Let the Good Times Roll

Posted on March 11, 2014 by Robert Ringer


Some years ago, a guy by the name of Stephen Wilkinson thought he had won a $102,000 jackpot on a twenty-five-cent Wheel of Fortune at a Philadelphia Park Casino slot machine.  “Not so fast, Stevo baby,” said the casino’s management, who insisted it was all a big mistake — a “communication error.”

The casino explained that the slot machine had malfunctioned and erroneously flashed a sign announcing that Wilkinson had won.  When he complained, casino officials offered him and his wife two comps to its (ugh) buffet.  Wilkinson later said that he might have dropped the matter had the casino at least offered to comp them to dinner at its steakhouse.

However, since it did not, he decided to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania State Gaming Board, and the ensuing brouhaha became a national news story:  Blue Collar Guy takes on Daddy Big Bucks.   I’m told that casino officials probably would have won if the matter had gone through the courts, but that was no longer the issue.  The focus had become the bad publicity the casino was getting nationwide.

Had the Philadelphia Park Casino remained steadfast, the $102,000 probably would have looked puny compared to the lost profits resulting from customers staying away in droves.  Which is why the casino finally thought the better of it and forked over the $102,000 to Wilkinson.

End of story?  Not quite.  There are some valuable lessons to extract from this little tale.


Lesson No. 1

The odds are that the casino could have eliminated the Wilkinson pimple with a steak knife had executives not been so dull-headed.  For $75 or less, they could have had the Wilkinsons yukking it up in the casino’s steakhouse, chomping away on shoe-leather-grade sirloins and lifting their glasses of cheap house wine in a toast to their generous compers.

But once Wilkinson’s nose had been rearranged by the thought of going through a buffet line with the casino’s other victims … er, customers … a cheap solution was no longer an option.  If they had it to do over, of course, casino bigwigs would have been happy not only to treat Wilkinson to a side of beef, but also hand him a $1,000 goodwill check on his way to dinner.

Unfortunately, hindsight is a synonym for “too late.”  The bird in the hand looks awfully good after it’s already left your hand.  Think about that the next time you’re tempted to blow someone off without analyzing the cards he has at his disposal.  There’s a reason why the old adage “penny wise, dollar foolish” has been around since time immemorial.


Lesson No. 2

Inadvertently or intentionally, whichever the case may be, Mr. Wilkinson underscored the efficacy of my Ten Sacred Rules of Success:  Ask … ask again … ask again … and so on, until you become a genuine pain in the ask!

Giving credit where credit is due, once he got miffed by the buffet insult, he became like a dog with a bone — a bone that turned out to be worth $102,000.  Imagine being handed a hundred grand without producing anything of value to anyone.  What a great country, right?


Lesson No. 3

Which brings me to Lesson No. 3, perhaps the most important lesson of all.  No, the U.S. is not a great country because a hard case occasionally wins big bucks from a slot machine, horse race, or state lottery.  On the contrary, when people aspire to “get lucky” by engaging in such activities, that is precisely what’s wrong with modern-day America.

While barbarians around the world (as well as in this country) spend every waking hour plotting to destroy us, we are completely anesthetized by that great American phenomenon known as The Artificial Good Life — no savings … easy credit … sun ’n fun vacations … high-ticket sporting events … electronic toys … dumbed-down reality TV … and on and on it goes.

The Artificial Good Life bears no resemblance whatsoever to The Substantive Good Life that once made America the most admired country in the world — hard work, saving, actively participating in sports and other healthy and meaningful activities, and, above all, putting as much of one’s time and energy as possible into enjoying home, family, and friends.

Enter Stephen Wilkinson, a new-millennium product of The Artificial Good Life.  Wilkinson is a “retired carpenter.”  Retired carpenter?  Why in the hell is a carpenter retired at age 56?  I’m a lot older than 56 and I’m not retired!

Maybe he has a disabling injury, but, if so, no one in the media has mentioned it.  And if he does have an injury, it doesn’t seem to prevent him from wandering through casinos and pulling slot machine levers.

Next question:  What is Wilkinson doing in a gambling casino anyway?  Over the next fourteen years (through the age of seventy), you can be certain he will give back (or has already given back) the $102,000 he “won” … and a lot more.

