Anyone Check Out Dollywood's Q-bot This Past Week?

Sunday, September 24, 2006 1:27 PM
I do understand the point you are making about weather and such, but that is not the park making the decision to withhold service for a profit. There is a risk each ticket buyer takes. Some are just common sense and often the park still puts them in writing. "XXX is closed today." "No rainchecks." etc. However, them intentionally reducing advertised services for a profit is a different story. Would there be any difference if the park decided to close an hour early to save on labor? The only main difference I see is that more people would notice and complain. Just because the hidden cost is hidden better, that does not make it a more acceptable business practice. I know most people don't research ride capacity and such, but their lack of knowlege does not make the effect any less real. The fact that the parks do not want to be up front with the second class ticket status of admission is evidence that there is some cost that they would like to minimize awareness about. Just as most people don't do the research to know what the ride capacities are, they also do not do the reasearch to know people are going to be butting the line and are unaware that that will happen till they see it. If parks want to sell standby admission, they need to call it that.
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Sunday, September 24, 2006 2:29 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar I see what you're saying, I just don't agree. :)

I think the parks make it quite clear that an 'upgraded' experience is available. Just look at the Dollywood page I linked to in the original post. SF also mentions FlashPass on their respective park pages on the Six Flags site. As do Disney and Universal and CP. (both when they had Freeway and now with the VIP thing) In addition these parks hard sell it in borchures and at the gate and in the park. You'd have to be blind, deaf and in denial not to be aware of it.

Is there a difference in the approach? Sure. But you don't sell bad to your customers, you sell good. Rather than call out the negatives of buying standard park admission, you point out the positives of buying an upgraded admission.

All the info is still there, it's just focused in a way that anyone doing business would lead their potential customer.

No one in their right mind is going to offer two admissions and call one bad and the other good. They're going to call one good and the other better.

I could tell you 2+2=? or I could tell you 2+?=4 and either way you're going to be able to put the entire equation together.

Everyone knows an upgraded experience is available. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.


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Sunday, September 24, 2006 3:57 PM
They can spin it anyway they want as long as it is upfront and obvious that there is a change and what the change is. The problem is they are representing a long offered product as the same as it always was and that is not the case.

The clues are not there like you suggest. The hard sell for Six Flags jump in line tickets is after the gate and the sale of the general admission. You don't have two options in front of you when you make your purchase even if one is not called standby and just general admission listed right next to super general admission. Other places like Universal where it is a resort perk, the average customer does not even know how the people line jumping get to do it.

If your grocer had been selling you gallon jugs of milk one way for years and then all of a sudden started watering it down to 10% water and 90% milk and did not note the change anywhere you would notice before you made your standard purchase, it would be wrong even if they took the extra milk and had a limited amount of new super-brand milk for a dollar more a gallon sitting right next to it. The hidden change in service amounts to a bait and switch.

What makes what the parks doing even worse is that even though they do have a cost to provide this "service", the only thing they are really selling is time. There is no extra rides or products. All they are doing is taking time from one customer and giving it to another. If they were selling their own time by opening the park early for some people or letting them stay late, that would be fine. But the time they are selling is not theirs to sell. If the general admission was sold in such a way that the guests were obviously agreeing to what is being offered, that would be one thing. Short of that, they are just taking time from some guests and reselling it.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006 4:31 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar That's a great description. Selling time.

The only place that breaks down is when the guest does anything but stand in line for a ride.

Wandering down the midway deciding what to do next? Wasting ride time.

Sitting down for a bite to eat? Wasting ride time.

Stopping at the restroom? Wasting ride time.

Playing games? Wasting ride time.

Watching a show? Wasting ride time. (the inverse is true at Dollywood :) )

I know it's a ridiculous example but the only place your time is being 'resold' is in a line that accepts virtual line access. Besides, if all the park experience was was efficient use of time, well that wouldn't be too much fun.

Even if the product is 'watered down' by 10% by the virtual queue users, what is the cost over the course of a day? How much time is really spent in line? How much do you actually miss as a non-participant because of it?

