By Michelle Railey
1.) This is the air vent in our room at Harrah’s Las Vegas. We stayed for six days. The vent was full of dust and crud when we arrived. It was full of dust and crud when we left. Housekeeping overall did a great job while we were there, even changing the linens when we left a note telling him/her we were just fine with the sheets that were on there for a couple more nights (you know, you try to be considerate about water usage but sometimes the maid just won’t let you). Cleaning hotel rooms is a bitter, difficult, physically arduous and generally thankless job. Still, God is in the details. My guess is He avoids the register because, you know, allergies.
2.) Condiments in a bag are weird. Nevertheless, these are condiments for the in-room coffee. They are pre-packaged in a bag. And, while I personally do not use coffee condiments, I find that the thought of them being pre-portioned in useless plastic is both unappealing and environmentally unsound. There has to be a better way than this.
Now, in other In-Room Coffee News: the coffee was packaged by Opportunity…Opportunity…okay, wait. You know what happened? The charity that does the coffee? It’s been featured on PBS NewsHour and FrontLine (I think. Maybe it was FreshAir. Support your public radio/TV station.) And I’ve forgotten what it’s called. Opportunities USA? Or something. I’ve googled it but “opportunities” and “USA” just leads to all kinds of job applications. It’s pretty popular and pretty vague. At any rate: the coffee was so-so. But I was overjoyed that those ex-cons had jobs and those jobs were provided by the same charity whose name I just can’t remember but, hell, they packaged the coffee and the good folk at Harrah’s pay for that coffee and…it’s a really good thing. I can’t explain my sudden memory loss. I had hoped to link to the organization. But apparently I’ve had a stroke. But…good job, Harrah’s on the socially responsible purchasing. I noticed.
Also, let’s face it: mini coffee makers are basically pointless (Dear Universe: I am not the only one who considers a 4-cup pot just one cup. Please take note). But I genuinely enjoyed the fact that, at Harrah’s Las Vegas, the tiny 4-cup model had a stainless steel carafe (it was an adorable demi-tasse. I almost packed it in my suitcase. Shhhh, don’t tell.) And, because the hair dryer was right next to the coffee maker, let’s just go ahead and point out the following: There is a night light on the hair dryer! So turn that puppy on. It’s helpful. And it only took me 3.5 days to find it.
3.) Oh boy, free soap! And it’s white! A nice, chunky size and a pleasant smell. (Gilchrist and Soames, you do not fool me. I know you are trying to sound all British and old and established and I know you are basically Dial for Motels.) Still: the bars are pleasant if unmemorable. (If you’ve ever met me, you know that I am delighted by hotel toiletries. I just love ’em. They’re so cute! Lilliputian soaps and “free” lotions!) So that’s just it. I have experienced far worse hotel soaps and lotions (note: the Harrah’s shampoo smells pretty good but doesn’t lather; the lotion has a nice scent which refuses to linger and a watery texture which is, well, just too liquid to be lotion and is better as conditioner. Helpful, because Harrah’s does not give you free conditioner. I think this is a mistake on their part. But they don’t dust their vents, so….) And, if I digress for one moment, Harrah’s competitor, Mandalay Bay, disappointed me on every level. They were rude at the Sports Bar and they don’t pipe in their scent that used to smell like a beautiful, fantastic island anymore. But if you end up cadging the matches at the bar because the bartender was rude, their matchbox packaging is so nice that they officially qualify as nicer than the Harrah’s in-room toiletries. Which isn’t good, Harrah’s; it really isn’t good. Especially considering the vents. Nice soaps and lotions and some damn conditioner really would’ve greased the opinion wheel, you know what I’m saying?
4.) The bed! The bed is eminently firm and jump-able (somebody did it every day they stayed there. Watch your head and sing the Monkey song. Very pleasant, at Harrah’s or any hotel). And Harrah’s totally got it right here. Sure, the stupid bolster (which is actually super-comfortable and very useful) has those kitschy brand-identifying stars on the ends. The bolster is good; the merchandising is cheap. But Harrah’s is getting the bedding right: tight weave on the linens, nice and clean, and nothing but white. No ganky “comforter” to throw on the floor. Just clean linens and a perfectly firm mattress. So Harrah’s wins on the bed. They really do. Now, if only they would wise up and continue the pure white thing into the bathroom (seriously, those shower curtains are disgusting. Dear Harrah’s: white waffle weave. Okay? Bleachable, cleanable, and non-disgusting. Without the putrid print to make you feel you’re in a trailer park.)
