Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Caesars Rewards Credit Card Ordeal (Conclusion)

Part 2: We Cancelled Your Card Per Your Request

Part 1 is here, and we pick up right where that one left off.

I was about to give up but I saw the engagement ring guy talking to the guard (it was a different guard than earlier).  BTW, in the course of this ordeal, I found out that the guards do not even work for UPS, they are contracted out. He insisted that she call someone inside the facility and she did, and someone actually did come out to speak to us (I think there were three of us left; I’m not sure who the third person was). 

That someone explained to both of us what happened.  There is a different group that handles the after hours pick up from the folks who work days.  There are three people who cover will call in the evening and not one of them showed up this night!  (I realize that it was the beginning of a holiday weekend but going zero for three doesn’t say much for UPS Human Resources Dept, assuming this guy was on the level).  The other guy asked, well isn’t there a backup?  The response was, “Well, there’s three of them, that's the backup….and again, none of them showed." They are not the same people who work during the day. So neither the call center person I talked to at around noon, nor the workers in the facility that the other folks talked to when they tried to get their packages earlier had any contact with the shift that was supposed to cover evening will calls. 

He eventually asked us, “Was your package on the truck today?”  I don’t remember the other guy's answer, but he mentioned his neighborhood and it was not the same as mine.  I said, “My package was on the truck today and they couldn’t deliver it because it didn’t have my unit number.  And my house is just down the street from here.  The driver probably has the closest route to this facility.”  

He told us our packages wouldn’t be inside anyway, they would still be on the trucks. Huh?  Can’t anybody get their story straight?  He said, “Well, maybe you can call the driver, maybe if they haven’t gotten too far from here on their way home, they will come back and find your package.  Or maybe they are still here. But you need the driver if you are going to get your package tonight.  He scrolled through the phone and gave me the cell phone number of my UPS driver.  I think he did the same for the engagement ring guy, but I’m not sure.  I think he may have had a different issue, as I’m not sure his ring was on a delivery truck that day.

What did I have to lose?  I called the number and a guy picked up, and I explained the situation.  Turned out the driver was still right there in the facility (probably doing paperwork in his truck, I imagine).  He remembered not being able to find my unit number!  But he said that it had already been processed.  Ugh, my heart sunk with that, I assumed that meant it was locked up inside and he couldn’t get to it now. But then he asked for the tracking number, which I gave him.  After a pause he said, “Give me a couple of minutes and I’ll retrieve it and bring it to you. Where are you?”  I told him I was standing between the closed Will Call door and the guard’s booth.

And sure enough, about 15 minutes later, A guy dressed like a UPS driver came out with his portable computer thingie and a UPS overnite letter/package in his hand.  But before he would give it to me, he asked, “Do you have identification?”  I said of course.  Then I joked, that would be the ultimate kicker after all that, if I had forgotten my wallet and he wouldn’t give me the damn package for lack of I.D.!  But I pulled out my driver’s license, It was really dark out by this time but he somehow was able to read my license, then he made me sign his computer thingie……And then he gave me my UPS envelope that indeed did have my Caesars Rewards credit card!  I thanked him profusely and he seemed genuinely glad to have helped me out.  There had already been a discussion about how the drivers could not accept tips (I don’t remember how that came up) so I didn’t offer him one. 

And you know, I have no idea what happened with the engagement ring guy. That will remain one of the great mysteries of my life. He was still hanging around when I was ready to leave.  He couldn’t believe I got my package, but I assume he was waiting for his driver or whoever the person he was given a number for by the guy who gave me my driver's number to show up.

It was about 8:20pm when I got back in my car with my new credit card.  Yes, I opened the package right then and there to make sure it was what I thought it was (not that I would have been able to do anything about it if it wasn’t the credit card).  So I wasted close to an hour and a half on this little adventure.

Now you might think that’s the end of the story, but you would be wrong.  That is merely the end of the UPS portion of this tale.  There is still so much more to tell.

You see, I knew that just having the card in my possession wouldn’t be quite good enough.  In order to get my tier status upgraded, I need to actually use the card.  And this was Friday night and I was headed to Vegas in about 36 hours.  

I already had a plan for how to use the card fast.  I’d buy something from Amazon with it.  But I couldn’t be something they would ship me right away, I wouldn’t want a package delivered while I was in Vegas.  I suppose I could have bought a Kindle book or rented a movie to stream, but I had a better idea.  I’d add to my gift card balance, a trick I’d used for similar reasons in the past.  You don’t actually need to have ever gotten an Amazon gift card, or even have any kind of balance on it, to do this.  So I put $50 on my gift card balance knowing that it wouldn’t take me very long to buy something I could use the money for. But the charge to my card would go thru immediately.

Not so fast. Yes the charge went thru, I could see it on the online account I had already set up for the new credit card.  But it was only “pending.”  Of course, the charge was authorized but it was not a completed transaction.  That takes a day, or two, or three.  I think it depends on the bank the vendor is using, and is maybe affected by the timing of the transaction.  In this case, it went thru late Friday night (possibly Saturday morning for the bank they were using), and this was, again, a holiday weekend.  I checked, but there was no change on the status of my Caesars Rewards card online.  I’d just have to wait for that charge to be completed. 

Well, it didn’t go through Saturday as I packed for my trip.  And I woke up Sunday and checked before hitting the road.  Nope, that damn Amazon charge was still only pending.  Well, I could use the card that day, but it didn’t look like anything would likely go through until maybe Tuesday, after the holiday?  Damn.

I wondered if showing up at a Caesars Rewards desk at one of their casinos could expedite things.  I figured I was going to find out.  I mean I could show them my new CR Visa card, shouldn’t that be good enough?

