Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but chock full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.
Show Ticket Update
In response to his inquiry about why free show tickets no longer were being distributed to eligible players in Las Vegas, one reader received a response from Total Rewards claiming that ticket offers now would be based on play, and sent directly to individual players. Other than the tickets offered under the former system, this always has been the case. Problem is that many times the show ticket offers are for dates when you aren’t in town. In March I had an offer for Jersey Boys tickets, but it didn’t go into effect until three days after my already previously scheduled departure. I asked my host for an exception, but he wouldn’t budge – despite the fact that it was opening night and there were plenty of available seats when I went to the box office. I just refused to pay the ridiculously inflated ticket prices when I can see the same show on Broadway for one fourth the cost.
Mea Culpa: I’ve Seen The Light
I’ve been en-light-ened. Last month I erroneously reported that the lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s after a news release touted that the casinos would participate in Earth Hour. Turns out the lights I saw were necessary for safety and security reasons, and all four of Caesars casinos in Atlantic City participated to the best of their ability. I thought my observation had been confirmed by a front page story in the Press of Atlantic City, but that article was incorrect, as well. I guess you can’t always believe everything you read in the papers! My apologies to Caesars executives – and especially the hard-working Facilities Engineers who made it happen.
June Signature Event
Considering this event is scheduled to begin June 14, it’s not yet been “officially” announced. What is everyone waiting for? [There is still nothing on the Total Rewards Web site other than June 2012 and the fact that it will be held in Atlantic City.] West Coast players already are complaining that airfare prices continue to climb, but they’re uncomfortable making firm plans until they see something in writing. In terms of specific events, there will be an opening night party June 14 at The Pool over at Harrah’s, Bally’s will host parties on its deck Friday and Saturday, and Diana Ross will be the featured entertainment for your choice of concerts Friday or Saturday. You’ll have the opportunity to multiply your Rewards Credits by seven on June 14 and 18, as well as play throughout the weekend to earn Caesars gift cards.
Food and Wine Festival
The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival has been scheduled for July 26-29. Among the celebrity chefs already confirmed are Robert Irvine, Tom Colicchio and Anne Burrell. Foodies who can’t wait should consider The Taste of Revel May 18-20, presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.
If you wire money to any of the four Atlantic City casinos, note that some of the routing numbers have changed. Check with a Credit Executive for details. I don’t know if other regions or casinos are also affected.
A New Gold Standard
I was fortunate enough to attend the VIP opening reception at the Golden Nugget last month – the same night as the Seven Stars Celebrations around town. What an outstanding job the crew there did! Taking advantage of the fourth floor space surrounding the atrium, planners had all of the Golden Nugget’s restaurants develop a tasting station of menu samplings. Each was better than the next! Even if you never plan to play or stay at Golden Nugget, do yourself a favor and take a look at the place – especially if you knew it as Trump Marina. You won’t recognize it. In particular, don’t miss the H2O pool deck with its fire pits, cabanas and outdoor bar. Once word gets out, I think this will become the place to hang out this summer. Back at Caesars, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm over the Golden Nugget, telling everyone from managers to servers about my experience. Kudos to each and every Caesars and Bally’s employee who had nothing but praise for the Golden Nugget, noting it will only be a positive influence on the entire city. Thanks for “taking the high road” and not knocking the competition! This says a lot about Caesars employee training.
‘Dealertainers’ Coming To AC
Taking a cue from what I must assume is successful in Las Vegas, Bally’s is hiring entertainers who look – and sound like – celebrities to do double duty as dealers on the casino floor. I witnessed a couple of these “dealertainers” at the Imperial Palace, and I hope their dealing skills were better than their singing voices.
“Disappointing.” “What were they thinking?” “This is how they treat their ‘best’ customers?” Within hours – and in one case, minutes – after the last Cadillac lease was announced, my inbox started filling up with comments about the Seven Stars Celebration April 28. I walked in around 8 p.m. and – loud (make that, very loud!) music notwithstanding – I thought I was attending a funeral, not a celebration. People were sitting around looking pretty bored, just cooling their heels until the door prizes were announced at 8:30. No one I spoke with liked the food. [I hardly touched the food because I had just come from the reception at Golden Nugget (see above), but what I did try was not very good and not very appetizing. Plus, I had a 9 o’clock reservation at Arturo’s.] Part of the problem, too, was that no one really knew what to expect. “What’s a ‘cocktail soiree’?” Turns out it was a fancy name used as an excuse for not serving a decent sit-down dinner. And what was the point of having a dance band if you’re not going to have a dance floor? There was plenty of space. . .and at least it might have brought some much needed energy to the room. Related to the celebration was an extra large bottle of Belvedere vodka left in our rooms. What if you don’t drink vodka, or what if you don’t drink at all? Since it was stamped with the Seven Stars logo, you can’t even give it as a gift. Most people I talked to would have preferred a Macy’s or Best Buy gift card, or even some free play coupons. All in all, this was not one of the best efforts from a team that usually produces some of the highest quality events in town.
