Ken, ... "I'm not surprised, but I agree that all Starwood sales staff should be aware of their programs in detail. It's long been documented on TUG that many of their sales staff know just enough to make a sale, but not necessarily really use the programs, and this post is yet another data point which encourages that belief. It would be smarter for them to know about the various programs offered so they can intelligently speak about it and advocate one over the other..."
In general, I agree with all of that. They should know the programs. But what Pedro told them was that "Suite Night Award" upgrades were available to all Platinum SPGs - except Platinum SPGs who are 5 Star Elite ("now available for Platinum SPG members that have 50+ nights per year, but not to other Platinum members such as 5*elites"). That's what the staff at Riverfront was not aware of.
As for TUG members being so expert in knowing the ins and outs of the Starwood system: For II trades - surely (TUG members, taken as a whole, are real experts about II trading). For knowing the ways the SVN and SPG systems can be used to great advantage, not even close. Every day there are mis-assumptions, erroneous facts and, maybe, even mis-statements to suit agendas posted on this TUG Starwood Forum.
My experience is that most of Starwood's successful timeshare salesmen know how to "use" the SVN and SPG system very well indeed. So, well that you would swear they must get paid their bonuses in Starpoints and StarOptions. lol!
And, the ones Pedro was dealing with probably knew all about the suite award program and its terms but didn't want to argue with Pedro because they wanted a sale more than anything else (the customer is always right). So, they let it pass with a "Well gee-whiz, I wasn't aware of that!" and went right back to pushing whatever they thought Pedro might buy.
All Platinum SPGs can earn the "Suite Night Award" bonus.
The problem most 5 Star Elites have accumulating "Suite Night Award" nights is that they are usually so busy using their multiple Starwood weeks to stay at SVO resorts (where they earn no eligible nights because the booking is through SVN) that they usually have no vacation time left to earn the 50 eligible nights through SPG.
It need not be that way. The benefits of being 5 Star Elite (conversions, bonuses, transfers to air miles, further bonuses awarded by Starwood partners) make it possible to never vacation at an SVO timeshare and use the SPG hotels and resorts exclusively for vacations (even in faraway places). You need to think "outside the box" about how being 5 Star Elite and, therefore, SPG Platinum can be maximized.
I am in the process of converting 360,000 Starpoints (which were part of a purchase of 6 blocks of 80K for $1,550 each) to air miles which came from an upgrade (which included a resale retro) that cost me $21,500 last year and that transfer will net me a little over 6 round trip business class tickets to Europe and South America. The value of the 6 round trip business class tickets? $24K to $42K (depending on exact destination and time of year). The cost of the Starpoints transferred for all those miles? $7K.
I will have already recouped $17K to $35K of the $21.5K spent of the upgrade. So, I am between $4.5K down and $13.5K up on the upgrade (and I will still have conversion rights for both the upgraded unit and the retroed unit each year, ownership of an upgraded unit, 120K Starpoints in my SPG account that can be spent or transferred for the next boondoggle and about 10,000 air miles left after I spend 660K air miles for the 6 round trip business class tickets)
And, did I mention, those 120K Starpoints are only a small portion of the over 1M Starpoints I have in my SPG account (and I have 6 more unexpired options to purchase 80K Starpoints for $1,550 per option which come from another developer purchase where I was given those for purchasing a unit 2 years ago utilizing a deferred first use date). My back thanks me for going business class every time I do!
Someone like you (who travels alot while making a good living) would find it much easier to qualify for "Suite Night Awards" than most 5 Star Elites. But, you have made a conscious decision not to try to get to Platinum SPG (by stays or timeshares). Too bad. Salty