Counter-Rant: Imperial Palace

So I was recently searching for information on the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and I happened across David Robinson’s blog about the Imperial Palace in Biloxi, Mississippi. My guess is that Mr. Robinson is a pretty reasonable guy, but his rant makes him sound like a nut-job. I think I’m a pretty reasonable guy, but sometimes when I rant I sound like a nut-job, so I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt. Benefit-of-the-doubt notwithstanding, I’m going to counter-rant now. 🙂

The main theme of my counter-rant is “what did you expect to find in a post-Katrina Mississippi casino?” I also want to talk about second chances. I’ll quote excerpts of his original text, and comment in the middle, much like you might do in email.

My wife and I decided to go out for the evening Saturday Night. “ It’s been a year since the massive hurricane destroyed most of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the recovery and rebuilding effort is coming along nicely; with massive amounts of money from the re-opening casinos providing tax revenue and employment opportunities to the residents.

Good point. Although it had been a year, the recovery was pretty tough. As his descriptions of the conditions confirm, they’re not done recovering yet. And those “employment opportunities”? You can believe they’re not paying top wages. With unemployment as high as it is, there’s no need to pay high wages. People are pretty desperate to get a decent job, like a casino job.

The “I-P” as it likes to be called was one of the first casinos to re-open and in their rush to get back into business they neglected to include any semblance of opulence, luxury, or ventilation.

I wonder how much opulence and luxury was there to begin with. This ISN’T Vegas, WASN’T Vegas, and never will be Vegas. It’s the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. There’s nothing wrong with Mississippi, but on the list of grand, luxurious casinos, it doesn’t rank at all. It sounds like a case of mismatched expectations.

This casino doesn’t live up to that Vegas-image you might see on “CSI”, nor does it live up to that Native-American casino you saw on “Family Guy”.

Frankly, if TV, cartoons, and movies give you your idea of reality, you’ve got a lot to learn.

First, it was hot. Not warm, HOT—as in no ventilation, as in the A/C barely worked. Imagine a throng of thousands; thousands of mostly desperately broke and unwashed people thrown together for hours on end; now imagine them chain smoking, drinking endless rounds of alcohol, and sweating.

OK. No argument here. Probably really true.

Nope, James Bond in a tuxedo playing Baccarat was no where to be seen.

Well, somebody who buys a ten-dollar roll of quarters to play one at a time, will never see James Bond in a tuxedo playing $5000 a hand at Baccarat. I bet if you wanted to play a hundred dollars per hand at blackjack, you’d find the high-rollers room to be a lot more comfortable. Again, mismatched expectations. You expect the casino to spend its money pampering someone who comes in with a handful of dollars to spend? Why? As you attest, they can get throngs of dirty people to give their money freely with no pampering at all.

Second, we decided to have dinner first. “ Every other restaurant (I think there was 4) also had a wait of an hour or more.

There was 4? Watch the grammar, Dave. I believe in second chances, as you’ll see below. You use up your second and third chances in this one article alone. On a prime-time saturday night, whether you’re in Mississippi or Vegas, there’s gonna be a wait for dinner if you don’t have reservations. Again, mismatched expectations. Try going to a nice casino restaurant in Vegas on a Saturday night with no reservations. See how long you wait. James Bond in his tuxedo, playing $5000 per hand at Baccarat doesn’t wait. You and I, we either make reservations, or we wait.

We finally got on a waiting list at the Grill, and waited 40 minutes, but did manage to have a nice dinner with good service.

Kudos to you for giving them props where they deserve it.

She asks the cashier for a roll of quarters. The cashier says, “What you want quarters for, you making a phone call?”

A single roll of quarters. A whole ten dollars. That you’ll spend 25 cents at a time. Like I said before: this is not James Bond in a tuxedo betting $5000 per hand at Baccarat. This is the principal mismatch of expectations: these are piddly wagers that are barely worth the casino’s time, yet you’re frustrated that (during prime time on a Saturday night) you have to wait for food and suffer with non-opulent, non-luxurious conditions. You’re not even wagering as much as two movie tickets here. Now, maybe there would have been more to follow if things hadn’t gone so badly, but buying a whopping $10 in quarters does not typically entitle a patron to fancy treatment.

