Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not So Grand

I stayed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas eight or nine years ago and didn't like it. The place was too big, too crowded, and not nearly as customer-oriented as it should have been. When I left, I planned on never returning as a guest.

Unfortunately, I was back there this weekend for an event located in their conference center, so it made sense to stay in their hotel. Although several years have passed, the place has not gotten any better. They're still bringing in plenty of people, but they don't seem to care that those customers face frustration at every turn.

A few examples:

There are three elevator banks that take you from the lobby to your room, with each bank targeted to certain floors. The idea is to allow you to skip the lower floors if your room is on a higher floor. In execution, however, none of the banks had all of its elevators operating, so that when I came down from my room one afternoon at 5pm, there were over 100 people waiting to get on the two elevators available. These were people who were returning from a day at the pool, or convention meetings, or had just checked in, and all they wanted to do was go upstairs to change and get ready for a night out in Las Vegas -- but first, they had to wait up to 20 minutes just to get on the elevator. That's unacceptable.

One morning, I thought I'd grab a quick meal at the Grand Buffet, which is right next to the Sports Book and the Poker Room. When I arrived, there were at least 150 people in line, and things were moving very slowly. The hostess was working alone, taking each party of one or two or five people to their table and then returning for the next one, and she was moving at a very leisurely pace. This, despite the many people who were waiting and the dozens of tables that were empty and available inside. Eventually, the woman ahead of me got too frustrated (at the same time I did) and left the line. We both went to demand a refund from the cashier, who apologized but said she could stamp our receipts as "invited guests," which would allow us to skip the rest of the line and jump ahead to the front. This didn't seem very fair, but I was hungry, so I accepted the offer, as did the woman. We were each seated rather quickly, but within minutes, I wish I'd gone somewhere else, as the food turned out not to be worth the wait. The items that were supposed to be warm (e.g. eggs, pancakes, french toast) were uniformly cold, and the items that were supposed to be cold (fruit) were uniformly warm. There's nothing I like better for breakfast than cold scrambled eggs and warm cantaloupe. A horrible experience.

As I exited, I went next door to the sports book to bet on some NFL games. This was the first Sunday of the season, and there were lots of people in line waiting to get their wagers down before the first kickoff. You'd think that a sports book with some 15 betting windows would have them all open at a time like this, to accommodate all of the people who wanted to give the casino their money. You'd be wrong. The MGM sports book had exactly 4 windows open, causing the line of customers to lead out of the sports book and around the corner. If I'd had time to get to another casino and place my bet there before the games started, I would have, but I was stuck, and just barely got them down in time after waiting for more than 20 minutes.

Was everything terrible about my MGM experience? Well, I still like the incredibly soft games in the poker room, where I was able to run over the table in three separate sessions. I may return for that, but I see no other reason to ever stay, eat, or wager in the MGM Grand ever again.

They must be bringing in a lot of new customers, because I can't believe they get a lot of repeat business. Those who have experienced the place, can't have been in a rush to go back. If they expect to get my money in the future, they're going to have a long wait -- a concept the MGM Grand is far too familiar with.