I have been waiting a long time to tell this story. I could not share it in print due to confidences from those involved but they have since moved on to other jobs and the relationship between SkyMall and Delta Air Lines is now over as of about one month ago (did you notice SkyMall magazines are GONE from your seat back?). You can see below screen shots from the WayBackMachine of Delta.com when they were on the home page and are gone now. Plus, I have confirmed this with my Delta contacts as well.
This story is really fascinating and has in many ways shaped my blogging and my view of Delta as a company. First some background bits.
Before I started blogging late in 2011 I was just another travel enthusiast who was always on the lookout for the next point deal. Points were literally flooding in from all sides from amazing card deals with huge bonus points (still going on by the way) and then there were other things like the US Mint coins that made earning “FREE” points almost too simple.
Also, early on during that year SkyMall had a promotion that if you spent $500 on anything they or their partners sold you could get 25,000 Skymiles as a bonus. I was very hesitant and cautious but it worked out and I got in on two orders, one for me, and one for Lisa and the points posted. I was thrilled. Especially so because on one of the orders half of the things I wanted were backordered and they eventually canceled, credited my card back, and I still got to keep the points.
Then in late summer 2011 the promo came back AGAIN! This time I went “big” (well for me). I ordered 10 Samsung Galaxy TABs and even had them, per the rules, price match a lower price and sold them all on eBay in a day. The result was 250,000 Skymiles for an out of pocket cost (i.e., a loss) of under $700 all-in. Back then you could get a $100 AMEX gift card for 11,000 Skymiles on Delta.com Skymiles Marketplace (21,000 now) so what I did was cash out enough to cover the bulk of my loss and pocketed the rest of the points for FREEEEEEEE! I could hardly believe it.
Fast forward to November and the launch of the blog. I was so excited to be on BoardingArea. There were, and still are, so few Delta focused blogs anywhere on the web. Readership that first week was slow but growing day by day. Plus BoardingArea was much smaller back then. Then I got word that SkyMall was going to AGAIN, for a third time, run the 25,000 point promotion. Why were they doing this time after time? I reached out to a contact at SkyMall and could not believe what I was told.
You see “back in the day” SkyMall purchased a ton of points from Northwest Air – basically on a handshake. Those points became Skymiles with the merger. Well, Delta, who always “has our back” and is the “Most Trusted Airline In The World” told SkyMall that all those hundreds of thousands of miles they had would become worth ZERO at year end! So sorry – how bout them apples. OY. I was shocked! You see Delta did, and still does, business with Cartera Commerce who runs the Skymiles Shopping site. If you have been around the points game for a while you know the record of dealing with Cartera Commerce is less than stellar (OK, really bad, but that is for another post). Delta wanted to be done with SkyMall.
This was then the reason SkyMall was basically “giving” away the miles to sell product as they would become worthless at year end anyway. Why not use them as a grand promotion? But the promotions had been flat in rounds one and two that year. I told SkyMall folks that this round would be different and that they would be gone in a day. They agreed to let DeltaPoints.com be the front portal to announce and focus the promotion. I was promised NOTHING up front for doing this but did get a few points as a gift after it was all over (in terms of full disclosure).
The results for me, and the blog, was a massive surge in traffic and recognition less than one full month into blogging. A bunch of funny bits happened along the way.
The day before the promo was to go live I asked SkyMall if their servers were ready for the flood of traffic. I got a digital “chuckle” and again was reminded that the promo the past two times had been lukewarm and ran for weeks. I said OK if you are sure? Then they got scared and put everything on HOLD for the launch day and everyone on the blog and Flyertalk just – went – nuts! In a way, it made the traffic even bigger when it did finally go live the following day. The deal at last went live VERY late that next evening and all the hundreds of thousands of Skymiles they had left were gone in about 6 hours! 🙂
Some folks did REALLY well and were able to buy, sell and even make money after price matches. Yep, they made money and got TONS of points for FREE! I basically stayed out of Round 3 as I was fully engaged in the blog and slightly freaking out over all the traffic and the details of the promotion and how to help readers get the best deal possible.
After it was all over changes came to Delta. You have seen over the past few years partner after partner removed from Skymiles and along with that the chances for us to earn bonus Skymiles. Clearly with Skymiles2015, Delta is trying to balance the equation of outstanding points from getting out of hand. Personally, I think this is just a bad call as they can do anything they want with their points (they are not really ours after all). Maybe they are worried the government will force them to have some accountably one day and this is a preemptive move. Who knows… just speculation here.
My final thoughts on this event and interactions. I sure got a rude awakening on how Delta deals with their partners and how dirty the points game can be. We are talking about unregulated currency here folks, and they can do as they please – and they do!
So now you know “the rest of the story” as they say. Have a great weekend everyone and thanks SO much for reading the blog each day! – René
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