It seems that since we last visited a casino last year, they have done away with quarters or tokens, and now the machines only take paper money and pays off with a voucher ticket.

the machines pays. Strike two Dave. Subject, object agreement in plurality really isn’t your strong suit.

In the industry, this is called “TITO” for “Ticket In, Ticket Out.” I’m amazed that, in 2005 when you went before, you were able to find coin slots. Most of the big Vegas casinos switched to TITO a long time ago, and many out-of-the-way casinos did, too. My friends who play in a casino in Indiana say that it was TITO back in 2002 when they first went there. That jives with what I know of the industry, which has been steadily eliminating coin machines over the years. Sorry, but this is just the way the gaming industry has been headed for a long time. You happened to catch it late.

The cashier explains this by saying “Them machines don’t take nothing but dollar bills! You don’t need no quarters.”

Yup. Now, if that’s exactly what she said, that’s not insulting or rude. (The words, anyways. Anything can be said with a rude tone of voice, however).

So, my darling wife goes to a slot machine and puts in a dollar and wins 12 bucks.

As you say, James Bond at the Baccarat table this isn’t.

By this time though, she has thought about the line, “What you want quarters for, you making a phone call? Them machines don’t take nothing but dollar bills! You don’t need no quarters.”

Here’s the rub, right? This is the crux of the whole evening. My guess is that she was actually a bit embarrassed. She made a simple mistake of asking for quarters when they’re totally useless, and the casino employee mocked her and made her feel dumb. The casino employee was clearly in the wrong. There are an infinite number of nicer ways to say what she said. She could have said “You want quarters for the slot machines? Oh, I’m afraid they don’t take quarters any more. Just bills. But you can bring your tickets back here and I’ll cash them for you.” Right? That employee could have said any number of nice things, but chose to say something mean instead. One of the important things in life, however, is what we do with the choices we have. And it was at this point in the evening that you and your wife had a choice to make: complain, or suck it up.

I think you should have sucked it up. The employee was totally in the wrong. She was rude, she was mean, she lashed out at an innocent person making an innocent mistake. But you should have been the better person and demonstrated compassion and tolerance, rather than try to one-up the rude behavior.

Let’s think about some of the circumstances here. This casino employee has a pretty shitty job. Remember how bad you said that casino was? Hot, smelly, rude drunk people all over the place? Well she lives in it and works in it 8 hours a day. She’s working prime time on a Saturday night—a night most of us get to go out and have fun. And how much bling is she pulling down at this job? Minimum wage. They’d pay her less if it was legal. There aren’t many steady jobs to be had in the area, so they have way more candidates, even for sucky jobs, than they have openings. If she quits or is fired, there are a hundred people lined up for that one shitty cashier job.

This is post-Katrina Mississippi. If she lives close enough to that casino to work there, then she was probably pretty badly affected by the hurricane. And now she’s trying to repair her life with a shitty, second-shift, minimum wage job. Gee, I can’t imagine why she has a hard time putting on a cheery smile and calling everyone “honey” when they come up to her window.

So now you decide how to respond

She decides she didn’t like that tone, and goes back to the same cashier window to redeem her 12 dollar voucher and asks the cashier for her name.

I’m glad you wrote it that way. She decides that she didn’t like that tone. She chooses to go make trouble. That cashier’s life couldn’t get much worse, but you’ll try. The real thing I want to know, when making that kind of decision, is what was the good outcome that you’re hoping for?

I can’t imagine a good outcome. Is that cashier going to say “I’m sorry sweetheart, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”? I don’t think so, we’ve figured that much out. She’s having a bad day (or a bad life). Is the casino going to consider how she offended one of their high rollers (someone who plays $10 one quarter at a time)? Not likely. Who, really, WHO could come away from this confrontation feeling any better about anything? Did you? No. You came away so frustrated with a predictably blasĂ© response that you had to write a vitriolic blog about it. Did the employee “learn a lesson” or have any sort of epiphany thanks to your approach? No. She just got one more lesson of “man, this is a shitty job. I’d quit if I had an alternative.” And when you confront someone and say “what’s your name? I want to tell your supervisor that you were rude,” is there any reason to be surprised that you get a little resistance? Really: what was the possible good outcome from all this? For anyone?

