Empty King's Island 5/22-23/13

Associated parks:
Kings Island, Mason, Ohio, USA

Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:30 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Hmmm, maybe.

I think the Walton family has trained people to think price is all that matters and people don't understand why the world doesn't work at Wal-Mart levels and they don't deal well with that - reducing themselves to being completely unreasonable to get whatever they can for as little as possible by any means necessary.

It's similar to the conversation about the forums. Why do people try to stick around and complain and try to change what this website is rather than just finding one that suits their needs.

The same thing seems to happen in business. Why do people complain, try to get things cheaper and make and expect a business bend to them rather than just finding a business that better suits their needs.


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Thursday, May 30, 2013 1:56 PM

As the manager of a movie theater, I get to see both sides of the price discussion. What I don't understand is how cinema-goers are any less of a captive audience than stadium or park-goers. The entertainment business makes most of its profit on food items. And with the government-controlled wages for most of these jobs, these businesses need to make up the increased costs somewhere.

It's a delicate balance between admission and food, though. You want the guests at the park (or theater or stadium) to be able to spend money while they're there, so you don't want the cost of admission to be too high. While at the same time, you want to have enough exclusivity to not let everyone in for free, giving your business a profitable or more luxurious stigma. We have a "Customer Appreciation Bargain Day" for the theater chain I work for, and without fail, the customers that visit on those days are significantly less likely to spend money on concession items. Meanwhile, midnight premiers generally have a much higher percentage of guests paying for concessions, even without having any form of discounting in place for admissions.

Amusement parks are different from the other forms of entertainment as they are generally seen as an all-day experience, while the others are only for a few hours at a time. With that in mind, their guests are more captive than those at stadiums or theaters, who are much more likely to eat before or after their visit.

One thing I have had to train my managers to do is to not give out free stuff for every single complaint. Apologize, fix the complaint, and give them a reason to come back and spend their money again. It's absurd the number of complaints we get about being busy, or about someone disliking a film, and other things out of our control. Should I complain at the park that it's raining? Should I complain that I had to wait in line because other people wanted to go to the park the same day as me? I really wish I understood when complaining entitled someone to something free. If the business is truly at fault, they will make it up to you. But your child peeing his pants is not our fault and we should not need to give you anything to make up for the inconvenience. (Why didn't you take him to the restroom?) I think we're pretty generous in giving refunds for tickets if you leave less than an hour after start time. I don't see many restaurants giving refunds for your dinner if you need to leave early. Just as I don't see parks giving refunds because it's raining.

As for this souvenir cup $0.99 refill thing, I am still unsure how I feel about it. Keep in mind that the park is making enough money selling the syrup for that amount, along with any locker costs of you carrying around an oversized cup during your visit. (If this were NYC it would probably be half the size and you get one free refill in a lifetime.) But I think it's a great marketing tool. People love perceived value. If you can somehow convince them that they will save money at your business, they are much more likely to be your customers. "I paid $60 for my admission and $15 for this hot dog and drink, but I get free refills all day!" That sounds like a marketing win to me.


RIP Geauga Lake 1888-2007
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Thursday, May 30, 2013 2:35 PM

Maybe you know about this, enfynet, but why does my local large chain multiplex offer a large drink for .40 cents more with free refills? It's big enough to dunk my head in, and nobody needs that much pop anyway, but I feel like a total chump if I don't go for it. Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but I've never understood the strategy there.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013 2:44 PM

Because they'd much rather have you spend $X+0.40 than $X. The cost of the water, CO2, and syrup is not really relevant until it costs more than the upcharge from one size to the next. As a matter of fact, the small chain I work for only has $0.25 between the 32oz and the 44oz+free refill size. But you actually spelled out the strategy in your question.

RCMAC said:

[...] but I feel like a total chump if I don't go for it. [...]

That's the answer right there. It's all about perceived value. Unless I know I want to drink 44oz-88oz of some fountain drink, I will generally stick to the smaller size. Per ounce it costs more, but per item purchased it costs less. (I really don't mind sharing this information with consumers either, I figure if someone asks politely enough, I can explain the business model.)


RIP Geauga Lake 1888-2007
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Thursday, May 30, 2013 2:59 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

Really? I'm not even humoring that. Horrible comparison.

