Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Harrah’s players. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter. There is lots of new and useful information in this edition (some of which I’m going to reference in future posts), so read on for all the goods.
Seven Stars Insider – December 2010
NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Caesars property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.
Hail, Caesars Entertainment Corp.!
In the works for a while now, Harrah’s Entertainment is now officially Caesars Entertainment Corp. Market research showed that, not only did Caesars have better name recognition as a brand, but the Caesars name connotes a more upscale, classy product – particular important, Harrah’s found, in the international marketplace where they are behind Wynn and MGM in developing properties outside the United States and Canada. However, if you’re looking for Caesars Entertainment’s Web site, don’t go to www.caesarsentertainment.com – it’s the site for a Bangkok brothel!
Owners of Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars, see above) shelved plans for an initial public offering last month, because investors weren’t buying into it – literally and figuratively. The company’s revenues have shrunk in the first nine months, and Harrah’s/Caesars lost money. According to one news report, “Harrah’s was too expensive for a company whose fortunes are so tied to the troubled American consumer. At times, investors may be gullible and their memories can be limited. But they are sufficiently aware to see through stories that don’t add up.” Ouch!
Seven Stars Club Closing – Just Temporarily!
As it does each year, the Seven Stars Club at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City will close December 13, reopening December 25.
Right Date, Wrong Day
Drivers on the Atlantic City Expressway last month may have been confused by signs at the Egg Harbor toll plaza promoting Toby Keith’s appearance at Boardwalk Hall. The signs read, “Toby Keith – Saturday, November 12 – Boardwalk Hall”. Keith’s show was on Friday night, November 12.
See SEA At Bally’s Las Vegas
SEA: The Thai Experience has opened at Bally’s Las Vegas. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and late-night bites. The restaurant opened its first location in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was a featured location for Sex and the City. Last year, SEA opened a second restaurant in the Meat Packing District of Manhattan.
‘One Promotion, Two Promotions, Three Promotions, Four. . .’
It’s not just Caesars – MGM Resorts International has a similar policy – but it seems a little silly to be sending players to the competition. That’s exactly what Caesars does when it requires 48 hours between “visits” in order to take advantage of two or more promotional offers during an extended trip to Las Vegas. For example, let’s say you get an offer for a complimentary three-night stay at Caesars Palace along with tickets to Cher. You also have an offer for a Macy’s gift card that includes another two- or three-night stay. If those offers end and begin on two consecutive days, Caesar’s will force you to make a choice: Stay and see Cher, or stay and get a Macy’s gift card. The same happens if there is a 24-hour interval from the time the “Cher” offer ends and the “Macy’s” offer begins. What’s the solution? There are at least three:
· Ask your host to see if he/she can waive this. Several hosts I spoke to (off the record, of course) said they had done this for “certain” customers, but many more readers said this has not been a successful technique.
· After checking-out of Caesars, spend three nights at the Bellagio – perhaps taking advantage of an offer you may have received from them; then, check-out, and check-in again at Caesars (or Flamingo, Rio, whatever).
· If your spouse or a traveling companion has his or her own Total Rewards account (and has a room offer from Caesars, or another Caesars property), book that offer to begin on the day that you are checking out; then book your next offer with the requisite amount of time between stays.
It’s even better if you can book your offers with an overlapping night. That way you can move your belongings at your leisure the day before and/or the morning of your “departure”. No need to check baggage or drag it around with you until your second room is ready.
Spa vs. Spa: Qua
About the only similarity between Qua at Caesars in Atlantic City and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas is the name. For Seven Stars cardholders, in Las Vegas admission to the fitness center and “Roman Rituals” [use of a locker, robe, Jacuzzis, etc.] is free; in Atlantic City, they get only a 20 percent discount off the $50 admission fee, as well as services (massages, etc.). [Diamond cardholders get a 10 percent discount off admission, as well as services.] And while, admittedly, Caesars Palace had a larger space to work with, Qua in Atlantic City – at least the men’s side – has a cramped changing area (with only one fraying hassock to sit on), a small bathroom with only two sinks (and lighting so dim it’s impossible to get a good shave), and no washcloths. Plus, the last time I visited, there were no combs, only one of three shampoo pumps was working, and three of nine containers (shampoo, conditioner and body wash – one each in three showers) had no pumps. The manager claimed that a previous customer took the combs and even stole shampoo, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that during a nearly 90-minute workout, and subsequent shave and shower, there was not one employee to be spotted in the entire facility (except outside at registration). As an apology, the manager gave me coupons good for two free admissions. Let’s see if things improve on a future visit.