The cashier apologizes profusely by saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about! I’ve never seen YOUR UGLY FACE BEFORE! YOU MUST be DRUNK!

OK. If the cashier was rude before, she has completely gone off the deep end here. I’m taking you at face value, Dave, and assuming that everything you recorded happened exactly as you say. She’s way wrong. That’s an insult and it’s mean. Let’s be clear, though, it was provoked. If she hadn’t been confronted with “what’s your name? I’m going to tell your boss,” she would have been gruff, but mechanical and would have given you your twelve dollar jackpot with no insults. That’s all you can really hope for in these situations. Your expectations are all wrong.

I think it is highly likely that the cashier had no recollection of talking to your wife, too. Given the hundreds of people she must deal with on a hot, smelly, busy Saturday, she probably tries not to think about any of them. Like I said, this is not a job where she pampers a high-paying customer. She just deals the cash in and out. It is likely that she pays no attention at all to someone’s face or voice or anything. Just count the checks, validate the tickets, pay the cash.

My wife collects her 12 dollars from another cashier and gets the name of the rude cashier from her badge on her shirt, as she turns to leave.

Good thinking: looking at the badge. I think you’ll notice that every casino employee wears them, even the management, if they’re working on the floor.

Now, my wife “still turns heads [blah blah blah].” Also, “we have a Culligan water cooler in our house and she drinks about 12 glasses a day. [blah blah blah]

Come on. By now you must be tired of me beating up on you about the ten dollars and the James Bond comment. Why? Because I took you literally when it was really a figurative comment. You didn’t really expect tuxedos and opulent furnishings. You just didn’t expect it to look as bad as it did. You exaggerated for effect. Me, too. I took your exaggeration literally and then went overboard with it. Why? To point out that it’s a dumb way to make an argument. So, when you’re insulted, just take it as the insult it is. There is no need to defend it on a point-by-point basis and say “I’m not ugly and I’m not drunk.” Duh. If she said “Yo momma’s fat” you shouldn’t discuss your mother’s weight, either. It’s an insult Dave, let it pass.

When I heard about this episode, I immediately took my wife to the front desk of the “Imperial Palace Sucks” and asks to speak with someone about this cashier’s rude behavior.

At this point, you’re doing the right thing, but remember that we got here because you went to make trouble in the first place. If you didn’t go up to the cage with demands for name, rank, and serial number, you wouldn’t have gotten an insult at all. Although you had been treated rudely once, there was no way to improve the situation. No additional rudeness or politeness on your part would repair that event. The best you could do would be to avoid the rude cashier and hope to find a nicer one. The worst you could do is what you did: go be rude right back.

I was offered a form to fill out, but declined and asked to speak to a manager personally. After a few minutes, my wife and I was greeted by a Casino host.

You was greeted, huh? Strike three.

We asked if we could speak privately about a rude employee, but was told that where we stood would be fine.

You was told, too, huh? Strike four. Look: everybody has bad days. People deserve second chances. Nobody needs to be beaten up over a single mistake. Just like your wife shouldn’t have been treated rudely just because she asked about obsolete quarters, the cashier shouldn’t be abused just because she had a bad night and snapped. You shouldn’t be beaten up because you goofed in a blog and used some bad grammar. I’m not going to spell-check or grammar-check my writing here, so there will probably be at least an error or two in it. Cut me some slack.

The casino host took down our name and address, the name of the cashier, and then weakly apologized by saying, “I’m sorry you experienced that, we’ve never received a complaint about that person; I’m not saying it didn’t happen, and we will address it.” That’s it.

This is where I again start to wonder: what did you think would happen? Did you expect the host to march to the cashier and say “You were rude. You’re fired. Get out.”? Did you expect her to walk with you over to the cashier and treat the cashier like a 4-year-old kid: “Miss Cashier, you hurt Mrs. Robinson’s feelings. We don’t use naughty words like that. Please apologize to Mrs. Robinson. You’re going to have a “time-out” in the break room for 45 minutes (one minute for every year you are old).“? What could you possibly and realistically expect?

