Flashpass prices at Great Adventure have gone through the roof

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 2:20 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I knew you'd get it. :)


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 9:24 AM

matt said:

One part of me thinks I know what you mean here. The other part of me thinks what I think you mean can't possibly be what you mean.

I can't tell you what's right or wrong, but I can say the point I'm trying to make is that Six Flags is putting a price on the experience that is soon going to render them an unaffordable option for many people. The way I see it, the reason Six Flags can get away with what Disney can't is because of the hometown discount. You're not getting what you get when you go to Disney, but that's because you're willing to give up certain things because the park is more or less in your backyard. What happens when Disney starts to look like a reasonable option (it's easy to Disney "on the cheap", you just have to plan)?

Lord Gonchar said:
If sales slow enough to affect the park's revenue then they drop the price back a little until they find that 'sweet spot' again. In which case your arguement doesn't hold water because...well, people are buying it.

It's not any more complicated than that.

I'm not saying this is complicated, and I completely understand what you're saying about a "sweet spot". I'm just pointing out that there are long-term ramifications if the park delivers a subpar experience for that lofty price of admission. There's something to be said about Moosh's statement:

So let's see...$15 to park, then about $40 for admission, plus the cost of food and then another $90 to ensure I get on all the rides?

And people wonder why I don't visit Six Flags parks! lol

Regardless of whether or not you have to spend money on Flashpass is beyond the point, because in the eyes on many guests it is a necessary evil- it's either come up with the money for the ability to cut in line or risk spending all that money and risking not being able to ride everything. The more people buying into Flashpass means the longer the lines will get for non-Flashpassers. That means people are going to be forced to make a decision- spend a ton of money or do something else.

Maybe that kind of thing worked well five years ago, but with people worried about the economy right now, I see people having less money for things like amusement parks in the near future. My hatred of "pay to cut" systems aside, I think Six Flags is taking a big gamble at a time when they're not in a position to go all in.

Last edited by Rob Ascough, Tuesday, October 28, 2008 9:25 AM
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:04 AM
rollergator's avatar

^I think the alternative viewpoint Rob, is that they're "short-stacked" and may not be able to wait for a better hand than they one they're holding (everyone wants to go all-in with Aces in the hole, but sometimes a suited Q-9 is the best you can do). From the parks' perspectives at this point, are they offering "an enhanced experience at a higher price-point", a "value experience at the lower price-point", or "multiple experiences at vaious pricing tiers"? I'd have to argue for option (C), and my FEELINGS about whether or not that's fair honestly can't come into play...because the parks ARE obligated to maximize their profit.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:14 AM
Jeff's avatar

Rob Ascough said:
...the point I'm trying to make is that Six Flags is putting a price on the experience that is soon going to render them an unaffordable option for many people.

Rob is on the right track, but I don't think he's framing it right. At issue is not whether or not people will pay, as clearly hey will, but you do have to expect that there's a point where the premium customers experience comes at the expense of the standard customer. I don't think we're there yet, but I wonder when and if we'll get there. The perception is that if you want to really have a good time, you have to pay extra, which isn't going to sit well with everyone. The non-premium customers still account for the majority of the park's income, so if you lose them, that's bad.

Perhaps it's a better conversation to have if/when they start to lose them.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:45 AM

^ - to follow that train even further. Once you start losing the regular customers, the benefit of buying the flash-pass isn't as much of a "value" as it once was to the premium customers. So they stop buying them. Now the park is down in attendance AND flash-pass sales. The system is a no-win situation for everyone and if/when they hit that point, it will be interesting to see how quickly the impact hits.

<blatant fanyboying>

I still like Disney's setup. Its free and it doesn't really impact the guests who don't use it. They have a separate queue for the users that merges before the station. They have a person there to regulate the merge (which means each line has to wait a couple minutes extra as they are rotated in). And their operations are top notch which means they aren't dicking around when they should be dispatching trains and keeping things moving. Its too bad more places don't implement their system the Disney way.

</blatant fanboying>

Last edited by Juggalotus, Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:46 AM
John
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:47 AM

It always comes at the expense of the standard customer. The trick is to spread the expense that one premium customer induces around a lot more regular customers so that few notice.

