Misery loves company?
My observations since the original location opened...
1) Don't turn off games - you will get screamed at (personal experience).
2) Don't complain when a redemption machine doesn't give you xxxx - tickets, prize, etc. My daughter (within the 1st 6 months of the original location opening) won 200+ tickets from a redemption machine that apparently had no tickets left. Told the staff, and they blew me off, said they'd "alert their tech", and provided zero tickets.
3) Don't expect any game (unless it's a new Stern that was just unboxed, or a game they purchased shopped from somebody else) to work 100%.
4) They don't clean their games (much?), they don't maintain their games (much?), and it's not "broken" unless it no longer can credit up. If it doesn't show a credit dot, the dot probably out-gassed due to over-use :p
I've got probably $100+ worth of tokens and credit on play cards (from work-related stuff, others who have gone, etc.), and can't be bothered to use it. I swing by every once in a while (at the Lakeline location) to see if things have changed - nope. Last week, walked through the pins, and they were just *filthy*. I'm talking ball wearing paint off the playfield and tracking gray dust all over the place filthy, for 2 to 3 different older pins. Very sad. I'd feel guilty selling or trading them any of my games because I don't think they'd be maintained. There is simply no way that somebody could walk past some of these games and NOT see the filth, or play a single game, and not see that they're not working correctly.
I walked past the back row of "classic" video games during this last visit, and the entire back row was turned off because they were all broken. Checking joysticks, they just flopped around as if they didn't even have switches mounted to them. Some of the game have been turned off every time I've gone since they showed up on location.
My brother worked with Darren for a year or so, doing a bit of horse trading - bring in some parts, dropped off some cabinets (for free) in several cases, as he wanted to help the place get off the ground (as did a lot of locals when they first opened). Got worked over and shafted a few too many times trying to set up some simple trades, and gave up on them as well.
I have no personal issues with Darren - he's always been friendly to me, both on location, and when I've seen him at TPF. However, being the only game in town is really the only reason I see them surviving from a pinball standpoint. I can easily see them transitioning to a more traditional gaming establishment, and minimizing pinball to just a few newer Sterns at some point - there are tons of folks for whom an "arcade" means ticket dispensing redemption crap, and there is clearly money to be made in that area. By adding in the go-carts and more traditional fare, this is financially a move in that direction.
Regarding the "Tuesday chat" offer - I'm tempted to attend, if only to listen. As noted, I just get too depressed going by there, and it's easier to just play my own stuff (cheaper too). I'd love to have somebody who attends post back in this thread on what's promised, and then we'll see what's delivered.
Having said the above; from a league standpoint in the Austin area... Has anybody considered just playing member/collector games instead? I have a co-worker in the Sacramento area where this is what they do - just rotate between members who own a few pins, and rely upon their games instead. The main reason I've never bothered getting involved in league stuff in Austin is because of the poor quality/maintenance of the Pinballz stuff, and I'm not interested in driving downtown to play. You can still have league fees that go towards maintenance of member pins.
Generally, the original location seems to have the better pin's, and my impression (though I've not been by lately) was that the games were more consistently maintained.
I was one of the folks who helped out with the Lakeline location when Darren invited a bunch of regulars in to help "test the games". I found games exactly as described earlier in the thread - looked like stuff fresh out of a container. I'm talking mud dauber nests on the playfield in games that were considered *READY* for opening. Spider webs. These games were turned on, and made available for "testing".
Question - is this a matter of being unable to find/hire good help (tech's)? Is this being too cheap to pay a good tech what they deserve to keep things clean/maintained? Rumor I heard is their primary tech was only getting ~$10 an hour? Is it just not budgeting for proper maintenance? I honestly don't care about the price so much if a game is solid/maintained/working - but when the stuff is just trashed, *that's* what makes the prices a concerning.
Bring on the barcade, or competition, if they can't find a way to address these issues. These aren't new - they were around even when they were only at the original location.