What’s Next: Gift Shop at Excalibur Rolls Out Surge Pricing

It seems like we’re often the bearer of bad news, but somebody has to do it.

A guest of Excalibur has informed us the resort’s 24/7 gift and sundry shop is now using surge pricing. We stopped by to confirm, and it’s true.

Surge pricing, of course, is most closely associated with Uber, the rideshare service. At times when demand is highest, Uber bumps up their prices.

We’ve shared some Las Vegas restaurants and bars use surge pricing, but we’ve never heard about it happening at a hotel gift shop.

Excalibur 24/7 store

The last time we were at 24/7, we were admiring the tiaras. No, really.

There are virtually no prices on the items in Excalibur’s 24/7 sundry shop, including on things like toothpaste, sunscreen, bottled water, Pepto and snacks.

Guests are only informed of prices when they check out. Surprise!

We asked a cashier, “How do customers know how much things cost?” She replied, “They ask me and I tell them.”

No, really.

surge pricing Las Vegas

Enjoy gambling? That’s what you’re doing when you purchase these items, because you have no idea what they cost until check-out.

Employees at the store communicated to one customer prices are based upon demand, specifically, hotel occupancy. The higher the occupancy, the higher the prices.

From what we can tell, this reeks of bean counters (commonly referred to as “consultants”) and MGM 2020. MGM Resorts owns Excalibur, by the way.

MGM 2020 is a massive cost-saving initiative. The plan is supposed to save the company $200 million by 2020 and another $100 million by 2021. Dozens of top executives have left the company, and hundreds of managers and directors were recently laid off, with 1,000 more to be let go in the weeks to come. Read more.

We’ve also shared machines will be replacing service bartenders as part of MGM 2020.

MGM Resorts has been scrutinizing every aspect of its business to increase profits, and we suspect they’ve done market research showing tourists don’t particularly care if their sundry store dental floss is $3 or $4 when they’re on vacation. If they don’t seem to care, why commit yourself to the lower price when demand goes up? (Related: If people still play triple zero roulette, why not make it even more of a thing?)

Excalibur

Has anyone ever actually seen a sundry?

While incredibly annoying, we can’t really fault MGM Resorts for trying to increase revenue and profit, but there’s just something that seems wrong about surge pricing.

It feels like being nickel-and-dimed.

Resort convenience stores have always been a bit of a price gouge, and it compounds the frustration not knowing what you’ll be paying until you check out.

We’ve been beating the drum that visitor perceptions about nickel-and-diming are changing visitation patterns, and in combination with increased competition across the country, Las Vegas casinos are suffering.

It’s unknown if other gift shops at other MGM casinos will being implementing surge pricing (hint: they will).

Update (5/20/19): We’re hearing surge pricing is now common at resort gift shops both at MGM Resorts hotels and Caesars Entertainment. Two hotels mentioned specifically were Flamingo and Rio.

In Vegas at the moment, analytics drive everything. MGM Resorts has said MGM 2020 will include “key investments in technology” which will “lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth.”

Excalibur surge pricing

The name of this store could be 27/4 or 274, you just don’t know. Visual metaphors for the win!

Surge pricing is all about collecting data and determining what the market will bear, then adjusting prices based upon demand. “Dynamic pricing” is how MGM Resorts referred to this pricing in an earnings call.

It may be smart business, but it’s likely to be perceived as just another way Las Vegas is squeezing every penny from visitors.

There are glimmers of hope, of course. Wynn and Encore recently announced they’re rolling back paid parking (no validation needed). Other Las Vegas resorts are offering room packages that drop dreaded resort fees.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you find yourself in a casino gift shop with surge pricing, let us know.

39 thoughts on “What’s Next: Gift Shop at Excalibur Rolls Out Surge Pricing

  1. Boulder Steve

    If this is true it’s a new low also in most places illegal. Prices must be displayed either on the product or on the shelf

    Reply
    1. Coop

      Illegal is Las Vegas? You realize the enforcers of any such law are benefiting from higher tax revenue on these fee’s and prices. Vegas use to be great. Now its Disney. No thank you. Seems attendance and revenues are fine downtown where they appreciate your business.

      B-Rad is right

      Reply
  2. B-Rad

    I used to go to Las Vegas as my “default ” when other options were too expensive. I haven’t been to Vegas in 4-1/2 years…..about the time they started implementing the “Entertainment Tax”…..I couldn’t take it anymore.

    Reply
  3. David

    We never solicit MGM properties anymore as we are not suckers and am not willing to pay double or triple or even more. They have become total rip-off joints in my opinion.

    Reply
  4. William Wingo

    MGM probably chose the Ex as a test platform to evaluate the bottom line effects before expanding it to their major properties. I suspect it’s also a long way from the nearest Walgreen’s or CVS.
    Here’s a YouTube video link which ranks Excalibur as number 5 of the 5 worst hotels on the Strip, right down there with Hooters, two mid-Strip Travelodges, and Circus Circus Manor Motor Lodge.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR1cpLJYuuI

    Maybe we’ll see you off-strip later this month for the WSOP. Meanwhile, Good luck and good counting.

    Reply
    1. Daniel

      Please don’t use that strange yellow productions guy’s videos as an exhibit of a rating scale for Vegas hotels.

      Reply
      1. Yellow Steve

        Daniel is right. That yellow goofball’s videos are terrible. Whether his info is accurate or not, he’s not good. But he knows how to generate clicks, and I’m jealous I didn’t get in on the ground floor of craptastic Youtube videos from Vegas.

        Reply
  5. Viva Las Value

    I know we always grumble that MGM has gone too far, but THIS is the final straw for me.

    At Excalibur of all places? MGM has truly jumped the shark.

    Next time I get the insane urge to give my hard-earned money to a incorporation, I’ll stick to Caesars properties. And I’ll continue to concentrate my play and spending Downtown, where the value is still there.

    Reply
  6. Brent D Stump

    I know it isn’t the employees’ fault, but I just feel like going into the store, picking up some random thing like Immodium and asking “How much is this?” and then waiting a few minutes and “OK, how much is it now?”

    Just do it over and over again until someone feels it is a waste of time to change the prices.

    Reply
  7. Doug

    I’m no fan of MGM and haven’t stayed in any of their hotels in at least 10 years, but this happens all the time without anyone noticing when done well. The framing and communication can make a big impact. They could have made this a lot less noticeable for most people if they just quietly raised prices on everything and announced they would be having sales during slow periods. Any time you pay full price for a drink at 8 pm instead of half price during happy hour, or buy something at full price instead of on clearance, you effectively are paying surge prices, but it’s less objectionable when the high price is the normal price.

    Everyone knows the hotel gift shop and pretty much everything else in the building sells at monopoly prices to a captive audience. Instead of complaining, I encourage people to either head off strip altogether to greener pastures, or just bend over and take it and not let it ruin your whole day.

    Reply
    1. DameLilly

      I have noticed that both MGM and Caesars don’t care about their reputation or their guests. Just money. If you’re making a profit, be satisfied. Sheesh.

      Reply
  8. Johnplevack

    Additional MGM cost cuts….
    You can think bigger…the PENULTIMATE Desert Guest Experience.
    Reusable paper cups for alcohol beverages, AC set at 85, melted water replacing ice, bring your own linens, the “you looked at the menu fee”, take a survey to ride the elevators, The Last Cocktail Waitress Theatre Show, and finally 2:3 blackjack.

    Reply
    1. Tom

      I think you might have a bright future as a MGM executive, lol.
      MGM can raise their prices as high as they want, I would never step foot in their dumps. I hope to live long enough to see their entire list of hotel properties imploded.

      Reply
  9. Linda

    Do what we all do. Go across the street to CVS or Walgreens and stock up on everything for 1/4 of the price. There’s one on every corner.

    Reply
  10. Jonsey

    Do what we all do. Go across the street to CVS or Walgreens and stock up on everything for 1/4 of the price. There’s one on every corner.

    Reply
  11. Scott

    MGM is just seeing what they can get away with, until they reach the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Reply
  12. Jeff

    Las Vegas is the only place where deals are found at Walgreens/ CVS. Usually humans complain about their prices. Viva

    Reply
  13. Allen

    A friend of mine stayed there a few weeks ago and he told me that the food court restaurants have no prices posted either. So possibly surge pricing is not exclusive to the gift shop.

    Reply
  14. Bob EV

    Definitely disappointing to see MGMs recent moves away from the guest experience. But MGM2020 was brought on by the predatory investors (think Icahn) who care nothing more about the health of a business/industry than what today’s closing market price is.