Let's even stick with the 10% loss that you're using.

Hypothetical 12 hour day at the megapark = 15 coaster rides, 8 flat rides, one meal, drinks, snack, games and a show or two.

Hypothetical 12 day at the megapark with a 10% loss on rides that allow virtual queue = 13 coaster rides, 8 flat rides, one meal, drinks, snack, games and a show or two.

Isn't it just nitpicking at that point?

And it cannot be a bait and switch as there is no guarantee to what you get in the first place other than admission to the park. Not everybody has the same goals, needs or expectations once they get inside the gate.

You can't compare it to commodities like milk. You can compare it to other option forms of entertainment like concerts and movies and sporting events.

I can buy tickets to a football game, but all I'm guaranteed is a seat for the length of the game. I'm not being ripped off if the game sucks or my team loses or the game runs fast and I'm only there for 2 1/2 hours instead of 3.

I can buy tickets to a movie that guarantee me a seat for the length of the movie. I'm not entitled to money back if it's really short or exceptionally long or boring.

Buying admission to a park is buying just that....admission, nothing less, nothing more. There are no guarantees of anything once you're inside. Sure, we expect to ride rides and we do. We might even have expectations as to how much we can ride, but those are just expectations. No different than the disappointment of a particularly busy day. Could I complain that the park oversold the gate (and thus a share of my time to additional guests) because traditionally I've been able to get on the big roller coaster within an hour but on the busy day it took twice that?

I understand what you're saying, really I do. But there's absolutely no precedent for claiming the park is ripping you off or decieving customers in any way.


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Sunday, September 24, 2006 10:08 PM
Your trivialization of the effect on other peoples time sounds like a justification for good old fashon line jumping without the parks assistance. Why not have someone go ahead in line while you wait for snacks and then join your party in line? If nobody reports you and those behind you lose an average of 15 seconds each, then you did nothing wrong.

You are right there are no guarantees when you buy a park ticket. Someone could jump in front of you and there is not much you can do about it. Someone can do it with the parks assistance and it is the same thing.

As for your analogy about going to the movies, I was at one once where the sound went off for about 5-7 minutes and I got all my money back, and that was a mechanical problem, not the theater trying to save on their power bill.

You mentioned that it did not matter if the movie was short, but what if it were not as long as it were supposed to be? What if the theater had been rented to a private party and by the time they vacated and you got in you had missed the first 10 minutes of the movie?

You cannot really complain about overselling the gate because parks don't normally limit the gate so there should be no expectation that they would. I know there are a few exceptions to that. However, people know that parks can be busy on certain days and they plan accordingly. There are other reasons why you could get less like mechanical issues and weather. Again, they are normal risks in the purchase of tickets that people are aware of and are not the conscious decision of the park.

However, if the park decided to limit their service intentionally, that is different than your examples. Closing the park an hour early due to thunderstorm with a tornado warning is very different than closing early to save on labor costs. A delay in your wait for a ride because of a mechanical issue is very different than a delay because the park decided to sell your spot in line.

I think there are clear difference between park assisted line jumping and most of the examples you are offering. Your arguement seems to boil down to two main points.

1. Tiny harm so no foul. I guess if the injustice is small then it is okay and we don't have to worry about the line getting kicked a bit further later.

2. Your admission does not include rides so take whatever you get. Personally I think the admission includes a good faith effort to have an equal opportunity to ride the advertised rides. Selling line jumping is just like having a club-like bouncer outside the line just letting the cool people line jump. Oh wait, there is a difference. People waiting to get in a club don't already have a contract with that club.

What if you had a contract with a fitness club for a year that said you could go anytime and use all their equipment and then halfway through your contract the club decided the peak time for using a certain equipment you liked was between 4-7 so they decided to charge $5 extra during that time for something you thought you already paid for. You might be pretty pissed if you had a habit of going there at 5:30 every day after work. Of course there was no guarantee that the equipment would be free when you like to go so I guess that makes the new upsale okay. *** Edited 9/25/2006 2:10:33 AM UTC by RavenTTD***

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Sunday, September 24, 2006 10:26 PM
Exactly how many people pay 29, 39, 49, or more dollars to enter a park expecting to do nothing more for that money than step on the other side of the entrance gate?

