Is the $20 Las Vegas sandwich for real?
September 28, 2011 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Is the twenty dollar sandwich a myth? We are headed to THEHotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and I'm wondering if it is worthwhile trying this trick.

It's really not my style to try and ask for more than what we've paid for and I wonder if this sort of bribe or whatever you want to call it is something that is perhaps a little tacky to try at a hotel like the one we are staying at. After a decent amount of searching and signing up for sites like "groupon" I have yet to find the great deals on shows, meals or hotels that people rumour to exist. Do hotel clerks really have the ability to offer complimentary upgrades? Do they have reduced price tickets or better yet free tickets - and how really do I go about getting these?
posted by YukonQuirm to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (17 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Vegas is the land of tips and throwing your money around to get what you want.

I always offer the $20 between my ID and Credit Card in Vegas, while inquiring about complimentary upgrades. It's worked for me quite a few times (upgrades from the cheapest room to nice suites/penthouses at mediocre hotels on the strip), although it definitely did NOT work on my last trip to Mandalay Bay.

I've never had them take my money and not give me an upgrade, although YMMV. This past trip to Mandalay Bay the guy gave me my money back and gave me a few free buffet vouchers.

Just smile big and ask politely by handing them the sandwich and you never know what you'll get... it's not like they'll charge you MORE for asking.
posted by adamk at 5:28 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've worked in the sales (not hospitality) industry for years and there is always something that I can throw in for free for a difficult customer or for someone who needs a little extra TLC. One thing is that hardly anyone ever asks for anything free. You might as well ask, all they can do is say no. I can't really comment on extra tipping, since that doesn't apply to my situation.
posted by sacrifix at 5:29 PM on September 28, 2011

Yes, it is a little gauche. Will it work? Maybe. But is it a little declassé? Yes. Your tipping budget might be better spent on the concierge (reservations, good seats, etc.). Re: the desk clerk, maybe just ask and see what they come up with.

In my experience, tipping is best learned by watching a real expert at work. But, failing that, the classy code phrase is "I'll take care of you." Then, at the end of your visit, you do just that. Let's say you're with a picky aunt who doesn't like her room. Once you're already settled, you go downstairs and say to a manager, "Listen, Ms. Moore, I wonder if there's anything we can do for Aunt Hilda. It's her 75th birthday weekend, and she's always a little persnickety about X. Fantastic. I really appreciate it. I'll take care of you. Thank you!"
posted by skbw at 5:34 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Worked for me about 3-4 years ago at that exact hotel for a week's stay. The clerk palmed the money as well as a street magician doing a card trick and put me in a corner suite, albeit on a lower floor. The room ended up having a mechanical problem so when I called to report it they kicked me up to the same room on a higher floor with a view of the strip.
posted by true at 5:36 PM on September 28, 2011

There is no downside to trying. You get a great story if the clerk takes the 20 and does nothing, you get an awesome upgrade if it works out, and if you get your money back, you haven't lost anything.

I've never been to Vegas, but if television can be trusted, it's not a place to worry about being gauche. It is a place to throw money around, live a little closer to the edge than you normally do, and find stories worth sharing once you leave.
posted by jsturgill at 5:42 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes? It works, and works well. We got a great room upgrade at MGM Grand with this trick back in 2008.

Sometimes you're doing it at the wrong place, like Wynn or The Signature at MGM Grand, where they definitely do not do tipping-upgrades because everything is so super already. Sometimes it's because you get someone new on the job, who innocently asks "Did you mean to slip me this $20?" (True story, and he's the one who upgraded the hell out of our room.)

Never, though, have I seen it not work because the tippee is a dick (unless the tipper is being a dick as well).
posted by infinitewindow at 5:44 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A few months back at Imperial Palace I got a super early check in, and a room on the highest non penthouse floor, with a great view, for a $20 tip. It works if it's in their power.
posted by BryanPayne at 5:45 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: Do hotel clerks really have the ability to offer complimentary upgrades?

I did when I worked in Las Vegas and you didn't need to tip but it would help. It will depend on occupancy and the availability of upgraded rooms. At Mandalay Bay high rollers get first dibs and the casino will have the hotel hold rooms for such people (sometimes they'll release them back to the hotel, other times not. They're usually in the computer as not being available so if it was showing as available in the computer it would be available). Most of the time your room is assigned before you check in by people in the back to make the process faster for both you and the staff. And real assholes could get downgraded to shittier rooms.

If the people were cool to me (that is not acting like assholes so someone entitled to get something for nothing) I'd see what I could do. If the upgraded rooms were full there's not a lot I could do. And if you're staying a week, your chances go way down for having an upgraded room for the whole stay. When you put someone paying a lower rate into a premium room you run the risk of having to say no to someone willing to pay and those are the kinds of things the manager will get wind of. The manager is A-OK with an upgrade fixing a customer service problem, but if you're giving aware rooms where money can be made you'll make their numbers look bad.

