the ability to give my number and they would call.

    By the way. each time you log into the system, you must insert all your 10 digit card # and all the other security info.

    I did get a call back. but the caller said I had pressed 1 and not 3, the correct number on the menu. I did get info from him on the vacation companies they used and how the system worked, but since he had only been there 2 weeks, he was limited. This was not his department.

    Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunquest and WestJet are their travel packages. Later I learned there are more. He said he would put me on their call list with a 3-hour window. My research was to go to the travel agents, including my usual, and get the vacation package books.

    We looked at sun, Europe, but still did not know what was available from Air Miles. We had 8 books of tours.

    I got a call from the person detailed for that day, as she was going for training. She would call back in 1 hour.

    She called. The process is that, while you discuss with her after deciding what you can get, she puts you on hold while she talks to tour representative, in this case Air Transat. This took over 2 hours and looped music 3 times.

    I had to give everything, such as names in the air lingo alphabet Foxtrot, Charlie, Echo, so there would be no errors in passport, time available and all the particulars. We settled on London and Paris for 7 days in January. Hotels, flights, seats, tours all settled, using as many miles for upgrades.

    I received from the Air Miles travel consultant a confirmation email. The information was correct.

    On the next day, I was to confirm my seat selection. I did that and later in the day I received from Air Transat a seat selection email with the middle name of my wife spelled gean, not Jean. Trouble in the travel world.

    I went into Air Tansat by phone and they said they cannot correct it, only Air Miles can. She gave me an email to use. I sent an explanatory email to that address and another on my first confirmation email.

    Air Miles returned with an email the I was to call a number between 9 and 7 for assistance. At 9:00 on the dot, I called to be told about the unusual heavy number of calls.

    Could you guess I am now back in the original system and the menu while inserting all the required security info?

    This allows you to put your telephone number in for a call back in the next hour.

    I received call back #1. Female. Reported the story of why I am calling. Go on hold for a call back.

    Call back #2, young male. I repeat story and please don’t lose me when you put me on hold to check with Air Transat. It won’t happen, sir.

    Looped music starts, then the usual “we are experiencing unusual number of calls” and another female comes on. After I tell my story, again, they ask me to calm down. Says she does not know the person I lost, but she will send an email and ask them to follow up with a call to me.

    All these people have my info or parts of it in their computer. No assistance that I have been waiting by the phone for in a 3-hour period. I have refused calls from 3 people saying I am waiting on a call.

    I noticed that many callers had accents. That may be an explanation of the error, since G and J are close on keyboard.

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