Seven Stars Insider – August 2011
NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders, 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.
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Lots of folks are not happy that the official invitations didn’t arrive in the mail until just about a month before the Event, set for August 18-21. (Some people got theirs via e-mail and were directed to make arrangements through their local host.) In addition, several people reported difficulties in getting through on the toll-free number to make their reservations. Others received an invitation which included a hotel stay, not at Lake Tahoe, but in Reno (with transportation provided daily between the two venues)! That’s at least an hour away. Kind of like inviting someone to the Event in Atlantic City, but putting them up outside Philadelphia.
According to the web site, “Let Harrah’s and Harveys [sic] Lake Tahoe entertain you for four days amidst the picturesque setting of the Sierra Nevada. With so many spectacular outdoor activities to choose from, we’ve designed a personal Tahoe Adventure just for you! Also, look forward to enjoying great music under the stars at our Harveys Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena, featuring Grammy® and Academy of Country Music Awards winner Miranda Lambert on August 19. The fun does not stop there, with a Seven Stars only Millionaire Maker Slot Qualifier and many more exciting offers to come!”
Considering it’s just a little more than two weeks before the event, why does the Web site still say, “Check back soon for updates” when the site hasn’t been updated in months? If no one is going to maintain and update these Web sites, why even bother? [And why list the three Events in an order different from how they are scheduled? Ever since I found the site, in my mind, I thought the Lake Tahoe Event was going to be in October.]
The More Things Change. . .
Those of you who were frequenting Las Vegas back in 2007 may remember when the Diamond Lounges were serving “real” food. Here’s a link someone sent me to a blog that wrote about it (and included photos):
October Signature Event
To be offered on two separate weekends, October 6-9 or 13-16 (that second weekend coincides with the Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival), the final 2011 Signature Event will be held in New Orleans. Already announced are an open-air dinner at the Crazy Lobster Restaurant on the pier near the river, a boat ride on the Mississippi, a cooking demonstration and dinner in the theater featuring chef John Besh, and a ride on a Mardi Gras float from Harrah’s hotel to Bourbon Street where participants will disembark and be entertained on two terraces overlooking the street. Of course, again, nothing about this is listed on the Web site.
Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina)
Seven Stars Lounge
I stand corrected! Last month I wrote that the only Seven Stars Lounges were located at Caesars and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, and at the Horseshoe in Hammond, Ind. In addition, there is a Seven Stars Lounge just off the Fresh Market Square Buffet at Harrah’s Cherokee. Several years ago when I visited Cherokee’s Diamond Lounge (now also called the VIP Lounge or Seven Sisters Lounge) there was a separate Seven Stars section that offered a special menu from which you could order a selection of sandwiches prepared to order. If anyone wants to send me information about the Seven Stars Lounge, I will be happy to publish it.
Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)
Getting It Right
As opposed to the modest offerings at Caesars July 4th fireworks viewing party in Atlantic City (see below), Harrah’s Chester did it right a few weeks later with a champagne barbeque on the terrace of its racetrack grandstand. Beautiful white floral arrangements graced all the tables, while a Jimmy Buffet-style band entertained. The menu consisted of mini-Kobe beef hot dogs, “All-American Sliders” (mini-hamburgers), corn on the cob, delicious barbequed chicken (which had been marinated in Coke and bourbon – yum!), fingerling potato salad and an ice cream sundae bar – along with a full bar featuring top-shelf brands (not just champagne). And to the credit of an “on the ball” food and beverage staffer, when I requested a non-alcoholic beer (which I didn’t realize wasn’t being offered), he practically flew back inside and brought an ice-cold Sharp’s to my table. Talk about great customer service! I’m just sorry I didn’t get his name.
You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
After four – often less-than-satisfying, but always improving – Sunday brunches at the Cove, I’m happy to report that on the fifth they finally got it right. Like stars aligning in the heavens, service and food really came together July 31. Management had added more employees, and the wait staff seemed more comfortable in their roles – which in the evening are considerably different from when they serve diners ordering from a menu, rather than selecting their own food from a buffet. It’s not perfect, but expect even more improvements in the weeks to come. If you tried the Cove’s Sunday brunch in the past and walked away disappointed, give it another shot – I think you’ll like what you find. [One small quibble: How about some variations on the menu? While I’d hate to see that wonderful cucumber, tomato and mozzarella salad disappear, perhaps the chefs have some other interesting combinations they’d like to showcase. Same with the chicken breasts and risotto, and the crab-stuffed fish with polenta. If you’re going to try to cultivate a “regular” crowd, my guess is that folks are getting tired of the same entrees week after week.]
