Why it pays to under-promise and over-deliver

…rather than the opposite, as this incident–unfortunately caught live on camera–from CES shows:

Reporter Dan Simmons from the BBCs technology show Click managed to break a mobile phone marketed as “unbreakable”, during a demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

via BBC News – Reporter breaks an unbreakable mobile phone at CES.

Click through to see the video–you’ve got to feel bad for the CEO.

Is there a law that the more assiduously something is promoted as unbreakable, the more likely it is to break in a high-profile and often-embarrassing way?

If a red flag is flying, brazen bold against the blue…

Taking a minute from the grind of analyzing the April Nevada gaming revenues, I figured I’d post this story, which surprisingly hasn’t really been picked up by the Vegas blogosphere. From KLAS:

The Raelian Movement is announcing plans to build a UFOland in Las Vegas where visitors can attend a Happiness Academy and see a full-size replica of a UFO.

Raelians believe that humanity was created by extraterrestrial scientists and they want to share their belief with visitors to Las Vegas. They will also host a museum and a 1000-seat theatre where their spiritual leader, Rael, will give lectures.

"The museum will display all the evidence weve gathered for the past 35 years that shows we were indeed created by scientists — highly advanced human beings from another planet," said Ricky Roehr, leader of the North American Raelian Movement.

He said he expects the UFOland to become one of the most popular destinations in Las Vegas within the next five years.

There is no word on where UFOland will be built.

The Raelians Target Las Vegas for a UFOland – Las Vegas Now |.

If I recall correctly, these are the same folks who announced that they’d cloned a human being several years ago.

I wonder if they’ve spent much time in Las Vegas, though. Unless Rael is going to do impressions, magic, ventriloquism, comedy, or all four, I can’t see him filling the room.

I’m not entirely convinced that calling their spiritual center “UFOland” and putting it in Las Vegas is the best way to establish their legitimacy. Slot machines did pretty well for the Fosterites, so maybe I’m wrong here.

Mmmm…yeah

In 1969, Florida-based fast-food chain Lum’s bought Caesars Palace. Lum’s was best known for their hot dogs and beer, but the company owned a slew of businesses, including the Abner’s family fast food chain (which didn’t serve beer), Dirr’s processed meats, and Eagle Army-Navy stores.

One of the top items on Lum’s menu was the “Lumburger” which was probably just an ordinary burger cooked at Lum’s.

Why is this notable? If you’ve seen Office Space, you already know. If not, here’s a clip of the unforgettable Bill Lumberg in action:

I just picture ordering the burger as being something like this: “Yeaah, I’m going to have to go ahead and ask for a Lumburger, all right? And could you throw some tomatoes on there too? Is that a problem?”

This was funnier in my head than it is on the web.

Mission statement inn

I guess this is what’s going to become of the Cosmopolitan. from the LV Sun:

Hilton Hotels Corp. of Beverly Hills, Calif., said Tuesday its creating an eclectic brand called Denizen Hotels and is working to bring that brand to Las Vegas and other major destinations.

"Denizen Hotels, a lifestyle brand that will attract business and leisure travelers across cultures and generations and has an authenticity that will appeal to today’s sensibilities, will be highlighted by exceptional design and service at an accessible price point," Hilton said in a statement, adding it will be part of Hiltons luxury portfolio that includes the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Hotels & Resorts brands.

Hilton Hotels launching new brand in Vegas – Las Vegas Sun.

I don’t like pooh-poohing new ideas, but this brief description seems remarkably free of any real meaning. “Lifestyle brand” is empty corporate-speak, and by their very nature most hotels attract a range of travelers from different backgrounds, who have in common one thing: they don’t mind paying for their room. “Exceptional design and service at an accessible price point” is in the eye of the beholder–I certainly wouldn’t take their word for it.

Some specifics would let potential visitors make up their own minds. Obviously, you can’t have that for a “brand concept,” but without those specifics, the brand really doesn’t stand for anything.

Outside of saying, “we’re opening a new hotel,” does this sound like anything besides pretentious babble? In establishing a “brand” before anyone’s stayed in a room, they’ve really put the cart before the horse or, in this case, the room service.

Don’t buy, barter

As more people have less cash, many of them are turning to bartering goods and services. It’s a bold leap back to the Iron Age for America’s formerly fastest-growing metropolis. From the LVRJ:

According to a craigslist spokeswoman, the site has seen a "significant growth in our bartering section as craigslist users get creative to keep their cash in their wallets during this troubling economy."

