Not-so-smart decisions at the Trop

As some of you know, I participated in the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon this year, and I had a ball. But I’d like to share something that happened before the race that, hopefully, can make a point about what not to do with a Strip casino.

Parking at the race is always an issue. Even if you can get into Mandalay Bay (the host hotel), it’s not always easy to get out with all of the lane closures. So I usually park somewhere else. This year, a big chunk of the race was down Hacienda, and I didn’t want to chance circling around the west side of the Strip trying to find a place to park that wasn’t too far away. Last year I parked at the Tropicana and it worked out pretty well, so I figured I’d try it again. I suggested the same to my running group, adding that the casino had recently changed hands and might be a fun place to stop after the race. I haven’t been inside the hotel since the new regime took over, but I’ve read about the money and effort they’ve been sinking into it, and I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Around 4:30 AM, I pulled up and parked, and was stopped by a bike security officer who said that I’d have to move, that parking was for “Tropicana guests only.” The officer was completely reasonable and polite, and said exactly what I’d say if I was in his situation. He said that it wasn’t his idea, that the management had insisted that no one going to the race be allowed to park on the lot. I told him that whoever drafted that policy was an idiot, since the property could use all of the exposure and foot traffic it could get.

(The officer actually used one of my favorite lines–“It’s really not up to me, but they’ve got me on camera and I’ve got to do this.” It worked for me and, this time, it worked on me. It’s nice to see that it’s still effective.)

I made it over to MGM Grand where I parked, passed a bunch of runners in the lobby, and headed over the Mandalay Bay. I got there about ten minutes later than I would have liked and wasn’t shy about letting people know what the Tropicana thought of us runners.

This isn’t just about sour grapes or personal inconvenience. Booting the runners from the parking lot was actually bad business, in my opinion. Here’s why:

The parking lot is already built. It represents a sunk cost. Whether someone parks on it or not, it’s going to cost the same to pay off the construction and maintain it.

That being said, having a full parking lot is a more effective use of the asset than an empty one.

At most, a few dozen runners would have parked in the lot. With acres of open spaces, that wouldn’t have prevented any guests from accessing the hotel. Most of them would be gone by noon. It’s extremely unlikely that hundreds of new guests would be arriving between 5 AM and noon on Sunday morning.

Even if only a few of the runners who parked patronized the restaurants at the Tropicana, isn’t that better than none? Particularly at a property that’s trying desperately to rebuild its image?

This is the kind of thing that irks me because it doesn’t seem to make sense. If I was running the Trop I’d not only encourage runners to park on my lot, I’d offer them a 10% discount on their buffet if they showed their finisher’s medal. The marathon’s already happening; why not capitalize on the fact that it’s happening on your doorstep? The property doesn’t boast the best rooms in Las Vegas or, from what reviews on TripAdvisor say, the best service. It’s best asset is its geography. If you’re not going to use that to your advantage, you’re not thinking about your property strategically.

Maybe the hotel had 100% occupancy that weekend and all of the restaurants were slammed and they didn’t need the business, maybe not. But this is a case study, I think, of management not seeing the forest for the trees.

This policy might have effectively ensured that the Tropicana had a few dozen more empty spaces than they usually do. Unfortunately, it might convince some people to let them stay empty.

Can anyone think of any other policies that, in the end, do more harm than good?

Author: Dave

Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and author of several books, including Roll the Bones: The History of Gaming. Also Gaming and Hospitality editor for Vegas Seven magazine.

7 thoughts on “Not-so-smart decisions at the Trop”

  1. This reminds me of the casinos in Atlantic City that raise their parking fees from $5 to $20 whenever there’s a big event going on. Now in AC that’s a little more understandable because the parking is more limited there. But it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who might have wanted to patronize that casino and is put off by the $20 fee. But the Trop in Vegas is inexcusable. They’re trying to make a reputation and keeping people out of the parking lot is insane. BTW, the lot right behind the Trop on Reno is probably the most convenient place to park for MGM, since the walk from there is probably shorter than the walk from the MGM garage.

  2. Having a tie-in such as Finishers Feast Free or something would give them publicity as well as a stream of customers. Sure some come and park there and thats all. Some come and eat as well as park. Some park, eat, drink and drop a bundle in the casino! Or maybe they just come back another day for the casino because they appreciated the free parking. The casino is in a business wherein it operates on percentages other than 100. So why make all the people who park enter the casino. The whole town is flooded with various coupons and special deals to get people in the doors. And whoever came up with that parking policy knows it! Most marathons have corporate-sponsored hydration stations. Getting that corporate logo on the evening news is a great bonus for them. What do you think a Marathoners Park Here banner would have done? What do you think a Finishers Feast Free banner on the local news would have done for them. Its not as if paying hotel guests would have been without parking spots.

