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Las Vegas casino hotels are surprisingly subtle when it comes to marketing to their captive audiences of overnight hotel guests. Given the sensory overload aimed at getting you to part with your hard-earned dollars – giant LCD billboards, nightclub hawkers at casino entrances, scantily-clad women dancing above blackjack pits – you’d half-expect your hotel room to be wallpapered with an advertisement for the big Cirque du Soleil production that the hotel puts on nightly. Instead, upon checking into the hotel, that advertisement is shrunk down by several orders of magnitude and relegated to your room key.

That room key is presented to you in a little booklet with a blurb about each of the hotel’s dining facilities, and maybe a map of how to get to each of them. Then of course there’s that “lifestyle” magazine sitting on the coffee table that is really just another vehicle for promoting the hotel and its various sister properties around town. Look out the window, and you’ll find that it’s the outside of the hotel that’s wallpapered with an advertisement for the big Cirque du Soleil production that the hotel puts on nightly.

Even though it happened to fit with this theme of subtlety, I was a bit surprised to find the following card among various other in-room materials upon arrival to a Las Vegas mega-resort that shall remain nameless: Yes, the MGM Grand is a 5,000 room hotel and I’m sure their spa gets bombarded with calls about treatments and their prices. But aside from addressing that challenge, I was confused as to the role that this card played as a marketing vehicle – in other words, were they trying to entice me to visit the spa to indulge myself in one of their many treatments?

If so, I thought this little “menu” could use quite a few improvements from a pricing psychology perspective. In case an executive from the hotel ends up reading this blog entry, here are my thoughts in an easy-to-consume bulleted list:My recent post on menu engineering mentioned that presenting prices in a nice vertical column makes it a little too easy for the buyer to scan down the line and make their choice based on the price, not the product itself, resulting in lower spend.

There might not be any easy way around this using this particular format, but what exacerbates this effect is a lack of any kind of description of each of the services. Not only can I quickly tell that a 100-minute Classic Swedish Massage is $40 less than the Customized Pressure Massage, but what’s so great about the latter anyway that would make me justify spending the extra dough? Also, take a page out of the high-end restaurant book and drop all those dollar signs – they’ve been proven to make the thought of parting with that much cash a little too real.

Presenting the midweek and weekend prices side-by-side is a little dangerous, too. Sure, it’s smart that they’re differentiating their pricing based on their peak and off-peak periods, but just provide one “regular” price based on the weekend rate and promote the midweek prices separately as a “deal” or “offer” or “savings.” If we recall the basic notion of prospect theory, we know that we’d much rather feel like we’re saving money off of some “reference price” as opposed to feeling like we’re paying a premium.

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