I used the card for lunch on the road and got a receipt, but it was almost illegible (they needed to replace the toner).  Nonetheless, I thought maybe a receipt would help my case.

After checking into the hotel and unpacking, I again went online to find that my status hadn’t changed and neither of my authorized transactions had completed.   I decided to head over to Caesars Palace.  I figured worst case scenario, I would find out within an hour that I couldn’t get my status upgraded until the transactions actually went through.  As I recalled, I could park at Caesars for one hour without paying, if things didn’t work out.

On the way to Caesars, I stopped to get gas.  I of course wanted to use my new Caesars Visa to pay for the gas.  The first station I went to, when I put my card in at the pump, it gave me a message, “see cashier.”  WTF?  Did this mean there was a problem at the station or was there a problem with the card?  I didn’t want to waste any time, so I just got back in the car and found another station.  Same brand of gas, and this time my card worked.  But when I pressed the button for a receipt, nothing came out.  Shit.  Even if I didn’t think the receipt might come in handy to prove I used the card, I have gotten in the habit of keeping all my receipts, especially when I travel.  So I would have wanted that receipt anyway.  

I went into the convenience store that was part of the gas station and told the guy I didn’t get a receipt.  I had no idea if he could actually get me a receipt or not.  But he punched a few buttons on his computer and produced a duplicate receipt for me, which was readable and clearly showed the last four digits of my Visa card.

I stuck the receipt in my shirt pocket, next to the unreadable lunch receipt and headed to Caesars.  I pulled a ticket to enter, wondering if I would be able to escape without incident, having just heard that very morning my pal Don’s tale of woe trying to get out of there just the previous night. Gulp.

Entering Caesars for the first time in at least three years, I had trouble locating the Rewards Center.  For my convenience, they moved it to the other side of the floor.  Then I had to wait, it was a holiday weekend and quite busy.  Plus Caesars has a caste system and there are separate lines for each status level of your card.  If you are the lowest level like I was (for now), you are considered an “untouchable” and you get helped last.  I dunno how many times I was “next” only to be cut in front of (legally) by someone with a higher status than me.

But finally they had no one left to call to the desk and I got to a customer service rep.  I showed them my Rewards Card which only had “Gold” Status and then showed them my newly minted Visa credit card.  The lady asked, “But have you used it?

“Yes!  I used it Friday night on Amazon, and today for lunch and I just paid for gas with this card.”

“Well, do you have a receipt?”

I mean that’s what I was hoping for but I didn’t really expect that to work.  But of course I said, “Yes!  Here it is.”  And pulled the receipt from the gas station out, and showed it to her, showed her the last four digits matched my card.  She looked it over.

“OK, let me show this to my supervisor.”  She took my rewards card, my credit card, and my gas station receipt, and went over to the next window, where her supervisor was helping someone else.  But after they talked, and after I saw the lady helping me show the supervisor my cards and receipts, she soon came back to me and said, “OK, you’re all set.”

And she handed me back my receipt, my credit card and the newly printed Caesars Rewards card that showed I was Platinum status!  I thanked her profusely and then I asked if that meant I could exit the parking garage today without paying.  She assured me that I could.

A few hours later, after having an extremely lackluster “meal” at the food court and a really boring poker session, I departed and indeed my card got me out of there without having to pay.  I had achieved my goal.  But look what I went through!

End of story, right?  Not so fast.  There’s another kicker.  I used the credit card as much as I could throughout my stay, no problem.  On Wednesday, I checked out of my hotel.  I had given them my new credit card when I checked in and as is their policy, they had the bill for my entire stay authorized, plus an additional $100 for incidentals.  But the actual charge was put through when I checked out.  There was no problem with that. I went to top off my tank before hitting the road to L.A. and when I tried to use the credit card at the gas station, the same gas station I successfully filled up at just a few days before, I got the mysterious “see cashier” message.  I had no idea what that was about but I was in a hurry, so I just used another card, which went through fine.  I didn’t think much of it.

But on the way home I stopped in beautiful Baker, Ca. (gateway to Death Valley) to grab some lunch at the Burger King there (do I know how to dine well or what?)  I used the Caesars credit card and saw the little computer gizmo said, “Declined.”  WTF?  I hadn’t had the card long enough to have a delinquent payment!  And I hadn’t come anywhere close to using up my credit limit.  I wondered if maybe they had put some kind of red flag on my card since I had used it so much in such a short period of time, and it was such a new card.  I paid for lunch with another credit card.

When I got settled back in at home that night, I went online to look at my credit card account.  Oddly enough, I was locked out of it!  I could not access my account.  I don’t recall what it was telling me, but it did not give me the impression they were having technical problems, it definitely looked like there was something specifically wrong with my account!

So, even though it was late, I called them.  The first person I talked to explained to me that my card had been cancelled.

Again, WTF?  Why was my account closed?  No, my account wasn’t closed, it was just that card that was cancelled, per my request.  Huh?  “I didn’t cancel the card, do you have any idea what I went through to get that card?  Why was my card cancelled?”

She looked it up and repeated that it showed that I had requested a new card, so that was cancelled and a new card with a new card number was on its way. I couldn’t believe this, that I was going to have to wait to get another card from them, for no reason. Would I have to go to Fed-Ex this time to pick it up?

I asked for a better explanation, and all she could tell me was that it showed that I had requested a replacement card, and to cancel the card I had been using for all of five days.  I said that explanation wasn’t good enough and so she transferred me to their security department.