The football game example is off as well. Sure some games may take 2 1/2 hours vs. 3 or more for others. But they all have a set amount of playing time. You can bet people would be up in arms if the refs or teams decided to call the game off in the middle of the third quarter (with no kind of refund being offered).

How many stories are out there about riots and mayhem happening at concerts where artists (for whatever reason) give an extremely short or horribly crappy performance?

You say there are no guarantees about how many rides a person buying a ticket can expect. Well, at the regular price. Yet buy a Gold Qbot and you're told your wait is reduced by 75%. In other words, pay the right price and we will make some guarantees for you.

Maybe all these marketing experts should do a study to determine what the non-Qbot buying GP thinks of their park experience. Is the average person aware of and pissed off about the idea of legal line-cutting to the point that they don't return?

All that being said, in Dollywood's case, I would relent on my usual feelings about a Qbot for shows at least. If they can offer artists like Ricky Skaggs-- even if you're not into Bluegrass you have to admit he's far above the cut of the typical "in the park" entertainer-- paying a premium price for a reserved seat at shows like that may be in order.

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Monday, September 25, 2006 12:49 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Ok here we go:


You mentioned that it did not matter if the movie was short, but what if it were not as long as it were supposed to be? What if the theater had been rented to a private party and by the time they vacated and you got in you had missed the first 10 minutes of the movie?

It'd be totally different because you paid to see an entire movie. Your ticket is a ticket to view a movie, not just to enter the theatre. What you're proposing is the equivalent of a pay per ride. Like paying to ride the Skycoaster or buying tickets for Phoenix at Knoebels or the Coney Cylcone. Those are guarantees to ride. If for some reason you did not get your ride then you could probably get a refund.


You cannot really complain about overselling the gate because parks don't normally limit the gate so there should be no expectation that they would. I know there are a few exceptions to that. However, people know that parks can be busy on certain days and they plan accordingly.

Believe it or not, I have gotten park admission for four refunded from a park after two hours inside the gate due to crowds and crowds alone. I swear on my life, my family's lives and all that is sacred to me.

Sesame Place, July 2003. They were squeezing in cars onto grass areas around the designated parking lot. Lines were ridiculous, moving through the park was unbearable, there were flat out too many people in the park. We tried, but it was insane. The park didn't even put up a fight. We spent a full two hours inside the gate and they were apologizing to us for the crowds as they handed us back our money.

Kind of a dick thing to do, but the park clearly couldn't handle the crowd they saw on that day...and I suspect they knew it. But I digress...


There are other reasons why you could get less like mechanical issues and weather. Again, they are normal risks in the purchase of tickets that people are aware of and are not the conscious decision of the park.

Indeed...and those are unforeseen incidents. How can you complain about one that is advertised throughout the park, their literature and their websites. If there's one thing you can be prepared for it's the fact that a virtual queue system is in place at the park and you may have to wait a little longer for rides or pay an additional fee to ensure you don't - the same way you might skip a park visit on a day when rain is forecast for the entire day or not stand around for a ride that has gone down once inside the park (although it is certainly one's choice to leave the line or wait it out) You make a choice in those situations, the same kind of choice you made when you passed on participating in the virtual queue system.


Tiny harm so no foul. I guess if the injustice is small then it is okay and we don't have to worry about the line getting kicked a bit further later.

Not my thoughts at all. My real thoughts are no harm, no foul. I don't see a problem with the system in any sense other than questionable implimentation at many of the parks that use them. Everyone has the same access to the virtual queue device. It's not some secret club or door prize or 'guest of the day' promotion. If all have access then it's fair. If the cost somehow mysteriously makes it unfair, then the gate price alone prohibits many from visiting in the first place and is also unfair.

So how do we feel about upcharge rides? I mean you paid to get into the park and are now expected to pay more to access certain rides. That's certainly every bit as unforeseeable and elitist, right? I don't think so, but if fits all the criteria of virtual queue unfairness - limited access (or no access) to a given ride without shelling out additional cash once inside the park.


