Another pay-to-ride scheme, and this might be the worst of all...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 10:39 PM
It is a commodity issue. There are n number of seats available over the course of a day; those who pay more for the commodity get more. But, the money comes from people entering the gate. In this case, what the customer sees as a commodity, the park sees as a cost.

Best case scenario, I sell admission to people who never ride anything, keeping my maintenance and staffing costs down. So I can sell admission for $500,000 and make a million if two people show up, or sell admission to 50,000 people at $20 apiece. Under the first scenario, I lose big time if one of those people has the sniffles and doesn't show up. I lower my risk by pulling in a larger pool of paying customers; I would need 25,000 cases of the sniffles to cut my income in half.

I'll just have to bring in Burke & Co. to make sure those pesky guests don't ride my rides. :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 10:49 PM
Back to the original post...what would prevent a person from getting several re-rides in a row? Is the ride-op that checks your passes only there for that purpose or do they have another duty? What if there are 12 people on the train who want to re-ride? I think it's very likely that someone could get a bunch of re-rides in a row.

Solution: Mark off one or two rows as re-ride rows(and not the front or back seat). Clearly label that these rows may have a significantly longer wait time for re-rides. King's Island does something similar but from what I remember from last year(could be wrong) there is no mention of a possible longer wait time in these rows.

Gonch, I like the idea of including the q-bot as the standard admission and offering the value admission that doesn't but I see two problems:

1. I buy flash pass, q-bot, or whatever they're offering depending on crowds. If I'm on vacation and the waits are long you bet I'm ponying up the $15-$25 to get more in. Let's say you buy the standard admission and it turns out not to be busy. You just wasted $25. Maybe you buy the value admission and it's more crowded than you thought. Are you stuck without the q-bot.

2. I don't see Six Flags or any other park or chain raising their prices $25 in a year for standard admission. It is a matter of semantics but it'd be quite tough to sell a $25 increase in ticket prices to the GP. Granted you get more for that increase but how many will investigate further if they hear ticket prices have increased upwards of 50%?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 11:24 PM

Under 1., do what parks do now with the "upgrade today's admission to a season pass" technique. Upgrade your value admission to a standard. As for the low crowd scenario, it was your choice to pay more, not the park's. Kick yourself and buy the value next time.

As for 2., if the value admission is the same or close to today's admission, it's just a matter of calling the other one premium instead of standard.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 11:46 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

dexter said:
I still consider it a scam, because it does not in any way cause capacity to be any higher, as many people think. It actually LOWERS the overall capacity of some rides.

I don't think it was ever sold as a way to increase capacity. On the same note it doesn't lower capacity either. If a ride is moving 1000 people an hour, it's moving 1000 people an hour. All that changes is where you pull those 1000 people from.

Don't confuse less riders with a longer wait for some of those riders.

What I was getting at here was that a lot of people have no awareness as to ride capacity at a park and how it works. Some people haven't even heard of the word with regards to rides. In my experience, I've discovered that some people think that this is good for capacity because they do not understand it. The park purposely do not explain the details of how it works and this causes people to assume they know what it really does overall.

And yes, a line jumping system does lower capacity on ***some*** rides. Some stations were not designed to for another line entry, and the solution is to let people come up the exit. It should be one direction of traffic flow but it is not. It's chaos. I've witnessed some rides not opening the air gates until all of the line-jumpers were seated, which is time consuming.

Oncoming riders are supposed to enter at the same time people who just rode are exiting.

I know you knew that, I am simply rewording it so you understand what I am talking about.

It's mean and nasty when a park decides to let people who can pay more to cut in line in the name of profits. You shouldn't feel guilty thoug and I understand where you are coming from there. I don't blame anyone for taking them up on the offer if they can afford it. It's not like you can ride much without it on busy days, especially at a park that runs one train with a 2 hour wait (perhaps on purpose, once again in the name of profits).

What's my point? I blame the parks for offering it and they should be the ones who feel guilty for dangling the ability to break a sacred rule in front of people who can give them more money. (kind of reminds me of the stupid movie HOSTEL)

On topic and on the other hand, re-riders might be increasing capacity on rides at BG. They do not need to be reloaded. But to me it is still corrupt that a park actually endorses something like this. What does it do to the values of the people who actually use it (make that for Flashpass as well)?

I have to give kudos to JRS for his perfectly worded and very well thought out post.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 9:10 AM

dexter said:

What I was getting at here was that a lot of people have no awareness as to ride capacity at a park and how it works.

