Potential Changes To Disney's FastPass ($$$)

Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:07 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Here's my question problem with that you said: You're acting as though a queue at an actual amusement park is like one in RCT where guests will turn away from a ride if the line stretches to the midway.

True. I'm working on some basic assumptions, but mostly for the sake of simplicity. The basic point remains - the 1000th person in line rides at the same time the 1000th person in line has always ridden - all that changes is the indiviual's ability to perceive exactly which spot in line that they hold.


Here's my next question: Is a system like FastPass merely expanding the line in an invisible way, or is it keeping some people from riding. Going back to Soarin' (since that ride seems to have major capacity issues in relation to how popular it is), what if someone gets to the park early, snatches up a FastPass, uses the FastPass and then gets in line for another go? That's one less space for one more person, so someone is going to suffer because of what someone else did, regardless of the fact that it wasn't at all malicious.

Yes. I mean yes in that now a person can essentially be standing in two places at once. In that sense, lines can be longer than they otherwise would have been - or to keep with the analogies, it's like increasing the daily attendance at the park - that Fast Pass user now counts as two people if he gets in line physically for a ride while holding a spot virtually as well.

But the core point still remains - a park can give X number of rides in a day. All that changes is where those riders are taken from. A non-FastPass user might get less rides in a day, but they're not waiting any longer for the rides they're getting (as weird as that sounds) and in my mind it's no different that someone visiting on a light day vs someone visiting on a busy day. Both paid the same price for the same thing, but due to outside (seemingly random) circumstances, they both got a very different experience (number of rides, wait times, etc.).

Heck, a person visiting on a light crowd day and not buying into a virtual queue system might get more rides than someone visiting on a busy day and participating in the virtual queue system.

The problem in figuring a cold, hard number is the sheer amount of variables that go into the equation. (how many people use the virtual queue system, what do they do while virtually queued, etc)

I suppose the only way to even begin to sort it out is long term observation of the system at play and several parks have had the opportunity to do this.

SF went with the pay system and has stuck to it. It must be working. CP went with a free system and dropped it - it's mustn't have worked for them. Universal had a free system and they adjusted it to a pay system - that must work best for them. Disney has been using a free system, but they're at least toying with the idea of a hybrid free/pay-for-perk system. Dollywood picked up the pay system that SF uses but altered the pricing scheme to suit their needs.

I just can't believe that these systems are going anywhere anytime soon. The only ones who seem to be dropping them in any way are the ones who haven't figured out a way to monetize them. The oldest systems have been in use for upwards of 6 or 8 years now. They're not going anywhere. If the cons outweighed the pros for the park they'd be gone - like CP's hand stamp crap.

If it weren't benefitting the park overall, then the system would be there.

Which is a nice way of saying - up to this point, the rate of revenue coming in has been higher than the number of guests complaining.


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:15 PM

A non-FastPass user might get less rides in a day, but they're not waiting any longer for the rides they're getting (as weird as that sounds)

I believe you are wrong on this.

Consider a park with only two rides, consistent wait times, and full queues all day. Without VQ, a single guest can only be in one of those lines, delaying only half of the standby guests in the park by "one extra person." With VQ, that same single guest is in two lines at once, delaying all of the guests in the park by "one extra person."


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:23 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar I chose to tackle this one seperately as I think I finally found a way to explain my POV:


Still, it goes back to what I've been saying all along- it's someone getting more at the expense of someone else getting less.

No.

We always try to use anaolgies like concert seating ot airplane access and stuff like that. It's the wrong angle to compare.

I see it this way - everyone has the option to use the virtual queue system. Whether it be buying a Q-bot, staying at a Disney resort to get more FastPasses or whatever...everyone has the choice going into the game.

Customer A buys into the virtual queue and Customer B doesn't. Customer B isn't getting screwed because of Customer A's choice, he's getting screwed because of his own choice. He chose to spend less and get less.

What if those same two guys go into the same restaurant? Customer A spends $20 to get a steak and Customer B spends $8 for a burger. Customer B can't complain that he only got a burger while customer A got a steak - he chose not to get a steak.