2. Your admission does not include rides so take whatever you get. Personally I think the admission includes a good faith effort to have an equal opportunity to ride the advertised rides.

But you do have that opportunity. Your admission gets you into the park where you can choose to take your chances from line to line or choose to pay more for preferred access - the same opportunities as everyone else has that day.


What if you had a contract with a fitness club for a year that said you could go anytime and use all their equipment and then halfway through your contract the club decided the peak time for using a certain equipment you liked was between 4-7 so they decided to charge $5 extra during that time for something you thought you already paid for. You might be pretty pissed if you had a habit of going there at 5:30 every day after work. Of course there was no guarantee that the equipment would be free when you like to go so I guess that makes the new upsale okay.

Well that wouldn't be exactly the same. It'd be more like those who paid to upgrade their membership would have preferred access during those peak hours. I could still wait for the machine, but if a 'preferred' member came in while I was waiting for a machine, he could hold a place in line and use another machine until his reserved time to use the first. I'd still get on the machine. And even if the gym offered a 'gold membership' for $10 more that cut their wait by 75%, I'd still get access to the machine as long as I waited my turn. The gym delivered on their promise to allow access to their equipment based on the membership I chose. I had the same option to upgrade just like everyone else, but chose not to.


You say there are no guarantees about how many rides a person buying a ticket can expect. Well, at the regular price. Yet buy a Gold Qbot and you're told your wait is reduced by 75%. In other words, pay the right price and we will make some guarantees for you.

Exactly! Oh wait, you mean that in a bad way.

Seriously though, it's still not a guarantee that I'll be able to ride any given ride. It's just a guarantee that my wait time will be reduced by 75% on a select group of rides in the park.

Personally, it's not that good a value for the price to me. I can't really ever see the situation where I'd buy a Gold Q-bot. Standard is good enough for me. I still get cut in front of by Gold users like everyone else, I still wait the same time I normally would when I hit the queue...and I pay for the privledge. :)

But what that lets me do as a dad is take the kids on some things or get a drink and chill or find a smoking area and work ever closer to that lung cancer during that time rather than figuring out what do with my kids, being crowded and thirsty and jonesing for some nicotene while standing in an hour-long line.

Or another favorite Q-bot use is when we travel with other adults. One or two stay back with the kids while all the others get in line. The adult staying back scans the q-bot and take all the kids to do some stuff (a couple of rides, a play area, a bite to eat, whatever). Assuming the system is working right, the adults should be off the ride just about the time the reserved ride is available and the adult(s) waiting then ride with minimal wait and everyone moves on. Kind of like a self-serve baby swap thing.

Speaking of which, why is money as a deciding factor a bad thing but other arbitrary deciding factors are ok.

Like why is it 'fair' that people who have more time to spend in lines get to ride more? I have kids, I can't be waiting in huge lines with kids who can't ride once we get there.

Or what about parks that do baby swap? Is it fair that some people get to walk right up the exit and ride (or someone gets a re-ride) just because they have small children?

Or the disabled (as un-PC as it is to say), many parks do some sort of reserved ride based on actual ride waits - just like Q-bot. Many parks just filter them in as they come up the alternate entrance. These guests can even take additional guests when it's time to ride and can get in line for other rides while waiting for a reserved ride time. (used for dramatic example, dont get on me for dissing the handicapped)

Time, child status, abilities, money - there are plenty of deciding factors that determine ride access, but the only one people ever seem to moan about is money.

I'm more of the mindset that I'm willing to spend money to save time. Non-users of such sytems seem to me to be more willing to spend time to save money. The real idiots borrow kids and fake broken legs to save time and money. ;)

But that leads me to another equally crazy idea. If there's multiple levels to the 'spend money & save time' thing, then why not multiple levels to the 'spend time & save money' thing?

