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Friday, June 11, 2010

My Open response to the Free LVA thread

I'd like to respond to many of positions reflected on this post; however, I'd like to say upfront that the most productive place to complain is not on Vegas discussion boards, where for the most part we are preaching to the choir, but in emails and phone calls directed at casinos. 
If everyone who rants at the injustice took that rant to the source, the practice might change.  If everyone who decides to switch their business to Harrah's or to downtown because of their no resort fee policy, wrote to Harrah's or downtown and said thanks, that might insure Harrah's maintains it as their advertisement gimmick, and if everyone who likes places like Palms or Coast casinos or Gold Spike, (casinos who have at least maintained very low resort fees over a good bit of time) wrote and told them they enjoyed the lower resort fee prices, those places too might hold the line at raising resort fee expenses.
There is nothing wrong with venting on these threads, but it is probably not the place to effectively change the practice.

IN RESPONSE TO THE "DO THE MATH" ARGUMENT:

1.  It is fine to be proud of your disciplined planning skills, but you need to lose the disdain for those of us who are  too new or too disorganized or too busy or too unskilled and who too easily get caught in the fine print of resort fees or mortgages. 
As consumers we need to try to help one another.  Buyer beware rhetoric is for the shifty supplier.

2.  Many people go to Vegas because they trust that the details of their trip will be taken care of by the casino hotels.  They do not expect to be tricked.  The tradition has been that the casino/hotels offer customer service and are quick to cater to any customer misjudgment. 
What casinos  get in return are customers who don't "do the math" when they play the games.  Most customers want the casino to do the room math up front in the advertised price and not over complicate the simple act of booking a room.

3.  As logical as it sounds, in general even knowledgeable people often do not do the math.  I have not been on the pay side of this board in a few months, but in January and February there were articles in the the LVA newsletter announcing the low rates of hotels in which resort fees were ignored. This meant for example, that of the five hotels reported as having record low hotel rates, El Cortez was reported as the fifth most desirable when, had the authors "done the math," EC would have been the lowest priced casino that month. 
Since these reported rates were low to begin with, the resort fee actually added almost 50% to the cost of the rooms.
Last week I read another well respected Vegas newsletter.the author  advertised Tuscany as his pick of the month and quoted a low nightly price as evidence of the good deal that might be found there.  I wrote and asked if he had considered the $10 resort fee.  He answered that he had not, so that the reported $20 a night quote he had touted was really $30 a night, or mathematically 50% higher.  People who trust these sources to do some math for them are likely to be surprised even by the most reputable.

4.  Also, those who think that the math is a simple formula ignore the real mathematical complexity resort fees add to booking a room.  For example, the casino/hotel in charging a resort fee has found a way around giving discount brokers a full room to rent (and discount drastically when they have a overload sale) without losing the discount business. 
Very few discounter  "do the math" when they have us search by low-high price and since we pay them one fee and later the hotel collects the resort fee, it is a bait and switch deal. 
This greatly affects those of us who are very frugal and plan to take advantage of August or December seasonal/recession reduced rates. 
For example, Priceline may have to dump some discount rooms at record low prices, but the resort fee won't be discounted.  So the hotel/casino will get their taste.  This makes the reality of renting for the most frugal visitor negatively affected by resort fees because the discounter only really provides a portion of the room and can only discount that portion.

5.  Further complicating the math are that some casinos charge tax on the resort fees and some don't.  So the $3 resort fee at Gold Coast costs you $3, maybe.  But the $25 resort fee at Red Rock costs you  $27.94 which means that in tax alone at Red Rock you get socked for a resort fee equal to the entire Red Rock fee (ahh,, minus 6 cents)
Or consider this recent report.  A woman booked a buy one get one night free deal where it said resort fees were waived.  When she called to confirm, the fees were only waived on the free night but not on the buy one night.  The math can get very complicated.

6.  Folks also give their brains more credit for objective evaluation than actually happens.  Prices for all sorts of goods are often set with 99 or 98 cents because as much as the math says there is little  difference between $1.99 and $2.00, our brains say otherwise. 
So the Gold Spike coupon in ACG for $7.77 feels very different to our brains than the actual price of $9.75 or the advertised $1 rooms at Saraha this past month work better as shock sale price than the actual price of $7.

7.  A good example of the way minds work was on a recent thread I read that was considering whether Hooter's was a good deal at $20 a night.  It seemed that this issue was right on the edge for many of the posters, and they spent their time arguing the value of the property vesus the sale price. 
On the thread where it occurred were folks who on a resort fee thread had talked about "doing the math' but guess what?  For twenty post responses no one did any resort fee math.  The entire basis of their argument was mathematically unsound, but they considered and argued and people read it and tried to make a decision on where they fit in the argument.  You know there were newbie lurkers in that audience trying to decide whether to give Hooters a try or not who were not thinking about resort fees.  They expected regular board posters must be savy to the correct costs.  The fine print trick of these resort fees echoes out like ripples in a lake after a tossed rock.