And, I think that's exactly what's happening with this price increase. By reducing the number of premium customers, you make it easier to spread the burden of them across the regular customers in a way that's less noticeable.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 11:02 AM
Carrie M.'s avatar

Juggalotus said:
^ - to follow that train even further. Once you start losing the regular customers, the benefit of buying the flash-pass isn't as much of a "value" as it once was to the premium customers. So they stop buying them. Now the park is down in attendance AND flash-pass sales. The system is a no-win situation for everyone and if/when they hit that point, it will be interesting to see how quickly the impact hits.


But I guess then I would argue the cycle wouldn't end there. Supposing this cycle is an actual possibility or concern, it stands to reason that once flashpass sales diminish because their value decreased, then the regular customer attendance would stand to increase once again.

The balance between flashpass and non-flashpass customers is as much of a "sweet spot" to obtain as the price point would be. It stands to evolve like the pricing.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 11:30 AM

Carrie M. said:


then the regular customer attendance would stand to increase once again.

It may, but its much harder to get a sour taste out of a customers mouth than it is to give them something sweet to begin with. Just look at the thread about SFA. I've heard nothing but bad about that park, and as a result, even if I find myself in that area I probably won't go.

Now, how many of those people who hate it are going to even know if things start to change? And how many will go back with an open mind after the park receives good reviews?

Alienating customers is never a good thing.


John
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 11:36 AM

You have to consider the human factor as well. Once you lose customers who purchased Qbots but still had long waits, or those who felt short-changed because they didn't buy into the premium experience, it's much more difficult to win them back.

Six Flags strategy definitely seems to be to give away the gate: have ridiculously low SP prices, offer BOGOs, bring friends, etc., and then get revenue (I won't say make money just yet) with the Qbot system. Create a problem, sell people a solution, then give yourself credit for solving the problem. That's chutzpah!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:11 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

RatherGoodBear said:
You have to consider the human factor as well. Once you lose customers who purchased Qbots but still had long waits, or those who felt short-changed because they didn't buy into the premium experience, it's much more difficult to win them back.

Just quoting RGB because he said it last, but there's many people essentially making this same claim.

My argument is that people aren't getting pissed off in the first place. This whole 'spiral of loss' line of argument is based on the idea that people are getting angry and not coming back. I don't think they are.

So if we aren't losing non-premium customers and premium customers are happy with their purchase - there is no problem.

I don't think this is an issue. Based on my gut feeling, what I've seen at the parks and the fact that this has been around for damn near 10 years, I'm betting no one is getting pissed off an not coming back based solely on the VQ the park uses. (or at least not enough to be a concern)

Assuming people don't like it is almost as silly as assuming it's going away. If people had such a problem with it, it'd be gone. It's not. It's here. It's been here. It's staying. It works.

I'm not sure why we're looking to call something a failure that clearly isn't.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:19 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar

(response to Juggalotus) I don't buy it. SFA has a LOT of issues that extend well beyond the Flashpass.

Finding the balance between supply and demand is not that delicate of a process. If it were, all industries would suffer.

The only way I can see that the terminal illness described here would happen is if SF ignored the fluctuations for long periods of time. And even then, it wouldn't be Flashpass that killed the park, it would be bad business decision-making (e.g. not responding to the market.)

Edited for clarity because I am so slow on the draw.

Last edited by Carrie M., Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:23 PM

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:28 PM

This isn't a supply and demand issue. There is obviously demand for it, and Six Flags can extend or limit the supply as they see necessary.

The problem is that your demand is affecting my experience.

Example:

You go to Best Buy to buy a 19 inch CRT tv. That's all you want so you can get home to watch the game. Best Buy has a policy though that anyone buying a "premium" tv can cut in line and doesn't have to wait.

This isn't such an inconvenience at a slow time (like 2:30 on a Thursday). But what happens if you're wanting to watch a game on Black Friday? You'd have to stand in line while watching all these people with "premium" tv's bypass you. And by the time you get home, the Lions have already lost.

Example done.

Now, I agree with Gonch, in that all we are discussing are hypotheticals. At SOME point, we are going to hit a mark where the regular guests start getting annoyed. I don't think they've hit that yet, but what happens when they do?


John
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:41 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Juggalotus said:
At SOME point, we are going to hit a mark where the regular guests start getting annoyed. I don't think they've hit that yet, but what happens when they do?

Why do we have to hit that point?

