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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Leaving Las Vegas.

After 4 days of conferences, I just left Las Vegas. I couldn’t be happier.

Las Vegas should be ideal for a person like me. It’s arguably the U.S. capital of service businesses, hosting experiences that range from the most luxurious to the most illicit. Service interactions are happening everywhere you look, 24 / 7.

My problem is, I don’t trust Las Vegas. And I don't think I'm alone on that.

Every transaction I initiated came with hidden service fees. Several governmental branches are investigating banks’ use of service fees, when truthfully, the service fees in Vegas are much more egregious. Took money out of an ATM: A fee to the ATM service provider, and a fee to the hotel it was located, in addition to the fees I pay to my bank. Paid for breakfast with debit card, and got a $0.50 service fee added. Took a taxi, with a card reader conveniently installed in the back seat, and paid by visa: $3.00 in extra fees.

It extends beyond payment for services, to the point that you feel that every interaction is being manipulated for you to unknowingly spend more that you intended. It’s justified by otherwise reputable companies with logic of “Hey, everyone else does it. Not doing it would be leaving money on the table.” As a result, I’m constantly on the lookout for the next service scam.

Las Vegas is having a tough time, no doubt. An absolutely epic housing bubble and an economic downturn rivaling some of the worst in the country.

It’s easy to say that tourism revenue is down because of the economy in the other 49 states and around the world. I wonder if people aren’t slowly becoming tired of being nickel & dimed by scams & service fees attached to otherwise legitimate interactions, and looking to destinations where they’re not constantly on guard for someone trying to slide in a few more dollars of charges, just for the privilege of using their services.

Trust is the absolutely most important element, the foundation, of a successful businesses. When your offering is intangible, and the only thing people are left with is the feeling they had after using you, it is absolutely crucial.

I think that Las Vegas has developed an trust issue. Travelers expect that they will be charged more for interactions with no additional value added. They expect to be on guard against being “taken”.

I think travelers, concumers really, are looking for more forthrightness in their interactions - that the value they recieve will be reflected in the value they pay for. I think as the economy comes back, people will be slower to return to a place where there money is a target from the moment they get off the plane.

Maybe it’s time to change the “What happens here, stays here.” slogan. It might not be as good for business as they think.

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