A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was on my way down to Philly for a meet & greet with Coldplay courtesy of SPG Moments. I teased everyone in that original post, not mentioning the number of points I used to win the experience. Perhaps I did so to create a buzz for this future post, but more likely unconsciously saving myself some ridicule from the frequent flyer community!
For those of you unfamiliar with the program, “Moments is an exclusive program for members of SPG in which hard-earned Starpoints can be transformed into one-of-a-kind experiences.” They run both regular and fixed price auctions, though the meet and greets tend to have no set price.
My girlfriend is a huge Coldplay fan and I figured what could be better than two seats in the first few rows and a chance to meet the band. I followed the auction closely and as expected the price rose quickly into the 50-65k range. Unfortunately, the description for a “meet & greet” was not all that clear on the website and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a handshake and a quick photo. I was also curious as to whether anything else was included with the backstage access. Luckily, there’s a chat function on the SPG Moments website and I was able to ask these exact questions. The responses I got were semi-consistent, but not all that definite:
With these responses in hand, I decided that I would set my maximum bid to 100,000 SPG points. Yes, it was shocking and uncomfortable for me as well! As you know from my previous posts, I value SPG points more than any other point currency and just thinking about the number of nights I could have redeemed with these points was painful. Thinking of the number of nights, including the Fifth Night Free benefit, was even more painful. Here’s how I rationalized it. I generally redeem my points for category 6 (20-25K per night) or category 7 (30-35k per night) properties in exotic locals or expensive destinations. So we are talking about a little less than a week at a category 6 property. A week is definitely nothing to sneeze about, but I balanced this with the fact that my remaining Starpoints balance would still provide me over a month of free stays (not including my other hotel points). I submitted my bid and waited for the auction to end, heading off to the gym to ensure I wasn’t tempted to increase my offer. Unfortunately, the auction wasn’t ending as scheduled! As per the T&Cs “if a bid is placed during the last 5 minutes of an auction, the auction will be extended automatically for an additional 5 minutes from the time of the latest bid. The auction will close once all bidding activity has stopped for a period of 5 minutes.” Checking on my iPhone I saw that the bidding surpassed my 100k maximum and I upped my bid to 125k, eventually winning the auction. There were definitely some mixed emotions upon winning and I was happy to be at the gym. I immediately received a congratulatory email from SPG noting that I would be contacted by a Moments representative within the next 48 hours and letting me know that I could rebuild my balance by applying for the SPG AMEX card!
Sure enough, I was emailed within 48 hours by my Moments liaison and she was fantastic. She mapped out all the logistical details for us and remained in contact over the next few weeks as times and locations were finalized. In the meantime, we were thinking up things to talk about with the band and booked the Le Meridien Philadelphia (full review in a future post, but we loved the hotel). About two days prior to the show our liaison reached out one final time with the full details:
We arrived in Philly early. We checked into our upgraded suite at the Le Meridien, did some sightseeing, and then made our way to the venue to meet Allison, our on-site contact. Constant communication is definitely one of the strong points of the SPG Moments program and it continued with our on-site contact. Allison called me twice during the day to confirm our meeting times and then called and text messaged me again to ensure we made it inside the venue. She then picked us up at our seats and escorted us backstage.
Allison works for LiveNation and coordinates several of the SPG Moments jointly with Starwood. Upon entering backstage we were greeted by the Coldplay tour manager, who Allison introduced us to. We were told it was going to be about 15 minutes until the band was ready to meet us and that we could just hang out. Backstage looked like a high school hallway with plain white walls and not much else. We spent our time chatting with Allison who ended up growing up near both of us. At one point I asked where all of the action was as well as how much time we’d have with the band. The response was that backstage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that this was it, however we would be taking pictures with the band and get to shake their hands. I was pretty surprised and commented on the responses of the SPG Moments reps but was told that the information we were given was definitely inaccurate. For the time being I put that all behind me as this was still an awesome experience and we were standing backstage being told that Coldplay would be right out to meet us. Allison came equipped with a legit Nikon D3000 SLR camera and took some test shots of us against the wall so that she was prepared for when the band came out.
The four band members soon appeared and made their way towards us. They were extremely friendly and we got to shake each of their hands and say a few words. Lucky for us, Chris Martin disappeared for a few moments leaving us with some additional time with the rest of the band. When he came back we took two pictures, shook their hands again, and then watched as they walked out onto the stage. Allison then escorted us back to our third row seats and told us she would either email the photos to us that weekend or send them via UPS overnight. The “meet and greet” was over, and though it was not exactly as promised, we had a great time…until the concert was interrupted for us.
A person in front of us had put up an illegal microphone and became extremely agitated when asked to take it down. At the same time, a fight erupted in front of us (yes, who would have thought at a Coldplay concert) as two individuals claimed their seats were occupied by two people in the wrong seats. A medical issue soon occurred as a consequence of the mayhem in our area and the concert was ruined after only 30 minutes in our 3rd row seats.
I emailed our on-site LiveNation contact that next morning regarding the situation and asked if she could help us obtain tickets for the second night of the concert. She could not have been more apologetic and after consulting with the tour manager she was able to secure us two seats. I then extended our hotel reservation another night and updated our travel plans. We made use of the time by exploring Philly one more day and visiting the Liberty Bell, which I hadn’t seen since elementary school. Upon arriving at the box office our tickets were waiting for us as were two VIP passes, again entitling us to access to the “Friends & Family area” backstage. Although our seats the second night were not on the floor, they were actually even closer to the stage and the band than those the night before. We had an amazing time and were happily informed by the stage crew that the setlist was identical to the previous night. In fact, the only change was that one of our favorite songs was swapped in due to a malfunctioning keyboard. Coldplay put on an amazing show and the performance included awesome visual effects.
About a week later I wrote an email to the SPG Moments liaison letting her know all that had transpired at the concert that first night as well as the inaccurate description of the “meet & greet” that was previously provided to us. She too was extremely sympathetic… “Please let me start by apologizing for what was supposed to be an awesome night, turning horribly bad!“, and though the occurrences at the concert were no fault of SPG, she was extremely sorry. She then explained that the online chat functionality was new and that further training was in the works. She told me that agents are supposed to refer members with specific event questions to an email address where one of the SPG Moments liaison members can answer Moment specific questions. At the end of the email she notified me that she would be refunding half the points back to my SPG account, a very generous and appreciated offer! I was also happy to know that meet and greet descriptions going forward will be handled by the appropriate representatives.
Would I have spent 125k SPG points on third row seats and a photo and hand-shake with Coldplay…probably not. However, I’m actually glad that I had some incorrect information going into this. We had a great time, saw a great concert (on try #2), and have some amazing pictures with one of our favorite bands. Besides the inaccurate information provided by the online chat feature, everything about the SPG Moments experience was top-notch. Pre-concert, day of, and post-concert communication was excellent and they truly made us feel very well taken care of at all times . Thanks to SPGMoments for a great experience!