Sunday, October 21, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

The final blog entry from Vegas, or rather the Virgin Atlantic flight that speeding us back to Blighty; finding ourselves ahead of the game more from prudence than any gambling success we have shouted for an upgrade – or at least succumbed to the canny selling of the exit seats, with their vast legroom, for a mere $110 each.

So with this laptop perched on the ingeniously designed tray that folds out of the armrest, I am brimming with thought on the ‘Bright Light City’ we have left twinkling in the Nevada desert behind us.

I like Vegas. From the gaudy facades to the chiming slot machines, there is actually a rather charming honest dishonesty to the place; it is so off the chart that it creeps back on near the top again.

I had always held Vegas, in all its vulgar glory, as a pinnacle of customer service. When I first visited almost 10 years ago the obsessive pursuit of every spare cent a gambler had – and plenty they didn’t – contributed to making the client king.

From the ever present cocktail waitress who would saunter up with a smile if you so much as slowed near a slot machine or gaming table, through to the universal belief that queues were bad because queuing people don’t spend anything.

However, as surely as the sprawling buffets have been replaced with quality and often gourmet restaurants, customer service has suffered as Vegas has become an entertainment centre as much as it is a gambling Mecca.

What’s more the boasted 98% occupancy rates on the Las Vegas strip and often beyond have further gone to reinforce the arrogance that allow hotels cut corners on customer service safe in the knowledge that starry eyed punters will still keep coming.

Take The Venetian for example; accurately marketed as one of the most luxurious hotels on The Strip, its often shoddy customer service – from the snaking queues to schoolboy errors – we were missing robes for example and asked for some to be brought. The first time we got six new sets of towels and the next we got a new pair of pillows – and each time Priority Room Service would leave a message cheerfully checking we had received the robes! Eventually, a kindly maid sorted it out.

Add to that the day the room was not made up, the surliness of too many staff and it is little wonder that we are confident we will not return to The Venetian.

However, all that said, we would still return to Las Vegas, because for all the diminished fawning over everyone from the lowliest gambler to the record breaching whales, this is still a very entertaining city.

But of course, they clearly know that.

Incidentally, a special mention in dispatches must go to the cheerful air stewardess who sat in the jump seat opposite and kept us entertained throughout the flight: Sophia Moret was a credit to Virgin Atlantic and more chipper than some cabin crew I've encountered. We are particularly indebted to her advice on how to deal with seat stealing bandits who were paying attention to the free $110 seat next to us!

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