“It is a nerd convention, and I don’t totally understand it,” Sonya Nicholson, Mr. Nicholson’s wife, said somewhat admiringly as she surveyed the scene a few months before a points-paid anniversary trip to Italy. “But what is fascinating is that they bounce ideas off of each other.”
They have plenty. Do not redeem unless you are getting at least 1 cent in value per point. For Platinum Elite members, remember that Fairfield Inns offer a mere 200-point arrival gift, not the 400 points you get at a Courtyard. Steer clear of Residence Inns for paid stays because they offer fewer points per dollar.
“We certainly do talk about points,” said Bob Pape, a Hawaiian shirt-wearing lawyer from England. “It does tend to be about areas where there is proper debate: where are good redemptions, how to get reduced rates, how to make the most of the points you’re spending and where the soft points are of a promo that they’re running. There’s a lot to talk about.”
There were also questions to pose one-on-one to Mr. Flueck, whose attendance had been the subject of good-humored speculation on one pre-TIPPLE thread. (The discussion also included talk about whether J.W. Marriott Jr., the Maryland-based chain’s executive chairman, or Arne M. Sorenson, its president, would appear.)
“I’ve had a chance to read some of your posts,” Mr. Flueck told the group in a tone that set off a roar of laughter.
“We were just kidding,” a woman called out.
Except they almost certainly weren’t.
A gathering of self-educated points experts — and the notion that Marriott would send an executive to spend Saturday night at it — is a reflection of simultaneous eras: one in which travel loyalty currencies have come to stand as both a hobby and cottage industry, and one in which the internet has seemingly transformed everyone into an airline, hotel or restaurant critic.
In the early 1980s, when the most consequential frequent flier programs made their debuts, industry executives thought they were giving rise only to a clever marketing effort that would discourage travelers from toggling among brands. They did not foresee that, decades later, people would be weaving together weekends built around pub crawls and points strategies.