FiClub Frank's Trump Tower Las Vegas Lost Weekend
A couple disclaimers and qualifiers must accompany anything Trump-related posted here:
2). I don't want to talk about politics here or try to sway anyone to my opinions.
FiClub is about helping people with their finances and habits with the goal of building a community that elevates its prosperity and self-mastery, together. Personally, I find the Trump style of "presidenting" divisive and in total conflict with what I'd like to see in world leaders, no matter where on the ideological spectrum they sit. Per point 2) above, my goal isn't to convince you to share my opinion and what follows is about experiences and take-aways gleaned from a weekend at Trump Tower Las Vegas.
The "Freebie" Mindset:
A phone call out of the blue from Hilton Grand Vacations promises us a 3-night stay in Las Vegas for $23 if we sit through a 90-minute timeshare presentation. They even promise the sales pitch will be low-key. My wife is from Brazil and had never been to Vegas, so I figured "why not?"
A "freebie" works like bait on a hook. You disregard a lot of other costs after you get the thought in your head that you're already ahead. We have gotten really good at frugality at home and have built automatic habits into our environment. The downside is that when we leave that environment, the support for making good choices disappears. We overestimate the hero in our story and a lost weekend in Las Vegas was humbling for any delusions of superior willpower.
Tallying up the body count, after two amazing dinners (Sushi Samba and Sinatra's), tickets to a fantastic stage show (LE RÊVE), and a few hands of blackjack, we blew about $1,500 on a long weekend. At some point, the "F00k it Effect" kicked-in where since we had blown-through our normal limits, we gave up any semblance of control.
Considering the quality of the experiences, especially the show and the food, do we regret any of the money we spent? Absolutely not! The point is that the spending was not budgeted or planned; I got sucked in by the illusion of the freebie. Somehow, it's impossible to convince Mint.com or Excel to count all the money I thought I was saving.
Hey Wait, After All the Disclaimers, Get to the Trumpy Parts Already!
Ok, ok - I'm not going to sneak out of this blog post without confessing my dirty little secret. I live in San Francisco, a deep blue bastion of anti-Trump sentiment. I didn't vote for the man and on that shocking election night, I nearly vomited. My dark little secret is that when the Hilton Grand Vacations representative called back to finalize the details of our upcoming trip and informed us we would stay at the Trump Tower, I didn't don my pink pussy hat to raise a righteous tizzy. Instead, this Left Coast Liberal just shrugged and thought it could be an amusing experience to stay there.
Welcome to Sauron's Tower:
The building is huge, rectangular and golden. It has TRUMP written on it in giant letters you can read clear across town from the other end of the Vegas strip. Not only do you have to say his name every cab ride home during your stay but the guy is going to remind you over and over that he owns the place. The lobby door handles form a T, you know, as in Trump. Subtle? The bottled water you drink here is Trump Water (tagline: "good for the body, good for the soul"), the soap is made especially for Trump. There's a Trump gift store of course so you can get your MAGA Trump hats and shirts. Even the garbage can liner says Trump Hotels. It's megalomania, brilliant marketing, super ultra over the top branding.
Here I am Trumping in my Trump robe with Trump Water, Trump pen, Trump pad.
Magic Happens When You Put Your Name All over Something:
Though I was eager to hate every moment and find faults or flaws, we were blown away by the attention to detail and overall quality of the guest experience. Trump runs an impressive organization and hires great people, at least in his hotels. In every interaction with the staff, we found people that go out of their way to make you feel at home and who want to impress you with the quality of their offering. The young lady at the front desk who checked-us in was welcoming and helpful. She seemed genuinely pleased that she could get us into a corner 1-bedroom suite on the 29th floor and she told us the corner rooms had the best views. Our concierge who assisted with booking show tickets took the time to understand what we would most enjoy and he shared his own experiences of attending shows. The staff at the pool was eager to get us settled in, with a beverage in hand, or to assist with parasols. Even janitors whose path you cross always greet guests with heartfelt cheer. I have never seen an entire organization, down to each staff member, with that consistent of a commitment to providing a world class service.
