I'm sorry this got a little long...
Although I am new to CB, I've been posting on other coaster forums for at least 15 years. I've been very outspoken of my hatred of Fastlane and the like for many years now. Even the free systems at Disney and my home park of CP. And I stand by it. I wish they didn't exist. But last week, against every moral fiber in my body, I broke down and bought it at KBF. This is my experience and my feelings about it...
Last week we went on a west coast vacation to Phoenix, San Diego and LA. On Thursday my son (Boogie) and I got to KBF a little before 11am only to find the place ridiculously crowded. We had dropped my wife off at a nature area so she could look for birds. Boogie and I are coastertools, she's a bird nerd. Therefore we had to leave KBF by 6pm in order to pick her up before dark. As a bit of background, I've been to KBF many times, but this was his first non-toddler visit so all the credits were new to him except the kiddie coaster.
After spending the first 45 minutes renewing our Platinum Passes, we entered the park to find it, as we expected, crowded beyond belief. Judging by the lines and crowds, I made the decision to buy the pass. It was $100 for the two of us, quite a bit of money, especially when it's an unplanned expense. It came down to this, as many (most notably Lord Gonchar) have already said: stand in long lines, stress out over the high probability of not even riding all of the coasters, or bite the (silver) bullet for this one time, special occasion.
Here is my experience, the good, the bad and the ugly of it.
The good: I'm not gonna lie, it made our visit painless. The worst case lines were a few rides that let you in at the loading station. Other rides you were escorted in through the exit and placed directly on a train by an operator. The longest we waited, not counting a breakdown on Pony Express, was 10 minutes at Ghostrider, because the ops were very slow. On a few rides, you exit the station onto the ramp, turn around and get right back on the next train. So the good is the obvious: that we got to ride all of the major attractions that were participating in Fastlane. Multiple times too. If not for FL, we would have been lucky to have ridden all of the coasters once.
Xcellerator was not participating. Possibly because it was a single train operation. The 2nd train was completely disassembled. It was a 45 minute line and the only one we waited in all day.
The bad: We totally and blatantly cut people off. Not as obviously when entering into the loading queues, but on the rides where we were escorted on through the exit gate. On more than one occasion, I heard the people next to load mutter things out loud as they were told not to board the next train. Things like "Oh, come on..." or "again?" See, they let you pick your seat, and everyone picks the front. Which means the people waiting for the front car are being held back almost 50% of the time for FL users. There were a lot of FL users that day, and it absolutely did make an impact. In addition, walking up the exit ramp to Silver Bullet, I heard people in the line saying things like "hey, how come they get to do that?" as we walked past the same people in line 3 times in a row.
The Ugly: I say this in complete honesty. I felt like a giant piece of dogcrap every time we used the pass. I spent a lot of money ($100) to make our lives easier on the backs of others. I felt guilty and ashamed to the point where when standing still, I covered my wristband with my other hand. I could not make eye contact with the people we cut off as we entered through the exit gate. In my mind, everyone who saw us doing this was looking down at us and thinking we were spoiled, rich A-holes, which was how I felt.
Boogie, meanwhile, turned into a spoiled brat. (He's 10 years old, btw, just as a frame of reference) Immediately after we bought them I gave him a little speech about how what we were doing is really not cool. I told him that I don't like doing it, but it was a special circumstance. We are on vacation, this is our only day, it's very crowded, and we have limited time. I also explained how if we were back home at CP, we would either turn around and leave, or ride Iron Dragon all day. Despite that, everything related to lines that day was met with "can't we just use our wristbands and cut?" When we found out there was no FL for Xcellerator he actually said "I don't want to wait in that line. If we can't cut it then I don't want to ride it." (He later changed his mind, it is the best ride in the park after all.) Yet last year at CP, all summer long, he noticed how we were being cut by other FL users and said how it sucked and wasn't fair. Perhaps this is just how 10 year olds think, but I know how my son's brain works, and this was going to his head big time.