When using a refillable souvenir bottle, you're not getting the same product at a different price point. You're trading convenience/luxury for a lower price. The lack of a disposable cup is a huge difference. This is why I made the comparison to the various price points of cars, for example.

So why don't parks offer different price points to accomodate the frugal customers that - by your definition - drink free water, pack a cooler and eat out of the park?

I think that's exactly the effort we're starting to see at Cedar Point, for example. They know that Platinum passholders are typically frugal and value-oriented, so they're enticing them to buy stuff at discounts. They're offering lower prices on meals for all through the website (because the frugal will search online for discounts). They're offering greatly varying ticket prices and payment plans to accommodate more guests.

Why bother with (and certainly why in the hell would you create) frugal customers when non-frugal customer exist?

I understand your stance, but it's not that simple. If every single person had to pay $54.99 to enter Cedar Point every time, do you think the park would contain a healthy number of people each day? There are a limited number of non-frugal customers. The concept is to have the limited number of non-frugal customers and supplement that with the frugal customers.

That Marriott clip is for show. They want to appear that they're exclusive to those watching. The reality is that if they were sitting on a bunch of empty rooms, you can bet they'd lower the prices to fill them. Furthermore, Marriott properties participate in bidding websites like Priceline and Hotwire, so people are in fact getting that $300 room at a substantial discount to maintain a healthy occupancy.

Last edited by Jeph, Thursday, May 30, 2013 3:01 PM
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Thursday, May 30, 2013 4:04 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeph said:

I think that's exactly the effort we're starting to see at Cedar Point, for example. They know that Platinum passholders are typically frugal and value-oriented, so they're enticing them to buy stuff at discounts.

I see it as incentive to convince people that a $180 purchase has value.

I understand your stance, but it's not that simple. If every single person had to pay $54.99 to enter Cedar Point every time, do you think the park would contain a healthy number of people each day?

Nope, but they'd be a different set of customers. Whether or not it would create more revenue has so many variables that we can't even begin to touch on it.

All I know is that 20 people spening $50 is the same as 40 people spending $25 is the same as 100 people spending $10.

That Marriott clip is for show.

I can assure you that it's not.

The reality is that if they were sitting on a bunch of empty rooms, you can bet they'd lower the prices to fill them.

Again, I can assure you that a good GM at a good property doesn't. Not on any significant level. Will that $300 room go for $270...maybe even $250? Sure. Can you be a sleazebag and say, "Hey it's just sitting empty. I'll give you $150." - not a chance.

Furthermore, Marriott properties participate in bidding websites like Priceline and Hotwire, so people are in fact getting that $300 room at a substantial discount to maintain a healthy occupancy.

Actually, the reason so many hotels have begrudgingly let rooms go on the discount sites is because so many people use them to book rooms. And I can assure you (yet again) that you're not getting a substantially lower rate...and you're certainly not getting the best rate - stop and think about it, those sites are middlemen, some of the cut goes to them...the room rate they pay is lower than what they're charging you.

The reason the hotels give them that lower rate is because they book so many rooms - think of it like a group rate. When you book a wedding or event or something, you get a lower rate for booking so much business. Booking with the discount sites is like booking as part of a big group. That's a different kind of discounting than what the Marriott guy is talking.

In fact, I did a little research for you. (and gave my wife a quick call to confirm and/or fill in some numbers for me)

On the discount sites, my wife's hotel is showing a $124 rate. On the company's website, it's showing $124. Most likely the hotel is charging them (the discount sites) in the $101 - $105 range. They (the discount sites) match the rate on the company site and the additional $19-to-$23 goes to the middleman.

Interestingly, it's way slower tonight than expected and if you give them a call (or walk in) they'd put you in at $99 tonight. But you're not going to get a "it's going empty anyway" rate any lower than that.

Always call the hotel directly for the best rate. Just remeber there's not as much room for negotiation as so many like to think. Again, price/product integrity.


