Knott's Berry Farm will offer up-charge haunt this fall

Posted Monday, August 6, 2012 10:00 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park will offer a premium maze for small groups apart from the crowds. Access to the exclusive maze, starting Sept. 21, will come with an extra charge. It will cost $60 for a group of up to six people, on top of admission to the park, which runs from $36 to $60 per person.

Read more from The LA Times.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 5:12 AM

I will gladly pay a premium charge for a haunted maze. A Halloween maze is something that's particularly spoiled by an endless crowd flow because you hear the scares coming before you get to them.

At CW we pay for the crappy buffet meal each year so that we can get into the mazes a bit earlier. There's no crowds, and it's way more fun and scary. Well worth whatever they're charging for the nasty food just to get a jump on the mazes before the crowds show. By the time we get to the last couple of mazes and the crowds have shown up it's more annoying than fun or scary. The other moronic trend last year is people were using lights on their cell phones to light up the rooms and ruining any chance of a scare.

I'd much rather pay a premium than have to convince a moron that their cell phone light is ruining the haunted house for everyone else.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 5:17 AM

Ugh, don't even get me started on the idiots with the cell phone lights. It's maddening.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:02 PM

Lord Gonchar, your response makes perfect sense--it acknowledges that up-charges are simply increased admission fees.

Yes, one could argue that the haunts are "extra" but the time one spends in a haunt is time not spent on MF or TTD, etc. But the park does not offer me a corresponding discount for the time NOT spent on other activities.

I think the POP model works--time is finite, paying to go through a haunt means I have less time for other attractions. An interesting question is how many people would not make their "extra" trips to the park in Oct after having made their "regular" trips in June, July, August if the haunts were not there?

Others have noted that despite being open more days attendance has not gone up--does this mean that parks could have the same attendance at less cost by not having Halloweekends?

Or does it mean that the haunts are like any other attraction--they (hopefully) draw more people to pay the gate admission? If so, why not just raise gate admission and forget the up-charge?

Either way, I think the POP model not only works (Holiday World has even eliminated up-charges for drinks--perhaps that is the new model), but might even be superior--no feeling ripped-off for have to shell out money a 2nd time.

(BTW, does Dinos Alive take credit cards? Either they do, slowing down the line, or they don't, thus annoying people.)

Last edited by Captain Hawkeye, Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:20 PM

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:14 PM
Jason Hammond's avatar

You only addressed a few points in Gonchar's rebuttle.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:22 PM

I think I got most of them. Certainly, the Holiday World example argues against the claim that POP* is the only model that is evolving.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 2:00 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Captain Hawkeye said:

I think the POP model works--time is finite...

And here is the core of our difference in approach.

I don't see POP related to time at all. I see admission related to attractions/activities.

Yes, one could argue that the haunts are "extra" but the time one spends in a haunt is time not spent on MF or TTD, etc. But the park does not offer me a corresponding discount for the time NOT spent on other activities.

You're working on the idea that all attractions have the same value and take the same amount of time to experience.´╗┐

I shouldn't even have to explain why that's flawed.

Certainly, the Holiday World example argues against the claim that POP* is the only model that is evolving.

You counter example is a small/mid-sized park with no upcharge-style attractions and no halloween event (prior to this year). They pretty much operate as the alternative to the industry (even the no gore, family halloween event follows this).

On top of that they've been doing the 'all included' thing for over a decade and they still stand out as the alternative.

You example of why it works is the single biggest industry exception.

The last decade has seen pretty much every major park add upcharges, multiple service levels, all the bells and whistles. I can only think of two parks that flirted with an 'all included' approach...and they're also small, mid-sized parks.

I qualified my argument near the end with " - especially for the big parks" and I think that needs to be pointed out again. There will always be a place for the quaint old POP model at smaller places, just like there's still a place for ride tickets and pay-per-ride at certain parks, but the larger trend is moving away from the idea that one price includes everything.

It just is. You can see it. It's actually a measureable, observable event happening. At the big regional parks you can't do everything once you've bought a ticket at the gate. There's not really even an argument to make, I'm just stating the obvious.

As profound as Nietzsche´╗┐'s claim, "God is dead," the great amusement industry philosopher Gonchar now proclaims, "POP is dead."

(smiley face)


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 2:55 PM

I agree: It IS Happening. That doesn't make it the only choice or even the best choice.

I see admission related to both attractions/activities and time. If the attractions/activities aren't worth the $$$ to me I won't shell out the $$$ even if I have an infinite amount of time. Conversely, even if the attractions/activities exceed the $$$, I still won't shell out the $$$ if I don't have time available.

Yes, "big" parks ARE transitioning to up-charges, but does that mean it is the best model? As noted above, most parks have added extra "Halloween" days, but season attendance is fairly flat. Are the haunts and other attractions merely cannibalizing June, July & August visits?

I am not an expert on CW, but have they added up-charges in the past decade? Their attendance seems to have been growing since the late 90's , and, to the best of my limited knowledge, without up-charges. Combined with HW, that would make 2 exceptions--one of them a "big" park.