The new person from the security department said that my card came back to them via returned mail.  I said, “Then how come I have it right here in my hand?”  But I soon figured it out.  Remember, that card I had was the replacement card.  They had sent me one earlier via regular mail, which I never received.  Why?  Most likely because they didn’t put my unit number on it, same as with the UPS package.  So when that came back to the bank as undeliverable, they foolishly cancelled the card that was good and had been delivered properly and was where it belonged.

The clowns cancelled the good card (and maybe the returned card) for no reason.  If anyone had given it a thought, they would have realized they already sent me a replacement card and that I was using it and everything was fine.  Now I had a useless card and had to wait for yet another replacement?

Can you believe it?  I really must say that the customer service by this bank is less than stellar, to say the least.  How could they just cancel my card without notifying me?  An email, a text, or a phone call was in order, no?  To leave me hanging just cancelling my card without telling me?  That’s unacceptable.  I could have still been traveling and my replacement card could have been held somewhere for weeks.  What if I needed that card for my expenses?  As it was, I was home and didn’t need it, but they didn’t know that.  I really can’t believe they decided to cancel my good card, which obviously was in the right hands or they would have asked me if those charges were legitimate.  To do it without contacting me is really bad.  A simple phone call to me could have straightened out the whole mess.  Why would they cancel the card that was not returned to them???

The good news is it didn’t affect my Platinum status.  It took almost a week for the new card to show up.  I activated it and have used it, and everything right now is fine.

But what an ordeal.

I shouldn’t have to work that hard to park my damn car in a Vegas Casino’s parking garage.

Postscript: This story is about my brief end of May trip to Vegas. I used my free parking privileges only once that trip, making it all somewhat pointless, right? But I did return to Vegas for a longer trip just this month! A planned 10-day trip would give me plenty of opportunity to park at Caesars properties and take advantage of my new status. But in fact, I only used it twice, once at Caesars and once at the WSOP venue. Sadly, my casino hopping was dramatically terminated when I contracted COVID midway through my trip. That also helps explain why I took longer to publish this part 2 than I planned.

I guess I'll discuss that in a future post.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Caesars Rewards Credit Card Ordeal

Part 1: I Guess UPS is a Mom & Pop Operation

You might say this tale I’m about to tell has nothing to do with poker or Las Vegas, but you’d be wrong.

This is the “87 part post” that I alluded to here about what I went through in order to be able to park for free at certain Vegas casinos on the Strip. Sorry to disappoint you, but it won’t quite be 87 parts. Two long posts will do (and this is the longer of the two, so once you’re finished with this one, it’s all downhill from here). When I visited Vegas in April, I was unable to park for free at any of the casinos owned by MGM Resorts or Caesars Entertainment.  I pretty much avoided their properties.  So I didn’t play in any of their rooms, with one exception.  Yeah, I did something I swore a long time ago I’d never do. For one night, I parked at MGM Grand, my old stomping grounds, and coughed up $15 for the privilege of parking there.  I felt unclean doing it, like I had committed a mortal sin, and for that reason, and because I didn’t like throwing fifteen bucks away for absolutely nothing, I re-vowed to never again pay for parking on the Strip.  I still feel that MGM Resorts cheated me out of those lousy fifteen bucks.

So for my quickie trip for the Meet Up Game I was thinking that maybe I should take some proactive steps to avoid this problem.  Now, I wasn’t really concerned about MGM properties because for that short period of time I could easily avoid them, especially since I was not thrilled with the games at MGM that I paid $15 for the privilege to play in (perhaps one day I will get around to posting about that, but don’t bet on it).  Let’s just say that even The Slut Parade ain’t what it used to be.

But it occurred to me that since the WSOP would be starting while I was still there, I might want to park at Bally’s for that, to at least check out the venue while I was there. I also knew that in the back of my mind I was thinking of returning to Vegas for yet a third time this year to catch some of the WSOP when it was going strong late in June or early in July.  So it might be a good idea to have free parking at Caesars properties.  Then my pal Lightning, with whom I figured to spend a good amount of time with this pending trip, mentioned that his favorite room these days was probably Caesars itself.

I knew that if I got the “Caesars Rewards” credit card it would qualify me for a status upgrade to Platinum that would count for free self-parking at all Caesars properties in Vegas.  I had resisted this in the past, because honestly, I probably have too many credit cards as it is, why do I need another?  One more bill to keep track of and one more card to keep using regularly so it doesn’t get canceled for lack of use.  But this one made sense, at least with one or possibly more Vegas trips coming up.

So, I figured I’d open my old, neglected Caesars Rewards account and see if they still remembered me, even if they long ago would have deleted all my credits for lack of play.  I assumed they would be able to direct me to where to apply for the credit card.  Well, not only did they remember me, but as soon as I logged in, a pop-up told me that I was pre-qualified for a Caesars Rewards credit card. Nice coincidence.  Did I want to apply?  Yes, I did. 

That took me to the simplest, easiest application for anything I ever had to fill out.  They asked me one question, if that.  I think it was, do I prefer Coke or Pepsi?  Or they may have asked about my income level.  One of those two.  Instantly they came back with a message saying that I was approved for the card, and I’d get it within 5-7 business days.  That was great, this was still a couple of weeks ahead of my trip to Vegas.  I should get it in plenty of time.

A few days later (surprised it took so long) I got an email confirming that I was approved and that my card would arrive in 5-7 business days. Now, I had applied on a Sunday night so this was mid-week.  Nothing happened the rest of the week but on Wednesday evening of the next week, I got another email reminding me to activate my card.

Reading the email, it sure made it sound like they thought I would already have my card by then.  But I had definitely not received my card.  Hmm…..I decided to wait a few more days, expecting to show up in the next day or two.  But the weekend arrived and….no card. Even though it was Sunday, I called the number I found on the email.