8.  Interesting to me as well is that the "do your math" folks, after what is generally a self righteous rant against how stupid the rest of us are, also generally admit that they don't like the fees and think they should be included in the upfront charge. 
I played poker with a worker from Hooter's at Excalibur last trip, and told her to pass on the frustration of many about resort fees to her bosses, and she told me that even at Harrah's I was paying the fees because they were included in the room rate.
Duh!!
That is all any of the ranting and protesting folks are asking, that all fees be upfront and included in advertisement and bills and statements of what is owed so that it does not require a lawyer' s research skills to find out the cost of booking a room.
No one is complaining about the stated price of the rooms.

9.  I do the math each time I go.  I have yet to see comparable rooms come off cheaper with added resort fees if the resort fees are over $5.  The rates seem to match comparable hotels, locations, etc.  The fees always seem an add on expense.
So far, every time I have done the math on my nights and my rooms the resort fee makes the rooms I am looking at more expensive.  Just as it did for the Tuscany.  On all the nights I picked to look at,  Bill's was the same price and in the same location with a good balance of amenities, location offsetting the inconvenience of walking to the Flamingo pool.  The casinos have to be counting on all the complication of the math to work in their advantage when they send out these come on e-mails with room rates that look just amazing until we add in the resort fee.


10.  Only one mathematical argument makes sense to me.  It is the one made by folks who generally pay for free room wifi and the fitness room in upscale hotels and save money because that cost is spread out among all the folks who don't use those facilities. 

IN RESPONSE TO THE "WE DO THIS AS CUSTOMER SERVICE" ARGUMENT

I have been reading report after report and thread after thread on this issue and can't find the numbers of people clambering for resort fees that are claimed by hotels.  In fact, the vast majority of posters and reported comments in the media call out this practice as a fine print trick.
Exceptions include:

  • Folks who work for the casino industry and are worried about having a job and want the casino to make all they can.
  • Folks who get a benefit from the practice at the expense of the majority
  • Folks who just like to stir the waters and always take the opposite view
  • Folks who have great distain for the general consumer and like to point out how whinny and stupid we are.

It is a very common trick for any industry to try to pretend that they are doing something that might annoy their customers with language like:
"for your convenience"
of
"to better serve you"
Resort fee rhetoric is no exception.

RESPONSE TO THE COMPARISON WITH LUGGAGE FEES

While I fully understand that the feeling consumers get when they are charged luggage, early check in, blanket or bathroom fees by airlines are similar to those felt by those charged resort fee, these fees are not the same.
A person can use the airlines, carry no luggage, use no blanket, check in on time, and not use the bathroom and avoid these fees while still getting a ride at the stated price.
A person cannot do that with resort fees. 

If the airlines had fees equivalent to these, they would charge them whether bags were checked or blankets used or not to everyone flying.
If casino hotels modeled their resort fees after airline fees and all amenities were charged on a usage basis, most complaints would evaporate.

RESPONSE TO THE RANT AGAINST HARRAH'S

Harrah's has certainly earned complaints over the years.  They do have poor gambling choices, a complicated booking procedure,  and ways to manipulate comps that infuriate folks.
They do threaten to become a monopoly.
I understand how some folks are just determined to be mad at them no matter what.

On the other hand, for some of us Harrah's are earning new respect.
The resort fee stance was very customer friendly.  Of course, their rates are only better for the folks who do the math beyond the advertisement, but in deciding no resort fees they have put more trust in the intelligence of the consumer than their competitors. 
Instead of saying, "Hey, in our advertisement we can trick these dumb bas***ds," they have said, "Hey, in our advertisement all we have to add is 'no resort fees'" to remind folks to pay more attention to what they are charged, and then we will come out as the cheapest alternative as well as keep customer respect.
Harrah's also takes more rake in their live poker game than many places.  However, they are now giving free rooms to poker players.  And guess what?  The simple math here is again more complicated than it looks.  Do you suppose the regular Vegas local players, those  who play with each other and practice  everyday so they can feed on the tourist fish are attracted to high raked games?  Most don't even need comped rooms.  A table of tourists will offset the mathematical disadvantage of that extra raked dollar.
So Harrah's has 6/5 BJ.  I note that this is an optional trick.  I don't play it. It has nothing to do with where I decide to stay.

RESPONSE TO "THEY WILL ALL START DOING IT" ARGUMENT.

You may be right. 
We consumers will determine that by where we shop and what we say.
There are ways to protest.
I have heard of many people getting these fees dropped even when they do the last minute protest of putting their credit card bill in dispute and waiting for the casino to make the argument that they have completely communicated the resort fee to their customers.
It is more trouble than it is worth, especially since the casino knows the fine print resort fee is a trick.
It almost seems like they say to their employees, "Look, get it if you can, and if you can't, just forget it."