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Thursday, May 30, 2013 4:08 PM
HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

Jeph,

I disagree with your opinion that you think Platinum pass holders are frugal, if they were, wouldn't they visit the park once a year and pay a lower price all year. If you follow enfynet's logic it makes a ton of sense, this is a way to encourage higher per cap. Cedar Fair would rather see $X+food $$ rather than $X. So if you have a Platinum Pass holder that might stay at the park for say a few hours rather than all day, CF would rather see that food $$ in their pockets so why not entice the pass holder with a discount? Especially, since in your head you didn't pay a dime for admission that day and you are getting food "at a discount."

I don't think its a rewarding pass holders, although that's a nice way to market the discount.

~Rob

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Thursday, May 30, 2013 4:45 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

I see it as incentive to convince people that a $180 purchase has value.



That's exactly what it is.


RIP Geauga Lake 1888-2007
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Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:28 PM
sirloindude's avatar

The hotel thing is just like flying stand-by on my airline. If you want to move up to an earlier flight, you have to pay the difference between whatever fare you paid and the full fare for that segment. If you paid full-fare, fantastic. Switch to your heart's content. If you paid that rock-bottom $69 fare, you might have to shell out a couple hundred dollars to move up. I've never asked for the rationale, but I'd bet it's because it helps justify buying the higher fares. Who would pay full-fare for a flight if there was no benefit to it?


13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

www.grapeadventuresphotography.com

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Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:42 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

The full fares are also refundable, not likely to get bumped and first in line for upgrades.

You get what you pay for. ;)


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Sunday, June 2, 2013 5:48 PM
Timber-Rider's avatar

I am surprised that any park would let you bring in a refill mug, when I was at MA, I got one of the souvnir mugs with my beagle buck, and they only allowed one refill. After that, you had to pay full price if you wanted another soda. If I had known something like that existed, I would have brought in my other MA mugs, as I do have a few, as well as a Cedar Point tower mug.

They told me that if I wanted more soda I could buy an all you can drink wristband for $9.95, but told me I could not use the mug that I had already paid for, toget the drinks. That I would have to use a different cup, obviously a much smaller cup, then my park souvinir bottle.

I didn't see anywhere in the park where you could get a refill for $.99 cents. I'm sure if that existed, I would have certainly used it. Drinks at MA are very high priced. A smoothie alone is over $9.00. And, most drinks sold at the food stands start at $3.95 up to $6.00

Though I think the vending machines were around $3.00 But, that's still pretty high for a single 20oz. bottle of pop. They will also not give you lids for the paper cups, as they say they are trying to save the enviroment, yet those plast souvinir cups are in the trash. So what's the difference?

The things they do baffle me sometimes.


I didn't do it! I swear!!

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Sunday, June 2, 2013 6:46 PM
Vater's avatar

I must live on another planet or something. Drinks are not something I think a lot about. When I'm in a park and I get thirsty, I find a water fountain or buy a soda or whatever at the nearest stand or restaurant. I used to get souvenir bottles, but to collect. The fact I'm able to refill them makes up for the inconvenience of carrying it around for the rest of the day.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013 7:45 PM

HeyIsntThatRob? said:

I disagree with your opinion that you think Platinum pass holders are frugal, if they were, wouldn't they visit the park once a year and pay a lower price all year.

Rob, I'm not sure if I'm using the best possible word here, but I'm thinking:

"frugal - economical in use or expenditure; not wasteful"

Sure there are exceptions, but most buying a season pass are thinking about how much they intend to visit a park (or parks) in an effort to save money. This would never occur to the non-frugal customer. Passholders are basically using a discount pass when they visit a park, so they're going to generally be wiser and less wasteful with their money.

I think this could be a general explanation for why I've repeatedly seen that season passholders are notoriously least likely to spend money in the park with the lowest per capita figures.

Lord Gonchar said:

I see it as incentive to convince people that a $180 purchase has value.

Of course this is one reason for the food discounts, but it isn't the only one.

As for the Marriott discussion, I think I misunderstood you. You were previously suggesting that you either pay full price for a drink, or get out of line. Then, you cut to a clip of a Marriott spokesman claiming that you either pay $300, or you don't get the room. It was ignoring the laws of supply and demand, and it didn't make any sense to me.

I didn't realize that clip was part of a longer video. I watched the whole thing this time, and it was far more understandable. This time, it was clear that Marriott's pricing does fluctuate with supply / demand, that they're comparing their prices to all competitors in the area, etc. I didn't take the bit at the end as them trying to exclude customers that could pay $200, but rather that they're against bartering so that customers won't be reluctant to book an advance.