To sum it up, this may sound silly to some, but I am just not that type of person. I don't believe I'm better than others, and I don't believe in stepping on others. Yes, I can afford $100, but in no way do I feel that entitles me to *anything* on the backs of of those who can't. It's one thing to spend money on luxury, but quite another to do it at the expense of others. And I saw all day how what we were doing was at the expense of others. You can throw your statistics around, but even if mathematically it didn't affect the wait times of others, it sure seemed like it to them based on the comments we heard. And it sure seems that way to me when I'm on the other end, waiting patiently in line while others go in front without waiting.
Let me ask you this.
What if instead of a higher tier ticket, the parks added a lower one? Like you can choose to pay less than the normal ticket and wait in a slightly longer line? Would you feel bad that you were getting on ahead of people who chose to pay less?
I know you know where I'm going with this. Everyone in the park that day made a choice. You made a smart one. That guy muttering under his breath? He's pissed because he made a bad one. The second you don't buy that wristband, you're accepting the deal that others will get one and they have preferred access to a certain set of rides that you don't have.
I just don't identify one bit with feeling guilty for choosing a better option. The second you turn it into a moral issue, you lost me.
In addition, walking up the exit ramp to Silver Bullet, I heard people in the line saying things like "hey, how come they get to do that?" as we walked past the same people in line 3 times in a row.
Then again, maybe I don't get it because I'd never use the privilege like this. Not because of some moral obligation, but I'd never ride the same ride enough to see the same people three times in the same line. I'm not a power rider. I'm not interested in tons of laps. I'm interested in not standing in stupid-ass lines all day.
Perhaps the issue is that the park has a system that allows abuse in this way? I think more tiers - more choices - need to be added. The idea that you can pass the same people three times on one ride for $50 is hilarious. Who the hell wouldn't buy in for that price? That used to be the realm of the $300 VIP tour...and it probably still should be. For $50, I say you can ride the cycle once each without waiting. For $100, twice. Unlimited? Well, that's the $300 VIP option. The parks a giving these f'n things away.
Then again (again), it goes back to why Six Flags offers the superior product. The cheapest option (regular Q-bot) gets you no line standing, but equivalent waits (true VQ'ing). Pay more (Gold Bot) and they cut the wait. Pay even more (Platinum Bot) and they cut the wait and give you double rides.
Not really sure what the overarching point is beyond choice.
No doubt it's a complex issue. But I see nothing inherently wrong with offering choices to your customers. The issues seem to be more with the price/benefit ratio.
It sounds like they need to change how it is run at Knott's so it doesn't impact non Fast Lane users as much. At Dorney except Wild Mouse, all the coasters have it set up where you merge in the station so if you want the front, you still have to wait however extra many trains the front row line (although at Dorney, it's rare to see more than 1 or 2 groups using Fast Lane so it doesn't matter). Same with Great Adventure, all Flashpass lines merge at the station except Skull Mountain where they have a middle car reserved for Flashpass. If Knott's won't reconfigure the queues for merging at all rides, they should at least not let Fast Lane users get the front or make them wait a few extra trains for the front.
I think it's important to point out as it was pointed out before that there is still a lot of room for discussion regarding implementation and the organization of the systems in place. Not everything parks are doing is working at the moment. It's just not a "to exist or not to exist" discussion any longer.
The only logical response to offer to the folks who asked, "hey, how come they get to do that?" is, "by purchasing a Fastlane pass." People complaining about their choice is not in any way an indication that they've been slighted.
In fact, it's possible that they weren't even complaining with their question, but instead where actually asking how they, too, can do what you were doing. I've had that conversation before in different situations. I've been legitimately asked how I got to sit before someone one and I answered them honestly and told them how to buy a pass. It seemed to me the information was appreciated.
Just like how not everyone who disagrees with you on this topic is flaming you, it's possible that not everyone you encountered during the day was actually feeling slighted by you. Your heavy feelings on the topic may have clouded your perceptions a bit. Maybe not. But don't discount someone saying, "hey, how come they get to do that?" as an actual question so they can do it, too.
I swear that Tommytheduck and LostKause are two separate people. :D
Don't look directly into Gonch's goggles, Tommy. It's a slow process, but he will pull you into accepting pay-to-cut. I can't agree more with your entire post.