That's because most people are idiots. Go to Disney and people equate the addition of FastPass as the addition of capacity to those rides, as if more rockets materialized in Space Mountain or the Haunted Mansion gave birth to more doom buggies. People fail to realize that in order to create an "avoid the line" line, the wait time for everyone else increases.

And I believe it is totally true that these stupid things reduce capacity because most parks board the trains twice- once for pass holders and once for everyone else. Of course that's going to slow things down!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 10:45 AM
You shouldn't feel guilty

This is where I’m conflicted…I can tell you I feel guilty. It seems gator did too. I’m not sensing a lot of love from Gonch and playa…which is a perfectly defensible position.

The diverging opinions on “guilt” tell me that at the very least…these policies are being utilized by some people who would rather not have the option to do so (see gator and myself). I’m hoping that the parks are not interpreting utilizations of their “pay to cut” plans as indication that it is good long-term strategy…since so many “love it.” The key is knowing how many see it from my perspective versus the Gonch/playa perspective.

My feelings (got I sound like a wuss) of guilt are directly related to the “wait your turn” mantra above. I just firmly believe that this is an innate evolutionary/sociological phenomenon that cannot be suppressed by most people. Right now these “pay to cut” policies are aligned in favor of those who think/feel like Gonch/playa.

There are ways to make more profit while simultaneously appeasing Gonch/playa and gator/JRS schools of thought. This would seem to be smarter long-term strategy…and frankly I think it is where we eventually will end up.

One thing is clear…the “little guy” is either going to accept his place in line or quit going. My recommended system or the various Gonch/park offerings are all clear in the fact that it will take more money to experience park offerings at optimal levels. I’ve accepted that the “little guy” is screwed and have taken him out of the equation all together. Gonch is still offering crumbs by way of “stand-by” admissions.

I merely opine that the parks need not waste their time with “stand-by” as there are limited profits to be made in that segment…and many head-aches involved in “throwing them a bone.” My plan is more a “put them out of their misery” scenario. They should instead focus on appeasing Gonch/playa AND gator/JRS at the same time.

…and most importantly…this final paragraph proves that I’m not nearly the wuss I appeared when talking about all that “guilt” stuff! :)

*** Edited 6/6/2007 2:47:24 PM UTC by Jeffrey R Smith***

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 10:53 AM
Have you guys ever used one of the Q-Bots they are great on crowded days but way too expensive. But, I think Six Flags should do the same thing as Disney does with the FastPass and raise the park admission.

Bolliger/Mabillard for President in '08 NOT Dinn/Summers

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 11:20 AM
I'd be more in favor that- at least the system is available to everyone and is without bias. People get mad when they see people moving on ahead of them, but they can't get too mad because they'll likely be doing the same thing later on.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 11:50 AM
Why is it all those who aren’t buying into the gold, platinum, or Q-Bott expenditures seem to not be fans of these systems? I suppose these folks can’t afford to have a positive attitude about capitalism or the free market. Only good things can come from amusement parks recognizing that everything is for sale.

Enough of these unreasonable expectations that gate fees means anything beyond entrance to a holy grounds. Everyone who enters should be honored just by being there. Ride access should be handled by the market place. Slow these darn things down and lets take the time to really find out what a seat on these incredible rides are worth. If thirty people are willing to pay $100 to ride the coaster for an hour, that would make things easier for everyone. Food should not just be set at some locked price, lets negotiate. Is $5 really the most people are will to pay for a burger? Maybe the park is making too many burgers?

And why should those purchasing these passes have to wait in any line for food, gifts or even a bathroom break? These half-assed line cutting passes just don’t go far enough! These lazy gestures towards free market enterprise do little to recognize the laws of supply and demand. Need an example? Why are there so many seats on these rides?

And why make extraordinary experiences common and accessible in the first place? Without the roadblocks and challenges to access the public cannot fully appreciate the extraordinary. Because access by itself needs to be a thrill, a thrill enhanced by denied access to many others; then the ride can be icing on the cake. *** Edited 6/6/2007 3:53:34 PM UTC by rc-madness***

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 2:56 PM
rollergator's avatar I am SO lovin' this...glad I started it! ;)

Three things come immediately to mind (wish I had time to peruse more, this job is keeping me too busy lately).

One: Keeping your group *together* becomes more-than-impossible when you cannot predict how many cycles it'll take for people to clear off the ride. That's a MAJOR pain-in-the-tuckus for MANY many people. Watch closely for how many people in a park try to "group up" three or four rows to ride all at once. Happens way more than you might think.

