Vegas #

One of the things that has kept me away from this blog for so long was a week-long business trip to Las Vegas to visit the NAB trade show

Several Americans I know have said “please don’t judge our country on Vegas” – so I won’t. It’s a city based on flesh and money, but so are parts of many others across the world…

Two things that I will comment on though…

First one was at the Apple product launch – although I know people who use (and therefore evangelise about) Apples I had not previously experienced the full Apple acolyte experience in the mass. Imagine the scene – 2000 people in the Venetian Hotel. Apple’s Rob Schoeben came on stage and more or less said “We’ve 5 new products” and that was enough for the room to erupt in vigorous applause. The same theme followed for 90 minutes after every statement. My colleagues and I – techno-sceptics all – felt we had just left normality behind out on the Strip (!) and wandered into a very strange place…

Now I’ve upset all the Apple-philes…

The other thing that struck me was the number of examples of poor customer service that lurked under the surface of tips for everything…

My example is taken from the breakfast buffet of the hotel. As befitted a 3600 bedroom hotel, the buffet area was huge, capable (at a guess) of seating about a thousand people. For much of the time it was only 10-15% full but regardless of the spare capacity there was always a long wait to get in. There were in fact two queues – firstly to pay, which even with 3 cashiers seemed to move very slowly – each transaction seemed to take at least two or three minutes to pay for a single-priced item.

Secondly you had to queue for several minutes for a single waitress to pull people from the queue in the group size that seemed to suit the tables she wanted to fill. All of this at a snail’s pace. Plenty of other waiting staff wandering around delivering coffee and clearing tables (remember this is a buffet so you fetch your own food) but no-one moving very fast.

Looking at this from a process point of view still doesn’t make much sense – the company is happy because everyone has paid before they get in. Having a large “buffer stock” of customers waiting to be seated would make sense if there was a shortage of tables which had to be kept busy, but even at the busiest period I never saw the place at more than 50% utilisation. The constraint seemed to be completely artificial by insisting that everyone was led to a table by one particular member of staff.

I’d love it if someone who is more familiar with US catering operations could explain the logic!

Julian Elve
Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change