Also, Gonch made a few good points, one being who wouldn't want to pay $50 to have unlimited cutting powers all day long. That is way to cheap for that kind of experience. I am against unlimited, but when a park offers one cut per ride, or charges a crazy amount of money, I feel better about it because that means it impacts the others a lot less. Busch Gardens does this, so does Kennywood and a few others.
I tried to get my party of old friends to buy the pay-to-cut tickets at a get-together that I hosted at Kennywood last summer. The park was packed because it was Labor Day, so I thought that it would be a great idea. Many of them could not afford it, so I offered to help out. They still didn't want to buy it, because they said it seemed unfair to the people who could not buy it. That floored me, because that is exactly how I used to feel. I used to have a conscious about these things.
I really miss the old, really nice me, who cared deeply about everyone he came into contact with. Now I am just an old, bitter, spoiled, butthole, partially thanks to these pay-to-cut schemes that have came about over the years. lol
Carrie, I really like that post, so I had to vote it up AND use the button as a "like" button.
I agree that there are things about STL passes that I'm not altogether comfortable with and feel they need to work on for it to be a more palatable/less objectionable system. The first thing that could at least help a little is a set structure across all the parks with set rules. I cannot believe in some of the Cedar Fair parks that they just let people enter the train wherever they want to go with no waiting. That's where even I, as a reluctant fan of STL systems, object. It just seems...almost rude. I find it hard to believe that Cedar Fair cannot manage this a little better and a little more consistency.
I have also been asked about STL q-bots, but I HAVE been on the end of actual name calling and hostility as well when using these things. I try to not be a total jerk and just blend in where there are the smallest lines or there are empty seats, but I was called an a-hole at least twice while walking past the rest of the line. Many people really are curious as to how it works though, and they'll ask you about it. They seem especially fascinated with virtual queue systems.
Tommy, I wouldn't feel too badly about the whole thing. It's not something you would typically do, you got to honestly try out a service/product and see how it works, and it was for a pretty special occasion. I still remain parked on the "all for it" side, but I DO always feel a little guilt mixed in with my glee at riding the rides so many times.
Don't look directly into Gonch's goggles, Tommy. It's a slow process, but he will pull you into accepting pay-to-cut.
Common sense has a funny way of being persuasive.
I don't know why I voted that up. I think I have a problem. lol
I've only used a pay to cut system once, and pretty much under the same conditions as Tommy. Packed day at Great Adventure on what was pretty much a one time only trip. Picked up a Gold Flash Pass, and ended up feeling pretty much the same that Tommy did. It was awesome for us because we got on everything we wanted with no hassle (except for Ka breaking down every 5 minutes) but we still felt like douchebags every time we got the evil glares from people in the regular queue. While we rode most everything more than once, the only time we rode the same ride twice in a row was Toro at the end of the day because we thought power riding would only make us feel like bigger jerks.
I guess what I'm saying is, while I don't have a problem with the parks offering it, the whole thing does still seem kind of dirty to me. Then again, I've never been the kind of person who believes that money should get you absolutely anything you want, particularly if it comes at the expense of someone else.
I do agree with Gonch, that there's quite a bit of work left to be done with these systems and the access they give you, particularly CF's Fast Lane. The "exit pass" should certainly be restricted to a high price VIP level, and the entry level should either limit you to one line jump per ride, per day, or at least utilize a virtual queue the way SF does. There's certainly room for other tiers in between.
Forgive me if I get a little too far "out there" but I see the bigger picture in a more philosophical sense.
I don't know why I voted that up. I think I have a problem. lol
Because deep down inside you know I'm right.
I get it. It doesn't feel right. There's a certain segment of you guys who just can't shake a certain feeling about it all.
You've been lied to your whole lives with the kindergarten mentality that the world is fair, we all wait in line together and take our turn as the randomness of the line dictates. And you chose to believe the lie. It feels wrong to go against that.
But in reality, that's what you tell 5 years olds to keep things simple and make them shut up. The real world is infinitely more complex and rarely works on such simple principals. There are very few situations that aren't manipulated with good planning, good resources, good connections, good whatever-it-takes to bend the circumstances to your favor.
