Five unconventional ways to lose your shirt in Vegas
Although I never gamble, my travels to Las Vegas have often left me poorer than I had expected them to.
The reason for this is simple -- Las Vegas is a city that is simply determined to rip you off, even if you never touch a single slot machine or play a single hand of Blackjack. As someone who has travelled to Sin City several times over the past three years for assorted tech conventions, I can attest that Vegas has a unique way of nickel and diming (or more accurately, five-dollar-billing) tourists in ways that would make Ebenezer Scrooge blush.
So when you take the trip to Vegas for Interop this year, here are some things to avoid doing if at all possible. For while they may seem like harmless activities that would not set you back in most normal cities, in Vegas they'll undoubtedly cost you.
1. Don't withdraw money from an ATM.
Whining and moaning about high ATM fees is a proud American tradition -- after all, why should I have to give another bank 10% of a $20 withdrawal? Las Vegas ATMs take these usurious fees to absurd new heights, as they often charge between $5 and $10 per transaction. If you find yourself needing cash in Vegas, be sure to invest in some traveler's checks beforehand.
2.) Don't pay for short cab rides with large bills.
After a quick $8 cab ride to the airport one time, I handed the driver a $20 bill. Knowing that I was already in a rush to make my flight and would not have time to argue, he handed me back $2 in change and kept the remaining $10 as his own personal "tip."
This is not to say that every Vegas cabbie is an unscrupulous scumbag per se, but it's often risky to take anything for granted in that city. Carry small bills with you or find a cab that takes credit cards if you want to avoid this particularly irritating scam.
3.) Don't have your company send a FedEx package to your hotel.
After I hadd arrived at the Rio a couple of years back, I realized that I left my company credit card back at the office. IDG promptly FedExed the card to me overnight, at which point the Rio actually charged me a $5 fee just for picking up the package. Yes, really. That was their justification for charging me $5.
There really is no way to avoid ticky-tack fees like this if you've left something crucial at home and you need it sent to you ASAP. The only alternative I can think of is to have your company invest heavily in carrier pigeons.
4.) Don't use your hotel phone for, like, anything.
My colleague John Cox used his hotel room phone one time to change his outgoing voice messages at both home and work. The process took him about four minutes, but it cost him a total of $40.
In the age of cell phones, there is simply no reason to use your hotel's landline service for any reason. Of course, it won't be long before casinos find some way to successfully block cellular signals within their building and force you to use their own internal network that will charge you a modest rate of $95 per minute… uh, on second thought, maybe I shouldn't give these guys any ideas.
5.) Don't invest in real estate.
Although this is not something that I have personally done, it's become the most surefire way to lose money in Vegas other than saying "Hit me!" when you're at 21. Sure, the entire country suffered from the collapse of the housing bubble over the past few years, but few cities saw as remarkable decline as Las Vegas, where home prices fell by a whopping 50% from their peak in 2006. Things could get even worse for Vegas real estate in the coming years as any new commercial building constructed during the boom period will surely find itself underwater when its real estate loan reaches the end of its term over the next four years.
At any rate, it's become virtually impossible to take a trip to Vegas without getting ripped off in one way or another. Your best bet for saving money when you go there is probably to sleep under a bridge and rummage through dumpsters for scraps of food. Although, who knows? Maybe the casinos will grow tired of people free-riding off there dumpster food and will start requiring you to insert a $5 bill before accessing it.
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