Yesterday I received an email from Hilton asking me to help the earthquake victims in Haiti. The email was timely as I haven’t donated yet and this makes the process just a few simple clicks. However, I am bit hesitant on these things as donations to the victims of Katrina and other recent disasters were handled poorly at best. It’s tough to tell where your money is really going and who is actually benefiting. But since Hilton is a brand I trust, (I stay there probably 5 to 10 times a year around the country and never had a bad experience) I read their offer. As you can see below, they are not asking me to donate money, just points. Good idea. It’s an easy process for them as well as me and no money has to change hands on the consumer side of the transaction.

The problem is that in exchange for 10,000 of my points they will donate $25. Ten thousand points is almost enough for me to stay for 2 nights at any of their hotels.

So what they are really offering is this: give up points that have $225-$300 in value and Hilton will give the victims in Haiti $25. This offer isn’t genuine because Hilton isn’t meeting people halfway. They are asking people to give but what are they giving? Hilton benefits signficantly by reducing the number of free nights they have to give away under the guise of helping victims of a tragedy. Hilton’s charitable attempt has resulted in me thinking much less of their brand. The smart thing for me to do is to donate $300 through another charity and stay in a Hilton two nights for free. Everyone wins.

If Hilton really wanted to so something charitable what they should have done was offer to set up “shelters” (maybe tents and cots) in Haiti and every 10,000 point donation ensures that 3 families have a place to sleep for the night and also get three meals for the day. I understand the logistics involved in pulling something like that off but Haiti will need help for a long time and who knows better than Hilton how to take care of people in terms of lodging and food.

The lesson for me in this is to always have a “Debbie Downer” at the table to vet ideas. Certainly there is one person on the Hilton marketing team who could have anticipated one of their HHonors members would have this reaction and  could have avoided the blemish on the brand. If they did have that person at the table and the issue was raised, shame on them even more.