I mean no one feels guilty when they exploit park traffic patterns to get more rides than those who don't know or care to know how to do the same. It's still taking advantage of a resource (knowledge and experience) to get an advantage and bend the situation to your favor. Those people are standing in long lines and you're not.
Why is it suddenly "wrong" if the element that manipulates the situation is money?
I, even with my two-faced opinions about fastlane, may even try it at CP on an EXTREMELY busy day if need be. I don't want to have a "wasted" day at a theme park because it is a 4 hour drive to get CP.
Gonch, one of the worst things we teach our children in school is that everything should be fair.
While that would be nice, it's not how the world works. You hit the nail on the head.
If you haven't dispelled your kids of the notion that life is fair by the time they are riding big kid coasters, you have failed as a parent.
We are on vacation, this is our only day, it's very crowded, and we have limited time.
In marketing and advertising, I think that's called the "target audience." :)
Gemini, good call.
Here's a question that I'm sure we've discussed in regards to skip the line systems: what about free skip the line services offered as part of a hotel package? What about early admission? I mean, if we're feeling all guilty about cutting the lines, do you (the general you, not anyone specific) feel bad about getting in line for early admission to a popular ride such as Maverick? After all, you paid for an additional park perk, and in the case of Maverick, often the queue is completely full by the time the park opens to the general public. Same with USO and Harry Potter. You can't skip the Harry Potter line with a Flashpass, but you can enter the park early if you're a Universal hotel guest, there are practically no lines for about 20 minutes, and then that fills up as well. The general public comes in, and they've all got a 2 hour wait right off the bat. Then there are free Flashpasses for most of the attractions at USO as well if you're a guest. Whether you use these benefits is entirely up to you, but if you've ever taken advantage of early admission, isn't it (on a smaller scale) taking advantage of line cutting?
From arguements in the past Free=Moral but Paid=Immoral.
The bad: We totally and blatantly cut people off. Not as obviously when entering into the loading queues, but on the rides where we were escorted on through the exit gate. On more than one occasion, I heard the people next to load mutter things out loud as they were told not to board the next train. Things like "Oh, come on..." or "again?" See, they let you pick your seat, and everyone picks the front. Which means the people waiting for the front car are being held back almost 50% of the time for FL users.
The best implementations of "pay to cut" is when you wait in a separate queue and meet at the station where someone distributes the lines. Canada's Wonderland did this to great effect. It eliminates a lot of the icky feeling IMO.
And I think that should be implemented at all the parks with these systems.
Carrie, I really like that post, so I had to vote it up AND use the button as a "like" button.
There is nothing wrong with using "vote up" as "like"...in fact, I'm pretty sure that's its only purpose. The issue comes when you decide you "like" every single post from every single poster on the site.
To quote from one of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies, The Incredibles...and because it's completely relevant to both this sidebar and the overall topic... "If everyone's special, then no one is."
Regarding Gonch’s point about taking advantage of park traffic patterns, the same could be said for choosing when to visit a park and taking advantage of lighter crowds. Some people aren’t fortunate enough to be able to take a day or two off in the middle of the week in May to go to the park; they’re stuck with having to go on a Saturday in the middle of summer. The way I think is that I’m going to plan my trip during a time that the park should have very light crowds so that I won’t need a Fastlane pass. I have that luxury because I have a flexible work schedule, ample vacation days, and my kids aren’t in school. But if the circumstances were such that I had to go on a Saturday for only one day, then it would be nice to have Fastlane as an option.
Also, you’ve got situations like CP’s Halloweekends. I love that time of year and I love the unique experience the park offers only at that time, but holy crap are those crowds horrendous! I would definitely consider buying a Fastlane pass for something like that, where the crowds are almost unavoidable, especially if they included passes for the haunted attractions since those can often times generate longer lines than the coasters.
Even if you feel guilty about the principle of utilizing Fastlane, it would probably be much less painful for both you and the other guests if you could more covertly merge with the regular line. It has to be much less effective for parks that just slap on the option to existing rides without altering any of the queuing infrastructures.
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