After going through the now standard five minutes of automated voice attendant hell, I managed to give the right answer and spoke to a human being.  He looked up my account and said I definitely should have received my card by now.  Well, should you send a replacement, I asked? The guy thought for a second and said that they could expedite a replacement for me, but it was most likely in route and it would be better if I waited a few more days.  The trouble was, it was getting close to my Vegas trip.  In fact, it was about a week away.  But he said if I didn’t have it by Tuesday, call back, and they would get a replacement card to me within a day or two.  I said ok.

Still not having received the card, I called on Tuesday.  This guy tried to convince me it was too soon to send a replacement, but I told him what the other guy said and then told him I needed the card by the end of this very week in order to use it in Vegas. So he agreed to expedite a replacement card that I’d have by Thursday.  Also—and this is important—he asked to verify my address.  I gave him my full address and he confirmed that’s what he had.

Wednesday night I got an email from UPS saying I had a package coming the next day, it would arrive before noon.  Since there was nothing else I was expecting, I was sure this was my Caesars Rewards credit card.

I was running errands Thursday morning but I assumed they would just leave the package for me. However, at about 11:45am I received an email from them saying that my package had been rescheduled for Friday, again before noon.  No explanation for the 24-hour delay was offered.

So now it was supposed to be delivered the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  And I was leaving for Vegas that Sunday.  And I needed that card to qualify for free parking in CET properties in Vegas.  Cutting it pretty close, weren’t they?  Keep in mind in order to get my rewards card upgraded, I actually had to buy something with the card, not just have it.

I was home all Friday morning, listening for my doorbell or even the sound of a truck passing by.  I had the UPS tracking sight loaded on my PC and kept refreshing it.  It just said “out for delivery”.  Finally, around 11:30 I refreshed it and it said “Delivery date to be updated” or some such.  WTF?  That made it sound to me like they attempted delivery but had somehow failed.  I was right there the whole time, and no attempt to contact me had been made.  I went outside to see if I could see a UPS truck still in my townhouse complex.  But no, there was no brown UPS truck to be seen.

To say I was pissed would be an understatement.  It was only then that I noticed a problem with the address the email from UPS showed.  Oh it was my address alright.  But it was missing my Unit Number.  I live in a townhouse complex with 87 units.  Without the unit humber UPS or anyone else would have no idea how to find me among all those townhomes.  Now, there is no way I would have ever given anyone my address without including my unit number, so I definitely gave it to the guy at the bank I spoke to a few days previously.

It seemed I was just plain screwed, but I wasn’t giving up without a fight.

I called the 800 number for UPS.  Honestly, I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.  I had to hang up and call about three times and fight through 87 erroneous voice prompts to speak to a human and give him my tracking number.  He looked it up and confirmed that my package was on the truck, but the driver was unable to deliver.  By this time I knew the reason.  I gave the guy on the phone my unit number.  I said, “Look, the guy must still be in the area.  He was here less than 15 minutes ago.  Can you call him, give him my unit #?”

Surprise, they couldn’t do that.  Impossible.  I said I needed that package today, seeing as UPS isn’t open on Saturdays, and they are closed Monday for the holiday, and I can’t get it Tuesday because I’ll be out of town….is there anything I can do?  He looked up something and said yes.  I could go to my local UPS facility that evening between 7 and 8 pm and pick it up there.  He gave me the address of the facility but I already knew where it was.  It’s really just a couple of miles down the street from me.  But, he said I would have to pay $7.99 for the convenience of picking it up that night instead of waiting for the next delivery day to get it sent to me.  Which would be Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, when I would already be in Vegas, not using the card or the upgraded status that the card would bring me!

I was shocked at the $7.99 charge and if I was thinking straight I would have told him exactly where UPS could put that eight bucks they wanted to charge me.  I mean I was doing them a favor wasn’t I? Saving them the trouble of redelivering it to me.  But you can’t fight city hall.  I was too flustered to put up much of a fight and honestly, at that moment, getting that damn credit card seemed to me the most important thing in my life.  Also, in my mind, I was gonna call the bank that issued the card and demand they reimburse me the $7.99 since it was their screw up that caused the card not to be delivered properly in the first place (note: I ended up not doing that.  I ate the lousy $8—even though the parking fees I may have saved would only be a little bit more than that. Sigh. I’m a sap.) 

Fortunately I thought to have dinner before I headed over there right around 7.  I got there,  parked, and walked up to the glass door where it says “Customer Service.”  It said something like “Will Call hours 7pm - 8pm.”  But it was locked, and it was completely dark inside.  This was about 7:10-7:15, so even if they were a little late in opening, there certainly should have been someone in there by now.  But nope, no one there, door locked.  Despite the fact that it said right on the door that Will Call hours were between 7 & 8 Monday thru Friday.

A little bit away from the door was a guard, but all she was doing was checking the UPS drivers as they were exiting for the day, presumably after having made all their day’s deliveries.  They were going thru a metal detector to exit, and then the guard wanded them.

I asked the guard what was going on, and basically all she could tell me was that there was no one inside, and it didn't look like there would be that evening. I should mention that at this point, there were two or three other people there waiting for them to open.  We compared stories, and it seemed like all of us had been told to come between 7 & 8 to get our packages.  Most of them had paid $7.99, like I had, for the privilege of going to UPS that evening to not get our stuff. One guy said he had been there earlier that day, at around 3pm, and was told his package was still on the driver’s truck, but to come back between 7 & 8 to get his package.