How about a reduced price admission that costs $10 or $15 less but adds 25% to your wait time. If used to advantage, you could really abuse that system as well. Like the Gold-bot folks who use it to wait 15 minutes rather than an hour at peak times, reduced admission folks could pay less and still ride in 25 minutes when there's a 20 minute line at non-peak times. If you got to a park at opening or on a particularly dead day or were familiar with the park's traffic patterns, you could really milk it like the Gold Q-bot people do. (obviously being facetious...or was I? ;) )

I dunno. When we come to these points where neither side will change the other's mind in any way (and I've been here more than a few times :) ), all I can say is that these systems exist, people use them and parks are finding new ways of implimenting them all the time. Whether they're right or wrong, fair or unfair, good or bad is open to debate, but the fact that they're in use in more parks than ever in more ways than ever isn't.

*** Edited 9/25/2006 4:52:57 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***


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Monday, September 25, 2006 1:21 AM
It is not about money. You can buy ERT before a park opens and after it closes and that is fine. It is about the park selling your time, not theirs. It is not theirs to sell just at it is not some non-park-assisted line jumper's right to take.
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Monday, September 25, 2006 2:19 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar But you have the choice not to trade that time instead of money. They're not saying you can't pay in dollars rather than minutes. Don't play the victim. You chose not to pay.

General admission parks without virtual queue systems only let guests pay for a spot in line with time. Pay per ride parks without virtual queue setups only let guests pay for a spot in line with money. General admission parks that use these pay systems allow you secure your spot in line with either time or money.

The park isn't selling your time, you're choosing to spend it. You also have the option spend the money instead and keep your time.


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Monday, September 25, 2006 10:16 AM
The funniest thing about this "debate" (perhaps 'difference in opinion' is more accurate) was the reaction of my wife (a fairly non-enthusiast). We've used Q-bot a couple of times and recently returned from a stay at the Royal Pacific (TR forthcomming??? ;)) with the FTL access afforde by the room key. When I told her there was disscussion on these (and other) boards about virtual queues, she was shocked to learn that, in general, there is a negative sentiment towards them by coaster enthusiasts. She believed that, since this is our 'passion', that *we* would be the ones most likely to pay for the convienence.

Little did she know that enthusiasts are exceptionally cheap!
lata, jeremy


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PlaceHolder for Castor & Pollux

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Monday, September 25, 2006 11:58 AM
Lord, your theory breaks down when you think about using that system in parks that don't have lines. The only value in a line jumping system is redistributing a small value several guests already purchased to a select few. If you were the only one there they would have nothing to sell you. Sure everyone has an option to take advantage of line jumping programs in theory, but only to a point. Economics dictates that in reality not everyone could or there would be no benifit. They are not selling anything other than value already purchased.

Hostly, I don't really have any problem taking advantage of people and using these types of systems. We live in a dog eat dog world. I am just not naive enough to lie to myself about what I am doing.

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Monday, September 25, 2006 12:30 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar I'm glad you brought up the length of lines thing because I almost did earlier but didn't want to get too complicated too quickly. You're taking it to the next level now. In virtual queue 101 we can refer to it as 'buying' time, but in the advanced course we have to call it what it is - 'investing' money for a return in time.

You can get a different 'exchange rate' on the time/money ratio. I have visited an SF park where the Q-bot booth wasn't even open just this year because of low crowds. With lines so low the 'exchange rate' of time saved by spending money just isn't worth it and the park knows they don't offer a good investment.

Think of it like playing the stock market.

If there are no waits (or very short ones) then what am I paying for? I'm getting little or no return in time for my investment in money. It's a bad buy.

If lines are particularly long on a given day, then I get more return in for my investment of money than on an average day. It's a good buy.

Heck, the value can even vary from ride to ride, time to time on a given day. First thing in the morning when the lines are low, the value of your Q-bot is less than it is a peak times when lines are long.

The more Q-bots in circulation on any given day, the less the value of each q-bot.

It's self-regulating in the fact that not everyone will ever take advantage of the system on any given day. (although I have heard a few stories about q-bot's being sold out) And if it were possible, the bottom would fall out of the 'market' so to speak. The great virtual queue depression, if you will.