Boatload Of Changes
Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. – After closing May 5, I’ve been told the space will reopen with an outside vendor. My guess is that means another venue which will accept Total Rewards comp dollars, but probably at a 2:1 ratio. I hope I’m wrong; that would leave no place for players to grab a quick sandwich, salad, dessert or other snack without paying double – or being forced into a sit-down situation.
Mansion Cafe – After the Mansion closes May 13, the House of Blues will become a 24-hour operation. Space currently occupied by the Mansion is expected to be turned into meeting space for groups.
Vive Day Spa & Salon Offers Seven Stars Special
During the month of May 2012, show your Seven Stars card and mention “Seven Stars Insider” to get these special savings:
Seasonal Cocktail Facial
This unique limited edition facial treatment incorporates the purest ingredients from each season’s harvest. Packed with antioxidants to help restore and brighten skin ravaged by the season. Enjoy a new melody of ingredients every six months. Previous seasonal treatments include Melon & Mint, Ginger & Tangerine and Green Tea & Honey. $99 (regular $135)
Women’s Haircut, Blow Dry & Finish
$50 (regular $85)
What’s In A Name?
As reported last month, Harrah’s Chester has rebranded itself as Harrah’s Philadelphia. According to a message on the inside cover of this month’s coupon book, “We’re proud to announce that Harrah’s Chester is now the all-new Harrah’s Philadelphia,” writes Senior Vice President and General Manager Ron Baumann. [Now, someone should tell the folks who maintain the Total Rewards Web site and iPhone app. Harrah’s Chester, not Harrah’s Philadelphia, is still listed.]
Seven Stars Celebration Dinner
Perhaps the staff at Harrah’s can give some pointers to the folks in Atlantic City when it comes to recognizing Seven Stars cardholders. Earlier last month, Harrah’s Philadelphia hosted a lovely cocktail reception with a raw bar and other hors d’ouevres, followed by a sit-down dinner that featured a delicious salad, a “surf-and-turf” entrée [shrimp and perfectly cooked filet] and a lavish dessert. While there were no Cadillac leases, there was a drawing for a trip and some free play, and everyone left with a $25 Macy’s gift card, $100 in free play and a collapsible insulated picnic hamper. Very nice. Too bad the next event there wasn’t quite as successful. . . .
Thursday Becomes Fry-day
Apparently there’s no shortage of oil in Philadelphia. At last month’s TR Insider “Cocktails and Conversation” nearly all the “food” accompanying the cocktails was breaded and fried: fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried chicken stuffed with cheese, fried cheese – even fried green beans! The one exception was something baked in a pastry that was totally indistinguishable and tasteless. Perhaps, more accurately, it should have been called “Cocktails and Cholesterol” or “Cocktails and Calories”. Did I miss something, or is Paula Deen the new executive chef there? Come on, folks, how about something a little more tasty, healthful – and creative?
Tip On Tipping
Comp dollars may no longer be used for gratuities at Harrah’s. For a long time – to the best of my knowledge – [then] Harrah’s Chester was the only Total Rewards casino that allowed you to use comp dollars for server gratuities.
September Signature Event
While the official dates have yet to be announced, let’s hope planners don’t select the weekend that ends on September 16. Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset that Sunday and it might be difficult for some East Coast attendees to get home from Las Vegas in time. Two years ago, the fall Signature Event began on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, and many players were not happy about the scheduling. And, speaking of scheduling. . .again, what’s the big secret, folks? September is only four months away and there are people who like to plan their schedules in advance.
