Big changes are afoot at Thunderclap Casino.
I’ve told you about the senior executives who’ve gotten the axe over the years during my tenure at the casino, but in recent weeks several of these positions have been filled. Hierarchies have been shaken up and reshuffled. Priorities reprioritized. A new team is bringing new ideas to the table, and we are all scurrying around to meet the new demands. In this time of forward-looking and flux, it seems proper and fitting to announce this is my final dispatch.
It is too soon to say what effect these changes might bring, too early to tell what the changes are. I am in no position to say what their scope might be, how far-reaching the effects, or how long they will last, but things are changing, and change is exactly what the casino needs.
I, for one, am optimistic. I have had good bosses and bad bosses during my time here, unfortunately more of the latter than of the former. I have watched people get fired, laid off, and leave of their own volition. I have witnessed disastrous decisions get praised, good work dismissed. I have seen credit not given where credit was due, and I have seen people thrown under the proverbial bus. Yet I am optimistic that with strong leadership the casino can rise above the competition, continue to be a force for good in the community, and provide a fair and stable compensation for those who work here.
I realize I have presented the casino as a massively dysfunctional place, and in many ways it is. The best run soup kitchen, inner-city 7-Eleven, etc. is going to have its share of chaos. It’s the nature of the business. And so it is with casinos. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, they are a magnet for bad behavior. The combination of money, alcohol, and doors that never close will always prove irresistible for a certain segment of society, a society that I was a card-carrying member of not too terribly long ago.
Maybe I’m optimistic because I know from first-hand experience the kind of transformation that is possible when one comes to understand the need for change and sticks with it. Perhaps I’m more hopeful than most because the economy is finally showing signs of turning around, and by that I mean people are spending money at the casino again. Or maybe I’m optimistic because I’m not gacked to the gills on crap cocaine and cheap vodka anymore, and no longer have a goddamn thing to fear. If good things are on the horizon, why not be part of the change that makes them a reality?
Why not, indeed? But sometimes I wonder.
This week I was given the mindless task of transcribing a video. It’s one of those presentations meant to inspire a workforce and instill a sense of esprit de corps amongst the troops, all while driving home a straightforward message about the value of customer service. Anyone who has ever worked for a large corporation knows exactly the kind of video I’m talking about. The first time you watch the video it seems almost cute, almost clever. The second time it is borderline cheesy. But after three or more viewings, it’s impossible to feel anything but deep and pervasive cynicism.
The video I was asked to transcribe isn’t nearly as good as the videos you are undoubtedly familiar with. This video is a bush league affair. Still photos. Crap music. Lousy graphics. It’s about an employee with Down Syndrome who, when asked to do his part to improve customer service, gets the idea to deliver inspirational messages to the customers, which in turn effects a dramatic turnaround at the store. Can you see where this is going?
In the history of advertising, wisdom from the mouths of babes is nothing new. It’s an old and hoary cliché. But in this context, where a simple-minded young chap’s good-natured gesture is held up as a business practice to emulate doesn’t just strike a cynical chord in this advertising professional, it plays the whole goddamn symphony.
What does this message say about the new management team? I don’t know, and I find the uncertainty somewhat disconcerting. If the powers that be are genuinely moved by this story, do I really want to know? It would be like finding out your financial adviser believes in angels. We want those we work for to be good and decent people, but we also want those whose leadership we depend on to put food on the table to be shrewd and maybe even a little ruthless.
On the flip side, do I want them to be so ruthless as to willfully exploit this shortchanged individual’s message for the purpose of manipulating the employees into making more money for the casino? And since when did listening to the cognitively compromised become good business practice? Would Nike let one of its inspectors insert words of inspiration in its shoe boxes? Would Toyota permit a factory employee to leave comforting messages under the floor mats? Of course they wouldn’t. They wouldn’t let the sap or his messages anywhere near the assembly line, much less the final product, for fear of eroding consumer confidence and diluting the brand. And just how big of a tool have I become for thinking this way?
On days like these I wish I’d pursued a career in yurt building, or taken up a profession that is a little less obsessed with the bottom line. (There is nothing more bottom line than coins, figuratively speaking, in the machine.) I take the message as a sign that it’s a good time to put down my pen, so to speak, stop observing and start participating in the turnaround.
I’m going to try to push my pessimism aside and give optimism a chance. After all, cynics make lousy gamblers. It’s the idealists and opportunists who see the main chance when it presents itself, and it’s their gumption—not their pessimism—that makes them not the least bit shy about going after it.
If nothing else, I’ll keep the first and most steadfast rule of casino gambling in mind: never bet against the house.
Thank you for reading, and good luck.