What Happens in Vegas Goes in The Vegas Box

Although gaming revenues continue to sag, nongaming spending in Las Vegas is showing a slight rebound. Numbers recently released by the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority show upticks in expenditures on food and drink, transportation, shopping and entertainment for 2010. The proprietors of The Vegas Box, a start-up geared toward frequent Vegas visitors, are hoping that now might be the time to start a business that capitalizes on people’s love for Vegas—and convenience.

The Vegas Box is the inspiration of Matt and Gena Marler, who seem about as far from the image of Las Vegas visitors as hearty partiers or grizzled high-rollers as you can get. Married for 15 years, they’ve got three kids and full-time jobs in suburban Seattle: Matt’s a construction surveyor and Gena manages a dental office.

And they both love Las Vegas.

Matt and Gena’s first trip, in 1998, celebrated their second wedding anniversary, and they’ve been making the trip regularly ever since. Over the past few years, they’ve gotten into a pattern of flying out two or three times a year. That’s where they got the idea for The Vegas Box.

“I’m a girly-girl,” Gena says. “When I travel I have to pack all my stuff—shampoo, makeup, everything. My husband’s a simple guy, so he just wants to bring a carry-on. I can’t do that. We figured it must be a problem for other people, so we came up with some ideas about how to create a service that would let people keep their stuff in Vegas.”

They started talking about starting the business last April. In January, they started storing customers’ stashes.

The service is simple: A guest signs up and schedules a time for their box to be delivered to their hotel. Once they have the box, they fill it with anything they like. When they check out, The Vegas Box picks it up and stores it until the next time the guest returns to town. Right now one year of storage, which includes two deliveries, is $99.

Each box holds up to 70 pounds, and comes with a plastic lock marked with a unique seven-digit number so the customer can be sure the same lock is still there when they return; users can also use their own locks if they wish.

It’s impossible to find out exactly what people are storing in their Vegas boxes because of the locks, and the Marlers’ insistence that all users have total privacy. Gena thinks most people will store toiletries and personal-care products, with a few bottles of alcohol mixed in.

She cites several benefits of the service, including the possibility of having use of full-size versions of preferred hair-care products in Las Vegas, instead of 3-ounce mini-tubes, and keeping leftover bottles of booze until the next trip.

Don’t get too crazy, though. The terms and conditions specify that “perishable food items, dangerous goods/hazardous materials, firearms, or illegal substances” are prohibited, and Gena says that even though The Vegas Box won’t be opening people’s boxes to search for contraband, if they receive a request by a police agency to provide access, they will comply.

Founding a business catering to Las Vegas visitors at a time when a major Strip casino is closing seems like an act of unmitigated faith in the city. And Gena says she’s optimistic about the future of Las Vegas.

“Whenever we go to Las Vegas, it’s crowded,” Gena says. “We see hundreds of people at baggage claim, hailing taxis and waiting in line at the front desk. People are still coming here. And we thought a service like The Vegas Box, which lets people save their personal items right in town, seems like something that people would be able to use, even at this time of difficulty.”

It’s true that The Vegas Box is poised to capitalize on the confluence of a few factors: the popularity of Las Vegas as a repeat destination, frustration with airline baggage fees and TSA checkpoints, and the need for the comforts of home, even on vacation.

“It’s nice to be able to hop on a plane with just your clothes,” she elaborates, “and when you get to Vegas, the things you want are waiting for you at hotel. It’s a simple way to travel.”

Even though business was slow in the first months, Gena says it’s picked up lately, and she looks forward to working more closely with concierges to spread the word about the service. In the end, she hopes that she can get everyone to see that the convenience she’s offering is worth the price.

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