Keurig Pod Left; None In Minibar
As reported last month, if you’re staying in the Augustus or Palace Towers at Caesars Palace, you’ll now find a Keurig coffee maker in your room. One reader e-mailed me that she found a used coffee pod in hers, and no fresh ones in the minibar. I didn’t use mine during that October visit, and never thought to look; however, after checking into Caesars this month, I examined the coffee maker and it was clean. The coffee pods were part of the collection of boxes tempting you with “goodies” – all at hyper-inflated prices – but my box of pods had the seal broken. I didn’t check to see if anything was missing, or if they had been used and just been replaced by a previous guest who hoped no one would notice, but I did call the front desk to report this. However, instead of replacing the unsealed box, someone from Room Service simply used a piece of tape to reseal the box (see photo). Once again I called Room Service, but, after more than 15 rings – I counted! – I gave up and just took it down to the Registration Desk. [Turns out, not only was I charged for the box of coffee pods – apparently, no one keeps a record of calls like the one I made, but there also was a $12.57 Room Service charge on my bill (which wasn’t mine).] There are some good lessons here: (1) whether you’re at a casino hotel or just a “regular” hotel, always check the minibar to see if anything appears to be missing, and examine any boxes of snacks or other products for sale; (2) if something looks like it’s been opened, report it immediately; (3) through your TV, check your bill carefully from the beginning to the end of your stay; (4) after you report something, follow-up!
Coffee Maker Cooking
In-room coffee makers may be going the way of those massaging beds popular back in the 1950s. The reason? They’re potential health hazards. Apologizing for the lack of clean rooms at nearly 10 p.m. on a Sunday, the clerk staffing VIP check-in at a popular upscale Las Vegas hotel – not part of the Caesars “family” – told me that part of the delay was due to increased scrutiny by the health department regarding the property’s in-room coffee makers. Apparently, a number of coffee makers did not pass muster in terms of sanitation. Because of this, many Las Vegas casino hotels have removed coffee makers from some or all of their rooms. Some hotels will provide them on request. In Atlantic City, the Water Club never even installed coffee makers in its rooms. (Rooms in its neighboring Borgata still have them.) Further investigation online resulted in some disturbing reasons not to use those coffee pots: “I know enough now that whenever I go to a hotel, regardless of how nice it is, I’ll never use a coffee pot,” Marshall County [Alabama] District Attorney Steve Marshall told NBC’s WAFF-TV in Huntsville. Instead of brewing coffee, he claims, coffee pots are sometimes used to brew methamphetamine. Drinking coffee from a pot used to make meth could be hazardous to your health, the report continued. If you need another reason, consider that there’s actually a Web site devoted to cooking in hotel rooms using everything from the coffee pot to the iron. The site describes methods to make oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, soft boiled eggs, poached chicken breasts and steamed vegetables using the coffee maker. And the iron? The site describes how to cook bacon and eggs, as well as make a grilled cheese sandwich.
Chester Modifies Beverage Policy
Reward Credits now can be used to pay for alcoholic beverages at Harrah’s Chester. In addition, complimentary cocktails are being served in the High Limit area, according to one reader. Using comp dollars for alcoholic beverages has been standard policy at Chester’s competitor, Parx [formerly Philadelphia Park], and complimentary beverages have always been served throughout the entire casino there – same with the Sands in Bethlehem. I have not been to the new Sugar House Casino, so I’m not aware of their comp policies when it comes to alcoholic beverages.
Diamond Lounge Closes, Caesars Offers Compensation
Less than 24 hours after I published the November newsletter and questioned if any property ever compensated its guests when a Diamond Lounge was closed, I got my answer. Halloween night, Caesars in Atlantic City closed its lounge for a private party. To compensate Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders it offered two free buffets or a $15 credit at Café Roma. Unfortunately, the buffet was not adequately prepared for the onslaught and reports were that it was a “mob scene”. Related to this, some readers have reported that Caesars is giving single drink Toga Bar coupons to winners who wait too long for handpay jackpots – common in the overnight hours or early mornings. However, as one e-mail stated, “[R]ather than fix the problem by hiring back more attendants, they’re giving out something of little value to people who don’t need it.”
Changing Standards Rather Than Fixing Problems
In a similar example of recognizing a problem, but not fixing it, signs for the Total Rewards Shuttles in Atlantic City used to read, “The next shuttle will arrive in 20 minutes.” Now they guarantee service in 60 minutes. In practice, it’s entirely possible that a shuttle may arrive in 20 minutes or less, but someone apparently got sick of hearing complaints from people who waited 45 minutes, or an hour or more, and decided to do something about it. Except they haven’t. Here again, Caesars recognized that there was a problem, but rather than fix the problem, they just changed their standards to conform to their existing poor service.