Half The Credit For The Same Play
It’s clearly marked, but those 98% pay “Wild Party” slots near the escalators on Bally’s main casino floor earn only half the number of tier credits as all other machines. For example, instead of $5 of play earning one tier credit, it takes $10 – similar to how video poker players earn TR credits. The real beneficiaries are those who don’t have a player’s card and, theoretically, will get more return on their “investments”.
Seven Stars Lounge
A good description of the new lounge can be found at this link:
I’m not sure how long it will be available online, but it’s from The Press of Atlantic City’s weekly At The Shore. It’s unfortunate there were no comments solicited from Seven Stars cardholders who have visited the lounge. The feedback I’m getting is less than positive (on the décor, the food and the service), but folks are willing to give management and the kitchen some time to get their act together. The problem is that Alisa Hammill and her team at Harrah’s Resort have set the bar so high – and, let’s face it, there is a “comfort factor” over there since it’s been open for so long.
While I’m always grateful to be included in some of the nice parties hosted by Caesars, I was a little surprised by the food offerings at the private viewing party for the July 4th fireworks. While the invitation promised “our favorite 4th of July food,” what was served were hot dogs, mini hoagies, funnel cakes, and a few other items (which I can’t recall because I was so disappointed with what I saw). I have no problem with hot dogs and hoagies, but I’d like something to go along with it, e.g., potato salad, cole slaw, or even some potato chips. I ended up next door at Trump Plaza eating a hamburger with some french fries, and then returned for the fireworks. (I also took in my own cocktail because I’m suspicious of invitations that promise “signature cocktails”. Too many times that means some fruity drink made with vodka or rum – and no other options. Turns out there was a full bar, but I wasn’t about to take a chance.) And, finally, who sat in that special roped-off section? It seemed a little odd to give special treatment to such a small select group of people.
Off The Hook: Now You See It, Now You Don’t
One month, five stays in five different rooms in the Waterfront Tower, and in three of the bathrooms there were no towel holders. Is someone stealing them? Have they been declared some sort of hazard, and management removed them? What’s up? Unless you know what’s supposed to be there, it just appears that part of a towel bar might be missing. (Maybe, because it was July, the towel holders were on vacation somewhere with the notepads and pens, as well as the coffee packets and laundry bags that used to be in the rooms too.)
It’s Called A Pep Rally, Not A Dinner
The invitation promised a “chance to sit down to an invitation-only dinner with your fellow VIPs and all your favorite TV chefs.” What it turned out to be was 1,199 other guests and I – and no TV chefs I could spot – crowded around tables of 12 (that would have more comfortably seated 10). Taking our seats around 10 p.m., we were faced with an underdressed and lifeless “salad” of mixed greens, “hiding” a thick slice of under-ripe, pale and tasteless tomato. Adding insult to injury, as my father used to say, nearly 45 minutes later (about 40 minutes after everyone had finished his/her salad), out came chef Robert Irvine in his trademark tight T-shirt and tattered jeans. He insisted that everyone stand up, wave their arms, and “hoop ‘n’ holler” – even to the point of barging into the audience to embarrass anyone who wasn’t intimidated by his threats to keep up this madness (and hold dinner until everyone cooperated). Even though I had a front row seat to his much-anticipated cooking demonstration, I’d had enough and walked out. (It also didn’t help that one of the servers assigned to our table had overwhelming body odor!) According to some who remained, dinner was finally served around 11:15, but the menu, preparation and presentation were nothing extraordinary. Me? I had dinner at Dos Caminos – more on that next month.