Call ’em What They Are: Comp Dollars
It’s nice to see that Caesars is using the term “Tier Credits” (instead of “Base Rewards Credits”) to more accurately reflect those points players earn each year to qualify for the various card levels, e.g., Platinum, Diamond, etc. Now, I wish they would consider dumping “Rewards Credits” (or “Reward Credits” – it shows up both ways depending on where you look). It’s like traveling to a foreign country and having to calculate U.S. dollars into some other currency. Just give us the total amount of comp dollars we have in our accounts. In Atlantic City (and I think Las Vegas), this number pops up when you swipe your card at a kiosk. You get your tier score and the amount of comp dollars available. However, sign on to the TR Web site and you get your tier score, plus that “inflated” Rewards Credits number. What also gets confusing is when you see a sign that says: “Guests will be charged 1,000 Rewards Credits for admission to the Diamond Lounge”. How many players know that this is $10 (in comp dollars)? Or that ridiculous birthday promotion – “Get up to 50,000 Rewards Credits by earning up to 5,000 Base Rewards Credits [now Tier Credits] in a gaming day”. Though 50,000 Rewards Credits sounds like a lot, it’s actually $50. Considering that, to earn one Tier Credit, it takes $5 “coin-in” ($10 with video poker), you’d have to put $25,000 through the slots ($50,000 for video poker). That’s not much of a gift, or a bonus. Borgata in Atlantic City has one of the easiest systems to understand. Every comp dollar you earn equals one tier point.
Still Not App-licable
There’s finally a new Total Rewards app for the iPhone, but it’s not very user-friendly or helpful. Since it’s actually a new app, if you have the old My TR app you won’t get any notification to update it; just delete My TR and go to the App Store and search for Total Rewards. You’ll need your Total Rewards account number to sign-in. Though it sometimes offers the option of using the new username you had to create to access the Web site, that log-in page will not accept upper and lower case letters, so you have to use your account number. Once you’re online about the only useful information available is your current tier score and Total Rewards credits. Clicking on various links sends you to pages that – in most cases – are not yet available, are inaccurate, incomplete or useless. A couple examples: On the Caesars Atlantic City page, clicking on “Senator Suite” tells you, “Experience the Empire as it was meant to be. Appreciate true indulgence when you retire to a Caesars Senator Suite.” [Huh?] Click on “Standard Room/Classic” and you learn, “Our classic rooms offer 1 King or 2 Double beds. At Caesars we plan to make your stay a friendly one.” [Gee, most hotels I stay in offer a choice of a king or two double beds. How about some of the amenities? How large are these rooms?] Interested in the “Dinner & Giada Show”? Click and learn, “Giada DeLaurentis show and dinner.” [How about a date, a time, the cost and some details?] On the Bally’s Atlantic City site there is a reference to a restaurant that’s no longer open; and clicking on the rooms tab gives you a mixture of sleeping rooms and meeting rooms. Unless Bally’s is planning overnights in its ballrooms, keep the meeting space and accommodations separate.
Don’t always believe everything you read on some of the message boards and blogs. Last month someone wrote that she was told by employees at Paris and Flamingo that her play at Harrah’s Philadelphia, nee Chester, and in Atlantic City wouldn’t count toward getting offers from Las Vegas. Suspicious – because I don’t play in Vegas as much as I used to, but the offers continue to pour in, I contacted a senior executive at Caesars who said this was absolutely false. Granted, part of this may be Caesars fault for perhaps not educating their employees, but, on the other hand, these could be employees who misunderstood something they heard or read, or maybe they were disgruntled employees who decided to take it out on a customer.
New At The Top
According to paperwork filed in late March, M. Tariq Shaukat has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Caesars Entertainment. Mr. Shaukat comes to Caesars from McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm.
From The In-Box
Some Caesars executives seem to think I make up comments from my fellow players because they rarely hear from anyone directly. Want to know why? I can’t tell you how many people are scared of “retaliation” – they actually believe that, if they complain about something, somehow Caesars will withdraw offers, hotel stays, free play, etc., or, worse, code their player’s cards so they don’t win as much. I hope everyone knows this is not true – and would be illegal (or, in the case of suppressing wins, not even possible). However, starting this month, I’m going to reprint some of the e-mails I receive which I think might reflect not only opinions expressed by the writer, but also of many others I talk to on a regular basis:
“Both Harrah’s [Resort in Atlantic City] and Caesars [in Atlantic City] seem to be replacing many of their slot machines with the new digitized versions. I really do not like them, as they’re just big piggy banks. By the way, I stopped at the new Golden Nugget and played for a few hours. Surprisingly, after four hours I had accumulated almost $70 in comps! (That would take me days at Caesars or Harrah’s.) And, their cashback is immediate so you can download it right into the slot machine you are playing. How’s that for convenient? I’ve always hated those damn coupons with specific days on them. And, I notice that they aren’t sending as many as they did in the past.”
