The "$20 Trick" Does Not Exist

October 30, 2008

For years, people have asked me about the “$20 Trick”.

The “trick” revolves around slipping a Las Vegas Hotel check in clerk a twenty dollar bill in order to get a better room.

The 20 Dollar Trick

The 20 Dollar Trick

This supposed “trick” is the thing of such lore, it is so popular … that there are entire websites and forums devoted to the very topic.

I always avoid answering the question, and I generally stay out of the threads altogether about the topic.


Because I don’t want to insult people and kill the fun of this little endeavor.

However, now I think the point has come where someone needs to state the obvious.

Sadly, that responsibility usually falls on me.

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. There is no such thing as the $20 trick!!!

It’s like “tricking” the cocktail waitress into bringing your drinks faster by tipping her more.

There is no “trick” to it whatsoever.

Since the dawn of mankind, people have paid other people to do shit. The more they paid them, the more shit they’d do.

When did that become a “trick”?

Oh yes, I know, much like taking Dean Martin or Paradise instead of Las Vegas Boulevard … the $20 “trick” is supposed to be one of those little things that signal to others that you are oh so “Vegasy”.

However, much like shouting “Vegas, Baby!”, regaling people with tales of the “$20 trick” will now also reserve you a pristine spot in the Vegas Douchehole Hall of Fame.

Do you really think you are “tricking” the desk people? Do you really think they are that damn stupid? Do you really think it is your little secret?

Do you really think the hotel owners don’t know about it? Do you think the supervisors don’t know about it? Do you think the other tourists in line don’t know about it?


I have to tell you, these people didn’t just fall off of the crapwagon yesterday. They’ve seen and heard all of the nonsense.

And what is the “slipping a bill” all about anyway? You think the casino cameras are that antiquated? Do you think they have a resolution of 20 x 40 pixels?

The self-delusion that one is participating in a covert activity by using a $20 bill to get a better room borders on the pathologically insane.

If it makes you feel like a big shot, fine … but why not just go all the way? Palm the thing in one hand, hold a martini in the other, bobble your head a bit, and say “Thanks Dollface, get a little something nice for yourself.”

Maybe brush her on the chin with your fist and wink while you say it.

I mean, if you are going to be a poser, don’t half ass it … douche it up!

But it is not necessary.

If you must pre-pay, slap that thing on the counter and say “What will this get me?”

Wave a flag, do a little dance, it doesn’t matter.

The clerks know they are being bribed. It’s part of the job. It’s not a super-secret wink and nod between you and the clerk, I swear. They don’t cross their heart, hope to die, and stick a needle in their eye in a sworn secrecy pact.

Instead, they go in the break room and say “I made $200 today from the wannabe CIA operatives.”

This is not espionage, and you haven’t tricked anyone but yourself.

If you book a regular room, and you get put in a suite, it’s not like nobody but you and the clerk know.

There is no way for the clerk to “discreetly” award an upgrade just for you without the boss knowing.  They have these things called “computers” now, and “reservation systems” and the beancounters know who paid what for which room. It’s all electronic now.

It’s not like the clerk booked the room on her personal laptop, and then took the laptop home.

The several hundred people who have access to the reservation system are fully aware of what transpired.

While people like to think they got away with something special due to a clever “trick”, the fact is that everyone from the maid to the CEO knows that you got a bribe upgrade. They just don’t care, because one would have been sitting empty anyway.  They aren’t going to bump someone from a reserved suite down to  standard room because you flaunted a $20 bill in their face.

“Sorry, Sir, the suite you booked is no longer available … some cheapskate slipped me a $20 bill, and I just couldn’t resist.  You’ll be sleeping in the parking garage tonight.”

If anything, you will sometimes get a lessor upgrade, because the clerk already knows what they are getting, and the incentive is gone. If you think it’s awkward slipping the bill … try asking for it back when they “upgrade” you five steps closer to the elevator. Sure, the clerks appreciate the side money, but they really do think you are a buffoon because of the way you go about it.  And you are.

Have I ever used the “$20 trick”?

Not only no, but hell no!

I do not under any circumstances slip a $20 bill under my driver’s license like some nimrod from Connecticut nervously trying to score crack on 138th Street in The Bronx.

Have I gotten room upgrades?

Yes, almost every time.

“Gee, Rex, how is it that you get room upgrades without pulling a folded up $20 bill out of your ass crack?”

I’ll tell you how, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else, because this is my little “trick”, and since I perfected it, you can’t use it.


Here it is …. I speak to the clerks.

Yeah, I kid you not, I just stroll right up and talk to them.

Novel idea, no?

Clerk: “Good evening”

Me: “Yeah let me ask you something, I know I booked the cheapskate room, but how much will I need to bribe you for a better room, or a strip view on a high floor?”