Table For Two At Luke Palladino – Oceanview, Please
Browsing once again through the [still out-dated] in-room guest guide, John D. Smith – in his “A Few Words From The General Manager” – writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.” Huh? What ocean views? Perhaps Mr. Smith needs to spend a little time walking around his hotel to familiarize himself with the restaurants. I’m not aware of any restaurants at Harrah’s Resort with ocean views. Last time I checked, Harrah’s was located in the Marina District, not on the Boardwalk. [And, by the way, it’s McCormick & Schmick’s, not McCormick & Schmicks – there goes that aversion to apostrophes again! And it’s: “surpassed only” not “only surpassed”.]
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Though he resigned in April, former Senior Vice President and General Manager Jay Snowden is still “signing” letters. I received one July 23 thanking me for playing at Harrah’s Resort and informing me that I had earned slot dollars on a prior visit.
Seven Stars Countdown
For the benefit of those Diamond cardholders who aspire to Seven Stars status – and those former Seven Stars cardholders who may be returning to the fold this year – let’s track how long it takes. I know someone who topped 100,000 tier points July 29. On July 30 he contacted his host, but she insisted she wasn’t aware of this since “her system” takes 24 to 48 hours to register tier points. (Odd, because this player’s My TR iPhone app – see more on this below – was up-to-date, as were the computers at Total Rewards, the Rewards Kiosks and the readouts on the slot machines) I’ll keep you posted each step of the way to detail what happens when, and how long it takes to actually receive the coveted blue card.
Clubs or Lounges? Seven Stars or Seven Star?
OK, this is not a big deal, but why the inconsistency? Most of the literature calls them Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges, but the names posted outside many of the facilities call them Clubs. Ditto with Seven Star and Seven Stars. Which is it? [The cards say Seven Stars Club.]
Total Touch – Totally Frustrating
Speaking of consistency, there seems to be none when it comes to everyone’s encounters with Total Touch. In terms of beverage service, it’s been “hit or miss” or me – but my only experiences are at Bally’s in Atlantic City or Harrah’s Chester in Pennsylvania. Either the drink arrives within five minutes or not at all. However, for a company that is doing everything it can to promote itself as “green” why does it mail so much paper and make it so cumbersome to download free slot play? Here are step-by-step examples of what it takes at Bally’s vs. practically every other non-Caesars casino:
1. Computer assigns amount of promotional free play.
1. Computer assigns amount of promotional free play.
2. Computer assigns random 3-digit code.
2. Casino alerts customer via e-mail.
3. Casino prints special coupon with code.
3. Customer goes to casino, inserts player’s card into slot machine.
4. Casino mails coupon to customer.
4. Customer enters 4-digit PIN.
5. Customer must remember to bring coupon (or memorize/write down the code and have it when he/she arrives at casino
5. Customer touches appropriate button on keypad, e.g., 1 to download free play, 2 to check comps, 3 to check tier score, etc.
6. Customer inserts player’s card into slot machine
6. Customer selects amount of free play to download.
7. Customer touches “Use Offer” button.
7. Play is downloaded.
8. Customer enters 4-digit PIN.
9. At prompt, customer enters 3-digit code.
10. Play is downloaded.
And, this is if the system is working properly. I had to go to three different machines before I could find one that would accept my offer last month. Plus, it takes an annoyingly long time for the system to register your card. You could get hypnotized sitting there watching those silly little “balls” banging against themselves while the screen reads “One Moment Please” – which, of course, frustrates me because it should read, “One Moment, Please”.
Aside from fewer steps – and the fact that the Bally’s system involves printing and mailing unnecessary coupons (why not just e-mail the 3-digit code and the dates/times the free play is valid?), the customer has to remember to bring the coupon – or at least write down the code or commit it to memory. But what if you’ve been traveling and not checked your mail? Under other casinos’ systems, all you need to do is insert your player’s card into any slot machine, log-on with your PIN, and check to see if you have any free play. Hopefully, Total Touch is set-up to offer a similar system in the future.