“I had three coupons valid yesterday. However, I’m curious. One went right in the machine; one had to be taken to the cage to get Reel Rewards to put in the machine; and one was for cash, which found its way into the machines. Why not make them all work the same way?”
Survey Results: ‘How would you have changed Total Rewards?’
If you’d been in charge of changing/updating the Total Rewards program, what – if anything – would you have done? Here are a few of the responses I received (several people sent in similar suggestions):
I would have asked for feedback from players before announcing any changes to the program. It would have been amazing the valuable suggestions and feedback they might have received.
I would increase the tier points needed to become a Diamond cardholder from 11,000 points to 40,000 or 50,000 points. There is too much of a gap between Diamond and Seven Stars. Make getting Diamond status worth something.
For Seven Stars cardholders, I would waive fees, such as that room assessment fee and comp fee in Atlantic City.
For all Total Rewards members who may travel to different casinos and not be particularly loyal to one property, why not reward them a small Rewards Credit bonus annually once they visit five different properties or a greater number of RCs if they visit 10 different properties. Because of my business travel, sometimes I visit a variety of properties, and I’m penalized for not being loyal 90 percent of the time to one particular property. (This is reflected in the offers I receive, compared to what some of my friends receive.)
Survey: ‘Did you attend a Seven Stars renewal event? Your thoughts?’
I’ve already received lots of unsolicited feedback on last month’s Seven Stars Celebrations in Atlantic City. Here are some examples:
“Thought I’d offer some comments on the Seven Stars Cocktail Party this weekend. . .the one at Bally’s was interesting. The food preparation was led by The Reserve Executive Chef Joseph Muldoon and was consistently good throughout. The party theme of Mission: Escape was odd given that car leases, not trips, were given away. The bottle of Belvedere vodka was over the top, too large to fit in my liquor cabinet, and the labeling of it as ‘Seven Stars’ renders it nonregiftable. I offered it to my housekeeper in lieu of a tip. Some people apparently offered their bottles to Boardwalk vagrants as I saw a homeless guy outside of Caesars drinking from one of those huge bottles. I hope he’s not found under the Boardwalk today suffering from alcohol overdose.”
“Just got back from the renewal weekend in Atlantic City. Some thoughts. . .the 7X comps on Friday was nice, the party on Saturday was underwhelming. The food was not very good – four stations with lots of odd selections: assorted hummus, terrible potato latkes, not enough places for people to sit and eat. The seven Cadillac leases and 10 $1,000 cash prizes awarded seemed a little cheap for the number of 7 Star guests. I would have liked to see more prizes spread around. Also, I realized at about 10 p.m. on Saturday night that I had not received the promised signature bottle of Belvedere vodka. It wasn’t handed out at registration, nor was it given out at the party. I called VIP Services to enquire and was told, ‘Oh, room service was supposed to deliver it to you.’ Well, they hadn’t, although the woman at VIP Services promised to have it sent up. Made me wonder what would have happened if I had not thought to call and try to track it down. Perhaps the people in room service would have ended up with a lot of extra mega-bottles of vodka. Seemed like a very poor method of distribution. Hopefully the lackluster weekend is not an indication of things to come in Caesars new Total Rewards program.”
“I attended the event last night at Harrah’s Resort in AC. Can these guys at Caesars Entertainment possibly get more cheap? Are you kidding me? What casino has ever given away vehicle leases – and for a lousy two years at that? Add to that poor gas mileage at a time when fuel prices are outrageous, hefty tax and insurance costs, and the fact that you are receiving something that has no lasting value at all. This has to go down as one of the most ill-conceived casino ‘gifts’ ever. I’m serious when I say that given a choice between $20 in free slot play and this lease, I’d choose the slot play. Talking with others last night, I found many others similarly unimpressed. I hold out hope that next year Caesars management will opt to step up their top prize by offering seven high mileage, used econoboxes with some front-end damage. At least you get to keep these cars, and the fuel, tax and insurance costs won’t kill you. Thanks for showing us once again how much you appreciate your best customers!”
I know there must have been similar events around the country. Did you attend one? What did you think? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider @ gmail .com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider
Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog
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