It's all about the exchange of money for a return in time. There are several factors that determine exactly what the exchange rate will be. It's up to the consumer to make a decision as to whether the investment is worth it.

There is no cold, hard formula on the 'exchange rate' (like $1 = 10 minutes), it fluctuates. Don't think of it as a purchase, but rather an investment.


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Monday, September 25, 2006 12:46 PM
rollergator's avatar I think there *is* a formula for the exchange rate...although as an economist I find the formula necessarily confounding.

Basically, how much your TIME is worth seems to be directly correlated to how much money you "make" during a specified time period (counterfeiters excepted, LOL). Someone who makes $5/hour finds that their time is less valuable than someone who makes $50/hour. Which, BTW, helps to explain why it sometimes takes 15 minutes to get a burger and fries from our local BK... ;)

Required (OK, suggested) reading:
http://www.freakonomics.com/

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Monday, September 25, 2006 12:55 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Hmmm. A book recommended by both Gator and Professor Noble (in different thread) - I'm intrigued and might just have to get a copy. :)

I'd totally agree with your example, Gator. I wouldn't call it the answer, but rather another part of the big equation.


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Monday, September 25, 2006 12:59 PM
I get the economics of it. I am just saying the product being sold does not belong to the seller.


Lord Gonchar said:Think of it like playing the stock market.

Stock is a good way to think of it. Each general admission purchase gives the buyer a percentage of the available use of the rides and attractions available that day. The more tickets sold, the lower the percentage. The more downtime, weather problems, etc, the smaller the whole pie is you have a percentage of.

When you sell line jump passes however you are not selling more shares or even changing the pie. You are taking back a percentage of the shares already sold and you are reselling them.

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Monday, September 25, 2006 1:20 PM
rollergator's avatar ^^ Where did BN recommend Freakonomics? I musta missed it! Fantastic book, attempts to answer some of life's more puzzling questions... ;)


In summary, philosophy is *designed* to raise the rhetoric of "where SHOULD we be headed"....whereas economics is about "where are we know, and which direction are we headed in"....without the moralizing. Me? I'm either an economizing philosopher, or a philosophizing economist...caught in between two DISTINCT worlds...LOL!

Mel Brooks fans know about stand-up philosophers already.. ;)

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Monday, September 25, 2006 1:30 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar RavenTTD - Well, then I guess we've reached the end of the discussion.

You think the park is selling your time to other guests and I'm of the midset that the park is giving more of my time back in exchange for more of my money.

I guess we're stuck there. :)

Gaotr - not sure about the exact thread, but it was one of the 'parks are too expensive' threads not too long ago, IIRC. (I can't seem to find it though, so maybe I'm just delusional...or high ;) )

Just looked the book up and it doesn't seem to be currently available in hardback on Amazon, but there's a bunch floating around ebay. Definitely a future purchase for me. Just read some of the excerpts on the site and it sounds like their inside my head. :)


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Monday, September 25, 2006 1:34 PM
I A lot of people hate six flags just for the sake of it.

Would you rather have somebody have a qbot and get in front of the line ebcause they paid for it or because somebody stayed at a hotel at the park and got to the park earlier then you did.

Disneys fast passes most of the time get stopped so it cuts a lot of people off from using them .


I know Id rather have somebody cut the line because they paid.

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Monday, September 25, 2006 2:26 PM

Lord Gonchar said:You think the park is selling your time to other guests and I'm of the midset that the park is giving more of my time back in exchange for more of my money.

So regular line jumpers are not really hurting those waiting in line, they are just taking back their time without paying the park? Yeah, we are going to just have to disagree on that one.

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Monday, September 25, 2006 2:36 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar No they're stealing time. They're getting a ride without paying an equal amount to other guests investments in either time or money.

Let me try to drop this for the third time by quoting myself:

"I dunno. When we come to these points where neither side will change the other's mind in any way (and I've been here more than a few times :) ), all I can say is that these systems exist, people use them and parks are finding new ways of implimenting them all the time. Whether they're right or wrong, fair or unfair, good or bad is open to debate, but the fact that they're in use in more parks than ever in more ways than ever isn't."


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