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How to Get a Complimentary Upgrade at a Las Vegas Hotel

On occasion, I enjoy writing answers on Quora.com and I was asked to answer the question of how to get a complimentary upgrade in a hotel in Las Vegas. My answer has been viewed over 1 million times and so I'd like to share it here on my website, InisghtfulService.com.

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As a former front desk agent at Caesar's Palace, I used to shake my head in amazement when I would check in either a very nice couple or a cocky, arrogant person who asked me if any upgrades were available, especially if we were a few hours into my shift. With well over 1,000 check-ins in a day, the guest checking in must have believed that they were the one and only guest asking for an upgrade that day. It was especially ridiculous for those checking in on a Saturday when most arrivals check in on Thursday and Friday. What they failed to grasp was that they were like the 50th person that day standing in front of me and considering there were 20 other desk agents, well, do the math. Everyone was asking for an upgrade. Whether they were arrogant in asking or as polite as can be or even if it were their honeymoon (yeah sure, it was everyone’s “honeymoon”), the answer was the same; “Sorry, all our suites are sold out.” Without that answer, there is no way to decide who gets it when you are asked the same question 50 times.


The solution was what others here have referred to as the “sandwich” although many times, the greenback was simply placed on the counter. But there is more to the game than just offering a sandwich. With the higher end casinos, $20 will get you, “Sorry, our suites are sold out” with the money getting slid right back at ya’ and this was in the 1990’s when I worked there. $20 was insignificant and we had only a certain number of suites and we were patient. When I say “we” I mean me and the supervisors in the back who controlled the room inventory. The desk agents only control the basic rooms and a few lower end suites. At Caesar's, it was called “the rack” and veteran hoteliers should know that term (old hotel term). And while Caesar's no longer had an actual rack, the room in the back was still called that and that was where the supervisors sat and worked the phones with housekeeping and casino management. They had the user rights to release the mega suites, not the front desk agent. It was these supervisors that I needed in order to get my guest a mega suite and the supervisors knew this, which is why everything was split 50/50. I needed them since they had the user rights to the suites and they needed me because I had the guest.


Therefore, if you want a mega suite, then you need to show your appreciation and that you REALLY want it. If you really want a suite, better have at least $50 and more realistically $100. The higher you go, the better the chances. No one will take your money and tell you “no” and not return the cash. That’s an offense for termination. However, the risk is that you slip in a $50 or $100 and get a junior suite. If that happens, that’s that (unless you go back to the agent and threaten to speak with his manager unless he makes it right and even that is no guarantee you will see your tip again).


I made thousands in tips and believe it or not, I was successful at it because I didn’t take the little bait ($20) on Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays. It was always, “sorry, all our suites are sold out.” I got good at it because I really felt uncomfortable at this game at first so I always used my standard line. I didn’t want to participate. But then something funny happened and it was a pattern; after I told them we were sold out, the guest would open their wallet again and lo’ and behold, they had a $50 in their wallet. I’d repeat the line. Then, OMG… they had a $100 in the wallet! Whoa! They were holding out on me. I began to understand the human psychology of it. The more you say no, the more the guest pushed. The ones who really, really wanted it, were willing to take care of me if I took care of them. I also knew they were coming to the casino to spend thousands of dollars on the casino floor, they had more in their wallet and if they really, really wanted the suite, they would show it (called supply and demand) and the best customers were the ones with the largest egos. Large egos need large suites to hold the ego. Not everyone was like that, but I once I detected an ego, it was $100 minimum. But I also knew they would become my “customer” and they’d check in with only me upon their next arrival. At that point, the amount was set.


Remember, suites go for hundreds of dollars more than the rate of the room you booked, so handing over a $50 for a three-night stay is only an additional $17 a night. That’s a terrific deal and really puts into perspective why $20 is almost insulting (although Sunday through Wednesday check-ins have a better chance at it than Thursday-Saturday check-ins).


But those mega suites, which are held for the casino with a rack rate in the thousands of dollars, may go unused and slipping a sandwich with $100+ is not out of line considering what you are getting. To put it in perspective, it was not uncommon (back in the 1990’s) to get a $200 or $300 tip for a suite upgrade. There is money in Las Vegas and you have to decide how much you want that suite because you are competing with another 1,000 people who also want an upgrade.


Last tip… I mean, note, if you tip $20 or $50 and get an upgrade that far exceeds your expectations, go back and give the desk agent a little more appreciation and remember his/her name. I guarantee that even if you return a year later, they will remember you and gladly take care of you upon arrival. In fact, it was not uncommon for former guests to call me a few days in advance of arrival or a week in advance, remind me of who they were, and tell me point blank that they will check in only at the time I am working. If I was not working on the day of their arrival, I always ensured I had one of my buddies take care of my guest and give the guest that person’s name. The message was clear and I’d definitely go to bat for the guests who really took care of me. However, if they did not make an impression upon me then, unfortunately, it was “sorry, we are all sold out of the suites.”


Many have asked me if this “process” will work at other hotels, in or outside of Las Vegas. Here is my answer to a similar question on Quora: Bruce Claver's answer to What are the best ways to get a hotel upgrade in a luxury hotel?

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