Sunday, July 17, 2016

Wrong Car Park? Sorry, I Left My Buick in My Other Pants

This is the second part of my reaction to experiencing MGM’s new “enhanced parking” for the first time.  You can find part 1 here, and we pick up right where we left off.  

The next night I went directly to the MGM garage, first time under the new system.  And except for the lines (because one gate in each direction was broken), it worked smoothly.  Furthermore, the MGM garage is so freaking big that the gates to get in and out are not at the top of big inclines.  They are located on flat driveways.  This makes the MGM garage much easier to deal with than either Mirage or NYNY.  The MGM garage thus becomes the first “robvegaspoker-approved” enhanced parking garage in the MGM chain.  In fact, things went so smoothly that I thought to myself….I know now why they went to this gate system. It’s because when it works properly and you get in easily, you feel like you’ve won something.

Exiting went smoothly too.  They had two of the three exit gates open, and when I approached them, and noticed that no one was following me, I stopped before entering either of the open lanes, waiting to see lane would empty first. That way, I was assured I wouldn’t get stuck behind someone who couldn’t open the gate, for whatever reason.


I parked at MGM a few more times before trying one more MGM property’s garage.  That would be the Monte Carlo.  I actually parked there on consecutive days.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I park at Monte Carlo whenever I go to Aria.  The reason is that I can get to the Monte Carlo garage without driving on the Strip, but (as far as I know), you have to drive on the Strip to get to Aria self-parking.  I hate driving on the Strip and will do (almost) anything to avoid it.  You can take a fairly short walk from the Monte Carlo garage to the Aria poker room and stay indoors approximately 99.27% of the walk, so I do that. 

Monte Carlo is the second “robvegaspoker-approved” MGM property garage.  It’s not as big as MGM, but the layout of it allows for the gates to be on flat driveways, not inclines.  So it’s easier to get in and out of.  Now, in order to get to the MC without driving on the Strip, you actually have to take the entrance to NYNY on Tropicana. You then drive past NYNY and past the new T-Mobile arena to get to the MC garage.  Note, for accuracy sake, I should mention that you can also get to the MC garage from the aforementioned Frank Sinatra Drive, too.  But that has nothing to do with this blog post.

I only mention this to point out that, as I drove past the entrance to the NYNY garage on a late Monday afternoon/early evening, the backup of cars trying to get into the NYNY was considerable, It was almost backed up to Tropicana, in fact. I assume one of the gates wasn’t working, and who knows if maybe some people were having other issues entering.  But if it backs up like that on a quiet Monday evening, you can see the potential for trouble.

No such issues at MC and I entered and exited without any issues.  Again….made me feel like a winner.

The very next day I returned to MC (to head to the Aria) and again had no issues entering.  I left many, many hours later.  Now, for some reason—I can’t remember why—I didn’t have to put my card in the machine to open the gate.  It was already opened.  I want to say that the gate was opened for me by the attendant who happened to be there, but am not sure. Maybe was just open when I got there.  Whatever, I just seem to recall that I left without inserting my card.

The next time I went to an MGM property to park wasn’t for a few days.  The MGM Grand was hosting a charity tournament for comedian Brad Garrett.  Through my connections with Ante Up, I was offered a free entry to it.  You might remember my last column led with a piece on the tournament (see here).  The magazine itself had also offered them a special deal on advertising (as they tend to do with charity events).  So I was on the VIP list to play in the tournament. 

I had mentally circled the day and time of the tournament.  All the time I was in Vegas, I was thinking it was the last Saturday I was in town, and that it started at 12:30PM.  I wanted to get there early to make sure I had time to meet Brad’s assistant, who had arranged the whole thing.  I’d never been freerolled into a charity event like this before, and didn’t really know how it worked, but her email said she was looking forward to meeting me, so I assumed I had to find her to get my free entry.   My aim was to be there no later than Noon.