We were all pissed, but one guy was absolutely frantic.  He said that someone from UPS had called him just 15 minutes earlier and told to come there before 8 to get his package.  And his package contained medicine.  He said he absolutely had to have that package that evening, it was a matter of life and death. He started talking to the guard, telling her how big an emergency it was, and the guard called someone who was in the facility.  He gave her the tracking number of his package which she read to whoever she was talking to on the phone. She hung up and told the guy someone would be coming out to help him.

His was the only tracking number she gave them.  But the rest of us assumed if they were gonna help this one guy, they’d help the rest of us, so we assumed if someone came out with this guy’s package, then that someone would take the tracking numbers for the rest of us and get our stuff.

Ha!  Some timid looking guy did come out about five minutes later with a package, which he handed to the medicine guy.  The rest of us started to give him our tracking numbers and he said no, he could not help us.  He doesn’t work the window and there was no one there that did.  Someone just gave him that package and told him to bring it outside. I said, well you just helped that guy, there’s just a few of us here, you can do the same thing for us you did for him. Nope, there’s no one to work the window and he can’t. Why not?  He just said repeatedly he could not help us.  I said surely there must be someone inside who can help the few of us there get our stuff.  Most of us paid $7.99 so we could get our stuff before they closed down for three days for the holiday.  But he refused.  

I asked him how it was possible there was no one there to help us.  The sign at the locked door said “Night Time Pick-up, 7pm-8pm.”  Then I said, “This is not a Mom & Pop organization, this is UPS. How can you not be open when you’re supposed to be, after telling all of us to come back at this time, and charging most of us for the honor of being able to pick up our packages?”  He said he couldn’t help us, but that he would try to find someone inside who maybe could. The way he said it convinced me that there was no way he was going to find someone to help us, or even try.. He said we could try calling UPS.  Is there a local number, a number that would ring inside the facility that we were standing in front of?  No, of course not, just the 800# that is a call center god knows where.  Is there anyone even there after hours?  Well, I was about to find out.

I called the number that I had called hours earlier, fought thru all the voice prompts and the disconnects and spoke to an actual human being.  He said of course there’s a will call area that is open, I just have to find it.  I said no, I am standing in front of it and it is locked.  Just to be sure, I asked the guard if there was some other “will call'' area.  She confirmed that this was it, no other place. The guy on the phone was in as much disbelief as i was that no one was there manning Will Call.  I said, “Apparently,. whoever was supposed to work it tonight didn’t show up.  How is that possible?  This is freaking UPS! (I didn’t say freaking or any other rude word.  I was exasperated but polite).  You’re not a Mom & Pop organization.  You’re a huge company.  This is not a little family business where if the teenage daughter has a toothache you close early.”  He was unimpressed with my analogy.

When I finally convinced him that there really was nobody there to help us and at least a half dozen people here would be terribly inconvenienced if someone didn’t show up and help us, he said, “Well, I really want to help you out, but I can’t.  Well……I’m not supposed to give out this number, but I feel bad for you so….I’m giving you the cell phone number of the area supervisor.  Call him, don’t tell him where you got the number, and maybe he can help you." So he gave me a number with a local area code.  I don’t think he gave me a name, but he might have.

So I called the number and someone picked up.  I explained the situation. He didn’t ask me how I got his number (he must have known).  He told me he couldn't help me.  "There’s no one to cover Will Call tonight.  No one showed up. There’s no one I can send. I’m sorry.” 

"Well what about you?  Can’t you cover it?" I asked.  He said he is a district manager and he is nowhere near this facility.  Sorry.  I once again used my Mom & Pop store analogy and it once again got me nowhere.  We were just totally screwed.

Note: There was a woman there who also called the 800# and told them her story, but she got even less information than I did.

A couple of us there had told our “Why we needed our package” stories.  The guy remaining who had the best story said his package contained a diamond engagement ring he intended to present to the girl he was going to propose to.  He was flying out of the country to do it and the flight was leaving Sunday.  So if he didn’t get his package, he was going to have to fly out of the country to propose to his girlfriend without that engagement ring to present her.  He was really desperate and very upset.

And that's it for part 1. I know that's not a great place to stop, but if I continued through the first punchline this would be way too long. I'll publish the last half in a few days.

(Note, the above pic of Instagram sensation and golf enthusiast Paige Spiranac has nothing really to do with this post. But I bet that Paige, like the rest of us, has, at some point in her life, had trouble with a UPS delivery. Right? Right?)

You can now find part 2 here.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

"You'll Read About it on the Blog!"

As I mentioned in one of my last two posts (or possibly both of them), I’ve been to Vegas twice since mid-April.  I’ve never told my stories in chronological order, so let’s start with the reason I went back there a second time, just at the end of May.

My long time poker/blogging pal Lightning organized a Poker Blogger (and readers) Meet Up Game for May 30.  This was to celebrate the return of retired blogger Josie to Vegas.  It’s been 10 years since I first met Josie in person in Vegas. At her insistence, she has her own personal label on this blog, so you can find it on the right side of the page and find all the blog posts that reference her. I think the prime motivation for her timing of this particular visit was to see Koalapete from down under again, who I first met on the same trip that I met Josie and have seen in Vegas a few times since.  Josie was coming to Vegas with her long time pal Gary, aka The Crafty Southpaw (The link is to his seemingly defunct blog, even tho he hasn’t posted in over four years, but you see, Gary is not on Twitter)  My recollection is that when I burst upon the blogging scene, some 11 years ago, Gary was the first person to add my fledgling little blog to his blogroll, and I am forever grateful for that.

I wanted to see all those wonderful folks again, and I wanted to finally meet Gary, who always struck me as a great guy from his blog.  So I had no choice but to head up to Vegas just a few weeks after I’d returned from there.  Lightning, enterprising fellow that he is, did a blog post about the game and soon everyone wanted to attend! 