I see no indication that that point will ever be hit. It's a system that's worked for many seasons now. Why would it suddenly stop working?


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:16 PM

I'm not talking about a time point, but rather a price or saturation point.

Keeping the status quo (price, #issued, efficiency impact) the same, we'd never hit that point.

But drop that price.

Or don't limit the number given on really busy days.

Or don't care about the impact it has on operations.

And suddenly you hit a point where guests will get fed up with it. Proper management will keep a park from hitting that point.


John
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:17 PM

I can't speak for other parks in the chain but if you have a Flashpass at Great Adventure, once your time to enter the Flashpass line is ready you aren't going to wait more than a few minutes except at RMT since the merge point is still about a 10 - 15 minute wait.

On the older rides where Flashpass boards from the exit, usually a car (4 seats) on each train is dedicated to Flashpass. On crowded days, like when GASM had the Flashpass people completely past the exit ramp and almost to the photo area what they did is basically give the entire train to flashpass users for every other train rather than just car 6 until the line was shorter. Great for flashpass users but the standby line basically moved to a standstill and what would have been a 15 - 20 minute wait turned into a 30 minute wait.

Juggalotus said:
This isn't a supply and demand issue. There is obviously demand for it, and Six Flags can extend or limit the supply as they see necessary.

The problem is that your demand is affecting my experience.

Example:

You go to Best Buy to buy a 19 inch CRT tv. That's all you want so you can get home to watch the game. Best Buy has a policy though that anyone buying a "premium" tv can cut in line and doesn't have to wait.

This isn't such an inconvenience at a slow time (like 2:30 on a Thursday). But what happens if you're wanting to watch a game on Black Friday? You'd have to stand in line while watching all these people with "premium" tv's bypass you. And by the time you get home, the Lions have already lost.

Example done.

I actually joked about trying that in my store this past holiday season on a Saturday in December. We only have 3 registers and I suggested that for $5, you get to cut to the front. Now of course we didn't do it because people would be furious but my reasoning was people put up with it at SF so why not in a retail store. Then again this is the same store where people complain about $0.59 for a cold can of soda when SF charges $3.00 so I know it wouldn't work.

Last edited by YoshiFan, Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:21 PM
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:18 PM

Juggalotus said:
I'm not talking about a time point, but rather a price or saturation point.

Keeping the variables(price, #issued, efficiency impact) the same, we'd never hit that point.

But drop that price.

Or don't limit the number given on really busy days.

Or don't care about the impact it has on operations.

And suddenly you hit a point where guests will get fed up with it. Proper management will keep a park from hitting that point.


John
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:22 PM

Jeff said:

At issue is not whether or not people will pay, as clearly hey will, but you do have to expect that there's a point where the premium customers experience comes at the expense of the standard customer. I don't think we're there yet, but I wonder when and if we'll get there. The perception is that if you want to really have a good time, you have to pay extra, which isn't going to sit well with everyone. The non-premium customers still account for the majority of the park's income, so if you lose them, that's bad.

You pretty much got to the core of my point, but I need to add one more thing that completes it. I can understand the creation of "value" and "premium" experiences- after all, there's a reason why Honda sells both stripped-down 4 cylinder Accords as well as loaded V6 models. The thing about amusement parks is that, once upon a time, there was never a "premium" experience. Everyone paid the same price to get into the amusement park, and that price was pretty low (all things considered). You can now pay for a premium experience, but are you getting a premium experience? You're paying a lot more money but you're riding the same rides, seeing the same shows, eating the same foods and using the same restrooms. Customers aren't blind, and I think that sooner or later they will see that they're spending money on something that isn't getting them a whole more lot in return. That will become more obvious as the demand for the premium experience increases, since the same problems that created long lines in the first place will still exist. A park and everything associated with it can only handle x number of people in a given period of time. That will remain true whether you offer one experience, two experiences or a dozen experiences.

RatherGoodBear said:
You have to consider the human factor as well. Once you lose customers who purchased Qbots but still had long waits, or those who felt short-changed because they didn't buy into the premium experience, it's much more difficult to win them back.

How very true. There's an old rule that says it's easy to lose a customer, and ten times harder to win that customer back than it was to get him/her in the first place. That's why I think a lot of this is a gamble.

Lord Gonchar said:
My argument is that people aren't getting pissed off in the first place. This whole 'spiral of loss' line of argument is based on the idea that people are getting angry and not coming back. I don't think they are.