My point being that even in that Marriott example, there will be a variety of customers that know the ideal times to book rooms and get lower rates. Anytime pricing is different (and even as you have confirmed $99 vs $124), you are accommodating more customers.

I never said that Cedar Fair needs to provide a drink option for a hobo off the street, and I certainly hope you don't think I was suggesting that. But, I think it's smart business to offer value-oriented options (like a refillable souvenir cup or the Six Flags season meal pass) for your wiser, frugal guests.

Last edited by Jeph, Tuesday, June 4, 2013 7:46 PM
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:10 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

For the record, just got back from a few days at CP and they have it posted everywhere that the refills apply to 2013 cups only.

Interesting aside:

Jeph said:

...your wiser, frugal guests.

The fact that you equate frugality and wisdom is a perfect example of just how different you and I are and look at things.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:31 PM
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 4:28 PM

I don't think either model (hworld vs CF/SF) is necessarily frugal or not frugal. They simply practice different marketing ideas. Holiday world uses what I call honest pricing (just a description, not meant to attack other parks). Prices more closely matches the value of the product (expensive gate, cheap food/pop/souvenirs), whereas CF/SF choose a loss-leader approach - discounted gate, expensive food/pop/gifts.

Some people prefer Hworld's approach.. easy to understand, you get what you pay for, straightforward pricing. Other prefer loss-leader.. they like (or are fooled by) the low up-front price, and some can work the loss-leader system for much more value than they pay for.

Both systems can be approached "frugally" ... A family with kids that pays non-discounted gate at Hworld, and then enjoys a full day of rides, cheap food, free drinks and cheap gifts/games would pay a fair bit less than they would at CF/SF. OTOH, an individual (like myself) that spends $90 on a gold pass w/parking, can now go to KI anytime I want, ride as much as I want, and never spend another dime there if I wanted. I don't set out to do this on purpose, but the opportunity is there... CF *hopes* I spend more to cover that cheap pass.

One last thought... frugal is in the eye of the beholder... I may skip the $4 pop at the park and hit the fountain instead, because eventually all those skipped $4 pops (along with lots of other little frugalities - my wardrobe consists almost entirely of cheap tees and shorts) eventually add up to a new $6000 pinball machine for yours truly :) It's all about priorities. Is it frugal to drink water and packed lunches to save money for a flashpass? Who's to say?

Edit - one other point... someone brought up earlier in the thread Holiday World being a third of the size of CF/SF parks.. With just the dry park, I'd agree, but Splashin' Safari is pretty massive, and rated what, 2nd in the nation(?), and completely included with admission. AFAIK, no CF or SF waterpark compares. Counting both HW and SS, I'd say the combo compares well to most CF/SF parks. If one is not interested in SS, this should be taken into consideration when choosing whether or not to visit Holiday World, since it's such a large part of the park.

Last edited by metallik, Wednesday, June 5, 2013 4:33 PM
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 4:33 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

metallik said:

Holiday world uses what I call honest pricing (just a description, not meant to attack other parks). Prices more closely matches the value of the product (expensive gate, cheap food/pop/souvenirs), whereas CF/SF choose a loss-leader approach - discounted gate, expensive food/pop/gifts.

Some people prefer Hworld's approach.. easy to understand, you get what you pay for, straightforward pricing. Other prefer loss-leader.. they like (or are fooled by) the low up-front price, and some can work the loss-leader system for much more value than they pay for.

I find the idea that you attach "honesty" to the HW model and "being fooled" to the other parks interesting.

I'd label them exactly the opposite.


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 4:50 PM

How does Holiday World fool people with their pricing? The most expensive cost is right upfront - the cost of a pass or gate admission. "We have a really nice park; this is what it costs to get in." Once inside, prices for food, gifts, etc are much closer to regular non-park retail prices... if anything, people might be surprised at the low prices.

"Fooled" for the loss-leader approach is probably a strong term... I think most people are used to the huge markup and high cost of any sundries in a captive environment (sports events, concerts, theatres, amusement parks), and few are actually surprised when they walk up to a food stand at a CF/SF park. However, the disparity is still there. Cheap season passes and gate admissions w/discounts often lower the price below what the park can charge and still stay in business, but they make up for that on margins on the retail stuff. Hworld covers much more of their operating costs in the gate, so less profits are needed from other sales.

