MARKETING: A meltdown story
Having been a customer of literally hundreds of casinos in my lifetime, I have seen or personally experienced numerous organizational service or operation failures.
I try not to whine about them. It can happen at any casino. An employee having a bad day. An unavoidable occurrence. A rowdy customer setting off a negative chain of events.
But sometimes I see service failures that are so crazy, so embedded in organizational blindness and indifference, that I just have to point them out and hope we can all learn from them. I try not to mention the names of the “culprit casinos,” even if they could stand to hear the feedback. After all, a casino consultant can’t afford to tick off too many potential clients.
Here’s my story.
Most readers of my column know I am a lifelong casino player. I like the action. I occasionally make a “score” that positively affects my life for a few weeks. And I learn more about the inner workings of a casino than any spreadsheet or operational report could tell me.
It was time to buy my wife a gift for Mother’s Day. She had innocently mentioned that one of her friends had received a half-day spa package and she was considering buying one so that she could join her.
I pretended I didn’t hear her. That’s not hard for me to do, as my wife believes I rarely listen anyway. But I immediately started conjuring up my Mother’s Day gift buying plan.
One of the casinos I visit infrequently has the reputation for having an excellent spa. I had about $60 in comps sitting in my players club account there, so here was an opportunity to use them as part of a Day of Pampering package.
Or so I thought.
I called the spa and told them I wanted to spend $200-$300 to purchase a Mother’s Day gift card for the spa, and that I wanted to apply my $60 in comps toward the purchase.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t allow comps to be used to purchase spa gift cards,” the pleasant sounding spa attendant replied. “What?” I asked. “Are you serious?”
“Yes sir,” she replied. “But you can come in with your wife on the day of the spa treatment, and we can swipe your player’s club card then and apply the comp dollars against the price at that time.”
“You mean I can’t give her a gift card and say ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ and I’ll have to leave work or the golf course to handle an administrative detail, because you care more about following a rule than making a guest happy?”
“I know,” she tried to commiserate, “you are not the first one to be upset about this.”
“Well, I am sorry,” I said, “but please tell your supervisor your rule cost you a $200-$300 sale, a potential new spa customer, and a pretty good casino customer.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Have a nice day.” Her sarcasm was obvious. And I was hot under the collar. But I hatched a strategy (by now I was really into this).
I went to this casino and “fired it up” at the craps table. This could have really backfired if I had “gotten my clock cleaned” quickly. But luck was on my side and an hour later, I had won some money, compiled another $100 or so in comp value, and established myself (more so than previously) as a very desirable casino customer.
So when I was through playing craps and my action was still fresh in their minds, I approached the craps supervisor with my story of the spa experience. He sympathized, but handed me off to a shift manager with the phrase that I “was a very good table games customer.” She listened to my story (again), did say she “would see what she could do,” but that she would have to contact an executive host.
I felt like a grifter or a panhandler while she contacted the host. She handed me the phone and I got to repeat my “comp denial spa story” for a third time. He asked for an hour to investigate the situation. I said, “Fine, but if it takes longer than that, please don’t bother to call. I’ll have had enough.”
So to make a long story even longer, I was allowed to use my club points against the spa charges, although I did have to meet the host at the spa to handle the transaction with the spa manager.
But it will be hard for this casino to make me think that I will ever be more important than their rules. And given this chance to create some real loyalty, some real “business development,” and some extremely positive word of mouth had they made me happy, truly happy, they blew it.
Couldn’t happen at your casino, could it?