A letter to the management of the Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV.


While in Las Vegas on our honeymoon last month my wife and I made sure we purchased tickets for and attended your Tournament of Kings dinner show.  It was incredible!  A decent story with incredibly practiced and rehearsed choreography.  We were impressed.

What did NOT impress us, however, was the rampant nickel-and-diming that went on.  After paying well over $100 for our tickets, we were shocked that a mug of beer was $12 (just $2 more if we wanted a souvenir mug!).  Shortly after having been seated and while soda was being poured, a nice lady came by and took our picture. 

The show began and we ate, cheered, and booed as was appropriate.  At some point in the middle of the fantastic show that lady with the camera snuck back around and deposited our souvenir photo, shrink-wrapped and everything (presumably lest we spill something–very thoughtful!), in front of us.  To our dismay, she showed up about 15 minutes later, still in the middle of the show, and tried to extort $20 from us if we wanted to keep the picture.  Incensed, I sternly told her "no" and sent her on her way.  Shortly after THAT disruption, our "beer guy" came around and gave us a bill!  STILL in the middle of the tournament!  I barely tipped him.

At the prices you charge for that show and the mediocre food that accompanies it, the audience ought to be entitled to experience it unfettered and uninterrupted.  To that end, if you insist on charging exorbitant prices for these "extras", you should let your customers know about them at the time of purchase.  Not everyone’s raking in thousands of dollars at your casinos.  Some of us are on a budget, and after paying $140 for the dinner and show, we were shocked, surprised, and upset to discover that we owed anything else. Had we known about these extras, we might have thought differently about our purchase.  And even if we hadn’t, we’d still be upset about the "pay me!"-driven interruptions in the middle of the show.

We urge you to reconsider your practices as we found them to be deceptive and disheartening.

On a positive note, we found your all-day buffet to be one of the best deals on the lower strip!  We stayed in Mandalay Bay on our Honeymoon.  If we ever return to Vegas, we will give Excalibur a hard look when deciding where to stay.

Romeyn & Amanda Prescott

PS: When we got home and unpacked, we realized that the logo on one of the mugs was a little crooked!

Why “free” isn’t really free

Since they were old enough to understand the concept, I have made it clear to my children that "there’s no such thing as ‘free’."  I do this wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself, and I love the weird looks I get from people in stores; people who, based on their facial expressions,  clearly think that my brain is on fire and that worms are crawling out of my ears. 

Simply, there is opportunity cost associated with every transaction.  And in most cases, when an advertiser uses the word "free" what they really mean is "at no additional monetary cost".  This is what I tell my children: if you have to spend money to get it, then it isn’t "free".

Not everything advertised as free costs money, however.  Well, at least not up front!  Some time ago someone clued me in to the existence of Freecycle.  Anyone can join and post stuff they want, or stuff they want to give away.  It’s for people who realize that someone might actually want that "piece of crap" they would otherwise throw away.  So they give it away.  This isn’t eBay.  There’s no bidding, no money, and no shipping.  If you want someone else’s crap, you have to go get it.  And the first one there wins.

A couple of weeks ago someone posted that they had a Kenmore portable dishwasher.  By its description it was in very good shape, but it did not drain.  I contacted the poster and he said someone else was scheduled to pick it up, but that if that didn’t work out I was next in line.  A few days later I got another e-mail: "Come and get it!"  I set a date and time and was off to get my "free" dishwasher!

Here is what this thing actually cost me:

  • I don’t have a truck, and my Van is currently in need of some service, so I had to borrow a truck.  My friend Tom was nice enough to not only let me use his truck, but he went with me to pick up the dishwasher as well!  Cost: Tom’s time, my time, and mileage on his truck.
  • 3 trips to the hardware store.  I tested it and, as reported, it did not drain.  But to test it I had to hook it up to my kitchen sink’s faucet.  IN order to do THAT I needed the sink spout adapter, which was NOT supplied.  It took me three tries to get the right fittings.  Cost: about an hour of my time, $6.50, and 5 miles on my car.
  • 1 trip to Lowe’s, and 1 trip to Radio Shack.  Having (incorrectly) deduced that there was something plugging the drain hose, I needed long, think needle-nose pliers to extract that which I "felt" to be the blockage.  I ended up with forceps from Radio Shack.  Cost: 4 miles on my car and about $10.00.
  • The "blockage" turned out to be some kind of "flap" which I presume prevents backflow into the dishwasher or something.  But it wasn’t the cause of the blockage.  Further analysis revealed a suspect impeller at the bottom of the unit.  I made a post to Sears online "expert" support forum along with a couple of pictures and in less than 2 days someone confirmed my diagnosis.  I ordered a new impeller.  Cost: Half an hour of my time and about $16.00.

Yesterday I installed the new impeller.  Having a new part to compare to the old part made it obvious what the problem had been.  I fired it up and it works just great!  For the first time in over 15 years, I have the luxury of a dishwasher!  It’s a nice unit, can be retro-fitted into our existing cabinetry if we ever want to, and gives us a little more kitchen counter space!

But it was in no way "free"!!