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The $20 Trick Is Screwing You

By MikeE on Tuesday, 5th October 2010 12:25pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 14


Quick tutorial for those who don't know: the $20 trick is basically when you sandwich a $20 bill between credit card and ID at check in, smile, wink, and give a verbal hand job to the front desk clerk in hopes of a room upgrade. When I first heard about the gimmick, there were stories of standard rooms knocked up to suites, champagne and chocolates waiting in the room, and line passes galore. The front desk agent would actually work for you. They'd type shit into their computers, go to the mystery back room and talk shit to a mystery person, and make a phone call to casino management to see what shit they can unblock in their room inventory. They'd physically do something. That was 2002. Those were the days when the stupid shtick was worth a damn.

But guess what? Now you're being screwed.

Reading review after review of how well the tip has worked out, I'm simply overwhelmed by the number of people who think they "hit the jackpot" for a high floor or a good view. Um, if I paid good money to stay in the Augustus Tower at Caesars and there's a high floor room facing south that's clean and not blocked off by a host on a relatively quiet weeknight, then aren't I obligated to the damn thing? Doesn't every resort claim to "accommodate requests to the best of their abilities"? Am I supposed to smile when you tell me, "Good news, I found you something facing the strip!"? Am I supposed to believe I've been upgraded when your nearly-bankrupt, 50% occupancy-running, Pelli-designed, 4004-room behemoth hotel (not mentioning any names here) has put me near the elevators? In other words, I'm tipping you to do the wee bit above bare minimum and scroll a little on the computer screen in front of you? Come on!

"JACKPOT! The front desk agent did her fucking job and got me a better version of the room that they have blocks of hundreds of already open!"

Look, I don't mind if at the time of booking you're charging extra for two sets of windows on a corner room or asking a little more for a view that's truly spectacular, but to give me a better version of the room category I already booked and claim it's an "upgrade" is rape on my intelligence. And frankly, save from rooms on the southwestern-most end of Encore (majority within the Tower Suites) or a north facing room in the Fiji tower of Mandalay Bay, there isn't an accommodation in the city whose view is spectacular enough to warrant a little extra dough from me, especially when I'm already spending most my time at Mandarin Bar or Foundation Room anyway.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but considering how quickly we here at VT and others like us get cease and desist letters and piss off management, I'm fairly certain that every casino - from Excalibur to Encore - has caught on to the $20 trick and is trained to make you believe you're being taken good care of.

My advice? Do some research and cut the bullshit. An upgrade isn't an upgrade until amenities and/or floor plans change. You're far more likely to get what you want if you go balls out with a genuine smile and say: "Do you have any [specific name of a reasonable upgrade you're looking for] rooms? I promise I'll take care of you." Standard room at Mirage? Specify Tower Deluxe with a view of the pool (because it includes a good portion of the strip). *That*, complete with its larger bathroom, private elevators, and separate jetted tub is worth $20 for a couple night. Staying in the Forum Tower at Caesars? Ask for Augustus and settle for Palace.

Be straightforward and do your homework or else the only "trick" is on you.

Tagged: front desk tip   rant   james bond   


Comments & Discussion:

Thank you, Mike.

If the person confirms you have a view of the Strip, THEN tip them $20 when you're done. The "$20 Trick" is simply tipping people who have yet to perform a service (and aren't obligated to), and even if it's effective it simply creates an arms race where only people shellacking out a wad of cash the moment they walk up to the desk have any chance of a nice room.

It seems to me to be even dumber to use it when occupancy is down and the city has more rooms than customers.

Often wondered if this trick was really worth it. Thanks Mike. About what I thought. Better to give the bartender the 20 after ordering the first round of drinks. Always seem to get good value for this tip.

i find at wynn, if you ask if they have upgrades they give you the following:

1.) $25.00 panoramic room
2.) $50.00 tower room
3.) $150.00 parlor room
4.) $250.00 salon.

is this the same as the $20.00 trick

I tend to not fall in love with most of the 'views' from the strip, unless I'm in a resort with Floor to ceiling windows, most 'great' views suck in my opinion. I tend to rarely ask anymore for a strip view and if I get it I'm pleasantly surprised and consider it a good omen. Having said that, I've never done the $20 trick or even thought about trying it. The one time I think I asked for a Strip view room and an early in the morning check in, I tried to tip a PH clerk and was told they weren't allowed to accept it.

I think there are a fair share that 'tip' for a view and I'm in agreement with you on that, the $20 trick has turned into a way to get a view of the strip, and it's not really an upgrade. Although the resorts will be happy to tell you it is, ever since Park Place started charging a nightly upgrade fee for views, it's happened across the strip. Heck the IP charges for pool view according to a host there as well.

