Wednesday 14 March 2012

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Trying the $20 Trick in Vegas

You know what I love about hotels in Vegas? In Vegas it's fairly well accepted that you can bribe your way into a better room. They call it the $20 trick, but really there's no trick to it at all. The theory goes that at check-in you sandwich a $20 bill between your drivers license and your credit card, then slide them over to the front desk clerk and ask if there are any "free upgrades" available. Once the clerk processes your information, you'll get your license and credit card back, but the $20 bill will be missing and your room will have (in theory) improved. It's a pretty basic system, and I can hear you thinking to yourself "Steve, do we really need tips on how to do something this easy? It's so could anybody screw it up?"

Yes, it's a rhetorical question.

Here's a few things to remember if you decide to go for the upgrade:

#1) You actually have to give them the money
View from the bathtub of our upgraded room.
The first time I decided to give the $20 trick a go, I was a little nervous. It seemed a little shady slipping the money to the clerk between the cards, so I started out simply holding the money in plain view. With a $20 bill sitting on the desk, I asked if there were any upgrades available and after a whole lot of key clicking, the clerk found a fantastic strip view suite on a high floor for us. I was so excited that the trick had worked exactly as planned that I quickly signed off on all the paperwork and headed up to check out the room, only to discover once I got there that I had put the $20 bill back in my pocket instead of giving it to the front desk clerk. I went back down to see if I could find her, but she was no where to be found. Probably got sent home for swearing at customers as they walked up to their suite.

#2) Don't be too discreet
Once I finally decided that I wouldn't be branded a degenerate for following the rules of the trick, I started putting the $20 between my license and credit card. At the beginning however, I didn't really realize that the idea was for the front desk agent to actually see the money. On one attempt I folded the $20 bill so neatly that there was no part of it visible. Unfortunately I was a frequent guest at that hotel back then, so when I slid my I.D. over to the clerk, he simply waved it off saying that all my information was already in the system. I had to insist that he verify who I was before I got a chance to ask about an upgrade.

#3) Be specific
With the bed folded down
After a while you get to be pretty good at slipping the money across the counter, and your batting average goes up. One of the things you learn though, is that it's a lot harder for the clerk to upgrade you if you need a certain number of beds. I once checked into a hotel and after accepting the money, the clerk asked if it was important for us to have a room with a king bed. I assumed he was asking if we would be OK with two queens so I told him we didn't care what kind of bed we had. A few key clicks later he found us a suite in what he promised was "one of their nicer rooms". This sounded promising to me so we went upstairs to check it out. He was was a very nice room...but apparently when he asked if the king bed was important to us, what he meant was "Is having any bed important to you?" because there was no bed to be found in the room. Actually there was a bed, but it had been folded up into the wall, and when we finally figured out where it was and folded it down, we found the worst Murphy Bed mattress in history. To give you an idea of how bad it was, we actually decided to sleep on the fold out couch instead of the mattress. Sometimes the upgrade just isn't worth the $20.

#4) You can still get upgraded when money doesn't work
Augustus Tower
Shortly after Caesars Palace opened its new Augustus Tower, Lori and I went to Vegas to meet up with some friends. I made the reservations in my name, so when we arrived first Lori and I went to the front desk and tried the $20 trick while asking for an upgrade to the Augustus Tower. The clerk was very nice, but told us that, as it was new, the Augustus Tower was completely sold out for the night. He apologized and gave us a room in the Forum Tower, which was nice but on the completely opposite side of the casino. When our friends arrived later, we decided to try something different. Normally I would go down with the husband and check him in to the second room. This time, I went down with my friend's wife, and we waited until we got the same clerk who checked Lori and I in before. He recognized me, but it wasn't until I told him that I wanted to check in that he realized I wasn't with the same woman. This time, while slipping him the $20, I asked for "a room as far away from the Forum Tower as possible". Sure enough, we got an upgrade to the Augustus Tower.