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I'm in Las Vegas for a Penumbra meeting this week. We're at the NYNY hotel and casino, which is very interesting on the outside, and to its credit is creatively and attractively designed in the casino area. Vegas is what it is though. A giant machine designed to suck as much cash as possible from the vast hoards of occasional middle class vacationers. Chief among its tactics is offering the illusion of luxury and opulence when in fact there is very little real luxury to be had.
The real win in marketing Vegas has been in selling the definition of luxury and wealth as being one giant club scene all the time (e.g. "Entourage" -- though it started back with the "Rat Pack"). Vegas lets every trailer park living mid 20 year old girl spend a weekend dressed up like a James Bond girl drinking herself silly to a never ending club beat -- and has her believing that this is what luxury is all about. I keep thinking it has to crash at some point, but I always underestimate the sheer number of these people willing to buy in.
I'm in a hotel room that's called a "Spa Suite" -- an upgraded room which features a ridiculous 4 person hot tub as part of the living space -- on the 34th floor. Sounds nice, right? This "upgraded" room is designed to give the appearance of luxury. What's the reality?
The room is comfortable but dated - with the furnishings you'd find in any decent airport business hotel. Sure, there are cut stone tile floors in the bathroom -- but they're just cheap, poorly matched 12 inch squares available in the bargain area at any home store. They're cheap to maintain for the hotel, too. The room has no coffee maker, no premium channels or extended cable channels on the TV -- both of which you'll find in almost any cheap business hotel anywhere in the world. Good TV, Coffee, comfortable work desks -- these are things that will encourage to enjoy and spend time in your room. These places don't want you to do that. You want coffee? Come to the casino floor and get some. You want entertainment, come spent a couple of hundred bucks for a 2 hour show. There's pay per view of course, and room service, and anything else you could ever want to pay for.
What's the result? The result is clearly visible at 2am with broke, drunk people stumble back to their rooms. The result is me having to call security at 3am because the couple next door decided to escalate their yelling match until the guy started throwing punches at his wife. (That's not something I'm willing to stand by and let happen, but calling security is better than knocking on the door myself, because that tends to escalate the problem). The result is overwhelmed, drained, used up people drifting home as soon as their value to this place has been completely sucked dry.
Vegas isn't luxury. It's a cheap and cheezy imitation of luxury. I can't wait to go home.
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