Why do I believe Wilkinson will throw away his windfall profit in the casinos?  Because immediately after being given his $102,000 he announced that the first thing he and his wife intended to do with the money was take a vacation in the Bahamas!  Can pricey tickets to the NBA Finals be far behind?  Let the good times roll!

In contrast, imagine the amount of money carpenter-turned-aristocrat Wilkinson could earn between now and the day he turns seventy if he went back to work, and what he could accumulate through wise investing.  The willingness to forego instant gratification is still the best definition of maturity I know of.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

15 responses to “Let the Good Times Roll”

  1. Todd says:

    Thank you. For me, this story illustrates part of my decision process to stop working with a company after watching the company repeatedly ignore customer complaints until the day the complaints got TOO BIG TO HANDLE anymore! When the decision-making authority is taken away from the 'field' so that the customer is ignored, life gets miserable quickly! Good riddance to them, on to taking charge!!

  2. Rich Johnson says:

    Great post Robert! I fear for the future of my kids and grandkids. I have heard repeatedly from my own kids that there is no way they will ever work as hard as we do. Life is too short. Why should they work that hard? When 50% of Americans get some kind of support from the government, what's the incentive to work hard and save? My son-in-law returned from Afghanistan with a Purple Heart, the lucky victim of a suicide bomber on an Afghan base. Others in his group perished during the incident. Since his return, he remained on unemployment until his benefits ran out, insisting that he will lose money by taking a job. Where does that thinking come from? I'm afraid that the dumbing-down of America has taken firm hold.

    I still hear my father's hysterical laugh ringing in my ears when I asked him for a quarter some 50 years ago. I learned at an early age that if I want something, I have to work and save for it. Today, all you have to do is put it on a credit card and hope nobody catches up to you to collect. Isn't that the message our government is sending us?

    Let's hope that somewhere down the road sanity prevails and people recapture the spirit that made this country great. Sadly, I believe we are going the way of many great nations before us. We will be a sad footnote in the history of once-great nations.

  3. James Parker says:

    One other point ought to be made; the "communication error excuse" is decidedly one way — any of the thousands of other "pulls" on the slot machine may have, if the communication was correct, awarded the large jackpot, and the casino owners would have retained the largesse from the error. Were customers to insist on equal scrutiny on each failed "pull" (or even occasionally, for that matter), I strongly suspect that the casino owners would have objected to showing the same scrutiny they used here.

    Given that this bias — above and beyond the accepted "house edge", there should have been no question, (absent evidence that the customer had tampered with the machine, of course) that the casino owners were obligated to pay out based on the machine's report.

  4. Murray Suid says:

    Robert, there is a lot of wisdom in your post. Or at least many of your opinions parallel mine, e.g., the negativity of gambling.

    However, we part company when you write "we are completely anesthetized…" At 72 (still working at a new start-up of mine), I see many young people who are smart, who work long hours, who expect no handouts, and who dream the American dream.

    When I say many, off the top of my head I can name half a dozen in several fields–design, computing, music composition, medicine, and commerce (owner of a coffee shop that took on the Starbucks across the street…and won).

    I think it's a mistake to view America as broken because the new generation supposedly refuses to work hard. As it happens, I live in an area where half the folks are Latinos–doing all sorts of physical labor–everything from ditch digging to tree pruning to cooking in restaurants. They work hard! But so do the majority of the children of my anglo friends.

    As for Rich's statistic that "50% of Americans get some kind of support from the government," I'd like to see the breakdown. Does it include people on social security? does it include retired vets? I might be wrong–and I'm wide open to being educated–but I suspect that that number misrepresents reality…unless Rich thinks that folks who contribute all their lives to social security shouldn't receive payments.

    Sign me "still hard at work…in California"

    • Michael says:

      More than 50% of all US adults (voters) receive a monthly check/allowance from the US government. Do you think they will be voting for the Democrats or the Republicans?

  5. Silverback says:

    Buying a lottery ticket is great fun. Gives you a day or two of fantasizing about the things you would do with all that money. I might want to play blackjack in a casino, to exercise my card-counting skills. I would even like to play hold-em to exercise my opponent-reading skills.

    Although the Cincinnati Kid and Yancey Howard may have made a living at it, games of chance are strictly for entertainment.

