The Undercover Boss & Why Las Vegas Tourism Still Sucks!

MGM Resorts Las Vegas

Last night I watched Undercover Boss on CBS because it was featuring Las Vegas and the MGM Grand.  In this episode, the CEO of the MGM Grand, Scott Sibella, was showing exactly why Las Vegas Tourism STILL SUCKS!!

The Show Idea

The idea behind Undercover Boss is to take a CEO of a major corporation, dress them down, smart them up and send them out to the front lines of their own company to see how they can improve company morale and profits.  They are horribly disguised and assigned a silly name to work with.  Their story-line they are to tell the co-workers is that they are competing for the same job with someone else as part of a new reality television show.

At the end of the show, they get to reveal who they really are to the people they worked with. They get to confess their sins, promise to repent, be a better steward of the corporate culture, improve their sensitivity to the workers and to be more understanding going forward.  This is followed by gifting, a token of appreciation ( usually a donation to a charity or a trip ) to the poor fool they stressed out and made fun of during the taping.  Afterward, everyone hugs and they go on with their life.

Scott Sibella, president of the MGM Grand,  shows the world that as the head of MGM, he is too high up in the ivory tower to realize all the problems that could easily be fixed and would definitely improve their profitability as well as their staff morale if you just came down out of the tower, walked the floor and said “hello” to your guests and maybe to your staff on occasion.

This, despite the fact that he claims to have lived in Las Vegas his entire life and was supposedly raised in a casino. His deafness to the issues tells us he either never lived in Las Vegas or became clueless once he got the golden parachute. He claims that he worked his way up from the front desk to the corner office of the tower, yet he still seems shocked at what he found once he found the front door.

His alibi in all this is episode is that he is new to the MGM Grand.   In actuality, he was just transferred over from the Mirage Resort.  Same owner, different building. Apparently different issues face different casinos and as resort managers. You would think maybe they would talk to each other, seeing how they have the same issues.  But I digress.

Although it was really nice to see Vegas featured on a popular show and to see a CEO get Larry-slapped up alongside the head with a few “D’oh” moments, it really showed how out of touch the CEO’s in Las Vegas really are.  And when the town is managed by only two or three players, that is a very big deal.

Opening Shots
Ok, here we get to meet his two spoiled children, his charming trophy wife and get their feelings about the man of the house having to go and spend a week in a cheap hotel (Super 8). Worse then that, he will have to walk amongst the unwashed people who toil in the casino floors and do menial labor in the hotel.  They fear for him having to interact with what MGM’s pocket man,  Senator Harry Reid, calls “smelly tourists”.

The Ivory Tower Meetup

Next, we see the CEO in his Ferrari, driving down the strip.  Pulling into the Bellagio Valet, talking about the importance of the people in the company…. He is there to have a private breakfast with his fellow Ivory Tower cohorts; Including The MGM’s head honcho, Jim Murren.  As he tells them of his fears of failure in such a daunting task.  Having to work with…. the front line people of the company…. Eeeeeeuuuwww…  and to do … w-o-r-k!

The Setup
He checks into a room at the Super 8 that is about the size of his walk-in closet back at the Sibella Estate.  He resigns himself to the sacrifice he is doing in order to help him truly understand how to run the company better. Again, because he is so new to the MGM corporation. (NOT!)

Winners Write the History
Being a professional Las Vegas Tour Guide, I was a little put off right from the beginning when he claimed that MGM created the modern-day Las Vegas.  Saying that MGM was the one who leads the way and created the trend of Mega resorts. You wish.

No. Sorry to say…. The big green building that is the MGM Grand is the only Vegas Mega Resort the corporation ever built.  They bought the others. CityCenter is co-owned by Dubai. The Megastructures trend was built and perfected by MGM’s arch-enemy  Steve Wynn..

Kirk Kerkorian, the man who created the MGM Resorts, now HE built some amazing hotels before the MGM that were Mega… But again, I digress…

Blackjack Anyone
His first assignment was to deal the game of blackjack.  or at least try to deal something.  His complaint?  Too many decks in one shoe.  Well, no shit Sherlock!  Have you read any of the reviews posted on any Vegas website or sent into your company??  Apparently not. Other than the lousy odds you give, the other complaint is the number of decks they have to deal with.

Front Desk Mayhem

This part was absolutely priceless.  Him working at the front desk.  Here he realized that the new computer system they paid millions of dollars for, was an absolute piece of crap to work.  The failures of the system were not only pissing off the staff that had to work with the junk but worse, upset the customers.  Not that MGM really cares about the customer once they get the credit card.  it’s just that any management concerned with happy customers would realize this wasn’t helping the image of the resort.

I’m sure the system looked wonderful on the show floor and all the free lobster dinners they had with the sales rep to talk over how wonderful it would be to have it installed and the price was a steal.  So why not take it.  Who cares what the workers or the customers think of it…

As per the script, the big man needs some time alone with one of his trainers so they can talk “openly” about problems.  For Scott Sibella, his time alone was with a smoker.  So its time to log off the computer and head for the smoke break.  Guess where they went?  Almost any guest who has ever been to the MGM can answer that question without thinking.   Yep, the best place for a worker to smoke is right in front of the customers. Right outside the front door, the main entrance.  I had to laugh because Mr. CEO acted like this bothered him that this was happening so close to the main entrance.   I’m wondering if he even knew where the main entrance really was and since when did he care what the customers thought anyway??

