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Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Dave!Whee! I'm in Oklahoma!

In my effort to keep up with any new US & Canada Hard Rock properties as they open, I'm here to visit the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on my way back to Seattle. It's pretty much a raging disappointment, but that's probably my own fault for hanging on to Hard Rock memories of yesteryear instead of the reality of Hard Rock today.

All in all, a pretty crappy day to be me...

  • A direct flight to Tulsa from Atlanta was outrageously expensive. So I connected through Salt Lake City and ended up flying three times the distance in four times the duration at one-fifth the cost. I give up on the math that makes all that work.
  • Ended up sitting on the Atlanta tarmac for 40 minutes while they decided if our plane was safe to fly in the face of "mechanical difficulties." Apparently it was, so we did, and ended up landing only 10 minutes late. That would have been a good thing, except it caused a backlog with the luggage and it took forever to get my suitcase.
  • I was the first to leave the plane and arrive to a closed door. Nobody was outside, no sign on the door said not to open it, so I walked through... and had an alarm go off. The gate agent was infuriated and yelled "AAAAAAGGGGHHHH!" at me, then slammed the door while calling it in as a false alarm. Like it's my fault that he didn't do his job and open the door for an arriving flight. Well fuck you. Fuck you sideways. Helpful customer service tip... when you fuck up, APOLOGIZE to your customer and be mad at yourself, not them, for YOUR screw-up.
  • I went to pick up my rental car and was told that I had been "upgraded" to a full-size vehicle. Well, here's the scoop... if I had wanted a full-size vehicle, I would have reserved one. So when you give me anything other than what I requested, it IS NOT A FUCKING UPGRADE! Of course, they didn't "upgrade" me because they like me, they did it because they ran out of compact cars. Fortunately, begging at the returns counter got me the car size I had wanted all along.
  • Karma being what it is, the cigarette lighter doesn't work, so I can't charge my iPhone while I drive. Shit.
  • The highways here are being upgraded and/or repaired. I missed the exit I needed because the temporary sign naming it could be seen ONLY after you passed the exit. It's a flavor of stupid that I can't quite wrap my head around.
  • Now that I've finally made it to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, all I want to do is leave.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa

Time to update my travel map for this trip...

DaveTour USA 2010

Ooh! Look at that! I've filled in a State I've never been to before! Just four more to go!

For anybody interested in my thoughts on the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa and the state of the Hard Rock chain in general, I've put that in an extended entry. For everybody else, good night!

When I first started obsessing over the Hard Rock Cafe in 1990, it was the uniqueness and specialness of the properties that kept me coming back. Cafes were crammed to the rafters with cool rock-n-roll memorabilia. Employees were as unique as the properties, celebrating rock counter-culture by living it. The motto of the chain was "Love All, Serve All" and they genuinely meant it. Every outing to a new Hard Rock was like discovering Hard Rock for the very first time.

But that was then.

Now, it's quite different...