Even if the host was going to take significant disciplinary actions against that cashier, it’s none of your business. You do not have any right to see it happen in front of you. It’s a private matter between the employee and the employer. So if you were hoping for some victorious moment where you’d see the cashier get her come-uppance, you should plan to be disappointed. It would be very poor form indeed (and almost certainly illegal) to make private employment disciplinary actions public.

Oh yeah, she did say, “I hope you give us a second chance.”

Exactly. Second chances, Dave. People deserve them. You, me, your wife, the cashier. Everybody deserves them. One strike does not make an out.

I then told her, that I was not impressed with her apology

Ugh! The host did not get on her knees and beg your forgiveness. You sound like the great Patriarchs of the Bible. “So wondrous is my wrath that it will not be satisfied.”

I thought that the cashier needed to be moved to a NON-customer service position

Yes. I can see where your one visit per year, playing tens of dollars each visit would give you the broad vision of how the casino should handle its employees. And, like I said, for the employer to tell you what the disciplinary action was going to be would almost certainly violate employment laws of one kind or another.

You expected, as a result of two rude comments to a single patron, that the casino management would immediately demote or move that employee? All I can say is that I’m glad I don’t work for you. You know, I do good work, but I have been known to put my foot in my mouth every once in a while: with colleagues, customers, managers, etc. Thankfully, Dave, they don’t react as you would like: They don’t immediately fire me or remove me to a back-office position after a single mistake. I have no idea if you ever had a boss treat you this way, but I hope you would quit if they did.

and that I would be writing a full-fledge-righteous-indignation blog post on this very night and to please inform her bosses to please read “The Imperial Palace Sucks” at “On The Road With Dave”

That’s “full-fledged,” Dave. Strike five. Anyways, when I read your blog out loud to some friends (who were staying with me at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas), this was the line that made them snort out loud. I think the only threat more terrifying than “I’m going to blog about this” is “I’m going to tell my mom!” And I’m sure the casino management all went to their computers with trembling fingers and searched for your blog entry—afraid of what horrors they might find, yet unable live with the terrible uncertainty of not knowing what you had said in your blog.

Right after that, I asked her one last question, “Could you give me directions to The Biloxi Grand Casino?”

Way to stick it to ‘em. They’re going to miss your ten dollars. How will they possibly survive? Actually, if you did anything to hurt them it was by making their salaried casino host spend time talking with you. That was valuable time that she could have spent doing something productive. You were a lost cause by the time she spoke to you. You had probably already vowed to be self-righteous and never come to that casino again. So she was wasting her time to even talk to you. That cost them in salary dollars. Your piddly wagers are nothing to them. Your storming out simply made room for a bunch of other suckers who will throw away hard-earned cash—cash they can nary afford to lose. Whoopdie doo. Way to stick it to the man.

In closing, I just want to add that I-P may stand for Imperial Palace, but I think the more appropriate choice would be:

Inconsiderate People, Incredibly Poor, and Icky-Poo.

Actually IP doesn’t stand for “Imperial Palace” any more, because when they sold the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas to Harrah’s (in 2005), they were probably required to change the name of the Biloxi property (which was not sold to Harrah’s). They probably sold the name “Imperial Palace” to Harrahs, and thus had to change the Biloxi to “IP Casino, Spa and Resort.”

Holy cow, though. Reading your blog I come to understand that you’re a stand-up comedian? You’re kidding right? “Icky-Poo”? That’s it? That’s the best you can do? Good grief.

So, in summary, two points:

  • Set your expectations right. Mississippi is not Monte Carlo. Ten dollars in slots play does not get you James Bond treatment. If you show up to a popular restaurant on a Saturday night without a reservation, you will wait. Casino employees with shitty lives, shitty paychecks, and shitty jobs may actually be rude sometimes. Amazingly, some of these folks are really decent and rise above every excuse to be rude and are really pleasant. Still, if you catch one on a bad day, don’t be so shocked. It happens.
  • People deserve second chances, even when they do rude things. There was no value in berating or confronting that cashier. There is no value in boycotting a casino based on a single unpleasant night. There is no reason your wife deserved rude treatment just for asking a simple question. She deserved a second chance, and so does everybody else.