Pay-to-cut: Not Fun For Everyone

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:29 PM
When I was at SFNE a few weeks ago the park seemed pretty unmotivated to have more then one train running on Superman, even with the public’s three hour wait to get on. As I watched the many pay-to-cut folks skip the line entirely I wondered why the park would want to shorten the line? If each of these people payed $35 to cut in front of us it was pretty dang evident the park was profiting from the long lines.

I believe creative solutions to the ever growing attendance at amusement parks is essential. Systems like Fast Pass is are a great idea. Pick up a ticket and return to a shorter line a few hours later. Everyone has a chance to experience shorter lines at popular attractions without forking over another park expense, it spreads out the lines especially during peak hours. Parks profit from shorter lines by helping everyone have an opportunity for a better experience.

Fast Lane is basically a pay to cut in line expense, making lines that much longer for everyone else. Short lines don’t motivate the public to buy into a pay-to-cut expense, long lines do. This is one of those rare instances when a park can actually profit from guest discomfort. It also swings the door wide open for a class system based purely on dispensable income.

As long as fair and creative solutions like Fast Pass exist should parks be encouraged to offer pay-to-cut passes adding to guest expense and benefiting just a few, while negatively impacting everyone else? We say we hate it when someone cuts in front of us, how is a pay-to-cut service any different? *** Edited 5/27/2005 7:31:44 PM UTC by rc-madness***

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:34 PM
Then I take it you haven't heard about the recent patents approved (maybe it was filed for?) by Disney concerning their FastPass system?

In a nutshell, the freebies will be scaled back greatly. Now there'll be different tiers for onsite hotel guests where the better the resort you stay (the more you pay) the more options and FastPass freedom you have.

Not sure exactly when the new system gets implimented, but I'd expect it to roll out in the next year or two.

Recent coverage at both Screamscape and Jim Hill Media.

This is the future of virtual queue systems. It'll be pay to play like everything else. I'm not sure I really have a problem with it.

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:38 PM
Ok I'll bite.... Pay-to-cut programs don't always offer the exact experience someone who waited in line gets. FastLane at Six Flags means you have to ride in a set row of seats on the coaster on most coasters. Guess where this row is? The middle of the train.

Also with QBot (the regular version), you wait the same time to ride said coaster. You can go get food or do something other than ride that coaster.

Ok we've had the debate as to how fair it is. But you paid for the service so what is the service you are getting for your money? You don't stand waiting while others do.

It all comes down to basic Economics class. How much are you willing to pay for an experience at said amusement park. If demand is there the park will supply it, or if there is a supply people will demand to use it. If they are willing to pay the cost at which it is offered

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:44 PM
As I said in another thread, I don't have a problem with "premium" line placement, as I've taken advantage of it quite a bit at Universal as a resort guest. However, the key for any of these systems is that the capacity is tweaked to start with. If you can crank 1,500 guests through a ride per hour and efficiency (and safety) is on everyone's mind, then the premium programs seem OK.

In an example like the one above at SFNE, where they're only running one train to begin with, that's a disservice and a poor value even to the guest just getting an every day admission or season pass. That's a load of crap.

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:45 PM

Pay-to-cut programs don't always offer the exact experience someone who waited in line gets.

That's a great point. In addition, at parks like Disney or Universal the queue is often a highly themed experience in itself that sets up the story/ride. You're certainly missing part of the 'experience' if you bypass these lines.

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:48 PM
At SFNE's Superman there was no seat destination for FastPass. They step up the train with everyone else once they skipped the line.
Friday, May 27, 2005 3:50 PM
LG: Then again there are some lines you would love to pay not to experience. Any ride with a wall covered in gum is a good one to miss. :)

RC: That would be an issue I would have with the park and how they operate the fast pass program cause I know SF America you have to ride in a set car if you use fast lane on their S:ROS.

