A Neophyte's Guide to Las Vegas
Commentary
Phil Wilke
21 January 2002

Tips for surviving your first convention

(Editors Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Phil in Ric Cummins Rosinante/Argent Room. We struck up a great friendship when he was tipped off to my newspaper background by the use of a pocket notebook and pencil, as those are trademarks of newspapermen. He mentioned he had an idea for a humorous column about his first C.E.S. experience and I was taken. After receiving and reading it, I think you will be too.)

I recently left the high-pressure world of daily newspaper production for the "low-pressure" world of high-end audio sales. (Pass the ulcer medication, please.) As part of sales and marketing, I set out with my new employer, a speaker manufacturer from the Midwest (to keep my editorial independence, I won't mention the company's name is Rosinante/Argent Audio of Eudora, Kansas), for my first trade show. It was also my first trip to Sin City. Fortunately for my marriage and bank balance, I didn't have much time to sin. But I kept my eyes and ears open on the ways of the city and audio conventions. I offer the following tips for other newbies, so you won't be caught as off-guard as I was.

P.S. What's it going to take to get you into this set of speakers?

Las Vegas Rule No. 1: When looking into the desert sky, do not be surprised to see a 747 a mere eight feet over your head.

McCarran International Airport is so close to the major hotels on the Strip that you can throw a quarter into a slot machine while your plane is still in the air. You can look down from your hotel window and see a plane passing several floors below you. Its a disconcerting feeling at first.
Planes don't normally stop at red lights on the streets below; in Vegas they do. But everything is different in Las Vegas - as a newcomer is quick to find out.

Las Vegas Rule No. 2: Don't try to gamble on the luggage cart dispenser at the airport baggage claim. The odds are against you. You will lose.

I think this one is fairly self-explanatory. Don't assume you know what you are doing. That goes for gambling, too. If you do, you will lose.

Las Vegas Rule No. 3: Become a global marketer.

Learn to speak the international language of business: discounts and small talk. My boss speaks French. A business partner of his speaks Italian. Were they anywhere to found when we needed translations? Hell no. Hire a translator for the show. It will be cost effective. Just make sure your translator speaks at least 127 languages.

Las Vegas Rule No. 4: Do not even try to diet.

More food is wasted every day in Las Vegas than is fed to several small countries combined. "All you can eat" doesn't mean "Eat everything in sight from here to the California state line," but many people consider it a challenge any way. To limit the urge to consume everything edible within the county, try these buffets: "All you can eat haggis," "The lutefisk lunch special," "Headcheese, its not just for breakfast anymore" and "International House of Tripe." Someone told me the Bellaggio Hotel's breakfast buffet was remarkable. It was also $30. For that much money I want my hollandaise sauce flown in fresh that morning from Holland and my Belgian waffles imported from Antwerp.

Las Vegas Rule No. 5: Never believe a woman when she says "It will only
take me five minutes to change."

After a grueling day of sales, promotions and demonstrations, it's fun to sample the Vegas nightlife. Set aside at least 45 minutes for your female partner to change outfits. She will come out looking gorgeous but will have misplaced the one accessory that ties the entire outfit together. It will take at least the length of one hotel stage show spectacular to find it. Smile and hold your tongue. You will have a good time anyway.

Las Vegas Rule No. 6: Before you leave, buy stock in a cellular phone company.

Every bipedal, carbon-based life form in Clark County owns a cell phone. At least half of them are talking on it at any point during the day. Cell phones can be an important business tool, but use them responsibly. You have used one too much if there is a permanent cell phone-shaped indentation on the side of your head.

Las Vegas Rule No. 7: Philip Morris is your friend.

There may be a few places in Vegas where you can't smoke. Possibly during childbirth or when handling nuclear waste. Other than that, all other times and places are fair game. I'm guessing that Nevada has the highest per capita cigarette consumption in the country. It's followed closely by several prisons.

Las Vegas Rule No. 8: When ogling cocktail waitresses, try not to drool.

It's an urban myth that Las Vegas's motto is: Where America goes to show off its cleavage. The city's real motto is: Where America goes to show off its cleavage and high heels. It is impolite to stare at the scantily clad women in the casinos. The gentlemanly thing to do is wear a blindfold. Bumping randomly into people is better than being repeatedly slapped for being a peeping Tom.

Las Vegas Rule No. 9: Do not play the ATMs in bars. The odds are against you. You will lose.

Giving a drunk an ATM card is like giving tips to a bad lounge singer. It only encourages them. Bring only the amount of cash you are willing to spend. Don't fool yourself that buying drinks for the two women at the end of the bar is a "business-related expense." Forget your PIN number when you get off the plane.

Las Vegas Rule No. 10: If you have cash set aside for a large payment, such as payroll, mergers and acquisitions, or financing the overthrow of a small country, do not spend a night at a "Gentlemen's Club." You will lose.

Not that I have any experience in a club of this sort, mind you. Um, er, a friend told me about it. Yeah, that's right, a friend told me.

I hope these helpful hints will steer you through the sensory overload that is a fun time in Vegas. In what other city can you have breakfast in Paris, lunch in Monte Carlo and dinner in Rome all in the same day. I can't wait to go back. Just remember that Bellaggio is the Italian word for "gullible."