Why I Love Las Vegas

I don’t play slots or gamble outside of house card games with a few buddies.  I don’t really enjoy the nightlife party and drinking scene.  I don’t do strip clubs.  I’m not a fan of musicals and shows.  Yet I love Vegas.

The first time I visited Las Vegas for a conference I was blown away by how much I loved the atmosphere.  Yes, it’s cheesy and ridiculous and lewd and in your face.  But it has in extreme measure that thing you find more in most American cities than just about any country in the world: customer service.  America has a deep and strong culture of entrepreneurship, hard work, and (partially) free-markets.  This results in a relentless drive and competition to please customers.  “The customer is always right” is a powerful adage that drives business, whether the owners like it or not.

Ludwig von Mises described the situation of producers in a capitalist economy well:

“Descriptive terms which people use are often quite misleading. In talking about modern captains of industry and leaders of big business, for instance, they call a man a “chocolate king” or a “cotton king” or an “automobile king.” Their use of such terminology implies that they see practically no difference between the modern heads of industry and those feudal kings, dukes or lords of earlier days. But the difference is in fact very great, for a chocolate king does not rule at all; he serves. He does not reign over conquered territory, independent of the market, independent of his customers. The chocolate king — or the steel king or the automobile king or any other king of modern industry — depends on the industry he operates and on the customers he serves. This “king” must stay in the good graces of his subjects, the consumers; he loses his “kingdom” as soon as he is no longer in a position to give his customers better service and provide it at lower cost than others with whom he must compete.”

In other words, the customer is not only right, the customer is king.  The businesses are the subjects, always vying the for approval and happiness of their Kings and Queens.  The truth, of course, is that the producers are also themselves consumers.  Those who work in the hotel, or mall, or diner, or factory are also consumers who patronize businesses.  We’re all serving each other.

In the case of Vegas, the notion of customer service reaches new heights.  It borders on customer worship.  From the minute you step out of the concourse your eyes are dazzled with light, sound, and a flurry of activity intended to delight and amaze.  Every square inch of the famous strip is covered with people and signs and sights begging to make you happy.  The chubby middle-aged guy from the Midwest wearing a cheap Wisconsin Badgers sweatshirt is courted and complimented by beauty and talent all around.  The question that seems to be always on the mind of the businesses there is, “What can we do to make you happy?  How can we exhilarate you?”

You may call it tacky, but there are few places in the world where the commonest of people are treated like royalty 24/7.  There is something magical about it.  That’s what I love about Vegas.