New Host System To Be Implemented?
According to an anonymous e-mail widely available online, “The VIP Team at our property is part of a proven pilot program that is going to be implemented in all Harrah’s [Caesars] properties in the near future.” The balance of the e-mail claims: “Currently the way it is set up is, there are three tiers of Host’s [sic]. All hosts have the same authority level, the difference is job responsibilities. Executive Hosts like myself [sic] can either be located on property or remotely, and are primarily on the phone most of the day contacting guests. We have a larger guest log then the Senior Hosts. Senior hosts have a much smaller guest log and are located on property. Our VIP hosts, do not have any assigned guests, and are there to greet you while you are on the floor and handle any of your needs when your host is not available. But of course any host that you speak with will be happy to assist you. We all work as a team to provide our guests with the best service possible.”
Facebook Deals Offers Free Buffets, Gifts In Vegas
Facebook Deals, a new application that lets you find the best deals at local businesses, signed Harrah’s Entertainment – now Caesars Entertainment – as an initial participant in the program. With the application, users can get a complimentary buffet or other gift at any of Caesars’ 10 properties in Las Vegas. “It’s not about revenue at the moment, it’s about engaging with our customers,” said Monica Sullivan, vice president of advertising at Caesars. “We will look to do more with Facebook and other social media over time.”
Las Vegas Entertainment Switcheroos
If you’re traveling to Las Vegas this month and looking forward to seeing some of your favorite entertainers, make sure they’re actually in town. As reported last month, Donnie and Marie are in New York this month with their “Broadway Christmas” show December 9-19. In their place, but playing only scattered dates between December 14 and January 9, will be Boyz II Men. Barry Manilow’s final performance this month is December 4. He returns January 7, with 2011 performances scheduled through August. And, as noted below, Human Nature will not perform until December 27, and Frank Marino’s Divas will be off December 17-25.
Free Las Vegas Show Tickets
As some of you correctly pointed out after reading last month’s announcement about the new All Stage Pass, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders can get complimentary (or 2-for-1) tickets to a number of shows at Caesars properties in Las Vegas. The list of shows is subject to change, but here is the availability for December 2010:
Dark Sun. & Mon.
8 p.m. (10 p.m. after 12/11
Dark Sun. & Mon.
1 and 3 p.m.
Legends in Concert
7:30 and 10 p.m.
Frank Marino’s Divas**
9 p.m. (10 p.m. 12/28-30)
4 p.m. (7 p.m. on Fridays)
7:30 and 10:30 p.m.
*Dark through 12/27 **Dark 12/17-25 ***Additional shows 12/23-25 at 4 and 7 p.m.
Once a month, Seven Stars cardholders get two tickets to the show of their choice; Diamond cardholders get two tickets to any show but Jubilee! or Peep Show, but can purchase one ticket and get one free. Note, though, that you can order tickets in advance. This comes in handy if, say, you are traveling to Las Vegas for New Year’s, arriving on December 30, but not departing until January 5. On December 30 or 31 you get two tickets for Jubilee! on January 3; then on or after January 1, you still can get two additional tickets to the show of your choice. Or, if you are traveling with other friends who aren’t Total Rewards members, get two extra tickets to Jubilee! on January 3. Theoretically, if you and your spouse are both Seven Stars (or Diamond), you could get up to eight free tickets to one show.
Marrandino’s Associated Press Interview
Speaking to Associated Press reporter Wayne Perry, Don Marrandino, eastern division president of Caesars Entertainment, said, “We’re [Atlantic City] still the second-biggest gaming market in the country, but when you lose a billion dollars in revenue that’s not coming back, you have to change your business model.” According to Perry’s article, “[Caesars] is doing particularly well in phasing out comps – the most important factor for some gamblers who make their decisions on where to play based solely on who’s offering a free room, dinner or show tickets. At Harrah’s, comped hotel rooms as part of overall room revenue went from 86 percent in 2007 to 59 percent this spring.” In Atlantic City, the article states, free meals are down 29 percent and free drinks are down 16 percent since 2007
An article by Rob Cox and Wei Gu of Reuters claims that TPG, which took Harrah’s private with Apollo, claims to have “radically improved operations.” According to the article, published November 22, in a presentation to investors, TPG said, “[M]illions of dollars of expenses have been stripped out by, among other things, reducing the number of steps a maid requires to tidy up a room.” [Emphasis added.] That was supposed to be a selling point?! From my experience – and others’ – if anything, Caesars needs to clean-up its act more, not less.
International Meal Of the Year – In 1999!?
