Why the Customer is Always Right
I live in Pahrump, Nevada. I wrote, produced, and directed my movie Lady Magdalene’s here in Pahrump. I’m writing this from Pahrump.
Most people know of Pahrump for only one of two things. The first is that Pahrump has the two legal brothels closest to Las Vegas. The second is that Art Bell broadcast his immensely popular and spooky late-night radio show from Pahrump — what he charmingly called “the Kingdom of Nye” — just a hop, skip, and a jump from Area 51.
Pahrump is a town of about 40,000. It has a 24-hour Walmart, recently got its first Carl’s, Jr., but does not have a single movie theater.
It has two major casino hotels in what passes for “downtown” Pahrump. The first, the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Gambling Hall, can be seen as a shooting location in Lady Magdalene’s. About half my cast and crew stayed there during the principal photography of Lady Magdalene’s in May-June 2006.
The other, the Saddle West Hotel, Casino, and RV Resort, was not on screen in Lady Magdalene’s, but the other half of my cast and crew — including my line producer — stayed there during principal photography. I also held our cast and crew wrap party there.
The Saddle West, 1220 South Highway 160 in Pahrump, NV 89048
I was writing a lot of checks during the production of Lady Magdalene’s. I’m pretty sure the checks for rooms and food written to the Saddle West from my production added up to more than $25,000.
You’ll find the Saddle West thanked in the end credits of Lady Magdalene’s.
The Saddle West has a restaurant and buffet. Like most Nevada casinos, the purpose of the buffet is to draw people in to gamble. So the quality of the food at Nevada casinos tends to be what we used to call when I lived in California “better than a Denny’s.” You’ll tend to get good salad bars, Italian food about at Olive Garden quality, and generally food at hotel quality level — good enough to be served at a wedding, if you’re not too fussy. And, it’s cheaper than Denny’s or IHOP. If one lives in Pahrump and gambles at the Saddle West enough to average 800 “points” on one’s player’s club card, one qualifies for a “two-for-one” buffet Sunday through Thursday. That means dinner for two is $8.95 — and the money you would have spent on the other dinner as often as not ends up in one of the slot machines … and then some.
I’ve eaten at the Saddle West frequently enough for all the waitresses to know my mother and myself by name — and they know my mother and my drink orders by heart. The ladies at the Players Club desk also know me by name.
I was 86′ed from the Saddle West tonight. My God, what did I do? Did they catch me running a magnet on one of the slot machines to try and get it to pay off? Nope. Was I counting cards at the 21 table? Yeah, like I have a good enough memory for that.
My mom — who is 85, has no gall bladder, is Type II diabetic, is half blind, and has memory problems these days — was recently diagnosed with a hiatal hernia. That means her stomach tends to crowd her esophagus, which before we got that sorted out caused her to be hospitalized twice with extreme gastritis, nausea, and dehydration. I kept her at home for a couple of weeks following the latter hospitalization getting her digestive system calmed down, and we eventually reached a point where I was willing to take her out to eat again. I chose the Saddle West because its buffet tends to have a lot of bland food on it — pasta with white sauce, mashed potatoes, unseasoned rice.
Because of my mom’s hiatal hernia, she can barely eat even a quarter of a meal at a time. If I make her a sandwich, half needs to be put away for later.
So tonight, I took my mom to the Saddle West for dinner (a friend accompanied us) and I put a small portion of lasagna and manicotti on my mom’s plate. She was able to eat only a few bites of each and was full. So she asked me to wrap it up and put it in her bag for later.
Now, I’m not an idiot. I know every buffet has rules against taking food home. But I also know that any food left on the table is going to be thrown out — has to be thrown out — by health code rules. So by my way of thinking — in a world in which many people are starving — there’s something sinful about throwing away food in the first place; and if the food which I’m wrapping up for my mother is already garbage by the restaurant’s rules — and is food that my mother’s medical condition prevents her from eating at one sitting — I figured it’s a rule a casino buffet can and should overlook for a regular.
By the living standards of a small town — a town too small even for its own movie theater — I thought there was a reasonable expectation that good business, decent treatment of the elderly, and small town manners could overlook such a petty infraction of the house rules.
Nope. Tonight, two burly security guards came to our table and turned not to me — who had wrapped up my mom’s food in a napkin and put it in her purse — nor my mom — who asked me to do this for her — but instead went to my friend and asked him to accompany them.
I figured out what was going on in short order, told the security guards that I was the one who had wrapped up the food, and asked my friend to go back to the table to stay with my mom.
The guards treated me like I was caught trying to rob the till. I offered to pay an additional buffet price for the take-out food and one of the guards told me — and this is a direct quote, “You can’t buy your way out of this one.”
The amount of food — excuse me, garbage — I wrapped up on my mom’s plate probably had a street value of zero. I doubt a homeless person would have taken it as a hand-out.
Yet, for this the floor manager of the Saddle West was willing to treat a regular customer as a thief, embarrass him in front of his mother, harass his friend merely for sitting at a table with him.
She told me the “86″ would be only for a month, then I could come back. I told her that I was 86′ing myself, permanently, that she had lost a customer who regularly took friends there to eat and gamble.
Every business has the right to set the rules under which they make customers welcome or unwelcome.
But it works both ways. Every customer has the right to put a business on his 86 list … and the Saddle West in Pahrump, Nevada is now permanently on mine.
It’s a good thing for them I’m a libertarian and not inclined to be litigious, because I’m pretty sure I could cause the Saddle West a lot of grief by making this a federal case under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I won’t. I’ll just wait for them to understand that this is an economic climate where the cost of treating customers rudely is to lose customers … and the friends they would have taken there. Do that enough and word spreads.
Hey, I’m a writer, with words to spread.
Saddle West: Buh-bye.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!