As a frequent guest of the MGM, I always thought those smoke butts on the ground and watching your staff members choking the nicotine stick while I waited for a cab,  always classed up the joint. Maybe Not.

Again, I point to the fact that anyone who has been to the MGM Grand has seen this.  It took a chance to be on TV, for him to come down to earth, smell the nicotine and see what the rest of the world, the paying guests to his resort, see every day.  It’s not like it was a great secret or hidden away from the guests.  It’s out in plain view. Always has been. They just need to get a little more involved with the company they are managing. What a concept!

MLife Anyone??
Next up was a floor person. Or back in the day of full employment and when keeping the customer happy was a priority with MGM, they were called slot persons.  And you had more than one per 100,000 square feet of casino space.

He learned a quick lesson, that those carpeting swaths looked really nice on the sample panel in the office, but they suck to the people who work around it all day.  If they hate to look at it, don’t you think maybe the guest does too??

He also learned that just because your paid committee thinks the new slot program called MLife is really, really cool… getting others interested in it is not so easy.  Did you catch the payoff?  Two dollars dropped in equals one point.  Get 3000 points (Spend $6K) you get a free buffet and tickets to “KA”… WOW!!! Again, this would be so easy to fix by just talking to the floor staff and talking to a real customer…

Hustling the cards can be tricky, especially if you are a guy in a suit.  And maybe, just maybe, if you offered the floor person a better incentive to push the cards to the players, other than “Just Do It”, you may get a better response from them and the guests.

Spin The Wheel

This fina task just blew what credibility he still had.  His “I was raised around a casino”  was proven to be false.  The final task was to be Mr Roulette where Mr Boss, the man who practically grew up in the casino business, broke cardinal rule number one… Do Not Put Hands in Your Pocket.  Hands in Pocket Can Get You Fired!!!  Then he went on to spin the wheel, lost a ball and learned why his wife always told him “math is hard, let’s go shopping….”

I stop here because this is where the Big Red Flag hit me.  He was shocked, shocked I tell you, at all the smoke and filth that the dealers had to put up with while doing their job.  OMG!!Really??  Are you THAT out of touch with the business you are running??

Once again he came out with the “I am new here, so I didn’t realize” excuse.  Five years running the Mirage, and this issue never came up at the Mirage?  The class-action lawsuit against second-hand smoke that is forming at the Wynn, across the street from the Mirage, was not on your radar??    The fact that it made headlines in the USA Today that the Wynn was planning to put up air curtains between the dealers and the player, never crossed your desk?? Really??

The fact that he worked in a casino most of his adult life, this issue and the other ones he seemed shocked at, never crossed your path while learning the business and climbing the corporate ladder???  Really?? What night school were you taught at?

Family Rescue

On the night before he revealed himself, he was rescued with a visit by his loving family.  Including the family dog.  After all, that Super 8 is dog friendly.  While he made up some time with the wife, the kids were busy looking for the rest of the suite.  The kids thought it was a joke and he had a wall put up that made the suite look so small. Nobody really sleeps in a room smaller than 2,000 square feet, do they?  And where is that butler at??  He had to be there somewhere.

They all went to the common area and enjoyed a meal of In-and-Out Burgers while he talks about what he found out.  He talks to his kids about volunteering at old folks’ home with one of his workers.  They all looked at him like he had three heads.  Volunteer? Like work or something?  A senior center??  What is that?? Isn’t that we have those people around the house for?  To do those menial things??

Then he went on to suggest that when they travel, they could stay at places like the Super 8. The wife shot that idea down before the last word escaped his lips! Mom Speaks, Its Law!  Spa resorts with the private jet, or nothing at all.  How dare the hubby thinks she will spend any time like he did, consorting with the common person.  Not in this lifetime!

It’s television
I get that, and stupid drama makes for great television.  But at the same time, you get to see what makes this town tick and why, in some large part, we are in the situation we are in.  These great men… men who get paid millions every year to run these mega-resorts, are so out of touch with the common guest, its absolutely tragic.

Many people depend on the paycheck from these mega-corporations that depend on people to come through the front doors and spend money with them.  Yet the leaders of these resorts act as they have never really walked in the customers’ shoes for a day.

It takes a television show to get them out of the tower and onto the floor?  Really?? Shouldn’t that be like an almost daily or at least weekly occurrence??  Walk the floor, stop a guest and ask “Hows your stay?”  Walk the floor and ask the staff “what can we do better?”

Jack Binion, from the Las Vegas Binion family dynasty and the founder of the modern-day World Series of Poker, still does it and he doesn’t even own a casino anymore!!   Maybe now that Scott Sibella is no longer the “new” guy, he will too. One can only hope.

Posted by Mark Anthony

Mark Anthony is The Vegas Tourist! Popular Tourism Ambassador, a frequent contributor to Las Vegas forums as well as travel media and bloggers. Loves to help people discover new things to see, do and experience while visiting Las Vegas and Beyond!