Way “back in the day,” I attended AMOA’s very first Notre Dame conference in South Bend, Ind. One of my takeaways was something an instructor told us about employee motivation. He said the human race principally looks to fill two social needs: the desire for variety and the desire for recognition. Variety and recognition. “Give your people an interesting place to work and pat them on the back when they do a good job,” he advised. I also remember something the late and great pool table salesman Len Schneller saw happen at the windup to one of his 6-pocket tournaments. “One of the winners walked away with his trophy and forget to get his check,” Len said. “That trophy was more important to him, I guess.” That’s recognition.
When you look at an amusement game, you see both these motives in play. The variety of playing a game on a colorful, challenging machine is something most people don’t do very often in a day, and the recognition that comes from a high score, a handful of tickets, a free game or a beer is the trophy. Many years ago, an Upstate New York distributor named Johnny Bilotta was fond of calling the neighborhood bar “the average guy’s country club.” Well said!
The coin machine business is a business. But success in this business shouldn’t be measured strictly by the amount of money its members take in. The play-appeal of the machines must always be considered, because the customers don’t care how successful you are. They only care how successful they are in their pursuit of those “trophies” I mentioned (even if that’s only bragging rights for whipping some big mouth at the end of the bar on the dart board).
The recent F2FEC conference in San Diego gathered around 130 FEC operators in one big room, not only to share ideas on how they improved their bottom lines but their thoughts on location décor, the quality of the food served, and all sorts of things that don’t necessarily translate directly into higher income. The idea is to create and periodically improve on the overall environment within which you sell stuff. . .stuff like game play.
The machines themselves provide that “variety” factor pretty much by themselves, of course, but they could always use a little help (e.g. a Reno operator dressed up one of his sports bars by hanging some bowling pins and ball bats on its wall without being asked to do so by the bar’s owner).
Industry people who made the trip to Las Vegas for the recent Expo went home with ideas for improving their businesses by putting some fine, new machines and other things into play back home to wow the customers. That’s what this and every other trade convention is about. This is a “breathing” industry, after all, and today’s players don’t want to play yesterday’s machines in yesterday’s game room all the time. Neither would they want to eat yesterday’s mashed potatoes in the food court. This could be your day to upgrade!