And while we’re on the topic of The Bathrooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas: water pressure is weak but environmentally friendly. The shower curtains and lighting are both on par with the scariest parking garage you’ve ever been in. There, luckily, is no disgusting faux art (or as I call it: “phart.”) There are not enough hooks. There are not enough towel bars. The bathtub is dinky but there is a very large shelf at one end, which is the most useful thing about the bathroom. Dear Harrah’s: better lighting, clean and plain shower curtains (white waffle weave).
5.) Most of Harrah’s is in need of a severe decorative update. The rooms have large armoires which are a ridiculously plastic Barbie’s Dream Dresser of fake ivory and fake mirror: like, I’m reasonably certain Harrah’s parents built the thing on Christmas Eve, while drunk on egg nog, and peeled the mirror sticker off the paper, slapped it on the furniture and looked at the crease and shrugged. It’s not great, that plastic armoire (it is so weird to see furniture composed of not-even-real-Bakelite, looking cheaper than a shower cap). That being said, the chair and the mirror here, cheaply composed as they are, demonstrate that someone in management has a clue: they are serviceable and inoffensive (unlike shower curtain); they are timeless and serviceable. They do not detract from the room (vents! shower curtain!).
As a note: Harrah’s has within it Fulton’s Food Hall: and the flooring there is shimmery black and white tile that is nearly magical, it’s so perfect. It gets scale and color right. So, if the staff at Harrah’s will just, say, expand on classic ideas like the tile at Fulton’s and the lines of the chair and mirror in the rooms? Well, they’ll be a gazillion steps ahead of where they are with the shower curtain or the icky murals (see #7).
6.) This is a toilet tissue stuck in the peephole of our room door. We neither put it there nor removed it. Six days later? Neither had housekeeping.
7.) Revolting mural. These are in the lobby and the parking garage of Harrah’s. They are, as you can see, in all the colors of the Brady Bunch rainbow: harvest gold and summer squash and Joe Namath Maroon. The theme of Harrah’s is supposed to be Carnival. These murals suggest a theme of “Lysol wanted” or “Ugly” or “Just Who is That Old Guy in the Grey Suit?” In short, they’re bad. The lobbies are as bad and vile and mildewed as the shower curtains: these murals only enhance the malodorific effect. It should be noted here that, when checking in, if any other people have also arrived on a similar plane (this happens frequently, you know) at a compatible time, the process at Harrah’s is so very unpleasant that Temple Grandin should be called in to make the process more humane for the animals enduring it. Harrah’s does not handle crowds well. If Harrah’s were a person, I would say that they do not like people. The check-in process, if there are more than just you in line, is frankly awful. And you have to look at this Kentucky Fried Hideous Mural while you’re enduring the torture of mismanagement and inefficiency.
Dear Lobby: And if nothing else, would a grand vase of fresh flowers kill you????
8 and 9.) Harrah’s creepy murals suck. But the exterior featuring these floats and LED lights? That’s the way it’s done, Harrah’s. Also, weirdly, Harrah’s LV, check out Harrah’s New Orleans circa 2000: the sky was painted velvet sapphire blue with pinpoint lighted stars. The soffits were disquised as elms with Spanish moss, and the chandeliers were jester-ish and Mardi Gras float-ish. More of this, in short: the plaster, the LEDs, the jesters and masks and finials. Think atmosphere. Think theme. Harrah’s, you want to create an experience and an identity. The murals don’t do it. The lack of fresh flowers don’t do it. The shower curtains and Barbie armoires don’t do it (or at least, not one you’d want). The illuminated masks and that floor at Fulton’s do. The pool area does. The faux-mahogany paneled elevators do. The ceiling over one of your bars that is composed entirely of hundreds of penny-glass Christmas ornaments in gold? That doesn’t. Be smart. Be tasteful. Be your theme (carnival). But don’t be, overall, mixed and muddy and semi-Motel 6. It’s Vegas, baby. You gotta commit. (And if your signature show is entitled ‘Menopause, the Musical’ – even if it’s a great show- you have to start thinking about the identity of your establishment.)