Promoting the opening this month of Paula Deen’s “full-service, class-A restaurant” at Harrah’s Cherokee, the current issue of Total Rewards magazine notes that her dinner of fried chicken and garlic cheese biscuits was called the International Meal of the Year by USA Today – in 1999! Couldn’t they find a more recent accolade? Maybe not, considering Ms. Deen is still dishing out the same food she served 11 years ago, while most people have adopted – or are trying to adopt – a more healthy lifestyle.
Total Touch A Total Hit
According to early reports, Caesars’ new Total Touch system seems to be a big hit. “I used the drink ordering system and thought it was great,” writes one reader. “A few steps on a screen and within five minutes I got the drink I asked for. No cocktail waitress running up and down the aisles shouting if someone wants a drink. Only wished they delivered a pizza as well.” In addition to the nine casinos noted in last month’s newsletter, Harrah’s New Orleans now has the system online.
Changes At New Orleans Diamond Lounge
The Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s New Orleans is now non-smoking. Also, the lounge hours have been reduced. It’s now open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
Pink’s Hot Dogs Opens At Rincon
Pink’s Hot Dogs (“A Hollywood Legend Since 1939,” according to their Web site pinkshollywood.com) has opened at Harrah’s Rincon. Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas also has a Pink’s.
Question Of The Month
I’ve currently got more than 125,000 tier points and could be at 200,000 by the end of the year. If I take one of the Signature “experiences” at the 125,000 level, can I get the 200,000-point experience too if I reach that level? The “General Rules and Restrictions” are not very clear, but my interpretation would be “yes”. According to the harrah’s.com/SevenStars/Experience Web site, “Guest may only redeem (1) Signature Experience per tier score qualification threshold.” That indicates to me that if you earned three million (!) Tier points between January 1 and December 31, 2010, you could take one each of the five levels (125,000, 200,000, 500,000, one million and three million). However, I’m not an attorney and I didn’t write the rules, so check with your host. Also, keep in mind that you need to book these experiences no less than 30 days before departure, and they must be completed by March 31, 2011.
‘What are your thoughts on the gifts given by Caesars [and other] casinos?’
Here’s a sample of some of the comments:
§ This is one thing I hate about getting gifts from casinos – why do they always put some sort of brand name on them? It makes it hard for you to give away the gift item to a relative or friend. A good example is the digital picture frame they gave at the Signature event in Las Vegas. Why did they have to stick a big label on the frame that says “Signature Event Las Vegas 2010”? Not only don’t I need a digital picture frame, they also sent one to my husband, another Seven Stars player. So now we have two nice frames we don’t need or want to use.
§ This happens all the time, on everything from coolers to clocks to salt and pepper shakers. It’s one thing for a casino to want to brand name t-shirts or tote bags, but why brand name everything from the cheap to the expensive?
§ No doubt it costs the casinos more to plaster their brand onto these items than to have them sent plain. Instead of making us happy, we sit wondering how we can give away the extra stuff we can’t use without offending our relatives and friends. Wake up, casino marketing!
§ The last thing any casino is going to be concerned about, is how easy it will be for you to get rid of something they give you, and I can’t see why they should change. The gifts are meant as momentos of a specific occasion and many times are marked as such. This doesn’t stop you from giving the gift away, it just stops you from being able to say you went out and specifically purchased the item for someone.
§ I get lots of souvenirs from casinos, as well. The useful items I keep and use, some get stuffed in a corner, and lots are given away to friends and family. They don’t seem to mind the “branding” if it’s something they can use.
§ I remember once my wife and I got really nice picnic backpacks at Caesars Palace. We put them in our carry-on luggage and forgot about them. However at the airport we got stopped by security because the packs had large knives in them.
§ I wish casinos would keep in mind that many of us traveled by plane to get there, so make your gifts “packable”. Once at a Harrah’s slot tournament in Las Vegas they gave us a cookie jar, and a set of plates and coffee mugs. I travel light and had no baggage space to pack them, so they got left in the room for the housekeeper.
§ Don’t give us wine, perfume or anything liquid. Many of us don’t check luggage so we have no way to get these sorts of gifts home.
§ Definitely a pet peeve for me for many years. Casino gifts with logos are completely valueless to me. I have never worn anything with a casino logo on it and never would. I would never gift anyone with something that had a casino logo on it. I would much prefer getting a gift worth half as much rather than a logoed gift. Logo gifts go straight into the garbage for me. Why don’t casinos understand this? Yes I suppose it’s “free” advertising for them, but when at least as many of their customers strongly dislike logoed gifts that advertising opportunity is limited, and outweighed by the dissatisfaction they’re creating.
‘Did you participate in the Great Gift Wrap-Up?’
What do you think of this annual Las Vegas event? Send me an email (email@example.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider