Here’s a neat, albeit aged, trick that you should try next time you check-in to your hotel-casino. Despite the “aged” nature of this solicitation, there are still quite a few people who are unfamiliar with this trick, so I’m here to enlighten you.
Concept: The $20 trick is the common term used to describe the attempt to get a “free” upgrade in the type of hotel room in which you are staying. This works in many hotels around the world, but is most successful in the Happiest Place On Earth (herein: HPOE [pronounced HIPPO]), Las Vegas, Nevada! The theory behind this endeavor is that with a minor tip (read: Bribe) of $20, you may be able to upgrade the dirt-cheap hotel room you reserved (or pre-paid if booked through an online discount travel website) for free. So if you originally booked a $69/night hotel room at Bally’s Las Vegas, a $20 tip to the hotel front desk check-in clerk might be able to upgrade you to a room whose rake rate might otherwise go for $100+/night.
How To: The secret to the $20 trick is place the bill between your personal identification card (usually a driver’s license) and the credit card used to reserve/pay for the hotel room. Simply fold the bill in half, width-wise, and again width-wise so that it’s approximately one quarter the width of the bill. Once you have double folded it, sandwich it between your license and credit card with just a corner of the bill peaking out so your desk clerk can see the gift you’re offering. As you hand over your “sandwich” this is the time when you cordially ask, “Might there be any free upgrades available in the hotel this week/weekend?” and one of three things are going to happen upon the clerk seeing the $20 bill:
1. The desk clerk will place the money under your license/credit card and begin searching the computer for a better room;
2. The desk clerk will see the $20 and say, “Oh, I’m sorry this was stuck between your two cards” and hand it back to you;
3. The desk clerk will offer you a room whereby you pay an additional $X/night—to which you say “Hell No!”.
Options: So what do these three options really mean? The first option, The Search, as I like to call it is where your clerk is legitimately looking to see if there might be something available which is nicer than the current room you’ve booked. See, this is why it’s worth doing so in HPOE because they have LOTS of nice rooms to which you can upgrade! Now let me be clear: You’re not going to upgrade from a tenement to a 2,000 sq ft suite. You are, however, inclined to get something on a higher floor, facing the Strip and/or larger in square footage with more bells & whistles in the room. Upon finding a room for you, the desk clerk will explain what s/he has available and ask if that is something you would like. If you answer in the affirmative, s/he will deftly slip the bill into your pocket, program your hotel keys and send you on your way. If you decline the offer, your clerk will return your $20 bill and proceed checking you into your booked hotel room. It’s really as simple as that!
The second option comes the dumbfound clerk. Sometimes they’re just dumb, or maybe their management discourages the activity. This is extremely rare as this city was built on tips. Hell, those poor clerks behind the front desk are barely making minimum wage and management understands and expects they will be “tipped” for their excellent customer service. I have had this reaction occur twice (out of a dozen-ish times) and I simply explain to them I wanted to tip them for any excellent customer service they were able to provide to me for the free upgrade. At this point they usually catch on and dutifully search their computer’s hotel room stock to see what they can do.
The last option is where the clerk will attempt to charge you for an upgrade. The reasoning for this can be any number of factors, including but not limited to: unavailability of rooms, hotel policy, larger gambler than you coming into town, clerk is just damned difficult. Take no offense to this, respectfully decline the offer and the person behind the desk will gladly return your money.
Conclusion: Many people are afraid to try, as they feel as though they’re engaging in illegal activity. While I am not licensed to practice law in Nevada and cannot speak to the specific legalities, I am confident in telling you the $20 trick is expected by the clerks, security and management. Therefore, you needn’t worry that the Las Vegas SWAT will come repelling down from the ceiling to arrest you! Merely follow the suggestions as outlined above and you will find that 90% of your attempts will result in generous upgrade. Hey, a $20 bill is a nice investment for a room what would have otherwise set you back an additional $200 for the trip!