The location was the fairly new Sahara poker room, which I had never been in since the hotel underwent about 17 ownership and name changes.  It is a small room and is sadly short of players too much of the time, so I could never find a game there during my last trip.  Since it was quiet and the manager over there is a good guy, Lightning figured it would be a good place for a private game (or two), and he was right

I was surprised to see Mr. Ben, but then I shouldn’t have been. Ben lives in England, but despite that, of all the bloggers I’ve met in Vegas, I’ve probably run into him the most.  It’s like he’s always in Vegas when I go.  He is a good guy, and it is always a pleasure to toss cards with him. I don’t believe he made a special effort to show up in Vegas for the game, but like I said, he’s in Vegas a lot.

Josie greeted me with the traditional ass grab, or at least that’s what she tweeted.  In reality there was a big hug but no ass grab.  I don’t think anyone else hugged me, and I’m not complaining about that. 

By the time we started, there were enough for two tables, and I think a third table of mixed games broke out at one point.  We drew for seats, and at the “main table” I got seat 8, sitting between Ben in Seat 9 and Lightning in seat 7.  In seat 6 was Luke Johnston, not a blogger but a long time twitter pal to most of us, and a former dealer at both Sahara and the WSOP.  Blogger and twitterer Mr. Subliminal claimed seat 4.  He lives in Vegas and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him several times before.  Usually he is sitting next to me at the Wynn and after about an hour and a half he finally gets around to telling me who he is since I apparently suck at matching names and faces.  This time I recognized him!

Seat 5 was taken by Joseph W, aka Hockey_Poker who I only recently started following on Twitter but is a prolific poker player and, I guess, a hockey fan.  By strange coincidence, I met Joe for the first time earlier that same day.  You see Lightning, Koala and I had lunch at the Cafe at South Point, and afterward, I wanted to check out the tournament area they had for their summer series.  I was kibbitzing with one of the dealers there I know (it was Mike, ex of the MGM) and somehow, even though we had never met, Joe figured out I was Rob or perhaps I figured out that he was the hockey poker guy.  I have no idea who first realized who the other one was.  But I did recognize him when he showed up at the MUG game and took seat 5.

Gary, Koala and Josie took seats 1,2,3 respectively.

It was a really fun game, but we were surprisingly restrained, and not nearly loud enough to justify having the room to ourselves. But we were laughing all the way through.  A few of the Sahara dealers were having fun knowing it was a big group of friends and were making as many jokes as we were.  Sadly though, as much fun as we were having, I didn’t catch a lot of “blogging material” type comments and I didn’t catch a single “woman said.”  That’s probably because Josie was so far away from me it was pretty hard to hear most of what she was saying.   Same for Gary & Koala (tho I wasn’t expecting any “woman saids” from them).  And after a couple of hours Josie switched tables so she could play with the one and only Tony Bigcharles  (he needs no introduction) who responded to Josie’s many pleas on twitter that he come down from Reno to play in the game.  Another twitterer who needs no introduction, Alysia Chang was also at that table.  There may have been some other people at that table that I knew or should have known but I can’t recall.  Sorry.

So….the poker.  The very first hand I was dealt pocket 6’s on the button.  Instead of facing a raise, a re-raise and a 4-bet, as you might expect from a game like this, it folded to me.  I have to raise there, right?  I made it only $8, but the blinds folded.  Can’t win them all if you don’t win the first, right?

Later, with King-Jack of spades I limped in and Ben, acting next, raised to $11.  It was four-way and the flop was Jack-high. I checked, Ben checked and the rest checked as well.  On a blank turn Josie bet $15 and I called, heads up.  There was no betting on a blank river and I claimed the pot, beating Josie’s pocket 8’s. 

I got pocket Aces and before it got to me, Joe made it $11. After a couple of folds, I made it $33.  Joe called, we were heads up. The flop was Ace-high but two spades.  I bet $35 and Joe called.  There was another spade on the turn and we both checked.  A Queen on the river put four to Broadway out there, in addition to the possible flush.  When Joe bet $45, I tanked for awhile, but the board was too scary to raise.  I just called.  Turned out that Joe had rivered a set of Queens. Set over set is always nice if you have the bigger set, but Joe didn’t have that set til the last card.

I limped with 9-7 clubs.  The flop had two clubs so I called Josie’s $15 bet.  Heads up, no more betting.  The final board had two jacks and a third club hit the river.  I didn’t bet it because my flush was low and the board was paired, but I won the pot.

I didn’t write down the details but I lost a pretty big pot when I rivered the bottom end of the straight with a Jack in my hand.  However Lightning had King-Jack and won with a bigger straight. I was kind of chasing the gut shot all the way through and just needed a King to get it.  Instead, an 8 gave me the bottom end, so I called off on the river only to see Lightning’s bigger straight.

As I noted, Josie moved to the other table and was replaced by a fellow named Gabriel.  I’m not sure if or how I know him, but he was apparently part of our group and was a good guy.  Anyway, he opened this hand to $10, and before it got to me, Luke called the $10.  And I looked down at the dreaded Pocket Kings!  Well, now, what do I do here?  I believe Gabriel had a lot of chips and I was thinking, “here goes my stack.”  Nevertheless, I did indeed three-bet.  Not sure why I bet a little bigger than I ordinarily would have, but I made it $50.

Everyone folded and of course, I mean of course, I had to show the Kings. I figured almost everyone there knew of my perpetual problems with that hand.  So I showed my hand and everyone reacted.  At least a few people, including Gary I specifically recall, shouted “Dreaded” or “the dreaded hand” or “Dreaded pocket Kings.”  I have to admit, it warmed my heart a little!