I also believe SFGAdv uses the program well. High capacity coaster (S:UF [some will disagree on capacity], Nitro, and Medusa) you can file into the station and choose a row. On a lower capacity coaster you get middle of the train seats. A little research into the different ways the park runs their fast lane program might make it clearer as to if letting people sit anywhere is the norm or the exception to the rule. Maybe if you brought that up with Guest Relations they might be able to shed some light? Sometimes people who ask questions of the right people get things changed. *** Edited 5/27/2005 7:57:18 PM UTC by dragonoffrost*** *** Edited 5/27/2005 7:59:23 PM UTC by dragonoffrost***

Friday, May 27, 2005 3:56 PM

It also swings the door wide open for a class system based purely on dispensable income.

Yeah, but this is kind of how the world works. I can drive a nicer car, live in a nicer house, eat better food, enjoy more extravagant vacations, have nice clothes, enjoy better material items or whatnot if I make more money.

At the core of things, I don't think people should be looked badly upon because they've been lucky enough to be in a financial situation to enjoy or particpate in a higher class of experiences.

Friday, May 27, 2005 4:18 PM
I think CP has the most fair system. The cutting during the day is free, limited, they keep the rides running at top capacity as much as possible; and the extra "pay stuff" is ERT for hotel guests and joe cool club members that does not interfere with with ride time of people who buy POP tickets.

I know some people argue that parks are just supplying a service that people are willing to pay for, but to me it seems that they are first taking that service from people who have already paid for it and are then reselling it. I know it is kind of a gray area, but it does not seem so gray when they run one train on a ride they sell jump in line passes for.

Friday, May 27, 2005 4:26 PM
Cedar Point, Universal and Disney all do it right and without frustrating guests.

Six Flags manages to screw it all up, frustrating the users of the system and the guests waiting in the line. If they would plan out each ride with the system in mind it would work much better. Sometimes they walk up the exit, sometimes they have their own line, sometimes they merge with the real line. I have never seen it done well.

Especially in line for the Batman inverts, worst system ever.

Friday, May 27, 2005 4:36 PM
Just because a park can profit from making some guests shine the shoes of other guests doesn’t make it right. The question is; is this an ideal park experience for you and your family? Parks will move to a pay-to-cut standard if no one complains about it, because it brings in extra profit. As soon as everyone buys into the service then we will be in the exact same line we were in years ago except with the FastLane service charge added to it. Then the Gold Pass will come out allowing us to cut in front of FastLane-ers for the extra $50. Just because we can agree that it is a clever strategy to trick the public into handing over their wallets doesn't mean consumers should blindly buy into it. Do you want to encourage parks to make FastPass or FastLane? They are very different. Should anyone suggest to a park to discontinue pay-to-cut services while viable alternatives exist? *** Edited 5/28/2005 12:28:15 AM UTC by rc-madness***
Friday, May 27, 2005 4:50 PM
Since these programs are already in place and are a proven source of income for those that charge, would you rather have them take the service out but charge $10 - $20 more per ticket?
Friday, May 27, 2005 4:54 PM
How about they take out the program and just increase capacity and service so they can sell more tickets?
Friday, May 27, 2005 5:19 PM
Playing along with the idea that it can be summed up that simply - Because while increasing capacity and service makes lines shorter, the extra tickets (and people buying them) makes things essentially even.

How about they keep the program and increase capacity and service? Then they make more money all the way around.

These systems are here to stay. If anything, I'd imagine they'll become more intrusive to the park visitor who wants to just "play it by ear" and wander the park picking and choosing as they go along - particularly at the destination type parks.

Friday, May 27, 2005 11:03 PM
...And it's such a shame, too. The worst thing is that if capacity is maximized and the park is designed to balance its load, (hint: it's time to stop building parks in gigantic loops!) then nobody has to wait for long, and nobody has to be charged extra. Everybody has more fun, and I have to think that in the long run the park sells more tickets...and can charge more for them, knowing that people are getting a better value in the process.

Has anybody else considered that apart from the number of people in the park, there is, in fact, a limiting factor on how long the line for a ride will be? I haven't been able to get a hard number from a "good" source yet, but my estimation is that it's about 2,400 PPH. That's all. That's approximately the most people you can squeeze through a single turnstile in an hour. Why aren't rides and parks built with that simple fact in mind? The front gate is moving people at about ten times that rate, so why is the park constructed to funnel everybody to the same ride? Why are signature rides not built to operate at or near that kind of capacity? And why are parks not constructed to better balance the load?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 1:54 AM me it seems that they are first taking that service from people who have already paid for it and are then reselling it.