I was ahead of schedule and then went to look at my email to make sure I had the lady’s name right.  When I read that email, I saw that it said the tournament started at 12 Noon, not 12.30!  WTF?  I was so sure it was 12:30!  I checked my column and damn if I didn’t have it starting at Noon there as well.  How embarrassing to have gotten the time wrong when I even put it in my column!  Now, suddenly, I was rushing, and my plan of getting there half an hour early was shot. 

I rushed out, and fortunately, there was little traffic between me and the MGM.  There were just a few cars in line getting into the lot.  There were no attendants to be seen, though. When I pulled up, I inserted my MLIfe Gold card and it ejected it without opening the gate. Huh?  I tried again.  I believe there was some message about what was wrong on the little screen, but it was pretty hard to read as the bright sunshine was beating down on it.  I did notice that the rectangular light around the slot for the card was red as it kicked out my card for the second time. I seemed to recall that when it worked previously, that rectangular light had turned green as the gate opened. I was worried about being late and so after the second rejection, I gave up and did what I “knew” would get the gate open—I pushed the button and pulled a ticket.

That worked and I made a mental note to be sure and check with someone in the poker room before trying to leave to see if they could figure out what the issue with my card suddenly not working was all about.  Now I guess my experience in the tournament itself will be a separate blog post down the road (hint: it didn’t end well and the dreaded hand was involved).  The tournament was held in a different area of the casino from the poker room, so when I was done there, I went over to the poker room and presented my card to see if they could tell me what the issue was.

The person helping me at the poker room was a relatively new guy who didn’t know me.  But he checked my card and said my account was still gold and he couldn’t see what the problem was.  “Must have been a glitch.”  Sure. The all-purpose "glitch."  He checked my card not by swiping it but by punching in the numbers into the computer.  I felt I should have asked him to swipe it just in case the coding on the card’s electronic strip had worn out.  That seemed unlikely though, since the card was just a couple of weeks old. 

Well, I went back to the car and didn’t know what to expect.  Fortunately, when I approached the exit gate, it wasn’t very crowded, but again, there were no attendants around.  I inserted my card, which ejected, and the lighted rectangle around the slot was red.  This time I was able to see the message on the little screen.  It said, “Wrong Car Park.”

What the hell?  I had parked the wrong car?  Sorry, MGM, this is the only car I’ve got.  And it was most assuredly my car.  I guess by now there was a car or two behind me waiting to exit behind me, no doubt getting anxious.  As I said there was no attendant to call over but there was an intercom, so I “called” for help.  It took close to a minute for someone to answer.  I told him what the problem was.  He said he was going to look something up in their system.  He put me on hold.  When he came back, he asked, “Did you pull a ticket to get in?”  I told him I had.  “Ok, put the ticket in the slot, then put your card in.”  I put the ticket it and the message said I owed them $7.  Yeah, good luck collecting.  Anyway, I then put my card in, the rectangular light around the slot turned green and the gate opened!  I had my escape route.  As I left, my main concern was that the guy stuck behind me was thinking, “Dumb California driver couldn’t figure out the new parking system.”

As it happened, I ended up going back to MGM to play that evening.  I think I would have played there that night anyway, but I was damn curious to see if I still was going to have a parking issue.  And yes…I did.  Put my card in and it came back with the red lighted rectangle.  This time I was able to read the message.  I wish I had written down the exact wording, as I managed to forget it soon after, but it was something like “Already entered,” or “already parked,” or “already in system.”  The first word was definitely “already,” I’m at least sure of that.

I gave it one more try and got the same result.  Again, no attendant around but there still were no cars behind me.  So I figured I’d use the intercom and try to get to the bottom of this.  A guy came on and I told him what the issue was.  He didn’t seem like he was looking anything up like the last guy. He told me to push the button, take a ticket, and then, “when you get in the casino, just throw away the ticket.”  Yep, that’s what he said, just throw away the ticket.

Well, I pushed the button, took the ticket, drove through the now-opened gate, but there was no way I was throwing away that ticket! Remembering that I had to insert the ticket before inserting my card to exit earlier that very day, I sure as hell kept that damn ticket.

