Dichotomy of service
fails smell test

Dec 18, 2006 4:54 AM

Today I was pooped on twice. My brand new windshield was christened from above with a globby bird-dropping. The second bombardment occurred at the troubled Central City Century Casino.

While on the surface, being pegged with Guano at 65 mph is a disappointment. Yet, the first part of this story is a KUDO.

I often use the Ameristar Casino as my research base when visiting Black Hawk and Central City. Thus, I pulled into Ameristar’s second floor level valet. Two employees sprinted faster than Flo-Jo to the car and opened the driver side door. The young men greeted me with a sense of genuine hospitality.

As I am ought to do, I made my rounds around Black Hawk, even stopping for a buffet lunch at the Lodge. A woman at the table next to mine passed out, leaving a heaping plate of fried chicken, ham, and bread pudding (all covered in a viscous gravy-like substance). The emergency responder force of Black Hawk arrived, stretcher and defibrillator in tow, but it turns out the elderly woman, out on a field trip with her retirement home, just O.B.’ed (Over Buffeted). If society has supposed to learn anything from the elderly phenomenon of The Old Country Buffet early bird seating, it is that geriatrics and artery clogging starches and sauces do not mix.

Following my quick sojourn through the Black Hawk properties, including snagging fresh roasted peanuts at the Wild Card Casino, I returned to the Ameristar valet. The two employees took my claim ticket and ran like Running Zack, Saved by the Bell’s nod to cultural diversity, to retrieve the car. I handed over a tip, and drove out the labyrinth garage.

Here is the surprise that makes a customer into a disciple. Pulling into the back lot of the Dostal Alley, where, by the way, a Disney-level-of-friendly parking lot employee came up to the car to greet me, I noticed something different about the car. Sure, it was clean; in fact, sparkling. The bird dropping was gone! The valet employees at Ameristar had taken the extra effort, above and beyond their duty, to clean my windshield. Absolutely amazing and memorable service. KUDOs to them.

With a pleasantly surprised smile on my face, I entered the back door to the basement of Dostal Alley, climbed the stairs, and ordered one of their delicious house brewed root beers. I have written about this potation numerous times before, but the pick-me-up is just so darn luscious, the semi-sweet spice montage merits are worth repeating. I asked the friendly bar tender if I could borrow the glass for a few minutes to slip next door to Century Casino to redeem a $5 cash coupon mailed to me. After promising to return the nectar vessel, she said, "sure."

Again, I’m in a good mood. Hunger satiated at the Lodge Buffet (for which I had a half off coupon from Steve Bourie’s American Casino Guide), thirst quenched by the Dostal Alley root beer, and mind in a pleasant state from the good deed by the Ameristar boys.

I promised you poop, and here is the unpleasant second part of the story. At the Century Casino, I proceeded to the cage to redeem my $5. I inquired whether it would be possible to tour their new hotel rooms as advertised in a local Colorado gaming paper.

The cashier instructed me to ask at the slot club. I did, and the slot club clerk made a call, and informed me that tours were no longer given, but the rooms had a Victorian design. I decided not to make a big deal about the matter. Although one of the articles on which I am working concerns the hotel product in the Colorado gaming markets.

Oh well, I guess Century Casino’s 29 or so rooms will not be included in the report.

From the slot club, I ambled over to the pit area. The $1 blackjack is gone, but there was a $2 multi-action table. An elderly gentleman was playing (ed: It seems there’s nobody who doesn’t remember "The War" is in Central City or Black Hawk on a weekday afternoon).

I placed the minimum wager on two spots for a total outlay of $8 (i.e., each spot has two wagering "circles"). After the dealer pulled to a 7 card "21," the man with difficult-to-understand-the-physics high pants complemented by a white belt and even whiter loafers creaked from the table in disgust, and I spread out at the empty table to full action, $2 in all 6 positions/12 wagering spots. I played for about five minutes when the pit boss sees another older fellow clutching a crumpled $20 bill. The pit boss beckons to retiree Joe, "you can play at this table." Joe retorts that he would rather play one of the carnival games, but he decides to get in on the action.

I asked Old Joe and the chef if we could finish the shoe (it was about at half penetration of six decks). Weather Beaten Joe, a real sport, declared "no problem" and the pit boss stated in contradiction, "no" and insisted Mid-Shoe Joe grace the baize.

Realizing there was a transparent hostility toward me from the pit boss — like a picardo lodging banderillas, I politely asked the other fellow how many positions he would like to play. His voiced cracked like Wilfred, the diabetic supplying, oatmeal eating, and insurance hustler and said, "just one." As long as Joe has been around (from all indications, since dirt), one could tell he sensed this pit boss would be better suited to being a maitre d’ at a snooty French restaurant. At least at Chez Bourrique his condescension and lack of primary customer skills would be expected and might even be considered an "authentique" aspect of the continental experience.

This seeming master of alienation should be cognizant of the belief that being a pit boss at a $5 limit game is on par with being the assistant to the associate manager of a dollar store. There just is not that much at stake.

Decrepit Joe arthritically placed his $4 down and the dealer dealt. As the cards were coming from the shoe, the euphemistic "game supervisor" informed me that if I wanted to play that many spots, my minimum/maximum (this is limited stakes gaming) bet would have to be $5 per decision. Oddly, when I was playing alone for a brief period sandwiched betwixt the wrinkles, the dealer inquired to this same charmer "is it okay if he plays $2 per spot" and the personality-less pit boss said, "I don’t care." The change of game rules mid-way through a shoe is simply not cool and possibly a violation of procedure.

Not Impressed! For a casino that has had so many regulatory challenges including but not exclusive to being leveled significant fines for accounting (procedural) discrepancies and the placement of illegal machines on the floor (partially contributing to a higher than market rate of managerial turnover), one would think that a player in full action would merit, if not at minimum a competent and courteous pit supervisor, at least a consistent one.

After collecting my soiled white chips and cashing them in, I returned to the Dostal Alley. The sweet bartender immediately offered me a complimentary re-fill, but I was running late to an appointment in Denver. I relayed my unpleasant experience next door at the Century Casino, and expressed my dismay of their apparent inability to get their act together.

In all fairness, the property has a new general manager and I sincerely hope that he has the internal fortitude to "bust some heads" and turn around the $40 million white elephant.

Further, from what I have experienced with non-gaming, the food and beverage operation is fine. A woman nursing a drink at Dostal Alley, who will remain anonymous, declared that she worked at the Century Casino, and openly admitted the gaming side was lacking. This front line employee went so far as to declare she was "embarrassed to work there at times."

In a moment of smart service recovery, the shamed employee sincerely asked if there was anything that she could do to assist in bettering the bile-like taste in my mouth from the brief visit with her employers. I denied her assistance, but thanked her for the concern.

Back to Denver I went after experiencing in less than a two hour visit, two diametrically opposed service experiences. So, Ameristar gets an "A+" for their employees’ dedication to