Vegas and the $20 sandwich trick
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This is the first part of what I plan to be a multi post thread where I talk about some neat things about my favorite vacation destination, Las Vegas.
The Setup
When you get to your hotel, you'll line up at reception with the hundreds of other guests checking into the hotel. While waiting in line, take a $20 bill and triple-fold it so it's smaller than the size of your cards. Then "sandwich" the bill between your ID and credit card.
The Gamble
When you get to the front desk, they'll ask you for your ID and credit card. Hand them the sandwich, they'll split the cards up, note the $20 bill and nonchalantly leave it on the reception desk. They'll look up your booking and confirm the standard details about the check-in dates, room preferences, etc. Acknowledge that it's all correct, and then ask "Are there any complimentary upgrades available?" They'll acknowledge your request and say they'll see what they can do for you.
The Suspense
At this point, you'll probably see them typing feverishly into their computer while they look through the available inventory trying to find a better room that they can assign to you. From experience, the "upgrade" that they find you will range in quality- typically the worst case result is an upgraded view, and the best I've gotten is a fully upgraded suite (rare, but sometimes you get lucky!).
The payoff
They'll then tell you what they've managed to find for you. "Sir/M'am, I managed to get you moved up to a higher floor in our newly renovated tower with a beautiful view of the pool". Your response should be something along the lines of "That sounds great, thank you very much!". Note: I've never had them tell me they can't find/get me anything. My best guess is even if they can't get you a "better" room, they'll still say something. So, you may "lose out" and have tipped $20 for nothing. But you probably won't know.
The spoils
Once your new room has been confirmed, they'll walk you through the rest of the standard check in procedure, tell you about the amenities, give you a map of how to navigate the casino floor to get to your elevators, and you're off. Sometimes they'll just take the $20 bill off the table and pocket it, other times they'll say something along the lines of "I just wanted to confirm this gratuity is for the service that I have provided to you?". Smile, tell them yes, and enjoy your upgraded room!
The morality (and economics) of it all
On the surface, it appears that you're bribing a casino employee to give you special treatment. While this description is rather correct, I consider it to be crude and not completely accurate. To be clear, casino management is completely aware that this practice is going on, and implicitly encourages it by allowing it to happen. Since casino management is aware of it, I consider it to be less of a bribe, and more of a "non advertised service offered". My understanding is that there are three reasons for why this practice is permitted.
First, Casinos are in the hospitality industry which is an industry that is highly receptive (and in some cases reliant) on tips and gratuities. Encouraging patrons to tip more frequently normalizes the behavior and gets them to do it more often. This results in more profits for the establishment (although the casino doesn't directly get the gratuity, it implicitly reduces their payroll burden and compensation costs).
Second, the marginal cost to a casino of providing you with a better room, that would otherwise be empty, is close to zero. From a revenue maximization standpoint, the extra $20 that they extracted from you is an effective price discrimination tool. Note, they're only offering the free upgrade to you because they have, literally hundreds of them, empty for the evening. If they're nearly sold out that night, then no, they won't offer you the better room because they're hoping someone will walk in later and book it at full price.
Third, and this factor is by far of least importance, the customer is happy with the transaction. Casino's are extremely deliberate about everything that happens under their roof, and their bottom line is by far the most important thing. Given that the first two items that I've explained provide a net benefit for the casino, they're happy that the customer also receives a benefit.
I love doing the $20 sandwich, and I'll often do a $50 sandwich instead. Beyond the analysis above, here's why it appeals to me:
1) I'm a compulsive gambler, I'm in Vegas, and this is basically the first "wager" of the trip. I may get an awesome upgrade literally worth hundreds of dollars, I may get nothing. I'm okay with that.
2) The act is generous. Regardless of whether you get a "sweet upgrade" or "nothing", you just made someone's day. The front desk person just received an extra 2+ hours worth of wages. These tips are very rare for them and they're always extremely grateful!
3) The economics are elegant. I like that this generally creates a win-win-win outcome for all three parties involved.
NB: There's a web database devoted to self-reported results of the $20 sandwich here: http://www.frontdesktip.com/
Good luck!
thumb_upDeeJayOh, Will, and 20 others
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goofydanish
96
Jul 28, 2019
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You know what? I go to Vegas at least once a year for work and I've never thought to do this! I do tip quite a bit for services while I am there but never upon check-in. Thanks for the tip. I will have to try this in a few months! I'll let you know how it goes!
Jul 28, 2019
FP_HUNTER
0
Oct 25, 2018
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Tried it 3 times and never worked for me. Just ask them for what type room you are looking for. Most people never ask.
Oct 25, 2018
RenegadePilgrim
105
Jul 8, 2018
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Thanks for the tip! I was in Vegas earlier this year and will be back next year for a conference.
Jul 8, 2018
SuaveInc
2
Jul 2, 2018
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Come back and see us again real soon won’t you Kevin?
Jul 2, 2018
Kevin
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Jul 3, 2018
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Haha you work in Vegas?
I was just there a week ago! :)
Jul 3, 2018
SuaveInc
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Jul 3, 2018
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I live in Vegas and love it.
Jul 3, 2018
EVILDAIFU
99
May 31, 2018
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Not bad - most of my bookings are done on-line but I guess this will work when I rock up to check-in and hand over photo ID and credit card (for room deposit). In Australia - tipping is not the norm. So I'm not sure if this will result in anything as they may well really not have anything to upgrade you to most of the time?
May 31, 2018
Kevin
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May 31, 2018
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Yeah, I don't think this works very well outside of Las Vegas...
May 31, 2018
kunalkumar
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May 30, 2018
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Kevin, kudos on spreading the knowledge :)
May 30, 2018