Two: JRS, Judge Roy Scream, said this - "They should instead focus on appeasing Gonch/playa AND gator/JRS at the same time."

^That^ is so sexy I almost cried...Disney GETS it...completely. No uncomfortable merge points, plenty of staff, distracting theming, and voila, most of the time guests don't even KNOW they're being passed by a faster-moving line. That's called *perception*....and the Mouse is KING.

Three: Part of the problem (I'd say the majority) of the variable pricing, etc., is that people are forced to operate with the information they HAVE. I'm not saying the additional information isn't AVAILABLE, because clearly it is. I'm saying that it comes as a SURPRISE to them when they get "second-class treatment" - and it's NOT a pleasant surprise like waking up to breakfast in bed...more like the other kind (stepping onto a pile of dog doo because no one let Rover out at sunrise).....SURPRISE! ;)

*** Edited 6/6/2007 6:58:42 PM UTC by rollergator***

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 3:33 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

"They should instead focus on appeasing Gonch/playa AND gator/JRS at the same time."

So what's the answer? Disney's system?

Bah! Disney's system does nothing that makes me buy Q-bot.

Q-bot is about about control. I choose to participate, I pick which rides to use it on. I decide when to ride.

Disney's system feels so random to me (although I believe Professor Noble schooled me once as to why it's really not, yet here I am saying it again) - FastPasses run out and if I get one, they dictate the time. All I have control over is which ride's FastPass machine to try to pull a lottery ticket out of. There's very little of convenience or use to me.

I've gone to Disney parks, pulled FastPasses and never used them...I have a bunch of them lying around somewhere. Universal too (rememeber when they had the freebies?) - I went for the ticket, got a time that wasn't convenient for my plans and just didn't get back around to using them.

Keep in mind I haven't been to Orlando in almost 5 years, so perhaps something changed.

And as far as doing it right, sounds like it comes back to deception (errr...perception ;) ) - just don't let people know we're bumping their spot in line and they're ok with it. I prefer the information approach - "Look folks this is how it works, what kind of day do you want to have?"

Funny that so much hate gets directed towards the places that are upfront about what's going on, but people (around here at least) seem to think the smoke and mirrors is better. All that says is, "Lie to me." I don't get it. (probably that thinker/feeler thing again - problem is I think you're deceiving me and I feel pissed off ;) )

And just because it popped into my head - how has Dolly's Q-bot been working out? How do they handle the merge? Anyone have a chance to observe the whole thing in practice at a non-SF park?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 3:37 PM
rollergator's avatar Oh, it must be time for me to say that it's not the DISTRIBUTION of passes that I like about Disney....

Where they "got it going on", it's in the handling of multiple queues...something no one else seems to *GET*. An exit not a way to queue, not EVEN close.

edit 1: "Lie to me" - Great Depeche Mode...

edit 2: Tell them up front, give everyone ALL the information. Then, on the back side, have a staff person walk the VQ'd folks to their spot in line, wherever that might be....but do it *just around the corner*, where the standby people don't SEE it. That's called "the best of both worlds". ;)

*** Edited 6/6/2007 7:40:56 PM UTC by rollergator***

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 3:44 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

...have a staff person walk the VQ'd folks to their spot in line, wherever that might be....but doing it *just around the corner*, where the standby people don't SEE it.

This is where I'm confused. Exactly how do you pull that off on a roller coaster? At some point the non-VQ people have to board and they'll either see:

1. People already sitting in seats


2. Empty seats which will soon be filled by people not in line

depending on how it's handled.

I can see how it might be easier to slip people in on the Disney style-dark rides and such, but most non-Disney parks don't have similar rides. How do you be discreet in a situation where there's clearly X numbers of seats and not all of them are being filled by people waiting in line?

(Still trying to find happy middle-ground :) )

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 3:52 PM
rollergator's avatar ^LOL, the don't see it because MY queue is built with landscaping, theming, and mazes - the VQ people join the line NEAR the ride, but in a concealed portion of the queue. By having ropes and "stopping points" along the way, the merging can be done....discreetly... ;)

The standby folks that are blocked by the ropes, they'll be looking at some of the fantastic theming pieces I've dropped liberally in/around the queueing area... :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 4:04 PM
rc-madness: I don't want to sound dense, but I'm having a hard time figuring out if your post was sincere or a really good attempt at sarcasm. I'd love to respond, but I'd be lying if I said I was completely sure of what side you're on ;)

I'll agree that Disney does this VQ thing the best. Everyone that pays to get into the park gets to take advantage of the system, therefore no guest has a right to be upset if they wait longer because FastPass users are flying by them in a parallel line. FastPass users are fed into the regular line at a point that's close to the boarding point, but not quite, meaning no one is ready to get into the vehicle only to find someone waiting on the other side for the same seat. And limited distribution means that things don't get out of control- by giving out a certain number of passes for a specific time frame, it's pretty much guaranteed that the so-called standby line keeps on moving.