At the least, you might get an a better room in the same rate class (or better). That is, better view, higher floor, farther from elevator, etc. A room that was recently remodeled, etc. If you're only there for a night you might get upped to the next class of room or a suite. Maybe two nights during the week if there's not going to be a big convention in town. But again, in a casino hotel the casino gets first pick so weekends will probably all be blocked in advanced. As the players confirmed they were coming, they'd release more rooms.

Some show tickets are wholesaled and so there's discounts you can get from various booths on the strip in addition to the concierge at your hotel. But the really popular ones are going to still be $$$.

The easiest ways to get comps for the best rooms, shows, clubs in town is to be really really rich and spend a lot of money in the casino. Of course it isn't free since you had to loose money to get the stuff.

The bell captains at the hotel I worked at made over $100K a year on tips. And some could get you anything you wanted. I mean anything.

This isn't just a Vegas thing. The front desk person (and the same goes for the person at the gate ticket counter at the airport) has a lot of control over where you end up.
posted by birdherder at 5:46 PM on September 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

Tips can get you soap. Lots and lots of it.
posted by Houstonian at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

It sometimes works. Sometimes.

- It depends on the season: hotels are packed in all but the middle of summer and the dead of winter. There are many rooms available.
- It depends on your length of stay, and what days of the week you stay goes through: room availability goes down for the weekends.
- It depends on the mood of the desk clerk checking you in. It always pays to be friendly and unrushed.
- It depends on your history with the property, and rating as a player. The more times you've stayed with them, and/or the higher your rating as a player, the more easily an upgrade will come.
- It depends on whether your stay is a comped/discounted stay from an offer in the mail. Other than higher floor, or newer towers, you'll unlikely get the next higher tier in terms of rooms without it being tied to your play at the property (ie: you might get an upgrade, but it'll only be "free" if you gamble a certain amount during that trip).
- And yes, it can depend on the cash sandwich. Observe the interaction between other guests checking in, their attitudes and expectations, their conversation with the desk clerk, the desk clerks' conversations amongst themselves as a they go through screen after screen of trying to make everyone happy, and with their manager as well. It's rare, but I've seen people not have a ready room, or have nothing but a smaller room than expected, while someone else right next to the guest checking in gets an upgrade to a larger room.
- You can always simply ask for "any complimentary upgrades?" and see what pans out.

Some notes on the cash sandwich:
- It's not that big of a deal. A lot of people have been trying it over many years, and it's not a "secret."
- There's nothing to say as you hand over the sandwich other than "are there any complimentary room upgrades available?"
- The economy has taken its toll, and many properties denied complimentary upgrades, instead asking if you'd like to be upgraded to a higher-tier room for a fee. Sometimes it's worth it-- most times not.
- The clerk may make the money very obvious by separating it out from your ID and credit card, don't be surprised or anxious. They may make it vanish in the blink of an eye. They may return it to you, whether or not you get an upgrade. Offer it anyway for trying without touching it.
- If there's no upgrade available, some properties have small envelopes with coupons and vouchers set aside for people who're coming in under a mail-in offer, or for booking their trip through something like AmEx's FHR. You may get such an envelope.

Anyway, there's really nothing to it. It can be kinda gauche, and I don't really do it but for times when I have gone to a property where I've had to previous stays (a la Wynn/Encore as a new place vs MGM/Mirage, Venetian/Palazzo). But based on property, it might be advised to bump up the $20 to $50.

And ultimately, if you don't get an upgrade, you can always just break the $20 down into $5 and amass a bounty of soap.
posted by herrdoktor at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, I forgot: if you've got no compunctions with trying the sandwich, definitely do try it with THEhotel. They've always got plenny of rooms. Always.

And really, SOAP. ORANGE GLYCERIN SOAPS. Selling 3 for $12 (or $15?) in the gift shop, unknown and possible staggering quantities of which are yours for the low, low price of $5 and a nice note per day!
posted by herrdoktor at 6:54 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, the $20 trick has worked for me (mid week suite for regular rate) I think its worth trying.

As for tickets I suggest you head down first thing in the morning to the giant Coke bottle outside the MGM and look for the discount ticket booth. I've had great luck getting excellent seats for Cirque and Blue Man for $60 to $80!
posted by saradarlin at 6:55 PM on September 28, 2011

Last comment, and I apologize for the multiple posts. For show tickets, the best thing to do because going the tix4tonight route on the Strip, is to call the actual booking number for the show. You might strike out, but even MGM/Mirage had deals going on for all their big shows, including "O", one of which I took advantage of: it was buy one ticket full price, get second ticket half-off.

Not too shabby!

Other ways to get free stuff:
- sign up for a player's card, sometimes get free slot play on the spot.
- player's cards accumulate points on slots. A small amount of slot play can be turned in for a buffet-- ask at the player's club desk.
- after playing at a table game, you could try asking the floor manager (old term: "pit boss") to write you a meal comp. I've never done this. Imagine it'd work if you lost some dough.
- go to player's club to see if, based on your play, you qualify for any comps. It doesn't take much to get free Blue Man Group tickets at Venetian-- they seemed have been practically handing them out by the fistfuls for just being asked. I think it probably has to do with the fact that they didn't want an empty venue.