Nothing Express About Express Play
As has been pointed out before, at those casinos without Total Touch, there are similar multi-step procedures – unless the casino has mailed you a coupon you can take directly to a slot machine. Otherwise you have to:
1. Find a kiosk (which could be a “Promotional Kiosk” or a “Total Rewards Kiosk” – read the fine print on your offer).
2. Swipe your player’s card.
3. Enter your PIN.
4. Download a voucher.
5. Go to a cashier and exchange the voucher for “generic” Express Play coupons.
6. Take the coupons to a slot machine to redeem your free play.
Making it even more complicated is the fact that many of the generic Express Play coupons expire the day you receive them, or within five or six days; others are good for up to a month, and still others, up to a year. Again, if Caesars is serious about reducing waste, print more coupons with longer validation periods.
Time For Some Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation Lessons?
Maybe Caesars should consider sending its copywriters back to school for some refresher courses.
Last month Caesars in Atlantic City sent invitations offering complimentary “accomodations” during the Food & Wine Festival, and Harrah’s Chester still can’t seem to figure out whether to use “its” or “it’s” in promotional copy or in signage.
Now comes an invitation from Harrah’s Joliet that says: “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR GM CLUB MEMBERSHIP AND ENJOY IT’S MANY BENEFITS.”
[It’s actually easy to remember which word to use: If you can substitute “is” for the “’s” and the sentence makes sense, you’ve used the proper word. In the example above, it’s clearly wrong because it would read: “Congratulations on your GM Club membership and enjoy it is many benefits.”]
Of course, what can you expect from such an “apostrophe-conflicted” company? Why are there never any apostrophes in Caesars? Or Harveys at Lake Tahoe (which sometimes in copy uses an apostrophe, but not in the official logo)? Then there’s that poster for Straight, No Chaser (see below) in the elevator at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City on which Harrah’s is spelled both with – and without – an apostrophe.
A mailing from Las Vegas for a “Bring A Friend Cruise Giveaway” asks you to “bring a friend along [and] they (emphasis added) will also receive a complimentary three-night stay. . . .” Further in the copy it states, “. . .have your friend sign up to become a member of Total Rewards and they (emphasis added) will be entered into a drawing. . . .” The word “they” requires a plural reference, e.g., “friends”. To be perfectly – and politically – correct, the copy should read, “he or she” or “he/she”. (Also, the word “along” is superfluous.)
Unless the rules are different in Canada, someone needs to correct the copy below. The “valued guest” referred to in this VIP offers mailing is the player to whom it was addressed; “we” is Caesars Windsor. Last time I checked, those references needed to “agree”. Try, “As a valued guest, you are being rewarded with something everybody can use. . . .” – except, that is, if you only ride public transportation, or pedal a bicycle!
And, I missed one big blunder until just last month. . .
The Seven Stars book detailing all the benefits (and which is available online) spells “accommodations” wrong:
At least they used the correct “complimentary”!
I finally downloaded this app to my iPhone. . .what a disappointment! About the only thing it’s good for is checking your current tier score and available comp dollars. It also might be useful if you’re traveling and need directions to the nearest Caesars casino. Other than that, the individual casino listings are pretty lame and don’t really give you much information. And, when they do, it’s generally overblown hype that reads like something written by a first-year copywriting student at the local community college. Worse, it’s woefully out-of-date, or, in some cases totally undecipherable. Here’s an example from the Harrah’s Chester site:
Our renowned casino now features table games! [Yes, since July 2010 – see below.]
Live Table Games
Scheduled to open July 18*, Harrah’s Chester will be home to the largest table games offering in Pennsylvania and Delaware. . .as well as a 25 table Poker Room. [That was July 18, 2010! And there is no indication what that asterisk refers to.]
Now open! [Yes, since the casino opened, duh.]
The 2008 season features 140 live days from April 20 through December 18. [Isn’t this 2011?]
The highlight of the culinary options at Harrah’s Chester is , with stunning views of the racetrack and the river. The $34.99 Cove features a Prix Fixe. for more details. Other dining alternatives include. .and is open daily, offering all your favorite concession food in the simulcast and racing area. [What?!? Doesn’t anyone read these things before they’re posted?]
Harveys [sic] Lake Tahoe’s site doesn’t fare much better:
Spend the night in one of our spectacular restaurants. [Why, are there no hotel rooms available?] When it comes to fun and excitement, Harvey’s Lake Tahoe is the place to be! to watch our exciting Food and Wine Festival video. [Again, does no one review these postings?]