  • New Hard Rocks are cold, sparse, and boring, with a few scattered pieces of memorabilia locked away in display cases rather than proudly nailed to a wall in such huge numbers that you can't see everything in a single visit. On the contrary, everything about the place practically ensures you never want to visit again.
  • Each new property is decorated like some lame hipster lounge that no rockstar would be caught dead in. As a consequence, even the more unique and colorful employees seem oddly out of place and constrained.
  • Hard Rocks no longer "Love All, Serve All" but instead cater to a chic elite which belies the very principles that built the chain. Classic example... when I was just in San Diego at the Hard Rock Hotel, I wanted to go in and buy some pins, but was turned away from the Rock Shop entrance. I went to the main entrance and was treated like a lying criminal for wanting to get in TO SPEND MONEY. After I used my Pin Club Card to convince them I wasn't trying to crash whatever exclusive Comic-Con party they were hosting, I still wasn't welcomed in, but instead treated like I was barely tolerated and reluctantly allowed through TO SPEND MONEY.
  • Here in Tulsa, my Pin Club Card was refused... meaning I don't get my discount and don't get credit for my visit. This is categorically stupid, and I don't give a flying fuck if you're a "franchise partner" or not. You're either a Hard Rock, or you're not. You're either part of the Hard Rock family and welcome its fans, or your just another building with the Hard Rock logo on it and not really a Hard Rock at all. Apparently the corporate offices at Hard Rock International no longer give a shit about protecting their brand and honoring their fans... they just want money, and don't care how they get it. I find it inconceivable that they franchise out their brand without dictating the terms as to how it's used. If you're a fucking Hard Rock, then ACT like a fucking Hard Rock or just turn into the Denny's or Motel 6 you really are.
  • My room is very nice. But there's nothing "Hard Rock" about it. No prints of famous rockers on the wall. No Hard Rock inspired linens. No clever rock-inspired touches to let you know where you are. N-O-T-H-I-N-G-! You could literally be anywhere in any upscale generic hotel in the world. This is very different from earlier Hard Rock Hotels I've been to, and a sad, sad reminder of where Hard Rock is headed. They're no longer special. They're no longer unique. They're just there.
  • Hard Rock advertises their properties with the phrase "You Know Who You Are..." Well, yes, I do know who I am... do you?!? Because if your current properties and attitudes define you, then who you are is pretty lame.

Odds are, I will still seek out Hard Rock properties in my travels because my visits are always about more than just the Hard Rock Cafe. It's about exploring new places and finding new things. It's about forcing myself step out of my travel routine and get distracted. It's about meeting new people. It's about seeing more of this world. And, yes, adding another checkmark to my list.

But the love has gone.

Which is why you'll have to excuse me for hanging on to my Hard Rock memories of yesteryear.

Categories: Hard Rock 2010, Travel 2010Click To It: Permalink


  1. Marc says:

    I agree that the new HRC style is pretty disappointing. The new Berlin cafe is nothing special compared to the old one. The walls crammed with memorabilia is what defines the experience and no stupid-ass computer simulated memorabila collection is anywhere close to being a replacement.

    Very, very sad…

    • Dave2 says:

      What’s truly odd is that I’m pretty sure they’re sitting on LOADS of memorabilia that they could be using… they’ve just decided not to display much of it anymore. For whatever reason, they’ve gone with a “sparse” look that makes no sense for a “Hard Rock Cafe.”

  2. I see Arkansas is highlighted, but I’m fairly certain we don’t have a Hard Rock here. I take it Arkansas will be for other reasons?

    • Dave2 says:

      I have been to Arkansas a couple of times for work. The latest was two years ago. Not sure when I’ll make it back, but I’ll definitely let you know!

  3. Beth says:

    I hope someone from Hard Rocks reads this and responds. I’d love to hear the response. I remember my first Hard Rock Hotel stay so long ago, and it was clearly Hard Rock all the way…what a shame they can’t uphold!

  4. RW says:

    well yes we’ve all gotten the word. In the last ten years the US has switched to being a “service” economy. That means… well… we basically suck I guess! Either that or you have a sign on your back you don’t know about that says “Do your worst. No, really.”

    • Dave2 says:

      A service economy that has no desire to service anybody. Yep, that pretty much describes life in these United States of America today…

  5. muskrat says:

    I’m glad I was part of this trip that was good. Not the shitty part in which you currently find yourself! Hope you enjoy the day in OK.

    • Dave2 says:

      It’s not that it’s necessarily “shitty” here… Tulsa is fine and many of the people are really nice… I just had incredibly bad luck with most all aspects of the travel for getting here. Pretty much my life, now that I think about it!

  6. Poppy says:

    If you ever go back to Oklahoma try Okmulgee. There’s nothing to do there but all the people are very nice and it’s absolutely gorgeously beautiful there. Just watch out for the stray tornado.

  7. Melanie Atkins says:

    We really are mostly nice here in Oklahoma, but the highway/road construction thing is so true. I think every road is being torn up right now. It is never-ending and way annoying! I hope the rest of your time here leaves a better memory than the getting here did.