I am certainly not disputing your claim that "It just is." But I do question if that is the best model. Are the parks failing to learn from history and merely fighting the last war? Would it not be more cost effective to simply add the up-charges (or a fraction thereof) to the gate admission-- as parks figured out was most cost effective 40 years ago?

How much money would a park make if they gave everyone a Flash Pass/Fast Lane, etc and simply added it to the price of admission? 40 years ago parks figured out it was the best model. What's changed? And is the trend of up-charging simply an admission by the parks that they have no clue on how to price their regular gate admission?


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 3:24 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Captain Hawkeye said:

Yes, "big" parks ARE transitioning to up-charges, but does that mean it is the best model?

Are the haunts and other attractions merely cannibalizing June, July & August visits?

Are the parks failing to learn from history and merely fighting the last war?

Would it not be more cost effective to simply add the up-charges (or a fraction thereof) to the gate admission-- as parks figured out was most cost effective 40 years ago?

How much money would a park make if they gave everyone a Flash Pass/Fast Lane, etc and simply added it to the price of admission?

40 years ago parks figured out it was the best model. What's changed?

And is the trend of up-charging simply an admission by the parks that they have no clue on how to price their regular gate admission?

7 questions. So here's 7 answers:

1. I dunno. Depends on how you define 'best' in this case. Best for the guest?Best for the park? Best for making money? Best for offering value? Best for driving ticket sales? Best for driving attendance? Depends on the goal.

2. No idea. Looking at attendance numbers would probably give that answer quite quickly.

3. I don't think it's as simple as you keep wanting to make it. (see #4)

4. Eventually tying in more and more upcharges will result in a ticket price that holds no value to the guest because they don't want to do (or have access to) everything. In other words, you're starting to pay for things you don't want. I already feel at times like the current POP model makes me do this. Adding even more reduces the value to me even more.

And the age of the practice is, to me, and arguement for change rather than an argument for institution. (again, differeing persepctives on the same note)

5. My guess is a lot less because everyone doesn't want Fast Pass. Not only are you forcing people to pay for something they don't want, you're rasing the price to a level most won't pay and then eliminating the entire value of the Fast Pass by giving it to everyone when it's value is based almost solely on exclusivity. Probably the single worst idea ever.

6. Everything. The industry, the guests, expectations, business models, values, ideals...literally everything. You can do business like it's 1972 or you can do business like it's 2012. Heck, you can even do business like it's 1640 if you'd like, but you're probably going to be laughably out of touch.

7. Possibly. Or is it simply the clearest indicator - as plain as the nose on my face - that the old POP model doesn't work anymore for the bigger parks?

In all fairness, I think we're both right on this last one. It is an indicator that parks don't know how to price the gate...because the POP model is failing as the industry evolves.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 4:42 PM
LostKause's avatar

As far as Flashpass included in the price of admission, Disney includes front-of-the-line access in everyone's admission ticket, which costs about $90 for a one-day ticket. The price does get much lower fr every day added though.

Come to think of it, Disney doesn't have much as far as up-charge attractions go; none that I can think of off-hand anyways.

The only good reason I see for having an up-charge is to prevent overcrowding on a low-capacity attraction. I am not against a park having an up-charge attraction fr this reason. The same goes for non-Disney Fast passes (although I do hate them).


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 4:45 PM

1) The goal is ALWAYS to maximize profits. I think we agree on that :)

2) Just looking at the attendance data would say that adding extra days has not increased attendance. Now, would attendance have fallen off a cliff without the extra days, or should parks just shut down in Sep and they would keep the same revenue with lower expenditures? THAT is a question that the parks need to answer.

3 & 4) You don't have to add 100% of the up-charge to admission.

Take Dino Alive at CF parks. It is a $5 up-charge. If 20% of 3 mil guests at a park pay it that is $3m. Just raise the gate admission price by $1 and you have the same revenue, without the expense of hiring ticket takers & sellers.

If I pay for an up-charge I am certainly paying for stuff I can't use: the rest of the park. Any time I spend in an up-charge attraction is time I cannot spend riding coasters, watch shows, etc. And the park does not give me a discount off my regular admission to compensate me for the reduced utility of that admission.

5) Why not have everyone with a Fast Lane/Flash Pass? Everyone could reserve their ride times and do something else (schedule another ride time, eat, show, etc) instead of waiting in line. I may only get the same number of rides, but I am not waiting in line. And if you set the price right any decrease in admissions would be offset by charging EVERYBODY who does still come to the park more.

6) Buy Low, Sell High is an even older model and the Junk Bond Crash, the S & L crisis, the dot.com bubble, the real estate bubble, were not improvements just because they were newer. Some restaurants are very successful with a'la carte pricing, some with regular entree & sides pricing, some with all you can eat buffets.

My point is that you can succeed with POP if you price it correctly. Obviously, other parks can succeed with POP* or another model.

