I have a feeling I am going to get into a bit of trouble here because I am about to write about the features, policies, appearances, products-you name it-where casinos are made to look cheap to their customers.

I don’t expect you to agree with me on all of this. After all, what seems cheap to me may seem like a value-laden bargain to you. I get that. But please take my word for it as someone with nearly four decades of being exposed to what I affectionately call “El Casino Cheapo,” gaming facilities appearing cheap is a pervasive and insidious problem present at casinos large and small, high-end and low-end.

Here is the list of low-lights I’ve compiled over the years:


• Itty bitty soaps in hotel rooms- Hey, I’m for conservation and I know a lot soap is left wasted after a casino hotel stay, but can’t you give me enough soap so there’s more suds than fingers when I wash?”

• Conditioning shampoo- I know what you’re doing here, trying to save on stocking both shampoo and conditioner as guest room amenities. But do you use conditioning shampoo at home? And if this is such a good idea, why don’t we see “washcloth towels” or “decaf caffeinated” coffee or “sheet blanket bedspreads?”

• Handmade signs- I know, I know, you are just trying to communicate some important message like “Out of Order.” But when it’s handwritten, sloppily scotch-taped or otherwise not professionally done, all you’re doing is communicating that you are cheap, careless and inattentive.

• Slot play buttons that don’t work-I see this a lot on video poker machines, where some of  the buttons stick, don’t work at all or work but register on the adjacent button. Yes, I know there is also a touch screen alternative (that is typically also balky), but this condition not only screams “cheap” it screams “stupid,” especially since this is where you are supposed to make all or most of your revenue.

• Small portions of dried-out “Food Specials” that quickly run out of availability- I’m kind of thinking of the small, gristled prime rib dinner here, but it could be any similar meal. It looks cheap, it is cheap and it makes your casino cheap. Better to charge a little more and serve a different cut that actually exceeds guest expectations. There’s a concept.

• Direct mail offers with severe restrictions for redemption-There are lots of examples to choose from: “Monday only;” “Cannot redeem with any other offer;” “Your players club account will be debited upon redemption of this offer;” “While supplies last” and dozens of other disclaimers to otherwise generous offers, that make you look cheap, cheap, cheap!

• Cheesy players club sign-up gifts- I have seen numerous kinds of “cheap cheese” given away in this instance as an embarrassing form of welcome to the club; items such as 10-cent pens, used playing cards with holes punched in them, even the bungee cord that attaches to the card, which most casinos include with any new card given to the player. You can be inexpensive, but don’t be cheap.

• Signage with burnt-out light bulbs- Casinos have lots of signs and decorative items with lights in them, and way too often these bulbs are burnt-out or otherwise not working. You’d think it would be easy (and cheap) to pay one guy, one stinking guy, to check on these bulbs every day. I guess not. Just understand it makes you look cheap and that you are trying to scrimp on your power bill.

• Small cups for serving complimentary drinks- Whether these are for water, coffee, soda or alcohol, they send the same message-that you’re cheap.

• Old, sloppy-looking employee uniforms- I realize that sometimes this is an issue with particular employees’ adherence to dress standards, but more often than not it’s the result of stretching an already thin employee uniform budget. This has the double whammy of making you look cheap to both employees and guests.

My final words of wisdom on this subject: Be frugal. Be cost conscious. Be always looking to provide value, even perceived value.

But don’t be cheap. Unless you want cheap customers.