What about those concert seats? Customer A paid $150 for his front row ticket while Customer B paid $20 for his peanut heaven seat. He can't complain that someone got a better experience - he made his choice going into it.

So why doesn't that apply to the amusement parks?

Customer A chooses to pay for access to more rides while Customer B chooses to pay a lower amount for less access. It's really no different that a pay-per-ride setup.

If I go to Knoebels and drop $40 to ride Phoenix 20 times, someone else can't complain that they didn't get only got 10 rides because they chose to spend just $20.

Why is my choosing to use a virtual queue and someone else not choosing to my fault. I see it as their decision, not mine. I didn't stop them from paying to access more rides.

Make sense?


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:32 PM
That makes sense, but it's not that simple with amusement parks.

In all of your examples, there's no "quality of experience" issues going on constantly. For instance, the guy sitting in the upper deck knows before he even gets there he's sitting in the upper deck. The guy in the box seats isn't constantly rubbing it in his face that he has better seats. The same with the burger scenario.

In the VQ examples, the virtual people continually walk past the other people (in droves) and give the perception their wait time is going up. Remember what you've said all along about perception?

Even if the park is making money hand over fist, you're pissing off guests. I don't really think the dude in the upper deck is pissed off because he didn't get a box seat. So, as I will agree the parks make money with virtual queues, they should equally care about the guest experience.

edit: Your arguments usually center around the whole, "if you can pay for it, you deserve a better experience." While in concept I agree, I think you're over simplifying this. You've said you're interested in the sustainability of the parks long term and the business end of things. So, if you completely ignore the effect these systems have on your other guests, you're doing a disservice to your desire to fully understand the amusement industry. It's very short sided to just say, "you can't complain about your bad experience because you didn't pay enough." That's horrific customer service. *** Edited 9/6/2007 6:36:04 PM UTC by halltd***

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:36 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Brian Noble said:
Consider a park with only two rides, consistent wait times, and full queues all day. Without VQ, a single guest can only be in one of those lines, delaying only half of the standby guests in the park by "one extra person." With VQ, that same single guest is in two lines at once, delaying all of the guests in the park by "one extra person."

But like we both said - people who double-up with the virtual queue are doing the equivalent of adding attendance to the park.

The 1000th person in line is still the 1000th person on the ride. The number of people in line may be higher, but each individual still gets on in their correct order.

(we're kind of on two different levels here)

In the big picture, lines are longer and longer lines mean less rides (for those not using virtual queue)

But for any given ride, your position in line is your position in line - no one is cutting in front of you and increasing the wait ahead. They were already there - either physically or virtually.

In other words the 1000th person in line is still the 1000th person on the ride - it's just that the line is 1200 people long now. :)

So yeah, in your fictional park there's two rides and let's say each moves that magical 1000pph. The park gives 50% of capacity away to virtual queuers. In the worst case scenario each line theoretically becomes 1500 people long even though there's only 2000 people in the park. The lines become longer, but at any given spot in line your wait is what it would have always been - the 1000th person gets on in an hour. The 1500th person gets on in 1 1/2 hours.

(I'm splitting hairs :) )


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:38 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar ^^Gonch, I happen to agree with you 100%

However, I think the other side of the coin (attempting not to set up a straw man here) is the fact that, unlike a burger dinner, the non-VQ person is getting a worse experience for the same money.

Used to be that I could spend $20 and get 10 rides. Now I can spend $30 and get 15 or spend $20 and get 5. So, if I choose to spend $20, I'm getting less for the same amount of money.

Now my rebuttal to that would be, it's just a growing pain. I go to the park with kids who don't know what it's like to NOT have VQing. And if I brought it up to them it would be like me saying we used to buy cars for $3000. "Oh, parks used to not have VQing. That's nice. Just like video games used to be a quarter and pennies used to be worth something."

They never got 10 rides for $20, so all they see is 15 for $30 or 5 for $20 and no hard feelings. *** Edited 9/6/2007 6:39:36 PM UTC by ApolloAndy***


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:45 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

halltd said:
That makes sense, but it's not that simple with amusement parks.

In all of your examples, there's no "quality of experience" issues going on constantly. For instance, the guy sitting in the upper deck knows before he even gets there he's sitting in the upper deck. The same with the burger scenario.


