Ethics: Should You Use a Corporate Code For Significant Discounts When You Are Not Eligible to Do So?
There are a number of ways to get low rates on different aspects of travel, which include various discounts and promotions. However, sometimes the lowest rate which can be procured — and perhaps earn frequent travel loyalty program miles and points and access benefits which elite level members typically enjoy — is by using a corporate code not typically available to the public.
I just returned a rental car to Enterprise Rent-A-Car within the past hour. Although I am an Executive level elite member of the Emerald Club frequent renter loyalty program of National Car Rental — which is owned by the same company which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car — a client of mine gave me a corporate code to use, which resulted in a lower rate per day and automatic insurance coverage.
What if you plan on renting a car from National Car Rental and asked me to give you that corporate code so that you may use it for yourself? Would it be ethical of either me to give you the corporate code — or you to use it even though you are not an employee or service provider of that company?
Depending on the company, I could potentially get in trouble for encouraging the violation of the terms of the agreement between the company and the travel provider — like, for example, losing the client. If I were an employee of that company, my employment could possibly be terminated. Or, perhaps no one at either the company or the travel provider will even know or care — especially if use of that corporate code is not abused by a wide audience.
Some FlyerTalk members have argued that that is not ethical and that the corporate code should be used by a legitimate person, for if anyone other than a qualified person uses that code, it could violate the legal agreement between the company and the travel provider. Others contend that the more people who use the corporate code are actually doing a favor for the company by giving enough business to the travel provider to warrant the special discount and benefits — as well as give the company more power to negotiate with the travel provider.
What if a FlyerTalk member posted a corporate code on FlyerTalk for you and everyone else to use, rather than me give it to you? Would that be unethical?
There is a discussion to that effect in the Starwood Preferred Guest forum on FlyerTalk.
The main reason why some FlyerTalk members like to use corporate codes illegitimately is because the risk of getting caught is usually low and there are usually no problems — but note that the key word here is usually.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to use a corporate code and you do not have proof that you can use the code legitimately, you could be forced to pay the full rate on the travel product or service which you plan to use. The front desk of a hotel property on your first night is not the ideal place or time to learn that not only can you not take advantage of the corporate code, but that you might have to pay full price — or perhaps find lodging elsewhere for the night.
There are also FlyerTalk members who say that if you want to use a discount code, there are usually plenty of public codes from which you can choose — but those codes do not usually offer as much of a discount. You many not be able to take advantage of possible benefits with a public code like you would with a corporate code.
By the way, I also have access to a corporate code with Hilton Worldwide. Although I do get discounts and benefits with that corporate code, the room rate at hotel properties worldwide is more expensive, more often than not — never mind getting the discount or benefits. I mention this simply because a corporate code does not guarantee the user any benefit.
Would you attempt to use a corporate code which you are not eligible to use in order to procure a significant discount and possible benefits? Do you frown upon the idea of other people using corporate codes when they are not supposed to do so?