Luke had left and been replaced by someone not of our group.  And this new player was acting like he really didn’t know what he was doing, like he had never played poker before.  I had pocket Queens and this newbie had opened to $6 in front of me.  Lightning called.  I was thinking about raising but I got caught up in thinking this newbie was so quirky and so unpredictable I should play it safe and just call.  The flop was K-Q-X.  The newbie checked, Lightning bet $8.  I made it $25.  The newbie folded and Lightning tanked. He talked about trying to get a read on me.  Finally, reluctantly, he folded.  I told him, “You can read about what I had on my blog post!”  I didn’t show.  But I believe I texted him what I had just to be a nice guy.  I think he folded a King with a weak kicker.

I had pocket 9’s in the big blind and Gary opened to $12, a few others were in the hand.  My 9’s were an overpair.  I really don’t remember the betting action but on the river, with the 9’s still an overpair, Ben took a stab at it with a $25 bet and I called.  He said, “Well you won, I have nothing.”

Now, my good buddy Don had arrived and took over Joe’s spot in the center of the table.  He opened the pot for I don’t know how much and I called with Ace-10 of hearts.  I didn’t accurately record the betting action, but there was an Ace on the flop and I called Don’s c-bet.  Another Ace on the turn. I think I called but I may have bet, can’t recall.  I do recall the river, it was a 10. Yahtzee!  Kaola was in the hand too and he led out for $25.  Don tanked a long, long time..I had the nuts so it was just a matter of how much I was gonna raise if he did call (if he had raised, I would have shoved).  But eventually he folded.  So I put out $75 and now it was Kaola’s turn in the tank.  He thought a long, long time, talking through the hand.  I suspect if he didn’t know me, a call would have been easier.  But eventually he folded.  I shouted over to him, “You’ll read about it in the blog!”  However, after we were done playing I did tell him I had the boat.  He told me had pocket Queens.

Eventually a good chunk of us got up to move on.  I had played 4-½ hours. My longest poker session by far since the 2020 lockdown.  There was a lot of nice conversation after we were done playing too.  I did get to chat with both Alysia and Tony who were at the other table the whole time (or maybe they were at the mixed game that sprung up, I know Alysia was).  Alysia and I compared our results for the night, she won a buck or two, I recovered from down over $100 to book like a $7 loss.  Tony was really interested in learning about the re-opened and re-located poker room in Ventura.  I answered all his questions, and I must admit I have been remiss in not discussing the new room here on the blog. I hope to rectify that soon.  I have no idea why Tony is so interested in the Ventura poker room though.  It’s not like it is practical for him to play there.  Now that it is right on the beach I’m sure there is no lodging anywhere near there that he could afford.  I’m not sure there is lodging near there that that Elon Musk could afford.

The goodbyes were turning out to be long, most of us were through playing, and when I left I thought everyone would soon join me in departing but that was not the case.  I got texts from both Lightning and Don that I missed a big time brouhaha.  It was at the other table, not the one Lightning, Don and I were playing at.  Don was still playing and Lightning was just chitchatting.  But apparently a drunk guy gave another player a “beer shower” (and got beer all over the table) and then took a swing at the same guy, but the guy successfully ducked the punch.  He fled, but I think I heard that security caught up with him, and the victim was hanging around because he wanted to press charges.  I hope that in Lightning’s version of this night, which I’m sure is coming soon, will give more details on this epic skirmish.

It was really great meeting old friends, making new ones, and just bullshitting and playing poker with a great bunch of folks.

I saw we do it again, soon, what do you say?

Very funny dealer (Tom, maybe?), Gary, Kaolapete, Josie, Mr. Subliminal

Joe (Hockey_Poker), Luke, Josie, Lightning, Mr. Ben, yours truly.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Escape From Caesars Palace

This is really a “guest post” from my friend Don, who I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog. In fact, he’s done guest posts for me before, here, for example. I think the circumstances under which I received this report are interesting.  He didn’t verbally tell me this story, nor did he write it up as an official submission (as if this blog had anything as formal as an “official” submission!).  No, it was a series of text messages.  

This was actually texted to me the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, which also happened to be the day I was driving up to Vegas myself for a “meet up game” that I'll hopefully tell you about some time in the future.  If not, I’m sure Lightning will blog about it soon if he hasn’t already.

The subject was not poker but paid parking, a topic I’ve covered quite a bit over the past few years, ever since Vegas Strip casinos decided to charge for the privilege of losing all your money to them playing games where the odds are legally stacked against you. It was great timing, because at the time I was in the middle of trying to figure out my own personal solution to the pay-for-parking problem.  As I write this, that situation has mostly been resolved (but perhaps not totally) and I definitely want to tell you that story when I have time to do an 87-part blog post (only a slight exaggeration). So the timing was perfect, even more so because I could actually listen to Don’s text messages while driving to Vegas.

I recently acquired a new car and it has “Android Auto.”  When you plug your phone in, the Google map program displays on the video screen that all new cars come with these days.  But also, it will read you any text messages that come in while you drive. The text-to-speech technology is pretty good, and a pleasant female voice reads you your messages.

So for a nice chunk of the trip, I was listening to Don’s tale of woe, and imagining that the sweet female voice I was hearing was actually Don’s (I know that sounds weird).  One glitch though.  For some reason, every time a new text came it, the program would repeat Don’s previous message before reading the new one.  Since I really didn’t have anything better to do than hear Don’s story, I didn’t mind one bit, in fact, it was like watching the “previously on” segments of a TV show you are binging.  A nice reminder of where we were in the story.