    Reply
  15. David from Canada

    Love your posts. I used to go to Las Vegas 3 or 4 times a year. Now once a year downtown and rent a car and go to locals casinos . The way Vegas used to be is the way the local Indian Casino is now. I went there a few weeks ago and enjoyed 2 for 1 buffet. Took my $17 ( for both ) receipt to the players club and got $10 in free play. They had a promotion where you played $20 and got another $20 in free play. The $10 in free play counted towards the $20 . I had a really nice day and actually came away with more than I went in with, but even if I lose a few dollars it is great entertainment value.

    Reply
  16. Vice

    I paid $4.95 for a 20 oz Gatorade in a gift shop on the strip. They are about $1.25 at home. Off Strip at Red Rock, they were $1.95. I don’t mind paying for things but I hate to be gouged. I’m afraid they are driving more and more folks away from Vegas. It remains to be seen how the higher prices or the mass exodus will affect their bottom line.

    Reply
    1. Doug

      @vice: it has affected it very positively. High prices on the strip are nothing new. They have persisted ever since the recovery. Why should they sell Gatorade at $1.25 when people are buying it for $4.95?

      Reply
  17. Tyler

    Its true. I stayed at Mirage last week and there weren’t prices at the gift shop. I was told by the employee that the prices go up and down based on how busy it is in town. I didn’t think much about the price for the bottle of water, as I was certain that the hangover I was about to earn would require it. 🙂

    If it’s happening at Mirage, I would assume it’s happening across all MGM properties.

    Reply
  18. Neal

    Had to read this carefully and check the date to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. This should be illegal IF TRUE – and if it is legal that should be changed yesterday!

    Reply
  19. Off-strip Sally

    The problem is that there are 25 of us complaining about it on Scott’s blog, and hundreds of others who are bitter and have already stopped patronizing the strip. The problem is there are tens of thousands who have money to burn, and know that it grows on trees if they burn it all up, so they can pay a case price of $240 for beer at a strip pool, and it’s totally worth it.

    There are too many who just don’t have to care about the value of the dollars they spend. The strip has capitalized on that nicely.

    Reply
    1. William Wingo

      I agree–sort of. I’m one of those who simply “stopped patronizing the strip.” And downtown too, for that matter. But it won’t go on forever. Sooner or later they will alienate enough of their customer base that it will all come crashing down.
      And great will be the fall of it.

      Reply
  20. Ken Houghton

    You also mention MGM 2020 where they are replacing bartenders with mechanical bartenders (robots). I find it interesting that in 2016 MGM Said the following: “Our view is that universal spirits and pour size among our properties has improved the guest experience by offering a consistent product. Bartenders prepare drinks more efficiently and consistently by maximizing the use of free pour jiggers and bar guns. By also aligning these procedures we also make training and transfers between resorts efficient and more available for employees seeking to advance their careers”. (From your blog). Not sure how these machines are going to advance their careers other than out the door.

    Reply
  21. VP1

    Prices are always higher in the hotel stores, you expect that. It works until it stops working. Hotel occupancy goes to 0 and nothing in those stores move.

    Reply
  22. Jon

    Blame the company if you like but doesn’t this point to lack of effective consumer regulation, and that, just maybe, not all regulation is bad?

    In most countries (and US states?), you have to display a price clearly for any item on sale. Also in the UK for example, a price of a hotel room advertised must be the price charged … which neatly avoids the whole idea of resort fees. Amusingly, Trump Turnberry in Scotland tried to introduce them and had to reverse them in a hurry when the press got hold of it and pointed out that they were now trading illegally.

    Reply
  23. Bill Clay

    I use to go to Las Vegas six-eight times a year (family lives in LV) and stay at MGM properties (Mandalay Bay, The Hotel, Excalibur (had a 6-year old at the time), and incidentally, Excalibur is where I first saw the resort fee at checkout; before they use to warn you of resort fees.

    I tried asking them to waive to no avail, so I paid the resort fee then; never been back to an MGM property or any hotels on the strip. Then sometime later they added parking fees.

    I still go 6-8 times per year. Now I stay off the strip where there are no resort or parking fees and the hotel I stay, in a suite, offers free breakfast.

    Reply
  24. Gabriel

    At Bellagio’s gift shop across from the conservatory, there were prices posted on the merchandise, but not on the food, drinks, or “essentials.”

    Really though, with a CVS or Walgreens on every corner, it’s a wonder that any of these shops get any business at all.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      They do because people are lazy or ignorant or both. I buy bottled water and snacks at the grocery store before leaving on my trip.

      Reply

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