In November, 1,681 Las Vegans posted ads on craigslist offering trades. That's up from November 2007 when 1,081 ads were posted.

The Barrs placed an ad in December offering mechanical work, housecleaning, welding, yardwork or massage to anyone who had a Barbie Power Wheels Jeep to trade. It was to be a gift for their 3-year-old daughter, one they couldn't afford to buy. They haven't found any takers, yet, but Amanda Barr says they've had many past successes.

"It's actually worked out really well," she says. "We helped people move last week and they said, 'Whatever we don't fit in the van, you guys can have.' "

They have traded for tools, dirt bikes, four wheelers, home goods and other items.

Wendy Mackin has a 65-inch HDTV. She bought it three years ago for $7,000 but wants to replace it. For two weeks, she tried to sell the TV but had no takers. Finally, Mackin offered it on craigslist in exchange for an exterior house paint job, landscape work, irrigation repair or other outside work.

The response was strong and immediate. She negotiated a deal with a licensed painter.

ReviewJournal.com – Living – MAKING ENDS MEET: BACK TO BARTERING.

Too bad there’s not a big demand for writing and editing services out there–it looks like I’ll just have to keep paying cash for everything. But if there are folks out there who’d be willing to trade for a high-energy, humorous forty-five minute talk on the history and secrets of casinos, shoot me an email.

Las Vegas Marathon news

It’s apparently official: Devine Racing will be out of the Las Vegas Marathon after this Sunday’s run. From the LV Sun:

Devine will not manage the race after this year. A company that operates successful marathons across the country is taking over. San Diego-based Competitor Group Inc. thinks it can eventually draw as many as 30,000 runners to the course, with its starting line on the Strip.

The 2009 race will be renamed the Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, joining a lineup of nine marathons the Competitor Group will hold next year across the country.

In those races, the company features unique courses — near the Alamo in San Antonio, through Music Row in Nashville and along the ocean in Virginia Beach — coupled with rock bands lining the roads and big concerts at the end.

Peter Englehart, chief executive officer of the Competitor Group, acknowledged the formula will need some tinkering in the next year for it to work in Las Vegas.

“We usually do a big headliner rock concert,” Englehart said. “But in Las Vegas there’s concerts every night.”

Not to mention the Cirque shows, the comedians, the magicians and the ever-present allure of the casinos.

Competitor Group’s record gives the Las Vegas running community good reason for hope.

Las Vegas Marathon on a new course – Las Vegas Sun.

It’ll be great to have some new leadership at the event. I’m going to be running in the race this year, and with all of the uncertainty about the event it seems almost anti-climactic. I’m sure it’ll be fun, but it sounds like it will be a bare-bones race this year.

I’ve got no doubts that a marathon can work in Las Vegas, but running a marathon has got to be the most anti-Vegas thing in the world. It’s not about decadence or instant gratification–quite the opposite, in fact.

In more good news, the rodeo is in town! Which means the scent of animal dung swirling around campus. Of course it also means lots of thrilling roping and riding and millions of dollars in consumer spending, but I’m just giving you my perspective.

Why you should leave cats alone

Some folks down in Cape May, NJ (home of the Winter Getaway) thought it would be a good idea to relocate a colony of feral cats. Now, they are beset by skunks. From the AC Press:

McGlade has run the oceanfront eatery next to Cape May Convention Hall for 28 years, and never before had a major skunk problem. There have been a few over the years, she said, and every once in a while a whiff or two of their presence is noticed, but recently they have become more numerous and very brazen.

“One was heading into the restaurant when a waitress gently guided it out the door. We believe they live under Convention Hall. There’s definitely more than one family there,” McGlade said.

One theory is that the relocation of a feral cat colony under Convention Hall created a vacany for the skunks. The state and federal governments pushed the city to move the cats off the beachfront because of concerns they could kill endangered beach-nesting birds, including the piping plover.

Animal Control Officer John Queenan said he has gotten very few calls about skunks on the beachfront in his 23 years of working in the city but that suddenly he is being inundated with such calls. Queenan said he relocated the feral cats to the Cape May Harbor area in February, and he began receiving skunk complaints this summer.

“Nature takes its own course. One species in eradicated and another comes in,” Queenan said.

