Questioning assumptions with no answers

After a week in which it snowed in Las Vegas, it seems the right time to question some assumptions.

1) Loyalty cards drive business. My wallet is bulging with these things and I dutifully use the appropriate one when I’m in a casino or at a restaurant or buying an airline ticket. But I found myself having a crisis of confidence as I stood at the pump of a neighborhood gas station.

It’s a national brand in partnership with a national grocery chain. When I insert my loyalty card, I’m offered 20 cents off per gallon. What a deal. An ad on the pump tells me I can get even more off if I tie a credit card to the gasoline loyalty card as well as the grocery loyalty card. A Vegas parlay sure to pay off.

Or is it?

After the 20-cent discount, I was still paying more than I would have had I stopped at several other stations nearby.

What am I really loyal to here? Is it the idea that I’m getting a bargain? My eyes — and my wallet — tell me I should go with the lower price. In a sector where you can’t really differentiate the quality of the product beyond the octane rating, isn’t price the real driver of business?

It’s a question I’ll be asking next time I fill up.

2) Baby boomers are redefining the aging process. I recently found myself at a concert. Big national act. Big name Strip venue. Packed house of Boomers.

And it wasn’t a pretty scene. As a generation, we haven’t aged well. I’m not ducking my role in the phenomenon but, yikes. We’re talking canes, spreading middles and a clothing sense that suggests none of us has a mirror in our home.

One sweet woman, ticket in hand, sat and waited. She’d come with a group, but she’d become separated. She kept looking at her ticket and then at the large painted section number on the wall. She just wasn’t sure. As others arrived and claimed their seats, she tried the next section over then came back. She was still adrift when the lights went down. I’m not sure where she ended up.

She wasn’t the only lost soul. At times it looked like an Abbott and Costello routine as people suddenly recognized they were in the wrong row or wrong section. Watching Boomers try to slide past each other in a row is a great advertisement for a gym membership.

I always heard the legs go first. I’m thinking that’s not quite true. Eyes, ears, reasoning and inhibitions seemed higher on this night. One thing was clear: This group doesn’t look like those people featured on the cover of the AARP magazine.

3) An NHL team is a ‘done deal.’ Maybe it is. One Vegas lesson is that anything can be accomplished with the application of enough money.

But one sure sign of concern is that sports talk radio has turned defensive about the pace of ticket sales, deriding doubters as showing an East Coast/north of the border bias.

Certainly passing the 7,000 season ticket mark in two weeks is an accomplishment. There seems little doubt Bill Foley’s team will make the 10,000 threshold the NHL set. And he gets credit for not salting the total with block buys from the casinos.

But the NHL is just one audience.

Despite his deep pockets, Foley isn’t writing a check for the estimated $450 million entry fee plus operating costs. There’s going to be borrowed money involved here. So put yourself on the other side of that desk. Are you making the loan based on this show of support?

Consider that the folks of Winnipeg, a city of about 750,000 that once lost an NHL franchise, snapped up 12,000 season tickets in 17 minutes when the NHL came knocking again. Now that’s bankable support. Or is it? Four years later, Winnipeg’s attendance is running 26th in a 30-team league.

Be wary of dreams built on thin ice… even when it snows in Vegas.

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