December 29, 2011

The Customer is Always Right?

Here's a story from my time in the casino trenches... I felt it was appropriate to share after seeing all that footage of over-exuberant holiday shoppers taking things a little bit too far. 

Sometimes the customer needs to be put into their place!

While quality customer service is always expected from the front-line employees at a casino, let’s face it – it’s not always possible to achieve. After all, you can’t follow the age old axiom that “the customer is always right” when a ranting lunatic is trying to convince you that they want their $100 bet at the roulette table returned to them because the dealer took their chip off the winning number in error –especially when there are no $100 chips on the table, even in the “muck” (the large pile of losing chips that is pushed to the side in the clearing away process) making the truth of their claim impossible.

Of course, that kind of “shot taking” – where a scam artist will attempt to trick an inexperienced dealer or floorperson into making an erroneous payout – is commonplace. Most of the time, it can be stopped before it has a chance to start, simply by dealers following “proper procedure” in terms of game protection – placement of the cards, what direction to angle their bodies so they can see cheaters place late bets, the order in which they are supposed to clear chips from a roulette layout, etc. Of course, even the best of the bunch can sometimes make a mistake, as what happened to me one fine day near the end of my eight-hour shift of dealing blackjack.

Blackjack is a game I could deal in my sleep, and quite often did, as I simply turned on my auto-pilot, without any real need to pay attention to what I was doing. Simply put, since most people play “by the book” and you tend to keep the same players on your table for hours on end, a certain “confidence” is formed between the dealer and the gamblers. They recognize you know what you’re doing, so they relax and let you do it. In turn, you know they’re not going to make any “crazy plays” like hitting a hard 17 or standing pat on a 13 against your face card, so you deal without thinking and the time goes by faster.

Honestly, as a dealer when you’re good enough to reach that level of confidence, it shows. Oftentimes in the midst of my “trance” I’d suddenly snap out of it in the middle of making pay-outs, simply because it just “felt wrong” – and I’d know I’d made a mistake, which could have been either in the player’s favor or the house’s favor – my job is to get it right, either way. I’d quickly correct it on the spot, and again, the players’ confidence level in me grew – even to the point that if after I swept the cards away and a player who wasn’t paying close attention to the game would ask me something like “What did I have? Didn’t we push?” I could simply say, “No, I beat you” and they’d shrug and the game would continue. I might not have had any memory of the hand at that point, but I knew I was right, and based on their experience with me, so did they. The issue died there.

In short, shot-takers simply didn’t bother coming to my table – they could see very quickly it wasn’t going to fly.

But on this one occasion, I got caught. I had been dealing to this gentleman, playing alone at the table, for several hours, and he was strictly by the book. He never once varied from basic strategy, and while we didn’t converse, there didn’t seem to be any animosity brewing at the table, even as he started to lose a bit more than we won. However, I let my guard down, just for a split-second, and made a classic “rookie mistake” by “assuming” a hit was forthcoming without waiting for the hand signal.

He had 14. I had an 8 showing. In this situation, you hit since you always assume a face card for the dealer’s down-card. If I have 18, he loses, so he “has to” hit. Of course, I jumped the gun and pulled the next card out of the shoe, which was a King, causing him to break. But before I could even get the card over to his hand, he started shouting at me. “I didn’t say to hit! No hand signal!”

Plain and simple - he got me. I was angry with myself for letting it happen, but hey, it does happen. I immediately told him to relax. I agreed with him. He did not give me a hand signal, so he doesn’t get this card. His hand is still live. I called for the floorperson to come over so I could explain what happened, but she was busy handling an issue at another table, so it would be a few minutes. While we waited, I explained to the player what would happen… by law, we are not allowed to change the order of the cards. So, if he didn’t want the King, that was fine – however, it is the next card out of the shoe. If I needed to hit, then the King would be my card. If I didn’t, then as it was exposed in error, it would be “burned” or moved to the discard rack. He seemed to understand, but the floorperson was still busy, and he was itching to continue gambling, so when the pit boss walked by at this point, I called for his assistance.

I explained the situation to him, and he confirmed with the player that he didn’t want the card. However at this point, the player said he wanted another card. That’s not how the game works. He takes the King or nothing. I could see this was going nowhere, so I suggested to the pit boss that we hurry along the process by exposing my hole card. After all, if I had a 4,5,6,7 or 8 underneath my already-exposed 8, then I’d be forced to draw – meaning I’d get the King, and break. We could pay this guy and move on.  The pit boss agreed and son-of-a-gun, I flipped over a “2”.

So, we tried in vain to explain to this guy for the next ten minutes… if he hits, he loses. If he stays, he loses (as I’d have 20 to his 14) – therefore, he loses. Period. End of story.

“I want a different card!” The player screamed at the pit boss, getting more and more agitated.

“You can’t get a different card,” the pit boss explained for the umpteenth time, remaining calm.

“This is bullshit!!!! You’re bullshit!!! ” The player lurched forward to point accusingly at the pit boss, who unfortunately was not the tallest man in the world, and ended up making contact forcibly with his nose.

“You get nothing! You lose! Good day sir! Take your free fizzy lifting drink and get the ^$%$% out of here!”

And so, with security quickly approaching the table, the man left without further incident. However, it wasn’t the last we’d see him that day. About twenty minutes later, Terri, the shift manager came to my table to ask me what had happened. Apparently, the man had filed a complaint with the Casino Control Commission, claiming we had cheated, and he was not going to back down until he got his money back.

After I told her what had happened, she rolled her eyes and started laughing (especially the part about our Oompa-Loompa-sized pit boss getting poked in the proboscis.) Because it costs far more money to defend ourselves in a case like this than it would be than to give this man his $10 bet back – that’s right, we’re talking about $10 here – she let me know that she was going to give him his $10 and escort him from the casino, where his business was no longer welcome.

However, when the man showed up at my table, looking smug and high and mighty, ready to gloat as I was forced to give him back his bet, Terri had one last surprise for him. She wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of making me give him those two red chips. She told him she would be giving his ten dollars back, but if he wanted it, he would have to go to our special “returns table” on the other side of the casino, a good ten minute walk away. He was about to argue, but when she asked, “Do you want to make the walk or drop your complaint?” his smile vanished and his posture slumped.

He waited by the escalator for Terri to lead him on what I was sure would be the least-direct route to the furthest table from our location, and as she turned to join him, she looked back at me and said with glee, “Wait until he finds out I’m paying him in quarters.”