Stupidest way to get stupid stuff:
- gamble an average of $250/hand/roll of dice/bet for four hours for each night you're staying.
- charge everything to your room, including show tickets.
- amass a ridiculously large bill. Hell, empty out the mini bar while you're at it.
- on checkout, find a host if one hasn't already sought you out (at that rate of play, a host WILL find you, and quickly). Ask them to go over the bill with you and see what can be comped. "Based on my stay and rating, can any of this be comped?"
- Either be pleasantly surprised at having your entire bill wiped out (except for Pay Per View, for some odd reason. A measly under $20 charge. Friend clicked on "Hancock" and passed out. ASO.), or be partially comped, or not comped at all (this is highly unlikely).
- At that rate of play, you'll have RFB comps. Possibly, but not typically, spa comps (no spa comps at the higher-end properties unless you demonstrate significant losses-- I think $40k at baccarat at Venetian, or have a history with the property). Mid-lower-tier properties can comp spa services.
- It's all ridiculous anyway. If you've got cash to throw around and want to see how messed up everything is, toke your dealers every once in a while. The pit boss will notice. The pit boss records your buy-in, average bet, duration of play, and how much you leave with. Happy pit bosses may fudge your numbers in your favor. I have obscene ratings as a result and these casinos thing I'm some sort of high roller.

But that might not be your cup of tea. It makes no financial sense. Better to just gamble, enjoy yourself, not chase comps, and see what happens when you check out. At the very least you'll get mail-in offers later, even for nominal play, which will get you discounted or free rooms, along with offers for free show tickets with said rooms, which you can take advatage for later.

Note: mail-in-offers are NOT contingent upon ANYTHING. Meaning: if you come in under an offer, you don't have to gamble a single cent. Of course, it will affect your future offers. The disclaimers of such offers saying that the offer is "contingent upon maintaining historic levels of play" is hogwash. Call the property up, tell them the code, and ask "theoretically, if I go under this offer, and I gamble nothing, will I have to pay?" The answer will be no.

Anyway, have fun! I like Mandalay Bay a lot, save for its' piped-in coconut scent, and THEhotel is nice in that it's a little bit off from the casino. It's semi-walkable to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, has a Shark Reef habitat/exhibit, and wicked views of the strip. Which reminds me: ask for a strip view when you check in.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:16 PM on September 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

But is it a little declassé? Yes.

It's...Vegas. Am I missing something? I feel like you lose a few "classé" points by just stepping into Vegas, and I love it.

I've never done this myself, but I've seen it done successfully on more than one occasion in Vegas, though not at the hotel you named (never been there). Totally worth a shot. Just be friendly but laid back about it, not too in-your-face polite or (worse) demanding.
posted by pecanpies at 7:33 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to address the tact issue of the question, the idea that it's low class or crude is ridiculous. It may be a stupid and unfair system, but this is the way it's done. It's a transaction; you're offering a mutually beneficial arrangement for you, the hotel, and the clerk. To suggest that it's declasse is like saying you're taking something that you don't deserve, like only the rich deserve the corner suite or something.
posted by skewed at 7:55 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Reading these answers has been as entertaining as my last trip to Vegas. I confess I am a soap amasser much to my husband's chagrin - though even he is raving about the Yves Rocher products I recently tucked into every corner of my suitcase after a stay at Hotel Bristol Stephanie in Brussels - now that is some kind of soap!!!!

herrdoktor and birdherder - just excellent answers - ok -birdherder had a particularly helpful and excellent answer -, quite a schtick you've got going on.

We are going to Vegas in mid December for a week which I presume will be a fairly quiet time so I guess I'll just have to try my luck. I'm not great at being cool but I'm really good at being polite. My husband is good looking with a charming accent - perhaps I ought to put him up to the task.

We don't really gamble - hopeless frankly. It took us about 15 minutes to figure out how to use our players card when we were there in January and then we couldn't even figure out how to play slots with any kind of zeal. We do love to eat lovely food though and were ok with spending a bit at Red Square last year.

Anyway, I have really enjoyed reading every answer - even if the answers are similar, every time you tell me you've tried this and it worked, my confidence builds that I too could give this a whirl - maybe.

Ironically, my mum who survives on a staple diet of cigarettes and sweet wine from a box will be joining us. She will be staying at Paris for a 4 night complimentary stay based on her years of coming to Vegas, loading the slots machine and staying up all night - smoking - drinking sweet wine and dropping money on slots.
posted by YukonQuirm at 8:45 PM on September 28, 2011

Your enthusiasm seems tangibly contagious. Couple that with $20, and it'll all go a long way.

(3/3 upgrades: Golden Nugget, /can't recall, Vdara)
posted by asuprenant at 11:44 PM on September 28, 2011

« Older Tech skills projects for librarianship   |   Uh, it looks bad. Let's fix it. What do you mean... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.