I have always been intrigued by the physician’s mantra that says, “First, do no harm.” It could be the casino marketer’s mantra as well.
But there are times, I’m afraid, that we don’t follow that mantra in our industry, either as marketers or operators. It is when we kick our customers in the teeth.
Now I’m not saying that we tried or even wanted to bust a few guest molars. I’m just saying that we do.
Here are a few situations where we kick our customers in the teeth. Stop them or avoid them and you’ll have happier guests—with more teeth:
Credit Card Charge, No Purchase—We’ve all had it happen, we check into the casino hotel and the otherwise friendly desk clerk has to tell us that they are charging our credit card immediately for $75 (or some other amount) for room incidentals that we might incur.“Don’t worry,” they always say, “we will credit you back if you don’t use them.” Now, we all know what’s happening here—casinos are establishing that the credit card posted for incidentals is valid and it likely reduces the amount of room charges that guests walk out on. But hey, to charge everyone for something they mightcharge, beforethey buy it, is a real kick in the teeth.
Stop The Game!—Imagine this scenario: it’s a hot craps table, players are winning and having a great time, but then two serious looking casino executives walk up to the game and say, “Bring the chips in, we have to take the count.” Now accounting folks will say that “the count” is essential—it sets parameters for how a table game, a pit or an entire table department has performed for the shift or the day or the week. But I say, “Count this!” Any process that interrupts guests having a great time, without regard for the inconvenience caused, is a real kick in the teeth.
The Restaurant Line—I truly understand the impact of busy weekends as well as restaurants so popular that guests have to wait to get in. But the guest kick in the teeth occurs when the restaurant is half-full and the only reason for the line is that the restaurant manager doesn’t want to (or can’t) open a closed section of the restaurant. I’ve heard them say, “I have to control my payroll costs, plus the line is only there for a couple of hours.” So sure, go ahead and kick your restaurant customers in the teeth, at your convenience, of course.
Park This!—In the early days, when there were underserved gaming markets, many casinos charged guests for parking, because, well, they could. Much of that parking tariff disappeared as competition came, but it is starting to re-emerge, especially on the Las Vegas Strip. Operators see that airlines can charge for individual items and services that were previously bundled for one price, and although customers hate it, they’ll pay for them. But you know what? It’s a kick in the teeth and it might well come back to bite you in the … bicuspid.
The Benefits Swindle—To get those wonderful casino players into our fancy-named players clubs, we beg, bribe and promise to give them “points” for every bet they make, from then until eternity. What a wonderful “loyalty” program, just like Green Stamps! And then an accounting guru starts to get nervous. “Hey, some guests are not redeeming their points,” they say, or, “our point liability is going through the roof and we have to carry that on our books!” they scream. So what’s the logical solution? Well, for too many casinos, it’s to kick their customers in the teeth and take back their hard-earned points. “Expired!” they announce. You would think that with all of the accounting tricks that go on to (legally) minimize a casino’s taxes, that at least one, just one, customer-focused accountant would find an accounting trick so that they would avoid a teeth kickin’ stealing of a player’s points.
Our industry has some of the highest operating margins in the business world. I just know that we don’t really have to kick our customers in the teeth. Actually, we should be looking for more ways to kiss them on the lips.