The Sublime, the Tacky and the Stupid

I spent last Christmas in Vegas. Well, actually I was in Death Valley for the holiday itself, but the majority of my Yuletide was spent in Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas – what a glittery, tacky, marvelous explosion of excess in the middle of the desert! It’s so over the top, it’s fabulous.

And it has lessons for us all. The first lesson is a marketing and sales lesson. The money that goes to Vegas, stays in Vegas. Vegas is built to keep your money – you will either gamble it way, eat it away, or shop it away. There are more ways to spend money in Vegas than anywhere else in the world. I don’t gamble (sorry, those of you who do – there‘s nothing wrong with a little fun if you realize how impossible the odds are). The house always wins sooner or later, and I’m just too practical for that. They didn‘t build those huge lavish casinos because people were winning! Those are monuments to human stupidity. I was fascinated to watch hundreds of people pump hundreds of dollars into slot machines over and over and over. We humans just refuse to admit that there is no quick fix. Las Vegas and the billion+ dollar diet industry take full advantage of our eternal search for the easy way out.

There is no quick fix in life – no free buffet. You might think you’ve won a big jackpot today, but the house knows you’ll lose more tomorrow. Disagree? Did you know that a full third of people who win the lottery wind up bankrupt? There’s no free lunch, people. The real secret to wealth is what it’s always been – work hard, live within your means, invest wisely. It’s like losing weight – you gotta eat less and exercise more. We all know what to do, we just don’t want to do it. I’m afraid we’ve become a nation of lazy people who don’t want to do the work for anything but sure want the results. Second lesson – anything worth having is going to take some work and discipline on your part. Whether it’s good kids, a good relationship, a fit body or a fat bank account – it’s not going to be easy. If more of us realized this, the diet industry would be in trouble, state lotteries would fail, and Vegas would dry up and blow away. I don’t expect any of that to happen soon. In fact, I’d even BET it will get worse. We choose short term pleasure over long term happiness way too often.

The incredible thing about Vegas is that it is built to keep your money. The casinos don’t have windows so you will lose track of time. There are lots of colors and lights and bells so the casino floor seems exciting and populated even when it isn’t. It’s all designed to distract you from the fact that you are losing your shirt. Even the layouts of the hotels insure that you will have to walk through the casino to get anywhere – in some places you can’t even walk by on the sidewalk. But it seems so fun – sparkly lights, colors, bells – you don’t even care! And alcohol is flowing freely! The lower your inhibitions, the more you’ll spend. Add a few half naked cocktail waitresses and kiss your money goodbye!

Now I am not suggesting that businesses start getting customers drunk. I am suggesting that the buying experience had better be fun. People are willing to literally throw their money away in Vegas because it is fun. (Car dealers take note – nobody thinks buying a car is fun.) What is your buying process like? Last time I got a cell phone it was anything but fun. I hated giving them my money because they made it seem like such an effort to take it. The customer service in Vegas was great – I was glad to leave a chunk of change at the Bellagio – their staff treated me like royalty. Many companies leave money on the table because their service is so bad. Do you have a real strategy for keeping the money that comes to your company with your company? If not, you need to take a trip to Vegas.

Lesson three – to make big money, you have to attract people that have big money. There’s plenty of tacky in Vegas to catch the middle income folks. But Vegas raises the bar higher every time I visit. The shows in Vegas are some of the best in the world – Cirque du Soleil gives me hope for mankind. Their shows are the most ethereal, incredible, amazing productions I have ever seen. They are surreal and breathtaking and impossible to describe. If you don’t see one before you die, you haven’t lived. Some of the best entertainers of our time perform in Vegas. These are all great shows – and they are designed to attract those with money. There are also some great art exhibits – at the Wynn and the Bellagio and the Venetian. This is genius – bring the money to Vegas and keep the money in Vegas. The high rollers are the ones Vegas really wants. They don’t lose ten bucks, they lose 10,000 bucks! What do you have that will attract the high rollers?

I do love Vegas – for all that it is – the beauty of the Bellagio fountains, the mystery of a Cirque show, the lights and bells and flamboyance of it; the raucous celebration of capitalism. But I also love Death Valley – the silence, the wide open spaces, the brilliance of the stars in the darkest night sky. Vegas makes you hurry, Death Valley makes you stop. Vegas wants you to be distracted, to be overwhelmed, Death Valley doesn’t care about you at all. Vegas strokes your ego, Death Valley opens your mind. Vegas glitters, but the real gold is in Death Valley. And you have to find it for yourself; you can’t win it in a casino.



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