Still, I'm somewhat against the concept, even though the Disney system is free. It boils down to me truly believing that certain things shouldn't be for sale, like someone else's spot in line, and I don't buy into the mentality that capitalism justifies an action like that which is morally wrong on a certain level. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on this one, but I stand by what I've been saying since this first came up a while back. Getting guests to pay more for expanded services is one thing, but virtual queing essentially takes your spot in line and gives it to someone else. The Busch system sounds poorly implemented, but it's also the most honest because it allows you to witness firsthand what virtual queing does to everyone else that's waiting in line. People are praising Disney because Disney was smart enough to design it so the truth is hidden from view!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 4:40 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Ok, here's a totally different tangent that just kind of popped in my head:

What is the motivation of adding a virtual queue system in the first place?

We've all pretty much agreed it doesn't add to capacity and that at best capacity remains flat although it often drops a little. So why do this?

I think the answer in the case of Q-bot is revenue. (and that applies to both Dolly and SF) Add a perk that people will pay for.

But what about Disney? Weren't they the first with the free FastPass setup? So what's the motivation there?

On the surface, I suspect it is merely a token of goodwill. It gives everyone a chance or two to feel like a VIP and not have to stand in line to ride a ride. That's cute and I'll admit goes a long way. (as evidenced by it's support from VQ haters here even)

But you know what I think? I think it has potential to create addition revenue. How? 10 simple words:

"The first one is free, then you have to buy"

Boy it sure does feel good to not have to stand in that long, hot, sucky-ass line. I wonder how I could do this all the time?

Luckily, Disney is ready with a multitude of offers, deals, packages and perks that (for a fee) will let you relive that feeling as much as you're willing to pay for.

Eh, it's a decent conspiracy theory. No worse than SF intentionally reducing capacity to sell Q-bots.

Seriously though. What if we step back from the details. Look at the forest, not the trees. What's the point of implimenting things like this (SF & DW's Q-bot, Disney's FastPass, Universal's whatever, CP's Joe Cool Club, BGE's early entry, BGA's double ride)?

Why do parks create things like this in the first place?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 5:08 PM
^ Money makes the world go 'round.

I'm still with JRS and Rob on this, though. I'm just not down with line jumping, park approved or not. I believe in the "wait your turn" philosophy; it's simple and fair, and it's not taking away something from one guest and giving it to another.

Virtual queuing is almost like the park talking out of both sides of their mouths: line jumping is cause for ejection from the park without a refund, but if you want to get this here Qbot and fork over some more money, we'll be glad to let you skip the line.

coastin' since 1985

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 5:10 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

Q-bot is about about control. I choose to participate, I pick which rides to use it on. I decide when to ride.

It shouldn't be forgotten that the guests/customers also have control too. Not all of them are of the mindset to blindly hand over their money or their choice to the park operators.

Personally, I make my choice not to dig deeper in my pockets to cut in line. I'm sure that will eventually result in my "choosing" to not attend more and more parks.

But someone in there is a line where the parks will hit a point of diminishing return-- where the income raised from VIP treatments offsets the loss of income from the lower strata deciding not to enter at all. Some would argue that point has been reached in some locations.

Besides, if parks decided to go with the $5000 admission as someone (jokingly?) suggested, we'd probably see the first bi-partisan action in Congress in decades as an investigation would be launched into the unfair business practices and price gouging happening in the amusement park business.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 5:16 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Agreed, but don't take that quote out of context.

I mean that Q-bot offers all of those things in comparison to Disney's FastPass - not in comparison to no system at all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 5:18 PM
Speaking of diminishing returns, what if this happened:

* Park A runs a QBot system.
* Guests who choose not to get the upgrade start to get fed up with the system and stop attending.
* Attendance falls off to the point where those who were getting the Qbot to skip the lines no longer see the need to get said Qbot, since the park's attendance has fallen off, and therefore, the lines are shorter.
* To compensate, Park A raises admission prices.

What do you think will happen next?

coastin' since 1985


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