Initially, I thought it strange that I was having such a pleasant stay despite the owner's loathsomely giant ego. Later I recognized that it was actually the very egotism, self-aggrandizement and toxic pride of the owner that translated into such an uncompromising commitment to quality on the part of everyone involved.
Lesson for Business Owners: Get in Touch With Your Inner Donald!
When you put your name on it, you fully commit. Whatever your business does reflects on you. It engages your entire psyche in the same way that burning the boats committed Cortes' men to victory. This full commitment results in attention to detail when you hire staff for attitude of pride in their own work rather than for experience. You train your people to perform consistently to their internalized high standard. Teach them that "how you do ANYTHING is how you do EVERYTHING."
A Study in Contrasts: The Hilton Grand Vacations Timeshare Sales Pitch:
In stark contrast to our time staying in Lucifer's gilded heaven, we sat through the absolute worst pathetic sales pitch by HGV. We walked into our 90-minute presentation willing to honor our part of the bargain by sitting and listening to whatever Hilton Grand Vacations had to say but also treating that time as sales training for ourselves by paying attention to the techniques and practices they deployed. Here's how our ballet unfolded.
Preamble - Getting to Know You:
Each of the eight couples attending the presentation was paired with an HGV sales rep. Our rep made small talk with us for a few minutes as we sat enjoying complementary juices and snacks. He asked a couple of qualifying questions along the way to get a sense for our vacation habits and our lifestyle and professional status. The rep didn't seem focused and quickly detoured into comfortable territory of talking about himself and his past existence as a 6-day a week working stiff until he committed to enjoying travel as the key part of his life. I'm unclear on the motivation behind the conversation: was it to try to impress us with name-dropped destinations? Was it just to get us to like him? LESSON: when the clock is running, keep your head in the game!
The Warm-up Speaker:
The group was escorted to a presentation room for a 20-minute warm-up speech, complete with lots of TMI personal chit-chat from a former showgirl turned timeshare promoter and travel loving wife. We laughed at some of her jokes; we liked her pictures. She has cute dogs and they get to go with her to some stellar resorts. Do you want this lifestyle too? Do you want to enjoy this type of luxury before kicking the bucket? Of course! We'll tell you how soon... LESSON: don't bother building rapport, unless you're going to use it somehow. After her well-rehearsed bit ends, we never see this one again.
The Not-Even-Close to a Close:
Now after what was designed to build our appetite for HGV to a fever pitch, each couple is taken by their respective rep to a booth with a wall-mounted monitor. Our guy, let's call him Eddy, starts to show us different properties and wants us to click on destinations we want to visit. We throw out vacations we might take Portugal, Australia and a Brazil-to-Argentina trip. We're trying hard to keep him on track as he fumbles through showing us what they have to offer. We ask him a couple of soft-ball questions about how this whole point system works. Each time, Eddy has to step away to consult with his manager in the other room - the man behind the curtain. At this point, we're fighting to get Eddy to spell out the value proposition of their product and the exact cost. We can't get him to disclose fees and costs in a clear way. He just keeps going back to general statements such as "but don't you enjoy vacations?", "you have bills already for things you don't enjoy, right? So this would be just another bill but for something you love!" Somehow, he lets slip that in addition to the upfront buy-in to be an "Owner" there are periodic Maintenance fees (just an extra $700 for example) and when you use your points for actual stays, there are booking fees. Now, rather than spelling out the fees and costs or even the actual value of their service, Eddy just gives up and vanishes without so much as a goodbye. But Eddy, I thought we were pals after you'd told us all about your family trips. His manager slithers in to sign-us out, quickly gathering up any notes and papers Eddy may have left behind - this conversation never happened.
LESSON(S): TOO MANY TO EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START!
Sales people must have their product knowledge down to perfection
Figure out your type of buyer -> if the buyer is asking for facts and figures, don't try to sway with unrelated anecdotes to try to build rapport.
Be clear in spelling out the costs and fees
Be confident in the value of your product
Recognize that some questions are a Buying Signal, that means you answer and then close
That was it for our timeshare presentation, we fulfilled our end of the bargain and walked away no wiser to how their service even works. We read the reviews for HGV online - terrible. I felt dirty and in need of a good soak back in our Trump Tower suite.