Better term for hworld approach might be 'realistic' pricing as opposed to loss-leader... whatever term expresses that the cost of the goods more accurately reflects the costs of providing those goods.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:21 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

metallik said:

How does Holiday World fool people with their pricing?

By telling them they're getting stuff for 'free' when they're paying for it upfront.

Honestly, HW's gate is on the high end for what the park offers (in comparison to other parks). It's because you're paying for those freebies and 'low' prices at the gate.

To me the 'dishonesty' (and I hate to use that term, it's not quite right, but we're going off of your post) comes from when they use that as a selling point.

Is there really much difference in paying $X to access a free drink or paying the same $X for a drink?

Better term for hworld approach might be 'realistic' pricing as opposed to loss-leader... whatever term expresses that the cost of the goods more accurately reflects the costs of providing those goods.

But if you're paying a surcharge at the gate to get those prices, then they're not really that great, are they?

It goes back to perception and the feeling of getting a deal. (see the thread on SF pricing that I directed Jeph to) Once you pay to get in, it's forgotten. All that matter now is the lower prices you're seeing inside the park...long after they've opened your wallet and relieved you of it's contents.

I find it less honest in that they're sort of making you pay whether you want to or not.

I mean, what if you are one of these 'frugal guests' that Jeph talks about? The kind eating sandwiches from your car and ice water inside. At the big park you didn't subsidize anyone else's purchases. You got in on the cheap and kept it cheap.

At HW you were forced to chip in to the free drink fund. What if you didn't want to? Too bad - but feel free to stuff all the sugar water down your face hole that you can...and be sure to understand what a great deal it is.

I dunno. It's 'dishonest' in that it's hidden. The transfer happens in a way you never even notice. Don't take my money and tell me you're giving me a freebie.

Seems to me the entire pricing approach is about 'fooling' the customer.


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:41 PM

I don't see the free pop as being dishonest at all. It's a marketing ploy. It can't be dishonest, because they're very up front with it - again, they're marketing it as a perk, along with free parking and sunscreen.

You make an issue of the cost of this being forced upon guests, but I disagree for several reasons. First, while it would be helpful to know the true cost of the program, I would imagine it's a tiny percentage of all expenses. The program is sponsored by Pepsi, whose logo is plastered all over the cups and equipment. It's not unreasonable to assume HW gets the syrup and supplies at a discount due to the sponsorship. The cups are cheap and small, cost per pop is low, and I'd tend to see more employees out cleaning than there are taking care of the soda kiosks.

This leads to my second point - you can take basically any park expense and make the claim all guests are being forced to pay for it. For example: the Voyage. Here you have a massive, expensive roller coaster, maintenance on which probably dwarfs the soda program, not to mention the $15M it took to build it in the first place. However, only a fraction of park guests actually ride it. In fact, I think it'd be safe to say a much higher percentage of guests take advantage of the free soda, than ride the Voyage. Last Saturday, the Voyage station was relatively empty all day, but the soda kiosks were popular as always. By your logic, all guests are being forced to pay a high gate price to subsidize the Voyage, but only some of them gain the benefit.

Finally, it's not hidden in any sense of the word. The promotion is explained right on the ticket page: "One price gets you: Admission to both Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, plus free unlimited soft drinks, free sunscreen, free parking, free inner tubes and free Wi-Fi!" Again, here is what we offer, here is how much it costs. No dishonesty. The drinks are 'free' in the sense that you don't have to pay for them once you're inside. They could word it "Included with admission" but really, the line *starts* with "One price gets you..." which says basically the same thing. I don't think the use of the word 'free' is in anyway deceptive here.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:46 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

metallik said:

I don't think the use of the word 'free' is in anyway deceptive here.

I disagree.

If you're covering the cost of drinks, sunscreen, etc. in the gate price - then this page is a lie...or more realistically, really twisting the situation for marketing purposes.

And if that's not deceptive - then I have no idea how you even remotely came to the conclusion that event-style pricing inside the park somehow is.

At the very least we can agree that it's two different approaches to doing business.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:54 PM
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