MARKETING: Can We Handle the Truth?
Well, they’re wrong. We lie to our customers all the time. At least you are if you count exaggerating, shading the truth, telling partial truths, making questionable advertising claims and including things that might, should or used to be true as lying.
Now I am not suggesting that casinos lie to their customers more than other businesses - those companies that promise you’ll live longer or look years younger probably are worse offenders. But in the gaming industry we lie - a lot.
Don’t believe me? Let me give you some nose-growing examples:
The “Saving the Environment” claims - We’ve all seen them, the table tent signs in the hotel room bathroom or on the night stand touting how the resort is saving the planet by only replenishing next-day bath towels upon guest request. You know, “Put your used towels on the towel rack and we’ll know not to give you a fresh towel supply”. Well, I always put my used towels on the towel racks of these “environmentally friendly” hotels (and I stay in a lot of them), and they consistently get changed anyway. A little green lie, I guess.
The $9.99 Prime Rib “Special” - No offense to the many casino restaurants that offer true, unrestricted, top-quality prime rib specials. But many prime rib specials I have seen (and eaten) are either smaller than normal in portion size, are available at strange hours or in limited qualities, or are just not very tasty. (Why do I always get the cuts with lots of gristle and fat?). Doesn’t sound very “special” to me.
The Not So Free VIP Offer - I’ve seen many more of these in recent years. It’s the truly excellent offer (gift, room, entertainment, meal, etc.) designed to entice a visit from a very good player. The offer typically sounds very generous (and free) until you read the fine print that says if you don’t play to “normal levels” in the casino you may not get the offered goody, or the (often inflated) value of the goody will be debited from the earned comp point balance of your players club account. A whiff of the weasel, if you ask me.
Ten Times Odds on Craps - A nice offer to dice players (including me), but sometimes getting the deal requires making a larger than minimum bet, or it’s only available on certain days or certain hours, or the maximum odds bet allowed is small (“Hey, we don’t want you to beat us!”). Really crappy.
“We’ve Improved our Player Rewards Program” - This players club communication usually arrives after there has been a change in casino marketing executives. And the “improvements” usually involve more rules, more restrictions and more play required to receive the same benefits. No lie.
“Friendly Employees” - Now don’t get me wrong, most casinos have a good number of friendly employees. It’s just that this lie usually involves trying to convey that they are all friendly, or that they are much friendlier than the casino down the street, or that they will be particularly friendly to you. Yeah, right, see how that flies on a short-staffed Saturday night at a casino where pay raises have been suspended and co-pays for health benefits have been increased.
“More Winners!” - Oh, really. And what counts as a winner? Is it just more winning decisions because you have the most gaming positions in the market? Does a winning slot spin include those times on a penny machine where a player might have wagered $4 on a spin and gotten back 50 cents? Or is it (and no one does this in their definition of a “winner”) someone who walked out of your casino on a particular day with more money than they walked in with? Don’t lie to me now!
I could talk about many other less-than-honest casino features, programs and utterances. “World class entertainment” that includes a bunch of B-listers. “Spacious rooms” that have a bed, a TV and a night stand. “Hot New Slots” that not only are a year old but also have the tightest pay schedules that the manufacturer possesses. “Gourmet dining” at a glorified steak house. Or “We listen to our customers,” when the only one listened to is the casino head honcho.
Yes, we lie to our customers.
Just once I’d like to hear a casino say, “Pretty nice joint, we try hard, and you might get lucky here.”
At least it’d be honest.