Michael Bare – Casino Customer Service

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Michael Bare
President of Bare Associates International Inc
BAI one of the world’s premier information gathering and evaluation firms that offer customer service evaluations (mystery shops), market research, compliance audits.

For those of you that are new in the casino business here is a bit of tantalizing information for you to be aware of. It is called Mystery shoppers, they are a diverse group of customers who are “involved” with a company whom are contracted by the casino to simply evaluate YOU. Shoppers are independent contractors, most of whom are employed full-time elsewhere.

Shoppers are reporters. They are average customers, but because they remain anonymous, they provide very candid feedback to management about everything from how long did it take to check-in at the front desk, are the front desk employees friendly and helpful, was the bellhop personable did he answer all your questions, show you where the thermostat is and how to use it etc…

Oh yes, they gamble and critique YOU!

Shoppers report on their experiences as an average customer–a perspective management cannot offer because they are too close to and too knowledgeable of their industry.

Mystery shoppers, by answering survey questions, provide a “snapshot” of what it was like to be an average customer at a particular business location on a particular day and time. This perspective cannot come from “inside”. If shoppers were given technical training to use during their mystery shops, they would no longer be “average customers” and would only provide a duplication of the services performed by the casino’s staff.

Every business seems to use these types of agencies from banks, retail, restaurants and hotels to help insure quality customer service. Their clients include most of the largest corporations in America and the casino industry is not immune.

To recruit new shoppers, generally casinos use an agency. They sometimes offer a complimentary visit or “extended stay” with free amenities in consideration for this valuable information. Generally (but not always) they gamble with their own money. Remember these are players that would normally visit the casino anyway. Sometimes they actually give a shopper money to play with and it is not rare that even one of us could be a shopper. That’s right, a dealer or more than likely a floorperson or a pit manager “do favors”.

As far as the dealers are concerned, here is a simple example;

  • Did the dealer greet you upon buying into the game?
  • Does the dealer seem to enjoy his job and is he personable and friendly with you and other players?
  • Upon leaving the game did the dealer ………………

You get the picture. Sometimes they will stop you returning from your break and simply ask where the restroom is or perhaps where the showroom or lounge may be located. When you are “tagged” the report invariably will end up in the hands of the casino shift manager who will make you aware of the results.

Dealers, Boxmen and Floor Supervisors have been issued reprimands, warning notices. They have been suspended and even terminated for recurring “poor shopper evaluation reports”

There is nothing we can do about it. Just be careful and be aware.

Below is a short Q&A session with the President of Bare Associates International, Inc. Michael Bare ISHC No other company would give me the time of day on this issue.Mr. Bare has nothing to gain by consenting to such an interview that will most certainly advocate discussion. He has a very successful International company that obviously has nothing to hide. Given that, he has my respect.

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Do you agree that the casino dealer is perhaps the most supervised service employee of just about any industry? Casino table games supervisors are qualified to determine who is not up to standards in player relations and who is not. Why on earth would they need to be shopped?

Cannot speak to the fact of dealers supervision, we are not involved in casino management. However, service is exception, average or unsatisfactory in any industry.

The factors that effect service in a casino are challenging, but no more so than at say the front desk of a busy gaming hotel. Guests are just as demanding.

The casino I work for hired shoppers that “tagged” a few dealers and to my surprise the dealer whom I consider is not “Mr congeniality” gets a good report while another dealer who is generally very friendly gets “tagged” with a bad report. (and a written warning notice to boot) The problem I now see is the moral of the dealer that received a bad report is poor. His peers were shocked and dismayed when they read his warning notice. I don’t know Mike, It seems to me that those shoppers did more damage than good.

The moral of a dealer who receives a report (good / bad or indifferent) is effect by how that boss presents the report to them, not the details of the report. Again, we are only there to provide objective documentation. If a boss slams a report on a desk, yells and screams at an employee and then writes them up without caring to listen, why wouldn’t an employee have low moral. The professional boss discusses, coaches and recommends behavior changes and asks the employee and listens for input on what can be done to help them improve. Moral high. It’s not the report, it’s how it’s used.

Rumor has it that “Suzy Homemaker” gets an assignment to shop a casino and invariably finds herself a dealer or two and rips them apart in her report. My question is, what qualifications must a casino dealer shopper possess (if any) to do such a job giving the unique circumstances of the dealers job?

(This isn’t JC Penny’s )

I can only speak for my firm in saying we do not use “Suzy Homemaker” to complete shops. In most cases, unless the client specifies otherwise (wanting minnows) we use those who have proven to be top notch, detail oriented, shoppers from other divisions of our firm, have gaming experience, and usually have a host in a casino environment they call their own. We have been in this business for 15 years and our reputation is too valuable to lose, based on using an untrained shopper. If a report is not credible, it is not used or sent to the client. Objectively documented details rule!

It seems to me that if a casino shopper is always writing a good report about the dealers, there would be no need for such a service. It also seems to me that if the shopper gives a “balance” of the good and the bad, it would be better in the long run for an agency like yours Mike.

Just as in Craps, the dice fall as they lay. The same is true with our reports.

If reports are used properly, it’s motivational to the staff to feel good about their performance. We are hired to help casinos ensure their guest have a pleasant experience, win or lose.