7) What neither one of have is data on if the POP* model that parks are adopting is superior to a POP model with a different gate price .

I think we do agree on much. Where we appear to differ is that I do not admit that a POP model is necessarily a failure--if parks price it properly.

After all, every State Fair has a Midway that seems to survive on a per-ride ticket model--despite POP having been proven superior 40 years ago :)

Or perhaps you are arguing that parks should eliminate POP and make everything an up-charge--Just like it was 40 years ago.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 5:14 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Captain Hawkeye said:

I think we do agree on much. Where we appear to differ is that I do not admit that a POP model is necessarily a failure--if parks price it properly.

Yeah I think so too. I'm not sure I'm saying it's a failure. I think it's an idea that's reaching the end of it's useful life in a widespread sense.

And more to the original point, still selling people on the idea of POP when it doesn't really exist in many cases is exactly what causes the friction that makes people complain about upcharges.

You could deal with it your way, by continuing to try to remain POP with ever-increasing prices.

Or we do it the way I see - move on, quit fighting the inevitable and create the the future of the industry.

After all, every State Fair has a Midway that seems to survive on a per-ride ticket model--despite POP having been proven superior 40 years ago :)

And the entire East Coast pier scene...and Knoebels, of course.

Or perhaps you are arguing that parks should eliminate POP and make everything an up-charge--Just like it was 40 years ago.

I dunno. If I knew where to go from here, I could potentially be a very rich man.

POP remains in some capacity in my mind. Even, like I said, as a 'value' option. I think pay-per-ride becomes easier and more integrated with technology - more like a modern version than a throwback. I think multiple levels of access and/or personalization creep further and further in too.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, August 7, 2012 5:14 PM
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012 5:26 PM
Vater's avatar

I'm not sure comparing the big parks to Disney works anymore. If I recall, Disney (World) went to a POP model sometime in the 80s, after many of the large parks had been doing so for years. It worked then...quite beautifully (I recall my first visit in 1979 being a nightmare for my dad, having to buy individual tickets for each ride for all of us). However, since then they've built more parks and have become a mega-resort at which most people spend several days. The majority of visitors don't make a day trip to Magic Kingdom unless it's followed up by a visit to at least one other park, along with shopping, dining, and a multiple-night stay onsite in one of their resort hotels. There are so many other ways Disney makes money that I don't think providing individual upcharge attractions would make much sense.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012 12:50 AM
LostKause's avatar

State Fairs, Knoebels, and the East Coast pier scene all also offer POP as an alternative to paying per attraction.

When I think of upcharge at Disney, I think of the Park Hopper add-on, Mini Golf, and stuff like Disneyquest and the Cirque show. Disney isn't normally though of as a one-day or long weekend vacation anymore. It's much bigger than that, so I think I am agreeing with you, Vater.


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Wednesday, August 8, 2012 5:22 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Capt. Hawkeye's argument actually sounds a lot like the similar argument against VQing: the same admission price now gets you less in park value and you need to pay more in order to "make up" the additional value (and more).


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Wednesday, August 8, 2012 5:45 PM
sirloindude's avatar

Then I suppose the question becomes whether or not regional parks are underpricing the gate. Honestly, I'd pay more for admission to some of the regional parks because IMO, there's more to do there than, say, at a Disney Park. I can't remember the last time I left a Disney park feeling like I missed out on some rides I really wanted. Conversely, I have to blaze through some regional parks to get everything.

I still like POP, but I'd rather it double then pay it, realize that it's little more than a glorified cover charge, then pay again for a Q-Bot to actually be able to ride anything. Disney has priced out certain segments of the market. Perhaps some of the larger regionals could do the same? If nothing else, you're guaranteed the full amount.

Opening another can of worms, though, is this quandary a sign that perhaps some of the larger regional parks have become too big to keep doing business the same way anymore?


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Wednesday, August 8, 2012 8:23 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I believe there is a market for both POP and upcharge style parks and they can coexist. Various hotels/resorts, cruise lines, golf courses, airlines etc. offer different levels of POP and upcharge services so why not theme parks?

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Wednesday, August 8, 2012 8:24 PM

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Friday, August 10, 2012 8:38 AM

Has anyone here been to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly the San Diego Wild Animal Park) lately? Seems they've done away with the POP model. You used to buy one ticket and rode the tram around the animal enclosures. The tram has been removed and in its place there are several different upcharge attractions to choose from.


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Friday, August 10, 2012 9:36 AM

That started happening a couple of years ago, been back once since they started the changeover, haven't been back since. I don't know if members have any other benefits there other than getting in the gate. It would not surprise me however if only the upper tier members don't have to pay anything extra.

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Friday, August 17, 2012 2:38 AM
a_hoffman50's avatar

Holiday World doesn't have any upcharges? http://www.holidayworld.com/cabana-rentals

I think that may qualify as one.

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Friday, August 17, 2012 3:17 AM

Jeff said:

It's $60 for six heads.

I'd gladly pay $60 to see anything with six heads...

(Better late than never.)


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