Can you tip or schmoze a robot machine into a room deal in Las Vegas?
One of the first things I learned from my Mom was that you should always tip in Las Vegas. See, Mom worked for United Airlines for 30 years and was in the travel business for 45 of her 84 years (and counting) on this Earth. But even before we set foot in Vegas, Mom told me not just that I was supposed to tip, but how much: “One dollar for every bag you had,” she told me, and 20 percent per meal unless the service was special.
Mom could, and still can, get a great room deal and awesome service just by saying the right thing to a Vegas casino worker – Reno, too. Call it “the gift of gab” or whatever, but she’s got the midas touch when it comes to Vegas and Reno casino employees. Talking and tipping has obviously rubbed off on me, and it’s paid off in rewards like this Flamingo Hotel room with an awesome view of Las Vegas Strip…
Indeed, tipping, to this day, is part of Las Vegas culture. A search for “Las Vegas” and “tipping” in Google reveals a publication called “Guide To Tipping In Las Vegas” as the first result. It reads, in part, as follows:
Guide to Tipping in Las Vegas
Gambling and the Dealers. A good rule of thumb is, if you’re winning and the dealer is making the experience enjoyable, you tip. …
Casino Waitresses. While you are gambling, waitresses will come around with drinks. …
Taxis. Tipping a taxi driver $2 is customary below fifteen dollars. …
At the Buffet. …
But tipping itself has come under attack, and seemingly at the same time as the rise in the use of machines to provide key customer service routines people have done. In Las Vegas, this blogger’s experience this year was that standing in line to check in to your reserved room at Ballys, more so than Flamingo, presents you with a choice of working with a person or using a machine. My elderly Mom, who joined me on my 10th year of coverage of CES Las Vegas, this year, insisted we use a person and not a machine. I’m glad we did, because we got an excellent room.
Tipping And Workers Are Under Attack In Las Vegas; Racism?
Something to be considered in this assessment of the impact of automation on the Las Vegas labor economy: when tipping was cool, many of the casino workers were white. Consider this entry by OnlineNevada.org:
Over the course of the twentieth century, economic opportunities encouraged black migration to the Las Vegas area, but racial discrimination curtailed aspirations for decent employment. Partnership in a ranch attracted John Howell, the first black man known to own property in Southern Nevada; however the railroad, gaming, and federal projects drew most African Americans to Las Vegas. By 1910, out of the 945 residents of Las Vegas, forty were black. By mid-century, racism in Las Vegas was so onerous that it had achieved national prominence, causing Nevada to be branded as the “Mississippi of the West.” Over time black activism and political pressure succeeded in whittling down racial barriers. As of 2008, more than 125,000 blacks, or at least nine percent of the total population, live and work in the Las Vegas Valley.
And over that time, tipping, has come under attack. Hard data on this is hard to come by, but anecdotal accounts abound, from the blog Vital Vegas, to a presentation on the growing number of establishments in America that have “no tipping” policies. But while it’s all but impossible to find such approaches in Las Vegas, it’s hard to argue that the very reduction in workers due to automation will automatically result in fewer places to leave a tip.
And then, there’s that “racism in tipping” problem. According to a 2008 and 2014 study, black servers get smaller tips, In Pacific Standard, Tom Jacobs writes “both black and white patrons at a moderately priced Midwestern restaurant tipped black servers less than their white counterparts. This disparity was found in spite of the fact that patrons reported being more pleased with the black servers’ work,” referring to the results of the two studies.
So, with that, it’s fair to assert that the increasing push to use machines rather than pay service workers in Las Vegas is borne of a combination of racism, cost-cutting, and reent Las Vegas visitor declines that hurt hotel revenues. No workers, no money, no tips. And the resort fees that Las Vegas hoteliers are charging aren’t helping matters. There’s ample evidence the charge of up to $40 or more per room night is making Las Vegas a less attractive destination than in the past.
As Vital Vegas has argued, lowering the giant resort fees would be a step in the right direction. But another one would be curbing the use of machines in replacing workers.
Las Vegas Culture Is Under Attack By Automation
Las Vegas was built on relationships of all kinds, and continues to be ran based on how people get along. It’s a true service economy, which is another way of saying the very livelyhood of people rests on how they treat someone else. But what if they’re gone? What if they’re replaced by machines? If that happens – if your favorite Las Vegas bartender or driver or card dealer or server are all replaced by an automated process, a robot – Las Vegas itself dies.