Clerk: (usually laughing a bit) “Let me see what is available.”

I have never been quoted a price unless it is an official upgrade on the books.

If they can do something without triggering a house charge, then I tip them accordingly.

If they can move me from the 4th floor to the 8th floor, but the room is otherwise identical, I give them five bucks. It’s not worth an extra $20, and we both know it. Or if it is not something I am interested in, I just say “ahh, never mind, I’ll just keep what I have”, and they understand. There is no unnecessary awkwardness.

If they move me to a suite, I give them a reasonable tip depending on the quality of the property and type of suite.

The point is, you don’t need to go through all of that “trick” nonsense. You don’t need to wonder if you are going to get your money’s worth by slipping a twenty under your license.

I tell the clerks that I intend to bribe them by tipping them for an upgrade. I don’t insult their intelligence. And they all seem to be intuitive enough to know that the better the upgrade, the better the tip.

It is oh … so … much easier than the weird mis-communication dance that most tourists are taught to do … almost always by other tourists who honestly think there is some kind of skill to the endeavor.

There isn’t.

What are my results using my own method I call the “honesty trick”?

I almost always get an upgrade. When I mention the word “bribe” the clerks usually lighten up and chuckle, and then simply tell me they will see what they can do for me. I swear they respect you ten times more if you just cut the bullshit, and tell them what your goal is. If you have a price limit, state it. “I can only bribe you twenty bucks for the upgrade, so make sure it is something that we will both be happy with for that price.”

Just speak to the people. It’s not illegal to bribe a hotel clerk. They aren’t government officials. If they can do something, they will, if they can’t, they won’t.


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  1. Written by Buck Naked on March 28, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    This was one long borng comment. I have used the twenty dollar tip/trick ten times at different Vegas hotels. It has worked nine times. I have been upgraded from a standard room at the Wynn to a room with a fantastiv strip view. I was also upgraded from a fountain view room to the Cypress suite at the Bellagio. It was well worth the two tens I had between my credit car and drivers licence. You may call it whatever you wish but I love saving money and getting beautiful rooms at standard rate.

  2. Written by Rex on March 28, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    What you did was not a “trick”. It was a “tip” or a “bribe”. Trust me, it wasn’t just you. EVERYONE get upgrades 9 out of 10 times when they bribe the clerk.

    Many of us get upgrades when not giving one as well (perhaps it is our winning personalities)

    The 007 routine where you “slip it between your driver’s license and credit card” is mental masturbation, though.

    You might as well blow into a secret decoder ring while you’re at it.

    The clerks also find it amusing when you try to get a room upgrade in the same manner you try to score crack on the street, but hey … it’s your vacation.

    If “slipping” the bill is more fun …. enjoy that.

  3. Written by Jeff on April 15, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Rex – LOL…this was great. Let me ask you…do you think being honest, as you mentioned above, works better than trying the sandwich trick? Even joking about how others bribe?

    I’ve stayed all throughout the country, and never tried this ‘trick’ myself. Usually I just ask for an upper level room and leave it at that. No tipping…but then again, I’m usually staying at basic Marriotts and the like. After all, the only ‘strip’ nearby is an interstate highway.

    For this specific Vegas trip, I’ll be staying 7 nights – Wed thru Wed in June. Do you think showing money upfront helps…even if it’s just cash in a wallet, showing that I’m prepared to tip? Do you think saying “Hey, could I score a upper level suite for $50 to you” would get someone anything? Or is all of this just a way for the hotel clerk to earn/pocket some extra tax-free money without any real benefits for the customer???

  4. Written by Cz on May 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    You can be for or against the word “trick”, the sandwich, or the technique as used, but damn, your writing style is annoying. Writing 20 consecutive sarcastic, smart-aleck sentences, each in a paragraph of its own, isn’t going to get your point across any better, or make anyone think you’re smarter than you really are. Fact is, the $20 trick is alive and well whether you like the name or not, and works more often than not. I’ve had front desk clerks in the biggest hotels mark my reservation as a “couple’s anniversary” even thought they clearly knew it wasn’t, just so that if any higher-up asked, the record would have a reason stated for the upgrade. Then they’d tell me how it’s marked so that I’d keep their story straight if asked to confirm it. Bottom line, it’s a matter of personal style, if it’s not your style then don’t do it, but tastelessly mocking those who do, with empty self-importance cynicism, isn’t gonna get you any credit among those you write this stuff to.

  5. Written by Shelmo on June 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Rex, don’t you ultimately fork over $20 if you get a better room? Your way maybe cooler than those of the East Coast nimrods, but it’s basically the same thing.
    This diatribe just verifues that Rex is indeed the coolest 40 year old guy in Vegas. Which, along with $25, will get him a tranny hand job behind Casino Royale.

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