  3. Dr Dave,

    I have heard from more and more travelers who are turned off by all the extra resorts fees going on at many of the strip resorts these days. I had a great rate at Luxor only to find out that I had to pay an additional $40 in “resort fees”. I guess what they do is discount the rates to attract customers than charge them extra for the pools, gyms, etc. I would prefer one charge and be able to experience a fully integrated resort experience without getting nickel and dimed!

  4. We briefly talked at Palooza this year about my favourite one from locals and many strip hotels: “Would you like another drink?” on free refills. No, I would NOT like another drink. I came to a buffet and paid $18 and drank a glass of Pepsi in five minutes so that I could enjoy several dishes dry. What do you think? Sure, it saves them the cost of some carbonated beverage (the cheapest product they have to offer, no doubt) but it means multiple trips to my table for the server (who may not come around too often) and being asked a stupid question that I really shouldn’t be asked unless I’m drinking champagne.

    Actually, in some buffets I can wind up finishing my first plate before the server comes with the first drink, or even in some rare cases before they even take the drink order, but regardless…

    Mandalay Resort Group was the master at this kind of thing and provided the worst one I can think of: Stationing a social security aged “guard” at the Mandalay side of the ExcaLuxor Bay tram who insisted that no guests ride the outgoing train to the Strip/Trop bridges, insisting they get on another train that would quickly get crowded as it picked up guests at Luxor and then dumped them all off onto a 30 inch wide platform in the back of Excalibur. The most blatant way of forcing someone through a casino I’ve ever seen.

    One night I tried to ride this after Mama Mia just let out. Guests were crammed around the glass boxes the trams park in, people were yelling at the old man to let them ride the empty one. He got on the phone at his desk and talked to someone or otherwise faked it… “Yeah, we got a LOT of people here… Uh-huh, well the show just let out… Well all I know is that there is a lot of people here and many of them are pretty angry. Yeah, okay.” So then he hung up and told this mob that they had to let the empty train go. Utterly ridiculous. And the wrong people to screw over too, if you were MRG, since Mandalay guests were bigger spenders than your Excalibur and Luxor guests. But you wanted to force customers who might be betting $25 or $50 a hand to walk past $3 tables, through the White Castle Of Fear.

    This all cleared after Mandalay management fell to the MGM Buy-A-Thon, and the thought of customers being able to easily make it to NYNY didn’t cause fear and quaking in the boots. However, I did once run into the outgoing train past the “excuse me, sir, you can’t ride that!” man. WHATICANTHEARYOUIMRUNNINGTOANAPPOINTMENTSORRY–

  5. Yeah. The Trop should have held a ‘Finisher’s Feast’ and shown some city-spirit.

    They should name their next showroom production ‘Hitler On Ice’.

    (BTW: That HOI name was used at Burning Man a few years back. haha)

  6. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not about runners. The Trop is run by a bunch of jerks. Their theory is to have ample parking for guests. They do this by restricting parking in their lot for guests only.

    Even if it is a noneventful Tuesday evening and the lot is less than 10% full, they will get you if you park near Hooters to go to Hooters. If you do park near Hooters and they don’t catch you right away, you can expect to come back with a nasty-gram on your window saying your tag number has been logged and your car will be towed next time.

    I do visit the Trop from time to time, and each time I get even. lol

  7. ^^^^
    Ah, my bubble was burst a long time ago when it comes to this industry. There’s not much that surprises me, but there’s still a lot that disappoints me.

    The thing that gets me is talking about “Tropicana guests” like they are some kind of elite group that you want to restrict. It’s a casino: your job is to get people on property.

    Instead of leaving you a nasty-gram, they should have left you a coupon offering you better food at lower prices, or $10 match play…something to say, “hey, you’re already down here. Come on in!” If you’re parking there and going to Hooters to play, you’re obviously a gambler.

    For that matter, I’d ask a marketing person to leave a business card on your car with a polite note saying, “Hey, I know you’re parking here and going somewhere else–I think we can do better. Call me.” If you don’t want your marketing people wandering the parking lot, give them to security.

    If you don’t have the confidence that your property is better than Hooter’s, either you have to make major changes in it or you’ve got to re-evaluate your attitude.

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