I'm not so sure about that. I've seen the numbers for North American parks for much of the past decade (the numbers are out there on the internet... somewhere) and Great Adventure was a park that once pulled in about 3.8 million guests per year. Lately that number has been about half a mil lower... despite rides like Nitro, Superman, Kingda Ka and El Toro having been built... despite the population in the NYC/Philadelphia metro areas continuing to swell... despite other area parks like Hersheypark seeing similar increases in numbers...

Last edited by Rob Ascough, Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:22 PM
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:38 PM
Jeff's avatar

I'll take it one step further, Rob. What happens when anyone under the age of 23 grows up? It's a generation with strange spending habits. They want a lot of things free because the Internet has made that possible (regardless of whether it's ethically or morally right). But on the flip side, the same generation will pay five bucks for a ring tone, 30 low-quality seconds of a song they already stole.

The long-term implication is the same as the short-term: The industry will continue to compete with a great many forms of media and entertainment, and I'd love to know more about the demographics of people buying premium access.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:47 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar

Jeff said:
It's a generation with strange spending habits. They want a lot of things free because the Internet has made that possible (regardless of whether it's ethically or morally right). But on the flip side, the same generation will pay five bucks for a ring tone, 30 low-quality seconds of a song they already stole.

Whhaaattt? There are general characteristics that can be drawn from generational studies and behaviors can be predicted accordingly? Are you sure?

[/sarcasm and general jerkiness] :)


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:51 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Rob Ascough said:
You can now pay for a premium experience, but are you getting a premium experience? You're paying a lot more money but you're riding the same rides, seeing the same shows, eating the same foods and using the same restrooms.

In the name of fairness, Q-bot is not a 'premium experience' - the VIP program could be, I suppose. Q-bot lets you ride without waiting in line.

That's all the claim is - use this device and you don't have to wait physically in the line. Pay a little more and you don't have to wait as long either.

Flash Pass delivers entirely on that promise.

Customers aren't blind, and I think that sooner or later they will see that they're spending money on something that isn't getting them a whole more lot in return. That will become more obvious as the demand for the premium experience increases, since the same problems that created long lines in the first place will still exist.

I'm still not buying the idea that there'll be some mass epiphany down the road. I've been visiting the SF parks regularly since 2001 and the trend is acceptance and understanding towards the system and the idea - just the opposite of what the enthusiast crowd seems to predict.

The point is after all these years of gloom and doom preditions on forums like this, the system is is still here with more people using it than ever and more people accepting the idea that it's in play than ever.

It keeps going back to baseless guesswork. Which is what you're giving me.

There's no reason to believe the system will suddenly collapse on itself. If anything the evidence points in the exact opposite direction.

There's an old rule that says it's easy to lose a customer, and ten times harder to win that customer back than it was to get him/her in the first place. That's why I think a lot of this is a gamble.

It was a gamble 10 years ago when they decided to try it. These days, it's a win. Professor Noble got it right a few posts back.

I'm not so sure about that. I've seen the numbers for North American parks for much of the past decade (the numbers are out there on the internet... somewhere) and Great Adventure was a park that once pulled in about 3.8 million guests per year. Lately that number has been about half a mil lower... despite rides like Nitro, Superman, Kingda Ka and El Toro having been built... despite the population in the NYC/Philadelphia metro areas continuing to swell... despite other area parks like Hersheypark seeing similar increases in numbers...

Yep...and again, there's no visible correlation between that an the implimentation of a VQ system. It could be (and most likely is) a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with Flash Pass. I could make just as valid an argument that says it'd be even lower without an available VQ system, that Flash Pass has helped keep their numbers from falling even further and that maybe other parks in the are would go even higher if they implemented similar systems.

The thing about amusement parks is that, once upon a time, there was never a "premium" experience. Everyone paid the same price to get into the amusement park, and that price was pretty low (all things considered).

So what? Things have changed...things started changing a long time ago. Are we really still hung up on this antiquated idea?

Jeff said:
The long-term implication is the same as the short-term: The industry will continue to compete with a great many forms of media and entertainment, and I'd love to know more about the demographics of people buying premium access.

Not that this is even close to scientific or anything, but here's the people buying it when we visited SFGAdv last June.


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