Saints and Sinners: The Ten Most Sinful Cities in the United States … and the most Saintly

deWhich cities in America are the “most sinful” of the bunch? Perhaps they’re the ones whose monikers or mottos seem to suggest as much:

  • Always turned on.
  • Big beach. Big fun.
  • The city that never sleeps.
  • Glitter Gulch
  • Live large. Think big.
  • More than you ever dreamed.
  • Sin City
  • Sleaze City
  • Tinseltown
  • Town on the make.
  • What happens here, stays here.
  • What we dream, we do.
  • The wickedest little city in America.

While some of the descriptions above hardly represent what city boosters would want to convey about their burgs, a surprising number of them are actually the end-result of formal marketing and branding efforts – focus-group tested and all.

[How many cities do you think you can name for these slogans?]

tr logoBut put all of that aside now … because the online residential real estate website Trulia has been busy doing its own analysis of which cities qualify as being among the nation’s most “sinful.” Earlier this month, it published its listing of the ten most “sinful cities” in the United States.

How did Trulia compile the list? For starters, it limited its research to the 150 largest metropolitan areas.

Next, it used a variety of data such as drinking habits, the number of adult entertainment venues and the number of gambling establishments to determine the cities where it’s easiest to succumb to the eight deadly sins – among them gluttony, greed, lust, sloth and vanity.

For each “offense,” Trulia examined statistical measures that serve as key clues – stats like how many adult entertainment venues there are (for lust), and exercise statistics (for sloth).

Obviously, a mega-city like New York or Los Angeles is going to offer many more outlets catering to the sinful nature of mankind compared to smaller urban centers. So Tulia has “common-sized” the data based on per capita population, making it possible to determine the destination in which it’s easiest to satisfy one’s whims (or vices).

So – drumroll please – here’s the resulting Trulia Top Ten, listed below beginning with #10 and moving up to the ignominious honor of being the most sinful city of the bunch:

  • #10 Columbus, OH
  • #9   San Antonio, TX
  • #8   Las Vegas, NV
  • #7   Shreveport, LA
  • #6   Louisville, KY
  • #5   Toledo, OH
  • #4   Tampa, FL
  • #3   Philadelphia, PA
  • #2   Atlantic City, NJ
  • #1   New Orleans, LA  

I suppose few people would quarrel with New Orleans coming in at #1 on the list; anyone who has spent any time in that city knows must know how much of an “anything goes” atmosphere exists there. (Few tourists seem to avert their eyes to what they see, either.)

Atlantic City? Las Vegas?  Pretty much the same thing.

But what about Louisville, or Toledo, or … Shreveport?? OMG!

Of course, the same statistics Trulia crunched to determine who sits atop the “Sin City” list also reveal which cities are their polar opposites – the places Trulia calls America’s “saintly sanctuaries.”

Which cities are those?  Here’s that list:

  • #10 Cambridge, MA
  • #9   Greeley, CO
  • #8   Asheville, NC
  • #7   Boise, ID
  • #6   Claremont-Lebanon, NH
  • #5   Raleigh, NC
  • #4   Tuscaloosa, AL
  • #3   Ft. Collins, CO
  • #2   Ogden, UT
  • #1   Provo, UT

I think fewer surprises are on this list.

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For details on the Trulia analysis and to read more about the methodology employed, click here.

What’s your take? Based on your own personal observations or even first-hand experience, which cities would you characterize as the most “sinful” … and the most “saintly”?  We’re all interested to know!

McCormick Place Loses its Luster

Has all the grumbling about Chicago’s vaunted McCormick Place as America’s premier tradeshow venue finally reached critical mass?

For years, corporate exhibitors have groused about government-controlled, money-losing McCormick Place. Stories abound of exhibitors being forced to spend hundreds of dollars for services as mundane as plugging in a piece of machinery, or being charged $1,000 to hang a sign from the ceiling, because of onerous union rules governing “who does this” and “who can’t do that.” It’s been a constant refrain of complaining I’ve heard at every tradeshow I’ve attended at McCormick Place, dating back some 20 years.

Despite all of the criticism about McCormick Place’s high costs and lack of user-friendly service, it remains the largest convention complex in America, with over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space. But attendance has been declining pretty dramatically, from ~3.0 million in 2001 to ~2.3 million in 2008. While the figures haven’t been released yet for 2009, it’s widely expected that show traffic will be reported as down another 20%.

As the current economic recession has put the most severe strains yet on the tradeshow business, it seems that a rebellion against McCormick Place is in now full swing. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “a gradual drop-off in business … has turned into a rout as a string of high-profile shows have pulled out.” The deserters include a triennial plastics show (~75.000 attendees), as well as the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society’s annual conference (~27,500 attendees).

But isn’t tradeshow attendance off in other convention centers as well? Well … yes. But clearly not as much. In truth, tradeshow attendance has been under pressure at a “macro” level ever since 9/11, and an important reason beyond the issue of terrorism is technological innovation and the ability for people to interact through video-conferencing and for companies to demo their equipment and services via the Internet and other forms of digital communication.

Tradeshows were once the only way to gather a community together, but now there are other options. One school of thought holds that large tradeshows are now less effective than small, targeted conferences that provide heightened ability for attendees to interact with one another on a more intimate basis. Some events no longer charge attendees … but they make sure to “vet” them carefully to ensure that the show sponsors who are underwriting the costs are reaching prospects with important degrees of influence or buying authority.

On top of these “macro” trends, the current economic downturn just makes McCormick Place look more and more like a loser when it comes to the tradeshow game. Compared to Chicago’s three most significant competing tradeshow locales – Atlanta, Las Vegas and Orlando – the cost of many items from electricians (union labor) to foodservice (greasy spoon-quality coffee at Starbucks® prices) to hotel accommodations (room fees and surtaxes that won’t quit) ranges two times to eight times higher in Chicago. And in today’s business climate when every cost is scrutinized closely, none of this looks very cost-effective to the corporate bean-counters.

True, Chicago is more centrally located for travel from both coasts: Who wants to take a five hour flight from New York to Las Vegas or from California to Orlando to attend a meeting?

[On the other hand, no one can honestly say that the weather in Chicago is preferable to sunny Florida or Nevada!]

So it would seem that Chicago’s worthy tradeshow competitors have achieved the upper hand now. I just returned from two national shows this past week – the International Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Expo and the International Poultry Expo. Where were they held? Orlando and Atlanta – the same cities which are attracting McCormick Place’s erstwhile customers.