I find it is better to ask if you can get an upgrade as you are checking in works better than slipping someone a 20 on the odd chance I will get a better room. With empty rooms more common than the pornslappers every 10 feet on the Strip use the 20 for a t-shirt at the hotel gift shop.

Late night post!

The amusing bit is that at high end places, they don't even give you the opportunity to try and do the trick. Literally. And then you feel stupid and then you are overwhelmed with the feeling of what the 20 dollar trick really is: a bribe.

My take on the $20 dollar trick has softened quite a bit over the last few years. Now when someone gives me truly great service in a place I don't expect, or if I make a request that requires additional effort, I give a tip. At theHotel several years ago I not only had an early check-in with my Mom, but I also made the reservation clerk switch our rooms around so my Mom could have the strip view _after_ she had already keyed me in with the best view. I was apologetic, thankful, and gave out a nice $50 tip.

I find that I feel better about myself when I'm polite, ask nicely, talk to the clerk with respect, make a request and see how it goes. Request granted with politeness and respect? Tip. Polite, friendly and gave good service? Tip. Clerk rolled their eyes at my small request for upgrade availability? No tip.

There was this older fatter blonde lady at the "VIP window" at the Sahara who still gave me a terrible room after the tip trick. She was so ungrateful, she wasn't doing me any favors. Avoid her at all costs.

Great piece, Mike! Your advice is spot-on. I cringe whenever I hear someone recommend the "$20 trick," and I'm convinced most of those who tell tales of getting bumped from a standard room to a suite or villa are completely full of shit.

I agree with Mike's notion that the $20 trick used to work, but has fallen out of favor with desk clerks. I stopped trying it about 3 years ago when a Caesar's clerk flipped my folded $20 back at me and drolly said, "That's the third 'sandwich' I've had today."

But. I now use something of a modified version. I hand my license and credit card to the clerk, and then I not-so-discretely also hold onto a $20 as I lean on the counter awaiting service. If the service warrants the $20 tip, they get it. If it doesn't, I pocket it. No lose situation. On subsequent trips to Encore recently, Clerk A got the tip for fulfilling my request for a Panoramic room and a line pass for the buffet, while Clerk B did not for refusing both.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm so glad someone finally said it. I feel so sorry for people who talk as if they've gotten one over on somebody with the "good ol' $20 trick". What a joke.

When I checked into the Stardust for the final two nights Oct 30-31 2006, I got a top floor room with a south view just for the asking... Bring back the old style places with customer service, not false glitz monoliths where you have to grease palms just to get someone to do their job.

Let me start by saying that, yes, most of you are probably right about the unnecessary need to do the $20 trick. However, let me share a different perspective. I've been doing the trick for the past 4 years, and each time I've tried it I've received what I would call an "upgrade". I usually book the standard room but end up with a higher floor, strip views, line passes, etc. Twice at the Bellagio, I've seen people get turned away from fountain view rooms at the same time the desk clerk saying yes to me.

Regardless if it makes fiscal sense or expected levels of customer service, you shouldn't discount the psychological aspect of the $20 trick. For many people, during that one moment in your life, you're doing something against the rules. We do it because we're excited to be in Vegas and when we're in Vegas we all become something a little different. In my opinion, I see it as harmless fun. I say let the mystique carry on, the thrill of thinking that you're doing something that you're not supposed to. Let the minimum wage desk clerks get an extra buck or two. Put it this way, it's typically my first bet of the trip and whether or not the clerk is "obligated" to help me, it's nice to pretend that for one second, I had the advantage...not the house. :)

Since most of my stays are off Strip now, the view issue in a moot point for me. Which means I'd be looking for a true room upgrade. The standard of measure in this case would be 1. Larger, and 2. Separate shower and tub. So I could still have reason to utilize 'the trick'. I'm with Misnomer here. Instead of the credit card, drivers license panini, the twenty will be just visible in my closed hand on the counter in front of the clerk, or perhaps peeking noticeably out of a shirt pocket. The gratuity will only be provided upon the request for a better room being granted. And on the off chance I were to find, upon entering the room, I got screwed, I am absolutely not beyond returning to the desk and embarrassing the shit out of 'my friend'.

Well sometimes you gamble and you win and sometimes you gamble and you lose. And thats what the $20 trick is....a gamble. I've heard of people being upgraded to Penthouse Suites and i've heard people getting absolutely nothing and losing their $20 "tip".

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