But shouldn't the operson who doesn't buy into the vuirtual queue know that others can (and will)? These systems aren't exactly new and they're getting older (and more familiar) with each passing day. Anyone who has visited SF in the last 6 years has seen Q-bot in action. Ignorance is not an excuse at this point.


In the VQ examples, the virtual people continually walk past the other people (in droves) and give the perception their wait time is going up. Remember what you've said all along about perception?

Agreed, but it goes back to that choice. Those in the stand-by line chose to buy an admission that let's them wait in the stand-by line.


Even if the park is making money hand over fist, you're pissing off guests. So, as I will agree the parks make money with virtual queues, they should equally care about the guest experience.

But what about the other half that paid and had a terrific experience? You're overlooking them.


It's very short sided to just say, "you can't complain about your bad experience because you didn't pay enough." That's horrific customer service.

I guess I just don't get this. I can't think of a single situation where I can pay less knowing in advance that I'll receive less and then turn around and play the victim of my own choice. There's no doubt that everyone has the choice to buy into the system or not - just like everyone has the choice to buy the burger or steak, the front row seat or the bleacher seat, first class or coach, 20 ride tickets or 10 ride tickets.

Would people buying the lesser option in any of those cases be jusitified in complaining that they didn't get what the person buying the better oprion received? Of course not! So why is it ok in the amusement park context?


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:49 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

ApolloAndy said:
Now my rebuttal to that would be, it's just a growing pain. I go to the park with kids who don't know what it's like to NOT have VQing. And if I brought it up to them it would be like me saying we used to buy cars for $3000. "Oh, parks used to not have VQing. That's nice. Just like video games used to be a quarter and pennies used to be worth something."

They never got 10 rides for $20, so all they see is 15 for $30 or 5 for $20 and no hard feelings.


Not only would that be my rebuttal, but it has been my rebuttal many, many times in the past. :)

Growing pains is a great term for it. That's what it is - the hard times during change. At the other end is a beautiful world where virtual queue systems are accepted and have been the norm for as long as the masses can remember.

(kind of like buying tickets to ride vs POP admission - if the internet had been around when that change happened on a big scale, can you imagine the debates? ;) )


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 2:50 PM
Sorry but I don't buy into the comparison of virtual queueing to concert seating.

Buy an upper deck seat at Yankee Stadium and you're going to be way above the playing field. You know the players are going to look like little ants in pinstripes, you know vendor service is going to be non-existant and you know you're going to wait a long time to get out of the stadium when the game is over. You pay for cheap seats and you assume you're getting very little.

As for an amusement park, we're talking about giving people less for what they used to pay. More specifically, we're talking about selling an enhanced service by taking away from someone else. Before virtual queueing, you might have ridden 20 rides over the course of the day, but now that virtual queueing is a reality, you might only ride 15 rides. But the amusement park isn't charging you any less, they're just going to charge someone more for what everyone used to get across the board.

You're standing in line and there are 200 people ahead of you. Someone using virtual queueing "gets in line" and there are now 201 people ahead of you. The body is invisible but the ramifications aren't, because your wait just got a little longer.

Maybe these systems aren't going anywhere, but I wouldn't write them off as successes just yet. Maybe the parks invested a ton of money in them and want to give them a chance to catch on? But if these things are here to stay, make it clear to people that their waits are going to be longer, and compensate them by lowering prices. This shouldn't benefit the park operators 100% because aside from the actual system, their costs aren't increasing. It's not like they're paying for additional capacity, they're just charging as if that's what they did.

*** Edited 9/6/2007 6:51:32 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:00 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Rob Ascough said:
Buy an upper deck seat at Yankee Stadium and you're going to be way above the playing field. You know the players are going to look like little ants in pinstripes, you know vendor service is going to be non-existant and you know you're going to wait a long time to get out of the stadium when the game is over. You pay for cheap seats and you assume you're getting very little.

So pay for cheap admission and assume you're getting very little. I still can't see why this doesn't apply to amusement parks.