Feral cats gone, Cape May now as a problem of a different stripe

I only found two typos in the excerpt, so the Press’s editorial department is definitely holding the line.

I like that quote from Queenan about one species being eradicated. What is he, Davros or something?

And those piping plovers need to learn to fend for themselves.

Too stupid to post

While I might actually be, I hope that’s not true. I wanted to examine and deconstruct this Chronicle of Higher Education piece on stupidity in American culture (particularly among the youth), but I’m way too busy. And next week is looking even worse, so don’t expect much here. Hopefully by the end of the week things will clear up.

As far as the article goes, I’ve got one thing to say, in reference to the list of deficiencies among college students: it’s the chickens coming home to roost–half of these can be traced to the triumph of extreme relativist epistemology, while the other half I lay at the feet of scholarly torpor. It’s for reasons like these that make it a point never to ask students how the readings make them “feel.” Instead, I demand to know how they think, and try to cultivate ideas like supporting evidence and logical thought.

Just think, if I was a little less busy, you’d be getting a thousand words of that today. Small miracles, hmm?

Inconspicuous luxury?

Reading this article by Virginia Postrel, I started thinking about how “inconspicuous consumption” might translate on the Las Vegas Strip. Then I got back to work. But then I figured I should share some thoughts with the rest of you. Here’s just the most relevant part of the article, which you should read in its entirety at The Atlantic:

Virtuous or vulgar, what all these items have in common is that they’re invisible to strangers. Only your friends and family see them. Any status they confer applies only within the small group you invite to your home. And the snob appeal Brooks pokes fun at corresponds to the size of the audience. Many friends may see your Jacuzzi or media room, but unless you’re on HGTV, only intimates will tour your master bathroom. A slate shower stall may make you feel rich, but it won’t tell the world that you are. As peer groups get richer, the balance between private pleasure and publicly visible consumption shifts.

Russ Alan Prince and Lewis Schiff describe a similar pattern in their book, The Middle-Class Millionaire, which analyzes the spending habits of the 8.4million American households whose wealth is self-made and whose net worth, including their home equity, is between $1 million and $10 million. Aside from a penchant for fancy cars, these millionaires devote their luxury dollars mostly to goods and services outsiders can’t see: concierge health care, home renovations, all sorts of personal coaches, and expensive family vacations. They focus less on impressing strangers and more on family- and self-improvement. Even when they invest in traditional luxuries like second homes, jets, or yachts, they prefer fractional ownership. “They’re looking for ownership to be converted into a relationship rather than an asset they have to take care of,” says Schiff. Their primary luxuries are time and attention.

The shift away from conspicuous consumption—from goods to services and experiences—can also make luxury more exclusive. Anyone with $6,000 can buy a limited-edition Bottega Veneta bag, an elaborately beaded Roberto Cavalli minidress, or a Cartier watch. Or, for the same sum, you can register for the TED conference. That $6,000 ticket entitles you to spend four days in California hearing short talks by brainy innovators, famous (Frank Gehry, Amy Tan, Brian Greene) and not-so-known. You get to mingle with smart, curious people, all of whom have $6,000 to spare. But to go to TED, you need more than cash. The conference directors have to deem you interesting enough to merit one of the 1,450 spots. It’s the intellectual equivalent of a velvet rope.

As for goods, forget showing off. “If you want to live like a billionaire, buy a $12,000 bed,” says a financial-planner friend of mine. You can’t park a mattress in your driveway, but it will last for decades and you can enjoy it every night.

Inconspicuous Consumption

Heading back to the Strip, if you are insecure about your wealth, you waste $15K by spraying expensive champagne around a nightclub. If you’re not, you spend $15K for a luxury suite with butler service.

If I have the time to do the serious research, I’d like to really write something about conspicuous vs. inconspicuous consumption on the Strip, because in recent years there has been a real shift towards the latter. In the 1990s, the best parts of the hotels were open to public view: the Mirage’s volcano, Bellagio’s lake, and, even older, the Frontier’s neon sign. Wynn LV was the first to save the best part for the paying guests: only they can really appreciate the Lake of Dreams.

And the real attraction for Wynn or Bellagio–or anything that’s planned–isn’t so much what’s happening in public, where people can see you, but the rooms, which are private.

Is this a sign of the maturing Strip market? A signal of a larger American cultural shift? I don’t know yet, but with luck I’ll have the time to look into it…must investigate further.