Stopping the clock
- ONLINE EXCLUSIVE -
Story by Dan Langager
The Angel Of The Winds Casino in Arlington, Wash. can’t stop you from knowing the time, but they’re going to try. A lack of clocks on the walls, piped-in fresh air and the chance of winning entice those coming in the front doors. Settling down for an afternoon of slot machines and table games, patrons become unaware of the passage of the sun.
People can kill a lot of time at Angel Of The Winds, John Cronin, the casino’s marketing manager, says. Although the average patron spends two to four hours in the casino, he says he’s seen some stay for up to 12.
“Gambling is a form of entertainment,” Cronin says. “Time moves a lot faster in the casino because customers aren’t worried about it.”
Entertainment businesses such as casinos and art studios employ many specific strategies to maintain their primary goal: keep customers longer and keep them coming back. From a lack of clocks and windows, to ambient lighting and sounds, to alcohol and giveaways, patrons lose track of time’s passage and life’s stresses. The competition amongst these businesses demands new and innovative strategies to satiate people’s desire for entertainment.
Cronin believes the casino industry is constantly reworking its strategies to keep customers settled in. During the 1950s, casinos were built without windows, lit in low light and contained no clocks on the walls, he says. “Back in the old days, customers were unaware of the passage of time,” Cronin says. “But the trends are starting to change.”
Unlike the casinos built a half-century ago, Angel Of The Winds sports large windows and several skylights. Cronin says customers see more of the outdoors and more of the sunshine. Since patrons are allowed to smoke tobacco inside, the casino also has high ceilings and an air filtration system, which refreshes the air indoors about every four minutes, Cronin says.
In addition to large windows and fresh air, the emergence of cellphones has greatly affected the industry. Cronin says most of the people coming in have cellphones or smart phones that they check several times a day. This makes the lack of clocks in the facility superfluous. Yet, Cronin thinks that people check the time on their phones less often when inside the casino.
“For about the length of a movie,” he says, “people come here because they want to escape.”
Aaron Thomas, marketing director for the Silver Reef Casino in Ferndale, Wash., points to the industry standards put out by the largest Las Vegas casinos. Thomas says the standard has always been to not post clocks, primarily because patrons don’t want to know the time while at the casino.
“Typically people come to casinos to get away from it all,” Thomas says. “They want to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
Painting also allows people to lose track of time. Creativitea, a pottery painting studio in Fairhaven, Wash., allows customers to pick out pieces of unfired pottery such as mugs, bowls, plates, coin banks, butter dishes, coasters and many other ceramic pieces. Although it varies from person to person, painting a piece takes about an hour and a half, but customers can spend as much time as they need.
Chinook Graham, 33, opened Creativitea 14 years ago to create a space where people could come and paint their own pottery. Contemporary ceramic studios have only been around for about 20 years, she says, and though it was once the norm to charge by the hour, that is not longer the case. When Graham moved to Bellingham, she wanted her studio be all-inclusive.
“I didn’t want that consciousness of the time to be there for the customers,” she says. The price of the pottery at Creativitea includes studio time, design tools, paints, glazing, firing and staff assistance. Pottery pieces range from $6 to $60.
Like Angel of the Winds, Creativitea sports large windows and no clocks. The windows and natural light allow people to feel connected to the outside even when sitting inside. She says the average length a customer will stay is three to four hours, usually during a single afternoon.
“If you’re looking at the clock, you’re not concentrating on the pottery,” she says. “You’re less present in what you’re working on.”
Having tea and food contributes to the shop’s atmosphere, Graham says. With more than 40 kinds of tea, scones and sandwiches, she thinks people’s basic needs are met, allowing them to settle in. Graham says Creativitea’s goals are the opposite of casinos and restaurants.
“I’ve never tried to push people in and out or have a fast turn-around of tables,” she says. “You can’t rush people in this process. It’s about creating a space where people feel comfortable.”
The techniques and strategies to settle patrons in may change over the years, but the goal remains the same: they should lose their sense of time. Storeowners can’t keep the passage of time unknown, but by creating an inviting atmosphere and leisurely entertainment, they suspend time for all who walk through the door.