  8. delmer says:

    Using pretend dollars, if I fly to SeaTac this weekend it’s $400. If I fly to Vancouver it’s $700.

    If, I use my frequent flyer miles, a RT trip to SeaTac is 40,000 miles … the same RT trip to Vancouver is 20,000 miles.

    Of course, to get the 20,000 mile trip to Vancouver, I had to pretend I was coming back August 20 — still, eating the return ticket is the cheapest way to go right now.

    Airline math is always puzzling.

    • Dave2 says:

      In this case, it’s probably because the Salt Lake City flight was all Delta, and the flight out of Atlanta was a partner carrier or something. Still, for the sake of the planet and C02 emissions, you’d think everybody could get together on stuff like this!

  9. Ren says:

    When I visited the DC Hard Rock a couple of weeks ago, it was closed for a private party but I didn’t even realize it until I’d been there for a while looking around. Probably because they were still setting up. As time passed, they started stopping people at the door but they would still let them go to the (tiny) shop.

    It seems like when I was at the shop at the Hard Rock Hotel/Casino in Vegas (off the strip), I ran into the same franchise/no discount situation. Frustrating.

    • Dave2 says:

      That’s another thing that bothers me… closed for a private party? As a company that courts people to visit their properties like a tourist attraction, Hard Rock needs to realize that people sometimes go out of their way to travel to their restaurants and see their properties.

      I remember when I couldn’t eat at the Hard Rock Cafe Seoul because some kind of private function was going on. Never mind that I just took a very expensive cab ride and was half-a-world-away from home… they didn’t care.

  10. The first Hard Rock I went to was the one in London back, goodness, in 1995 ish I think. I loved it as I’d never been to anything like it before. As I recall we all drank quite a lot in there before stumbling out.

  11. Sarah says:

    I think I’ve only ever been to the Hard Rock in San Fransisco.

    Although I am weird and like to visit other Gap stores when I’m travelling.

  12. martymankins says:

    Ever since the HRC got split up and owned by multiple people, it’s never been the same. I share in your frustration at this. The lack of memorabilia on the walls is sad. Which is why it was nice to visit the Orlando HRC and see not only tons of stuff covering the walls, but also a friendly staff and a helpful gift shop.

    If you visit Salt Lake City one more time this trip, we are going to have to declare a default Dave Lake City event. Of course, I’d like to be there for that.

    • Dave2 says:

      With the exception of the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas, which is independently run… everything is owned by the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida. Their Hard Rock corporate offices control all owned properties and establish any agreements for franchise properties. So… the buck really stops there. They can choose to maintain a consistent experience across all Hard Rocks… or continue to just let everything slide into the mess we have now.

  13. Jodi says:

    Ahhh… Tulsa. Spent 5.5 impressionable years living there. Union HS class of ’86!!

    The people are nice, but, more importantly, you can find Dr Pepper EVERYWHERE!

  14. *lynne* says:

    My first Hard Rock Cafe experience was in Dallas, during my first year in the USA: it was an excellent mix of the taste of freedom from family and society of Malaysia with the rock and roll that WAS the HRC (they were playing *my* songs,,, GnR!!) … because of that experience I too became a fan, although I usually get me a pin (didn’t know there is a pin club!) and a long island iced tea wherever I go. After an unpleasant experience at the HRC Universal Studios, I’ve not gone out of my way to visit them. I’ve not stayed at any of their hotels – way too expensive when converted into Malaysian Ringgit!

  15. Larry says:

    I was just at that Hard Rock to shop–I was shocked there was a HR in my native OK!– but I believe it (or the adjoining CASINO at least) is owned by the Cherokee Nation.

    I was there hunting a special Cherokee Nation limited Will Rogers pin, and couldn’t get over to Tahlequah in time..

  16. Cris says:

    Dave, Dave, Dave, Next time you are in Tulsa you need to drop me an Email first. I know it must have been a plane layover and not a planned trip, but still, I am only 45 minutes from the airport and I know where the Hard Rock is!

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