Many people writing letters have also gotten the fees waived at least one time or perhaps a promise of a future upgrade.

Now suppose the next time you took a free room from a host you met him/her upfront and talked about resort fees and asked they be waived up front.  And if you got a no or a we will wait and see, you said,
"Okay, I understand I getting a good deal here on the fitness center, the wifi, the pool, the parking, the bottled water, so I'll use all those things. I just won't gamble here.  I'll spend my time working out and writing email and sipping water.  I'll use up my previously collected points for free food.  But I'll  go next door to XXX to fill the slots with my bills.  Then my gambling this trip will set me up for comped rooms next trip over there where I won't have to have this resort fee argument."
And then do that.
And then go home and dispute the resort fee charge on your credit card.

Hey, this game is all a gamble too.  If you leave Vegas with $100 extra from the slots, you feel pretty good, right?  Well, fill out the dispute charge papers and see if you win.

MGM and Wynn have joined the resort fee bandwagon, so I am less optimistic than I was.  However, here are my last two resort fee experiences:
Orleans gave me two free rooms and all over everything was the resort fee printed and then I was reminded when I booked and when I confirmed.
I had two free nights offer with $10 food so the $5 a night fee was..... well......do the math.
As one of their amenities, they listed free wifi at Seatles Coffee so each morning when I went to use that amenity I did not feel obligated to buy anything since I had paid for that service in the resort fee.  No one asked me, but I was prepared with that answer.
Generally, I would not think of going to a coffee place and using their wifi without buying something.  I had no problem having coffee and a doughnut at the downtown Krispy Kreme to use their free wifi. 
But, hey, two can play at this small print nitpick game, right?
Then when I checked out, they had not charged me.Go figure.
Gold Coast
.  I  did the math before I left and the best rates I could get for three of my nights was at the Gold Coast even with the $3 resort fee.  Besides I do like to use the fitness room there.  It is wonderful really.  Where can you walk the treadmill and if you get bored with the baseball just look out at the bikinis around the pool?
Anyway, when I checked out, they had not charged me either.  I asked the clerk, and she told me someone had made a mistake when they booked my rooms, but she made no attempt to correct that mistake. 
I had booked at the B Connected site using my player's card.  So I wonder if that method of booking  bypasses the resort fee.

RESPONSE THE SUGGESTION THERE BE A LAW AGAINST RESORT FEE

Unfortunately, the simple answers are rarely practical.
I don't think we can count on government to bail us out of this tricky spot. Regulation would be great, but they do it so seldom and as we see in mortgages and oil drilling, they do it so poorly.

I think the practical answers are in the power of consumers. If consumers act in an informed way and take charge, if they call for changes in practices, then the marketplace itself can force the practice to stop.
At M casino that happened early on. they received many, many complaints from high rolling customers, and their resort fee was dropped.
Harrah's had resort fees a long while ago, but their read on them in Vegas was that such fees were a negative marketing tool. So they are trying this approach.
In this industry more than perhaps any other, customer desires are valued.

I would not wait for government to bail out the little guy on this one.
Government is much more likely to roll with the big boys and support the right of the casinos to offer up their bills in any way they wish as long as somewhere in fine print, they do note the charges.
I also think the amenity lists are to preclude any legal issues.
These fees are not just added on. They "buy" certain wonderful things like free water and free parking.


And perhaps it seems futile, but how much does it cost to send off an email to every casino you gamble in that has this policy? How different is that from posting on these long threads?
I guarantee that the opposition to dropping resort fees will not be as strong as those the poster faced trying to stop health care reform. There are not too many folks who want this practice who don't make money on casino hotel profit. And you are not talking to government where issues get very complex. This is very simple. You are the customer and you are unhappy. Let them know.


Okay.  I am certain you have had enough of me.  I try to keep up on this issue here:

http://vegasresortfees.blogspot.com/

tipping me off on new developments is greatly appreciated.

The best, regularly updated list of resort fee/no resort fee hotels is at Vegas.com a discount broker with a conscience who has  decided to give people a better shot at doing the math by providing them with a list of the fees.  Taxes are not included in their computations.  You can add 12% to get them, but you have to know first which places charge the tax on the fee.  Hey, no one said the math is simple.  At least not on my post.

http://vegasresortfees.blogspot.com/

Hey, if you can manage time away from the fitness centers and off the in-room computer, win some money. 




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a long time lurker of your blogs and several Vegas forums. However, I've never created a screen name because I can't deal with the ignoramouses. Your posts are one of the few I enjoy reading. Thank you Dewey.

Dewey said...

Well, thanks for commenting here. I have fun keeping these blogs. I encourage you to join in on the threads and just ignore the silly ones.
The VegasMessage board and Blonde's Board are pretty tame and the folks are friendly. I learn much from them.