As for an amusement park, we're talking about giving people less for what they used to pay. More specifically, we're talking about selling an enhanced service by taking away from someone else. Before virtual queueing, you might have ridden 20 rides over the course of the day, but now that virtual queueing is a reality, you might only ride 15 rides. But the amusement park isn't charging you any less, they're just going to charge someone more for what everyone used to get across the board.

See Andy's excellent post. You're just old enough to know how it used to be (for better or worse). Growing pains, man. Growing pains.


You're standing in line and there are 200 people ahead of you. Someone using virtual queueing "gets in line" and there are now 201 people ahead of you. The body is invisible but the ramifications aren't, because your wait just got a little longer.

No it didn't that guy was there the whole time. He got that spot in line long before you jumped into it - he just didn't have to stand there until his turn to ride...he was allowed to go elsewhere and come back. (bonus points to whoever is first to point out the similarities between that and line jumping :) )


Maybe these systems aren't going anywhere, but I wouldn't write them off as successes just yet. Maybe the parks invested a ton of money in them and want to give them a chance to catch on? But if these things are here to stay, make it clear to people that their waits are going to be longer, and compensate them by lowering prices. This shouldn't benefit the park operators 100% because aside from the actual system, their costs aren't increasing. It's not like they're paying for additional capacity, they're just charging as if that's what they did.

Again it goes back to that 'change' thing. If you hadn't known it any other way, this would be perfectly acceptable. It's only unacceptable when compared to a way things used to be done.

I don't necessarily think lowering prices is needed, but I do think it'd be a great idea to sell the upcharge right at the gate complete with signs listing something like:

Regular Admission: $40
Gold Admission: $55
Platinum Admission: $70

Because that's essentially what's happening - the parks are just finding ways to hide it and make it feel like it's not happening that way.


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:13 PM

But what about the other half that paid and had a terrific experience? You're overlooking them.

I'm not overlooking them. They're obviously happy and will return. But, how many of them are there? Are they the majority of your customer base? I doubt it.

I just think it's a poor attitude to basically say, "screw you because you're not paying enough." I have no problem with levels of service. But, the perception of the VQ systems in parks today is the "I'm getting screwed". If they continue that long enough, enough people will just stop going.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:20 PM
Since you brought up line jumping, here's the biggest difference I see between the virtual queues that are seen as good versus those seen as bad:

We all know line jumping happens. If I'm in line, and I see someone cut in front of me, I'm ticked. If I don't see them, it doesn't mean they aren't there, just that I'm not upset.

Seems the places that merge the virtual and real queues unobtrusively avoid ticking off the guest who opted for the basic admission. The problem comes when queues are set up so those who paid for basic get held up while they watch the virtual queue folks stroll past them and onto the ride.

Getting back to the sports venue analogy, it would be like seeing vendors in the expensive seats but not in the upper deck versus having vendors walk through the upper deck pointing out they won't sell there. Situation one is an accepted norm; situation two would likely generate a riot.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:23 PM
eightdotthree's avatar The stadium analogy can be applied to TV service, internet, plane travel etc. You get what you pay for.

Gonch, what happens when everyone for the day picks the Platinum admission? Do they still take your money or do they just let you know that you have to slum it for the day?


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:28 PM
Of course this has to do with the need for change, but there's good change and bad change, and I firmly believe this is the latter. Considering people are used to the system that's been in place for years, I would think everything possible would be done to smooth the transition. But that's not to say I endorse this at all.

As systems like this become more widespread and assuming people start using them more and more, the experience for the "regular" guest is going to get worse and worse. More virtual queuers means longer lines for everyone else, and since "everyone else" will surely comprise the majority of any amusement park's business, I'd think that making sure those guests are happy would still be a priority. eightdotthree put it best- what happens when everyone in the park is in a dozen virtual queues?

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:32 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

But, the perception of the VQ systems in parks today is the "I'm getting screwed".

I'm not sure it is.

But even if it is, then it's just a metter of correcting that perception and letting these people know they're not getting screwed and/or how not to feel screwed.

In other words, explaining the levels of service. And that comes with time as more and more people get to the parks and see the systems in use.

When you make such a stark change to your appraoch with anything, it takes time to get everyone on the same page.

Like Andy said - Growing Pains.