I didn’t check every casino’s site, but these two were among the worst I reviewed.
Annual Getaway Grief
If Caesars really wants to promote its Total Rewards Visa card, why not just download the $1,200 annual getaway travel credit on a pre-paid card? Or just ask travellers to submit their ticket at the destination and get a reimbursement – similar to what’s done in any number of offers Caesars sends out from its various casinos? In other words, let Seven Stars cardholders have the option of making their own travel arrangements. That way, someone who may have a fear of a flying could drive, and use the funds for fuel and tolls, or take a train or bus. It also would be quicker and simpler for travelers who prefer specific airlines, want to use miles to upgrade, etc. Hosts have enough to do without serving as go-betweens arranging travel for these annual trips. In the past, I’ve found it to be nothing but a hassle – and I’ve even written some tips which are posted on the Seven Stars Insider Web site.
Time For A Total Total Rewards Makeover?
If the volume of e-mail I received is any indication, this is a real “hot button” for players. With a majority of Seven Stars (and “high Diamond”) cardholders as subscribers, it makes sense that the overwhelming number of respondents agreed with my suggestions. However, even some Diamond cardholders admitted they were getting a pretty good deal, especially compared to how they’re treated at other casinos with the same amount of play. The problem, as many pointed out, is that Caesars would need to announce changes to be effective more than a year from now, or simply “grandfather” certain players under the current system for a limited period of time. [What do you do, some wrote, with a person who has already earned 11,000 tier points since April 1 and expects Diamond status through March 31, 2013? Not much, other than restrict benefits, e.g., charge 10 comp dollars for entry into the Atlantic City Diamond Lounges (and maybe all Diamond Lounges throughout the country?).] It’s an interesting dilemma. . .continue to alienate your best players, or risk offending, i.e., losing, some of your lower-level players? I guess we just have to leave it up to the CET execs making the big bucks.
Children At Casino-Sponsored Events
There’s an old expression, “I just love having children for dinner – preferably roasted rare, and paired with a nice cabernet.” Seriously, I have nothing against children, but what were they doing both at the July 4th fireworks-viewing party at Caesars and the celebrity chef dinner at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City last month? Even the disclaimer on the back of the chef dinner’s invitation it states, “Must be 21 or older. . .to participate in any Caesars Entertainment promotion.”
Number One Complaint? Housekeeping
Of all the e-mails I receive each month, the number one complaint is about housekeeping – from the cleanliness of the rooms and hallways to the lack of amenities, e.g., notepads, ice bucket inserts (plastic bags), drinking glasses, “Do Not Disturb” signs, pens, coffee, laundry bags, etc. In fairness, these are the same complaints nagging non-casino hotels, as well. Despite “green initiatives” that save some time by not making housekeepers change sheets on a daily basis, corporate cutbacks have forced housekeepers to clean more rooms, and time constraints cause less attention to detail. While I agree with these complaints – and have lodged them myself, I also am tired of seeing dirty Room Service trays sitting in hallways for hours at a time, scratched up furniture and other painted surfaces, ripped sheets, and stained and soiled bedding “accessories” – I don’t know what you call those long pieces of fabric that cover the duvet. Last month during several stays at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, on one visit there was only a single glass in the bathroom, on others, coffee packets were not replaced (or weren’t in the room to begin with), there were no pads or pens, the “Do Not Disturb” sign was missing (causing an unwanted early wake-up call by a housekeeper), there were no laundry bags, no plastic bag liners for the ice bucket, the bottom sheet on my bed was ripped to shreds on the side, and then there was that aforementioned piece of soiled and stained green fabric adorning the foot of my bed. I’m no germaphobe, but even I couldn’t throw it off onto the floor fast enough. This is not what I would call an example of the “world-class accommodations” Senior Vice President & General Manager John D. Smith touts in his “A Few Words From The General Manager”. Also irritating is having to plug in the lamps on either side of the bed. In a proposal to potential investors several months ago, Caesars actually bragged about how much time housekeepers saved by not plugging in lamps they had unplugged in order to operate their vacuums! So, how do you feel? Send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider
Seven Stars Insider is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total Rewards®.