What you need to know is that Caesars (and I presume MGM too) recently changed their paid parking rules.  I believe when they first resumed charging for parking after reopening, they allowed locals to park for free.  So, Don was getting free parking as a Vegas resident, but now, no more.  Three hours max for free (which is two hours more than the tourists get)  Here’s what Don texted me, more of less verbatim.

This is how bad the night went.  I never dragged a pot, lost a $450 pot to a 2 outer on the river and that's NOT what tilted me about this evening.  Trying to get out of the Caesars garage did.

They changed their parking rules.  Locals only get 3 hours free, then they have to pay the stupidly high fees.  So, when I busted, I was about 90 minutes into my session and said "well no point in rebuying now" and headed to the garage.  That was at 11:20pm.

I get near the elevators and there is a crazy long line at the payment kiosks.  I thought "no problem there is one on every floor."  So, I walk up 2 flights of stairs and find no payment kiosks.  They still have signs that say they are on every floor, but they aren't.

I walk back down to the second floor, no kiosk.  I walk back into the casino, wait in line.  The kiosk there won't read my ID.

There's a speaker right over the kiosk, but I can't hear the support people.  So, I go back to the poker room AND to the Caesars Rewards desk to try to find a number that I can call on my phone.  They don't have one.

I walk back to my car (again up the stairs because there's a ton of people in the elevator lobby).  I get into the parking area and see a really long line to exit.  I walk to my car in the back of the garage on the 3rd floor.  As I do, I see a long line from the upper floors and cars merging from all over on floor 3 to exit.  The cars on the 3rd floor only have 1 lane to get out and they are backed up behind my car, around the corner, and snaking back towards the casino entrance.

I sit in my car without starting it for 10 minutes and see 1 car pass behind mine.  I'm like "f*ck this, it'll be over an hour before I even get near the exit."  So, I walk back down to the casino to wait.  I find a different payment kiosk, which also won't take my local ID but where I can hear support.  People behind me are bitching at me and I say "look, this thing won't read my ID, it's not my fault parking here is a f*cking joke."

The service rep answers and tells me to scan the ID at the exit.  I reply "that's great, but I've already been here 2 hours and I'm never getting out of the god damn garage before my 3 hours is up."  He says to ask for him by name and he will make a note for his coworkers to let me out.

I go sit by a slot machine - not playing, just sitting there with my back to the machine to watch the slut parade around the Vanderpump Lounge.  I think that's named for a reality TV star, but for all I know a "Vanderpump" could be some kind of German sex toy.

I wait about 45 minutes, walk to the elevators, see no line, and go to my car.  The line to exit is only about 10 cars long now and I head out.  I get to the gate and scan my ticket.  It still reads the $23 I was supposed to pay about 90 minutes ago, so either the service rep noted my parking ticket number or their system recorded the  time when I initially tried to pay.  I scan my ID a few times, it still doesn't read it.  So, I push the service button and finally get out of the garage.

To be fair, I did stop for gas on my way home.  But, I walked in my door at 1:10am.  Remember, I INITIALLY LEFT THE POKER ROOM AT 11:20pm.  So, it took me 1 hour and 50 minutes to get home from playing a 1 hour and 30 minute poker session - in which I never won a hand.

I've ridden buses in this town and I know that, even on a busy Saturday night, I could have caught the strip express bus, waited outside the south strip transfer terminal with the homeless for 30 minutes to catch the Warm Springs bus.  Taken that to right across from the parking lot Google maps says is my house and walked home in LESS TIME than it took to get my car from the Caesars garage here.

Don’s pain kept me entertained for a good portion of my drive.  I did wonder how the gate finally opened and he wasn’t sure, but assumed it might have been from the guy he talked to passing his ticket number around.  Before I even had a chance to ask him, Don added that I could use this story in the blog if I liked!  He knows me.  This story is right up my alley. My thanks to Don for sharing his story with me and allowing me to share it with you.

I especially loved the Vanderpump joke but to be honest, if he had made it a week earlier I wouldn’t have had a clue what he was talking about.  It was just days earlier I first heard the name Lisa Vanderpump when it was announced she was doing the first “Shuffle Up and Deal” at the WSOP.  I had never heard of her.

Also, I should explain that during my last trip to Vegas in April, I tried to find Don’s house using Google Maps, and even though he is located on a perfectly normal street in an ordinary part of Vegas, the Map program directed me to a parking lot behind his house, insisting that that was where Don lived.

Before I post this, I want to make an editorial comment on the whole paid parking situation in Vegas, if I may.  (Of course I may, it’s my damn blog and no one can stop me).  It’s not just the cost of the parking that pisses people off, although that ain’t nothing.  It’s the ancillary problems that it causes, as Don found out.  Without paid parking, everybody leaves that very busy Caesars garage (it was after all the Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend) smoothly and promptly.  But to get that damn parking fee from us, or make us come up with some way to get free parking, they have kiosks to deal with, tickets to lose, credit card payments to make. And sometimes the damn gate just stops working for no obvious reason. If you’ve ever left a Strip casino that charges for parking on a busy night, you know it is hell to get out of there, even if you don’t have to personally pay to park.  You get stuck in a long line behind people who haven’t figured it out.  Maybe they forgot to pay, maybe they lost their ticket, maybe the damn ticket that should work doesn’t, maybe their card that should work doesn't.  And even if every single car in front of you exits without a major issue, it still takes three times as long to get out of there as it would if there was no gate and no damn parking payment required from anyone.

So, if you thought I might have changed my mind on how much paid parking in Vegas sucks, well, think again.