Making lemons out of lemonade

Making lemons out of lemonade

  • Dennis Conrad
September 6, 2022 10:59 PM

One of the things about being an advocate for the casino customer is that you hear from casino customers. Many of them. And I answer them all.

Some of this customer feedback is well reasoned and informative. Some of it is little more than whining about casinos taking their money faster, moaning about tighter slots, and complaining about higher prices on everything. In fact, I have never had a focus group of casino customers not say a casino had tightened its slots, even when I knew it absolutely had not. I learned that casino players blame the casino, even though playing negative expectation games over time is the real culprit. They never blame themselves. It’s always just the “greedy” casino.

Earlier this year, I received a wonderfully written email from a casino customer who had a bad experience with a casino promotion designed to raise money for a local food bank during the holiday season. The name of the customer is irrelevant (although she said I could use her name). Likewise, the name of the casino, along with the market it serves, isn’t important, although part of me wants to call it out for customer disdain.

I’ll just share her story in her own words, because casinos are right now preparing for the holiday season, when they typically do a lot of wonderful and generous things for their local communities. I’m hoping I can prevent even one casino from following this example of “turning lemonade into lemons.”

I’ll let the casino player take it from here:

“Hello, Dennis,

I enjoyed your recent column and appreciate your trying to reach management on behalf of us players. I thought you’d like to hear about a recent experience I had at (unnamed) Casino. I’ve been a regular player there for many, many years. I’ve almost always enjoyed it, as the employees are nice, it’s convenient, and they have most of the games I like to play. I guess I’m a good enough player that they assigned me a casino host (who I rarely utilize). I just like to play.

Anyway, over the decades, I accumulated over $8,000 in comp dollars. I could never spend them all, as this casino doesn’t have a hotel, or a buffet, or much of a gift shop, and certainly no spa, only a small coffee shop. The food is surprisingly good, by the way, but I can’t spend $8,000 there. I asked over the years if I could turn these comp dollars into free play, even at a premium, but was always told no. I guess they don’t want me using them for the thing I most like to do. I find that strange.

Around Thanksgiving, I received my monthly casino newsletter and noticed that they were allowing their players to donate their comp dollars as cash to a local food bank and the casino would match the donation. That, I thought, was a marvelous promotion that would do much good in the community. And I could do something good with all my comp dollars. That day, I went to the players club to get all the details, so I could help feed some homeless and underfed people over Christmas.

The players club staff hadn’t yet received the details of the “Donate Your Points” promotion. I was told, “Marketing never gets us the information on time” and it was suggested that I return in “a few days.” Pretty poor communication, I thought, but I returned in a few days and they had the information. Or at least most of it. I said I would like to donate $5,000 of my comp dollars to the Food Bank and I was assured the casino would match it. But then I was told of the restriction that the most I could donate was $500 comp dollars a day, but I could come in for 10 days. I knew they were trying to get me to make ten visits instead of one, but what the heck, I thought, it’s a great cause.

On my fourth visit, I sensed there was a problem. The players club rep and a supervisor were huddled for a few minutes and a supervisor then apologetically told me that I had reached the limit on my comp dollar donations. Although disappointed, I felt I had at least made a significant contribution for a worthy cause.

That afternoon, I noticed that I had on my cell phone a message from some marketing executive at the casino, who explained that she knew I’d had a problem regarding the Food Bank promotion and asked me to call her back, which I immediately did. She returned my call 6 hours later.

I thought I might get some compassion from the marketing lady, even naively thinking she might understand my disappointment and indeed make an exception and let me donate the whole $5,000. Nope. I was “read the rules” of the promotion and “informed” that I could only use 500 comp dollars in total for the promotion, not 500 per day and that they were going to cancel 1000 of my comp dollar donations and return it to my comp account. And then I heard these words from this marketing executive for this very successful casino company: “We have only $5,000 budgeted for this Food Bank promotion.”

Now that really ticked me off. I could endure no one knowing about the promotion initially, being told that I would have to make 10 visits to make my full intended donation, even hearing that each player had a 500 comp dollar limit to their donation. But being told the casino put a small arbitrary limit to their promotional match to help feed the homeless was the final straw.

I told my host how upset I was, how cheap and unfair the decision was. My host is a nice fella and he too was upset. Without asking me, he took the issue to the general manager and he seemed delighted to text me that the general manager said that “I could feel free to give him a call” about the situation.

And that was when I really lost it. This is what I texted back to my host:

“NO THANKS. Feel free to give him a call?????? Who’s the customer here???? The customer-focused general managers I know would have called me within 5 minutes, knowing how upset I was. Because of this, I have decided to no longer be a player at _____ Casino. I will miss you and several other of your fellow team members who I have enjoyed and who made gambling in my local hangout a positive experience, no matter the cost.’

Thanks for listening, Dennis. Please tell the casino executives who read your column to never make lemons out of lemonade.”

Well, this lady certainly said it much better than I ever could. Her experience was real. It happened. And it shouldn’t have.

So if your casino wants to do something good for your community this holiday season, don’t keep your employees in the dark about it, don’t make your players jump through hoops to participate in it, and for God’s sake, don’t be cheap about it. Especially in the season of giving and caring, you don’t want to be a casino that gives your customers the shaft and only cares about the bottom line.

Dennis Conrad is a long time executive consultant who works exclusively with select gaming clients who truly care about being customer and employee focused. He can be reached at

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