Hours later, my session over, I headed back to my car to see what it would take to exit.  Well, it was pretty quiet then, no one behind me, and again, no attendant.  Twice I got the same, “wrong car park” message.  Was it telling me I was in the wrong parking garage?  We don’t refer to them as “car parks” on the West Coast.  Anyway, I used the intercom again, and explained to the guy what happened, including the guy earlier telling me to throw away my ticket.  He sounded a little panicked.  “Do you still have your ticket?”  I said, “You mean the one the other parking genius told me to throw away?  Why would I have kept it?  I threw it away like the guy told me to!”

Actually I didn’t say that.  I told him that I did indeed have the ticket.  He told me to stick it in and then put my card in.  After it read my ticket, it told me I owed them $10.  But after putting my card in, the green light came on, all was forgiven, the gate opened and I was on my way. A part of me is wondering if I’d still be stuck at that gate if I had followed the other guy’s instructions and thrown away my ticket.

My trip was winding down, but I knew I had to give it one more shot at an MGM property to see if I could decipher what was going on with my parking issue.  I drove back to the MGM late in the afternoon on July 4th, hoping that perhaps the issued had resolved itself over time.

No such luck.  Red light, no gate opening, and a message that read “Already entered” (or parked, or whatever the second word was).  It was still bright daylight out so the sun made it hard to read.  But the second time I tried it, I strained and was able to read a little more of the message. And it looked like after “already whatever” it had a date.  And that date was 6/28/16.  Hmm….I had to remember that.  In the meantime, there were cars backing up behind me, so rather than hit the intercom, I just pulled a ticket because I knew that would work.

As I started to walk to the poker room, a light bulb went off.  It seemed like the system was telling me that my car was still parked from 6/28, that’s why it wouldn’t let me enter again. It thought I was already in the garage, or one of their garages.  I stopped and tried to figure out where the hell I was on 6/28.  Fortunately, I keep records of this stuff and I didn’t even need my cell phone.  One of the few things I still keep track of on my notepad is where I played when (and how I did).  I took a look at the notebook and I saw that I had played a big tournament at Aria on the 28th.  Which meant I parked at Monte Carlo….which meant—Ding, Ding, Ding!  That was the time I exited the Monte Carlo without having to put my card in the gate!  It let me out without using my card, as I mentioned earlier.

Now it made perfect sense.  The damn parking system hadn’t checked my car out of Monte Carlo a week ago.  It wouldn’t let me in another parking garage until I was out of the Monte Carlo garage.  Except that I was actually already in the MGM garage.

I felt like Sherlock Holmes having solved a great mystery. “The Case of the Wrong Car Park.”  Now, how to fix it?  I mean aside from going to Monte Carlo for the sole purpose of exiting their garage to get me out of their damn system.  As far as I could tell there was no parking department inside the casino to go to.  The only thing I could think of was, maybe the place where they give out Player’s Cards could help me.  Fortunately, it was right on the way to the poker room.  Unfortunately, there was a huge line for it, and since I had no idea if that was even the right place to take the issue up, I didn’t bother to get in line to find out.

I wondered if the poker room supervisor could either help or direct me to the right department.  So when I got there, I went over to the regular swing shift manager, who knows me well, and explained what my issue was, and asked if he knew what department could help.  He said he didn’t know, other than asking the attendants or the perhaps the guys on the other end of those intercoms. Well that’s what I’d be doing and though I was never trapped, it wasn’t getting the issued resolved.

I thought of one more thing to try….tweeting to MGM corporate. They’d actually seen some of my tweets earlier about the parking (mostly smartass jokes) and responded seriously, so I figured they would respond to a serious inquiry.  I did a two part tweet to them that said, “Your ‘enhanced parking’ apparently thinks I'm still at Monte Carlo since Tue, how can I convince it I'm not? As a result I have issues entering and exiting your other properties with my Gold Mlife card.”  But they totally ignored me. No response at all.