I'm not overlooking them. They're obviously happy and will return. But, how many of them are there? Are they the majority of your customer base? I doubt it.

I dunno, I don't have those numbers. But near the bottom of page 2, Brian Noble mentions the 50% mix for Soarin' and follows with that being a low number by FastPass standards. So in the case of WDW it is a majority apparently.

He tends to know his Disney stuff, so I believe those numbers.

And the beauty of it all is that to a degree, the system should be self-correcting in some ways. If only a few people are using it, then the perception of 'getting screwed' for others should be lessened. If enough are using it that a segment of people are feeling overwhelmingly screwed - there's probably (possibly? likely?) enough happy users to counterbalance the 'feeling screwed' crowd.

I look at it this way - not everyone in the stand-by line feels screwed, but everyone using the system is happy. I tend to believe the overall ratio of happiness-to-money lands in favor of the park.

If it didn't, I don't think these systems would have survived as long as they have.


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:35 PM
Brian Noble mentions the 50% mix for Soarin' and follows with that being a low number by FastPass standards. So in the case of WDW it is a majority apparently.

But that's because Disney's system is free. I guarantee half of Soarin' riders would not be in virtual queues if they had to pay for the luxury. And I wouldn't go as far as saying everyone that uses those systems is happy. Short lines are only part of the equation- if everything else is still crappy, people are going to be upset and feel screwed.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:42 PM
eightdotthree's avatar But we are talking about Disney, and everything else isnt crappy.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:42 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

eightdotthree said:
Gonch, what happens when everyone for the day picks the Platinum admission? Do they still take your money or do they just let you know that you have to slum it for the day?

I dunno. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. ;)

No seriously, that's the next step of this big price shift theory of mine.

What happens when an overwhelming majority are paying $80? Well, obviously not everyone will spend $80 for a day at the park.

So you're left with an $80-gate park with short lines for everyone.

Hell, I say skip the transitional period where you try to play both sides of the fence and just make the gate $80 or $90 already. Attendance will drop and those left paying will experience short lines and a much better day in all aspects. (Like those magical days when you luck out and a park is dead :) )

I suppose that sort of sticker shock wouldn't be good though. You gotta ease people into higher prices - that crazy change thing again.

So now you have lots and lots of people like me who would willingly pay additional $$$ for the park experience. It's not going to be too hard to convert me (and others like me) to an $80 gate.

Speaking of which - SFGAdv's exclusive adventure thingy (you know, the $300 gate experiment) is tomorrow evening, isn't it! Hope we hear some feedback...it'll be very telling as to whether this sort of thing could work or not.


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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:44 PM
Well, when I say people feel like they're getting screwed, it's with the q-bot thing mostly. I used to do "guest research" as part of my job at Disney. That meant waiting in line with guests as a tourist and interacting with them. The majority of Disney guests like the FastPass system and know they can use it for free.

However, just from being at many Six Flags parks this year, I can't even tell you how many people in the "standby line" make some awful comments about the system and the parks. There were a LOT of people pissed off because they had to pay more to get a good experience at the park.

Also, the mix Brian was talking about was for an attraction. Like, they let 10 FastPassers in and then 10 standys. I know on certain attractions, its 80% FP and 20% standby.

What I was referring to was the q-bot system. I guarantee 50% of the guests in any particular park are NOT using the q-bot system. So, the majority of park guests are not paying extra and are feeling screwed.

All I'm really saying is the parks are on a slippery slope. If you keep enhancing the experience of some guests while totally neglecting the majority of your guests, something bad will happen.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007 3:54 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

If you keep enhancing the experience of some guests while totally neglecting the majority of your guests, something bad will happen.

But I don't believe they're neglecting a majority. That's the fundamental difference.

They're getting a certain percentage to pay a lot more for some perks, there's a certain percentage who doesn't care either way and there's a percentage that we could lump into the 'screwed' group.

Three groups:

Pleased as Punch
Indifferent
Screwed

I think that much we can agree on.

Where we differ is the percentage numbers we place beside each of those groups. I think the number in the "pleased" group is high enough that the benefits of that group outweigh the negatives of the bottom group. You think the bottom group is a high enough percentage that it outweighs the benefits of the top group.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


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