    The real game, that needs real stones, is entrepreneurship. The first challenge is how to spell it. The next is to realize that not only is the deck not stacked, there is no deck.

  6. Serge says:

    Robert, I see lots of lessons here also. I really like lesson 3. Patrons of casinos deserve the problems that come from these institutions. What he really won was more of an addiction to more gambling and its problems. Now if it were a regular, honest business I would think and feel differently on making amends.

  7. Richard V. says:

    I am 78 years old. While I was growing up, my father "harped" on certain dislikes almost daily. I was supposed to overhear and learn. I did. One was anti-gambling. Yes, why do casinos exist? To make money of course, not to give money away. My father's programming worked on me, fortunately. Easy money, yes, is a temptation, but it is usually an illusion. The other dislike he "harped" on was his hatred of LIARS! And that liars can never keep their story straight. Over the course of my own life I have seen the value of owning an excellent reputation. People do not wonder if I am telling the truth or not. And, it is a whole lot easier to tell the truth than not. That does NOT MEAN, however, that we are obligated to answer every question nosy people throw at us. Silence implies NONE OF YER COTTON-PICKIN' BUSINESS!

  8. Jean says:

    "The willingness to forego instant gratification is still the best definition of maturity I know of." Also, according to research, the willingness to forego instant gratification is the most certain pathway to 1) academic success, 2) marital stability, and 3) financial and career success. This is the central theme of Daniel Goleman's book, "Focus." Bravo for reiterating this!

  9. Daniel says:

    Rags-to-riches-to-rags is such a common tale, especially among jackpot winners, for precisely the reasons given by Robert Ringer. Furthermore, people who seek value without giving value rarely have the capacity and/or maturity to manage ill-gotten wealth; so they are almost certainly bound to lose it.

  10. Tim says:

    I am a farmer. You guys do not know what gambling is? In farming, you can lose more than you bet

  11. Robby Bonfire says:

    This is so deep and fascinating a subject. What to do with windfall profits? Invest? Well, we had severe crashes in 1929, 1987, the Dot Com Debacle in 2000, and the Wall Street banking crisis in 2008, which we are still digging out from under. Plus, of course, recession after recession, the late 50's, the late 80's – courtesy of the "Tax Reform Act" of 1986, and right now, for starter examples.

    Plus, if you are a middle class working family, even if you want to invest your savings, you know that even if the next crash doesn't get you, the next swindler probably will, as in – Bernie M. was and is not the lone predatory shark out there. So who can you trust?

    Do you acquire and sit on an investment cache of gold and/or silver coins? Problem there is that if a redux depression hits, you cannot take a bath in, brush your teeth with, or nourish yourself with gold and silver coins.

    So what to do? Well, I am doing two things, survival-related, which should come before investing for profit, as a priority. First, I am hoarding all the toothpaste and bars of soap I can buy, so that, if we do have another economic collapse, I can barter for valuable tangible commodities – like real estate, and gold and silver, and last but not least – food. Because if you grow vegetables in your garden, and the supermarket shelves are barren, your stock of food will be plundered by your "friends and neighbors" in one moonlit night's marauding that will make Quantrill look like Little Orphan Annie sucking on a lollipop.

    The other thing I am doing, to build equity without having to fear the revisiting of "The Dot Com Syndrome," is, every time I write a check, I deduct an extra 20 per cent over the amount of the check, from my checking account balance. So that, I write a check for $100, I then deduct $120 from my balance. You won't believe how fast it adds up, plus inflation ceases bothering you because escalating prices equal faster savings, so that you become comfortable with a "Big Spender Savings" life-guiding principle, rather than suffering a "scrimping and saving" life philosophy.

    When was the last time you realized the steady growth of 20 per cent on an investment you made, in this case upon all the expenses and bills you defray, plus didn't have to pay "capital gains" taxes in the bargain? That's right – never until now!

  12. Heather says:

    Very well said, Robert. I have always been suspicious of Instant gratification, and it is becoming a way of life for so many I am not sure how it will all transpire in the big scheme of things. But knowing we have at least a handful of humans that not only appreciate but seek hard work and take pride in creating something that may take a lifetime to achieve comforts me.

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