Yes, yes, yes! Exactly!

I have been trying forever to find the words to express why I find pay-to-cut wrong. You have, in just a few words, said what I've been trying to say for a long time.

(fade in sad music...) Nothing hurts more inside then to see a whole trainload of people who can afford the pay-to-cut system leave the station when you have waited in line for hours. It hurts even more when you have spent your whole 2 weeks paycheck (and I DO work very hard) to get to visit the park and only got to ride a handful of coasters that day from open to close.

They seem happy when they leave the station, because they can afford to cut. When my turn finally arrives, I don't feel the same happiness they did. The excitment of the ride is overshadowed by the preocupation of belonging to the lower class at a place where I am supposed to have, and paid to have, a good time.

Am I exagerating? Sure, a little. But it does drive my point.

A POP park should be just that, POP. Not POP, and PTC if you can afford it.

If limited so much as it would not distract form the normal guest experience, maybe it's okay. but when it causes me to have a bad time at the expense of someone else haveing a good time, it's just not right.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 2:02 AM
i think it's time to dig up the old FAFL (fight against fast lane) site i made a few years back... i'm sure its sitting around on my hardrive somewhere...

-- alan "agree's that more people are dis-satisfied than satisfied by it -- glad that a lot of parks removed it, however" jacyszyn *** Edited 5/28/2005 6:03:48 AM UTC by SFDL_Dude***

Saturday, May 28, 2005 2:40 AM
I agree that the park should not have fastpass if they arn't going to run at 100% (or as close as possible). But I see no problem at all with they system. I actually enjoy not having to wait in lines, thus I'm willing to pay for it (and I get enjoyment out of walking in front of a 2 hour line). This whole thing is just a matter of life. Those who are willing to pay for some thing better have the right (not necessarly have to) to enjoy things more. Those who don't pay more, then they have the right to be happy for what they get. Fast pass is the same as buying a car and paying more for XM radio (or something like that). I'm sure that some people would really love to have that XM radio but can't afford it. Thus do they have a right to complain about it because they couldn't afford it? I would say no. So I don't see how people think that amusement parks are immune to this system of paying more...for something more.

Now if you do have a problem with this system, I say get over it. Its clear to me (even at 19 years old) that this is how life works. If I get upset when ever someone gets a little more by spending more money than me that I will be living in a world of hurt.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 4:01 AM
I don't see how a premium offering at an amusment park is bad. Just like Mark just said about XM (which I have, so Nya;)). People whine because they don't like these systems. Mostly because they can't afford to pay extra for it. But, and I'm speaking from experience here for the area I live in, there are children here, and adults, that have literally never seen a real roller coaster. The only park in the state is far enough away, and they can't afford to go and ride.

How is it fair that we can afford to go, but they can not? It isn't, but as Gonch so often likes to point out, that is the way the world works.

I don't have a problem with the system, my problem is parks not running the rides to capacity first, and then offering fastpass type things.

Case in point: My only exp. with Colossus at SFMM. They were running one train on one side, causing over an hour worth of lines. Then they let half of a train board with fastpass kids. Had they been running all four trains on both sides and I waited that long, for a couple people getting on with fastpass, I'd have no problem.

But that is, to me, like going to a concert, but the people in the front row, who paid more, being allowed to disrupt me from enjoying the same amount of concert.

I have no problems with it, when a park is doing their job.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 10:36 AM
If after standing in line for two hours somebody in front of you lets 300 people cut to the front for a fee causing your wait to increase by an hour, you can't say that you wouldn't be a little ticked-off. It may even negatively impact your day at the park. Sure, you can dodge this issue is you are the one doing the cutting. If I have the same opportunity to get into a shorter line, I don't consider it cutting. Not everyone has the extra $35 to pay on top of park admissions. And I promise you the parks operating cut-to-pay service couldn't give a damm if the rides are operating at 100% capacity. The parks with FastPass will always be operating at 100% capacity because the whole point of the free service is to shorten lines. FastLane's goal is make money, and that's the bottom line. Cutting sucks whether its endorsed by the parks or not.

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