While I was playing poker, I thought of a little flaw in my supposition.  I recalled that leaving MC wasn’t the only time I exited one of their properties without using my MLife card.  I remembered (as should you, back in part 1) that my second night in town, I exited at the newly created exit from NYNY…..and the gate had magically opened for me without a card.  Yet, I had no issues entering or exiting MGM several times after that.  It was only after I exited Monte Carlo without using the card that the issue developed.  Perhaps because the night at NYNY was so early in the whole “enhanced parking” scheme’s roll out, all the computers weren’t quite fully speaking to each other yet?  Who knows? I still think my theory of the system still having me in the MC garage is valid.

After my session, I walked past the Player’s Card booth just after they closed for the nite, so no help there.  But when I got to the gate, there was actually an attendant there, so I waved him over. Perhaps I could finally get this resolved.  I explained the problem.  I started to tell him that I had to keep pulling a ticket and that the system thought I’d been in the MC garage for a week.  He didn’t say anything.  When he saw my gold card, he took some kind of magic card he had hanging around his neck, stuck it up against the machine where you normally put the card in, and, just pressed it against said machine, without inserting anything.  It opened the gate like magic!  The ultimate “get out of jail free” card, I guess.

Well, I was out, but I don’t think it really solved my issue.  I never returned to another MGM property the rest of the trip, so when I eventually return to Vegas and try to enter an MGM garage, they’re probably going to want to charge me a few hundred bucks for long-term parking.  We’ll just have to see.

Imagine how much more fun I would have had if I had been one of those poor schlubs who actually had to pay for parking?  


12 comments:

  1. That does it, the next time I come to Vegas, I'll fly instead of drive from Phoenix. I don't need all that B.S. about trying to park.

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    1. Well, that's one obvious solution.

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  2. What a marketing opportunity for the other (no charge to park) strip casinos!

    Venetian should boldly advertise what has ALWAYS been free:

    Free Self Parking
    Free Valet Parking

    Wake up MGM, you are about to lose customers to your competition. Boy, that was hard to figure out!

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    1. Well, I agree but I fear the opposite will happen.

      For years after the other chains started their resort fees, Caesars properties advertised "NO RESORT FEES."

      Then suddenly they dropped that campaign and started charging them themselves.

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    2. Actually it sounds like CET is really close to announcing they will charge now. Also a guy who works in valet said when they tell locals self parking is free, the locals respond with "It's too hot to walk" or "this is more convenient." And valet is more expensive than self parking.

      Venetian won't see it as a marketing opportunity. They probably see it as another chance to nickel and dime people.

      MGM properties are still really busy so people obviously don't care enough about free parking.

      Steve007

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    3. Thanks, Steve, I always expected the others to follow suit pretty quickly.

      I think the people who are paying for parking on the folks who don't visit either Vegas or MGM regularly---but there are a lot of those folks. The locals and the regs have ways to get free parking,for now.

      I am real curious to see if they extend free parking for locals past the end of the year.

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  3. "Car park" isn't even used in the entire country, not just the west coast of it.

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  4. Be sure there is no event at the arena if you plan on parking at MC or NYNY. Went to Garth Brooks on the 3rd while staying at the MC and the lines from the MC garage were up to 45 minutes just to exit. ( from over hearing gripes of the cars while walking past them) In fact the whole area was a cluster-fuck. The kids they had directing traffic had not a clue and the real police were just standing there shaking their heads at the mess. Hopefully they will figur it out.

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    1. Thanks....you know I guess I left this out of the post (wasn't long enough!). But as soon as I got to town I looked up the schedule for the T-Mobile arena and knew to avoid both those garages whenever there was an event there, so I did.

      I was actually thinking of avoiding even the MGM garage there for those days, but I actually did go there once and it wasn't bad....I drove past the arena after the event had started but well before it let out so I timed it right.

      But you know, I'm probably not going to be able park at MC to play at Aria if they have event that day, I may have to figure out another way. Gulp? Aria valet parking? We'll see.

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  5. Is Brad Garrett sick or something? Why were they holding a charity tournament for him?

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    1. Haha....Brad Garrett is fine. It is HIS charity for a really good cause....check it out here.

      http://www.maximumhopefoundation.org/

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