10.) This is the pool area. These are the cabanas ($100 for half a day!). There are not enough chairs. But the towel situation is great, the pool is nice, the staff friendly. The paint on the walls of the Linq does everything its designers wanted: cubist art in turquoise and cobalt and magenta. And you can fully enjoy the sun-dappled color play from the pool at Harrah’s. There are palm trees and a giant ferris wheel to look at. The pool at Harrah’s is a definite plus. No murals. No phart. It’s a win.
11.) This is Buck and Winnie. Buck and Winnie are a life-sized sculpture in the very heart of Harrah’s. It is, honestly, pretty terrifying. But it’s a popular photo op and even Security will help out by holding your iPhone while you Selfie in front of it. Which is kind of nice. Even if Buck and Winnie are, oh yeah, utterly terrifying. The sculpture reminds me of Jeff Koons. But, high art or no, fiberglass pop characters suggest temporal cheapness and the clownishness of Buck and Winnie leave me, much like Circus Circus, queasy.
But Buck and Winnie are clearly iconic for Harrah’s. They have live character versions of the sculpture who host the Penny Slot Tournament and it’s funny (I guess) and it’s clearly an important component of Harrah’s Las Vegas. So, Harrah’s, if you need to keep them for those reasons, at least get them out of the center of the establishment. They’re the shower curtains and the murals writ large and glued with not-even-high-quality-Swarovski-rhinestones. They’re High Kitsch and Fiberglass and… seriously, Harrah’s, just move them to the side. Stop using 12 for one dollar Christmas ornaments from WalMart as bar decor. (Those aren’t bubbles, they’re 8.33 cents a piece. And they look it.) Unpeel the murals from the walls, replace with the exact same tile you have covering the floor of Fulton’s Food Court.
Buy some fresh flowers and improve check-in.
Zero shower curtain = better than current icky shower curtain.
Toiletries are money: invest wisely. Brand names. Adequate viscosity. Lingering, pleasant scents. It’s not expensive; it’s selective.
Give Ernie at the no-name bar a raise. He’s an excellent singer and one of the friendliest servers in Vegas.
Give your housekeepers a raise too. But tell them to get the vents and the peepholes, for god’s sake; this is Harrah’s, not the No-Tell Mo-Tell.
12.) There is no photo: but this is the summary. Harrah’s Vegas is a value lodging experience. And there is no shame in that. But the very busy slot machines are ensuring a profit. There is no reason to scream “value” as though one is Dollar General or Payday Loans or whatever. Harrah’s: be a carnival. Let your theme be your theme and go with it. But freshen it up: LED lights and plaster and some discretion. It requires very little money. It requires good advice and checking out your rooms and facility with a fresh eye.
Does it look cheap? (Shower curtains, murals, Barbie armoires, Buck and Winnie.) Then move or eliminate it.
Is it actually miserable? (The check-in process.) Then change the process and train the staff.
Is it easy to fix? (Menopause the Musical; the tone-deaf chicks at the dueling piano bar, the cheap Christmas ornaments over the one bar with no name, the Barbie Dream PVC armoires.) Change it. Get a different musical. Audition adequate staff and pay
them appropriately. If it cost you a dollar at Sam’s Club and you can visually identify that? Change it. Armoires and furniture should not be temporary or monthly. Fix it.
Also: your buffet still owes me cotton candy. But the wings were unbelievably tasty. And so was the tortellini salad. I want my cotton candy.
Also, part two: do not permit Formerly-Known-As-Imperial-Palace to outclass you when there’s no reason for it. The Linq is cute but its chains are plastic. Move Buck and Winnie to the side. Add fresh flowers. Real materials trump plastic every time.
Simple is good: faux busy art prints look cheap; so do fussy printed nylon shower curtains. They also always look dirty. White linens. Plus flowers. Plus meticulousness.
And P.S. Your casino waitresses deserve better than $6 eggplant slinky cocktail dresses. They deserve better than worn-out and bedraggled Kmart cardigans over their requisite Slinky-fabric stupidity. Please give them stretch velvet. Please give them shrugs and options and, well, not transparent Slinky that shows everything and looks cheap, even when you order it in Eggplant.
Is all I’m saying.
Harrah’s? Just eliminate the cheap. The whole thing will look more expensive. And add a fresh bouquet of flowers in the lobby. It makes a difference.
White shower curtains.
And…for the feedback, feel free to give me a free week. But most of all, give Ernie a raise. He sings. And he’s a great bartender.
Move Buck and Winnie. They’re frightening.
Please note: this is a review that originally appeared in 2015. Since that time, Harrah’s has made some improvements to its lobby area.