Upon arriving in McCarran International Airport, most visitors to Las Vegas will take a taxi to their hotel. The taxi line can often be quite long, as many as 100 or people will be ahead of you. But the line moves at breathtaking speed. The sole taxi stand attendant at the airport quickly ushers visitors at the front of the line to one of (I think) sixteen spots, and about sixteen cabs can take off at a time without problem. Even when it’s most busy, a visitor will almost never have to wait more than 20 minutes or so to get a cab.
The airport experience is a stark contrast to the experience of a taxi line at a hotel. If you are at a busy hotel, such as the Venetian, the line moves about six times slower than the airport line (that’s being generous to the Ventian I might add). Both the airport and the Venetian have one guy directing the cabs. While the airport taxi attendant seems to be able to move people into cabs at a rapid pace, the Venetian guy only does a couple of people per minute.
If the airport taxi line moves at breathtaking speed, why do taxi lines at strip hotels, such as the Venetian, move at a snails pace?
The answer: tips.
The airport taxi attendant is paid a flat salary by the city. His only motivation is to keep the cab line moving. In contrast, the taxi attendant at the casino largely relies on tips. To get people to tip him, he will often do a bunch of unnecessary extras. He’ll whistle the cab over (like he’s getting you the cab instead of the reality which is that some cabbie has been waiting there all along). He’ll open the door for you. If you have any luggage, he’ll put it in the cab for you (instead of having the cabbie do it like they do at the airport). He’ll ask you where you are going and then tell the cabbie (the driver will generally ignore him and ask you again anyways). He does all of this so you will hopefully tip him a dollar (more if you have luggage).
What does this mean for everyone else in line? It means they wait longer. He deals with one person at a time, even if there are 15 people waiting in line and a dozen or so cabs waiting. If he operated like the airport guy and loaded several cabs at a time (which isn’t hard to do), he’d be able to push through a line of 15 people within 5 minutes, no problem. But no. He needs those tips since the casinos are apparently too cheap to pay for a taxi attendant salary even though they’ll blow billions on all sorts of random visual crap for people to see. So guy #15 will have to wait a full 15-20 minutes instead of getting his cab in 3-5 minutes.
This doesn’t matter for most tourists since they’re not in a rush… or are too dumb to realize how incredibly inefficient the taxi stand system is at strip casinos when there is a long line. But what if you have somewhere to go in a hurry? What if you are late for the Main Event or some other poker tournament? What if you have tickets to a Cirque du Soleil event? Do you really want to be stuck in a cab line for an extra 10-20 minutes because some attendant is doing a bunch of extra, meaningless services and slowing down the line because the casino can’t shell out an extra $10-$20/hour?
One time my (now ex) girlfriend and I were almost late for a show. I was guy #10 in the Venetian taxi line. I didn’t have 10-20 minutes to waste, as this taxi attendant was incredibly slow. Worse, there were so many cabs in line waiting to pick up customers, and the guy was moving so slowly, that many cabs simply left the line to move on to another casino! Empty cabs would literally drive right past the cab line repeatedly while everyone stood in line and watched the taxi attendant load the cabs, one person at a time. We all had to wait for Sir Taxi Stand Attendant to whistle for the cab of his choosing to pick up one person, while the rest of the visitors and cabs had to sit waiting.
I had a choice to make that day. I was going to have to piss someone off. In the right corner, I had my ex-girlfriend. Weighing in at 115 pounds, she packed a strong punch of craziness, fake tits, and keen knack for being able to blame me for everything wrong in the world. In the left corner, weighing in at 160 pounds, was the pimply-faced Sir Taxi Stand Attendant, who seemed oblivious to the long line and his slow loading time.
Seeing all the taxis blow by us, I decided to grab one of the them once they had passed the taxi stand by about 10 yards or so. What’s the worst the could happen? Was Sir Taxi Stand Attendant going to realize what happened, run out of his way, wrestle me out of the car, and throw me down Hulk Hogan style?
Yes, that’s exactly what happened. He ran, stopped my taxi from leaving (it was going to leave anyways, better having me in it than empty I would think!) and demanded I got out of the car. Most likely intimidated by my extra 15 pounds of Slim Jim created gut I had on him (and the 115 pound bag of craziness next to me), he decided not to throw me to the turf and instead yelled at me for a few minutes. I yelled back and told him I’d try to get him fired. He went back to his precious cab line. I just went another ten yards away and grabbed the next cab that was leaving empty and managed to avoid Sir Taxi Stand Attendant that time.
I managed to make the show and nothing really came out of the situation. But the fact that a few dollars an hour in tips creates such an inefficient system astounds me. All of this in a city that prides itself on efficiently separating each and every tourist from his last disposable dollar.