Mike, why don’t you just paint me a picture.

OK, I’ll give you the blueprint. Take it or leave it.

Scott, like it or not, most hotels, at some point in time, engaged the services of a “mystery shopper” or guest services evaluator. Those having the greatest success with this type of program have reports completed semi-annually.

This shopper’s job is to discreetly observe the hotel’s operations and ob­jectively report observations to Management. Obviously, in observing how a hotel operates, the evaluator is observing the actions of hotel employees, from the quality of their service to the integrity of their financial transactions. Therefore, the evaluator’s observations have significant personnel implications and are powerful as both a complimentary and disciplinary tool.

An evaluator survey can take a variety of forms, ranging from a multi-day observation of all guest services, to an audit, to a brief survey of a particular hotel department.

As you stated above, the evaluator typically poses as a guest, uses hotel facilities and takes note (literally and figuratively) of the positive and negative aspects of the operation. In a full survey, the evaluator will use all of the services available – beginning with making a reservation and continuing through to the checking out of the property. He or she will note employee behavior, speed, attitude and accuracy, and will report the transactions carried out by employees (particularly monetary transactions) enabling Management to insure compliance with proper procedures.

Notes are sometimes written, though usually dictated. Prompt documentation is of major importance to insure accuracy. Upon check-out, the evaluator (or shopper) will often provide a verbal executive debriefing with senior management, in order to report key issues (issues, possible irregularities and opportunities) and then follow-up with a full written report of all observations.

Reports should include, but not be limited to, observations of

  • a) Satisfactory or exceptional employee performance
  • b) Integrity issues
  • c) Training opportunities
  • d) Housekeeping
  • e) Revenue building opportunities (i.e. room service salesmanship)
  • e) Facility maintenance, to include possible liability issues.

Prudent operators use these reports as a tool to work with and develop management and staff, and prevent / correct problems. Once the evaluation has been performed, the key is to utilize the information provided in a most meaningful way. For the balance of this article, we will focus only on personnel ramifications.

There may be issues if the mystery shopper report is used as the ONLY basis for discipline staff. Using the report as a springboard for further research is most preferable.

It is essential that Management adhere to procedure when disciplinary action is required. For example, if the evaluator reported that his room was not properly cleaned, the Executive Housekeeper could begin periodic spot checks and use his/her own observations as the basis for corrective action against any implicated employees. Or, if the evaluator reported inconsistent cash handling procedures in the bar, Management could deal with the problem by re-issuing Policies & Procedures and re-instructing its employees on proper cash handling. Establish the perception of control with your staff.

Management research, by using in house personnel, can often assure everyone involved of the thoroughness and accuracy of details provided. Consider though, that in house test may not garner the same perspective of hotel services as that of an anonymous evaluator.

What would be the proper use of such reports in personal issues Mike?

Lets talk about any employee, not just casino dealers. Often Scott, Management’s gut reaction is to view the shopper’s report as the gospel . . . sufficient evidence for disciplinary action. In using a reputable established shopper firm, there should seldom be an issue, but I recommend they scrutinize the facts closely.

Call the Shopper Company and ask to speak with the shopper. They should solidify their comfort level with the shoppers’ credibility and the details provided in their report. Detailed narratives are significantly more credible than an audit checklist or a yes/no format with limited comments.

If the report is to be used as a basis for disciplinary action, that action may be challenged, (i.e. union grievances) and the evaluator must be ready to testify. Before deciding to use the evaluator report as the sole documentation for employee discipline management should consider an arbitrator may not take an evaluators report at face value.

They should insure that they have acted promptly in investigating the facts and deciding upon potential disciplinary action. The shorter the time lapse between the incident and the action, the better, as time can undermine the report’s usefulness. Some union contracts require discipline take place within 48 hours of your receipt of the report.

They should talk with the employee in question to get their side of the story. Employees in California for example must be given relevant portions of the report prior to discipline being imposed. Management is also required to fully investigate the employee’s explanation. Find and interview witnesses. Remember . . . innocent till proven guilty.

Management should completely review and save all evidence, especially with reports that involve possible financial improprieties. All original checks, credit card vouchers and register tapes must be reviewed to see if there is any explanation other than employee misconduct for discrepancies. Check for patterns of “overages” or even drawers that always balance to the penny. Check and double-check.

Make an honest assessment if the rule or procedure violated has been adequately published and enforced. Actions that seem to violate house procedures may be overturned if there has not been consistent enforcement.


  • A) Management should ensure your operational policies are clearly written and reviewed with some frequency. Most are out of sight, and out of mind.
  • B) Use of credible mystery shopper firm periodically pays dividends.
  • C) Management should use the reports to reinforce positive behavior and establish a “Perception of control” with their staff.
  • D) Commit to diligence & speed in researching the details of a report.
  • E) Think before you react. Be consistent in your actions.
  • F) Consider the ramifications of disciplinary action, but DO TAKE ACTION as the need requires.
  • G) When in doubt, get HR or Legal involved.

It is all very simple Scott, and VERY SERIOUS.

That all on my end Sir. Good discussion. Thank you for your time Mr Bare.

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