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

Friday, September 7, 2007 1:57 AM
Gonch, I've explained where your VQ observations fail to you before.

If line cutters wait in more than one line at a time, than the 1000 person is waiting not 1 hour, but 1 hour plus however long it takes for line cutters to get 2 rides.

Overall park capacity for non-line-cutters is lowered and overall park capacity for line cutters is increased.

EDIT - I missed this page and I am amazed that you agree with that but don't see it as a negative aspect. Are you saying that it is a GOOD thing that people have to wait longer than they did before any VQ system was created at the expense of those willing to pay more?

Edit some more - Multiply that 3 1/2 seconds added to the standby line by how many people are allowed to cut. There are many more than 1 person using VQ. If 500 people use VQ, than my wait just went up almost a half an hour.


And I still say in a non-whiny way that it is simply not a nice way to treat your customers. I'm going to dumb it way down here... If I was standing in a line for the Haunted House at Camden Park which only had a 10 car wait, and someone decided to flash a $10 bill at the ride op in exchange for him to let his party on right now, I would still be ticked. Ticked not because I now have to wait an extra 60 seconds for my turn, but ticked that the park took a bribe at my expense. When Mr. moneyflasher gets in line right behind me for a second ride, darned right I'm going to give him a dirty look.

*** Edited 9/7/2007 6:16:05 AM UTC by dexter***

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Friday, September 7, 2007 8:21 AM
eightdotthree's avatar But at Disney right now, you have the ability to do the same.

The other thing about virtual queue systems for parks is that they keep people out of line and spending money. They aren't going away.


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Friday, September 7, 2007 8:23 AM
Gonch, you are getting it. The trick is to hold everything constant *except* VQ vs. non-VQ, and then it's pretty easy to reason about.

That's why pay-to-cut systems are actually probably better for the non-VQers than Disney's free version. In pay-to-cut versions, relatively few guests VQ, and so their impact is spread out over almost the entire day's attendance. But, in Disney's version MORE THAN HALF of the total attraction capacity is devoted to fastpass. Some attractions have as much as an 80/20 mix. This means, in this case, non-VQers pay a more than 2x wait time penalty in FASTPASS attractions.

Your ultimate conclusion---if everyone used it, it is the same as no one using it---is correct. However, such a utopia, where guests use VQ and only VQ, won't happen. While Disney's system is available to all, many don't use it---either because they choose to go to the park late that day, or they just don't understand the system, or prefer a mix of attractions that the VQ system wouldn't be able to schedule.

What's more, if we restricted ourselves to only VQ, then some guests would never ride some headliners. Think about, say, Maverick, which has an hour's line all day long, right up until closing. In a strictly-VQ world, that last hour's worth of riders, the ones who ride after park closing, never gets to ride.

Finally, we *know* that a VQ-only system doesn't work, because we've seen it tried once: Ticket to Ride, on MF its first year, was a complete and total disaster.


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Friday, September 7, 2007 8:26 AM

The other thing about virtual queue systems for parks is that they keep people out of line and spending money. They aren't going away.

From everything I've read, this is not true. Disney guests tend to just get in some other line. They don't buy more or eat more. This is why *pay* VQ systems are not going away---because guests are willing to pay for the privilege---but *free* VQ systems might.
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Friday, September 7, 2007 10:27 AM

Brian Noble said:


My only reaction to this story is that the parking lot proprieter is an idiot. Not for raising the prices, but for waiting so long to do so.


Maybe so, but if that's the case, he's no more an idiot than the amusement park operators who waited so long to do what they're doing or about to do.


The key insight is: I never owned the space. I was only renting it. If the guy who owns it can get more for it, then that's his perogative.

Agreed. But I'm not arguing that he can't do what he wants with his prices. I'm pointing out the potential ramifications of his decision.


You know that little downtown mom and pop drugstore? The one going out of business? The one that's going to be replaced by a Starbucks, or a Potbelly Sandwiches, or a Ben&Jerry's ice cream? They are closing because the rent done got raised. Why? Because some other tenant (the corporate meanie) is willing to pay the higher price for a prime spot near the pedestrians---who, by the way, would rather drive their gas guzzling SUVs to the RiteAid to save $0.15 on their 64oz shampoo.

Again, I'm in agreement (especially regarding the person in the gas-guzzling SUV who likely not only drove an extra distance to save $0.15 on shampoo but also drove five miles out of his/her way to a gas station that's charging $.02 less per gallon that the one he/she just passed.) However, my point wasn't that this type of thing isn't commonplace, it's that changes in the way a company does business may have negative short- or long-term effects. Raising prices, offering less, whatever- just because the potential for more profit exists doesn't mean people are going to understand.

Quick story... years ago when I worked in retail, our "sister" store in a neighboring town increased the prices on bottled water when a water line broke and people had to go days without running water. I'm not talking a small increase here, I'm talking 75-100%. Not only did this move violate company policy (stores had no authority to set their own prices), it irritated people. The store sold pallets and pallets of water for a few days and people bought from the store without blinking an eye because it was convenient, but you know what happened when running water was restored? The store's sales plummeted something crazy like 40%, and when corporate came in to figure out why, they found out that people felt ripped off by the store's greed and decided to take their business elsewhere. And that's my point- just because prices can be raised dramatically and some will pay doesn't mean that's a recipe for success.

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Friday, September 7, 2007 11:18 AM

Brian Noble said:
However, such a utopia, where guests use VQ and only VQ, won't happen. While Disney's system is available to all, many don't use it---either because they choose to go to the park late that day, or they just don't understand the system, or prefer a mix of attractions that the VQ system wouldn't be able to schedule.

Disney's system is the closest to this utopia. I bet a percentage very close to 100% of the people that attend Disney parks use FastPass on at least some attractions. Maybe it's more like 80%, but it's still way way up there. Does that mean they use it on every single ride? No. But, I don't believe it was invented to be used on every ride. It was created to allow guests to get more done in a day. So, instead of waiting the hour for Tower of Terror, they can meander through the park and most likely spend more money. It wasn't invented so you could wisk around the park and ride everything in three hours then go home.

I really hope we don't ever see the day when every attraction at a park requires a reservation. That would just destroy the experience for me.

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Friday, September 7, 2007 12:18 PM
Tim:

Just by watching how guests in those parks tour, I'm pretty sure you are wrong. I don't have any data to back it up, but I spend about 10 days per year in Disney parks, and a surprisingly large number of people simply have no clue whatsoever.

What's more, guests *in total* cannot get more done in a day---the rides' capacity is fixed, and they are always busy, except right at opening, and (sometimes) right at closing. If the VQers are getting more done, that's only because someone else is getting less done. It's that simple.

Rob:


Agreed. But I'm not arguing that he can't do what he wants with his prices. I'm pointing out the potential ramifications of his decision.

The only ramification is that someone pays more for the nice thing, or pays the same amount for the less nice thing. You want to claim this is necessarily bad:

it's that changes in the way a company does business may have negative short- or long-term effects.

but *usually*, increases in price, and the offering of differentiated service, does not result in an undue degree of lost business. Airlines have figured this out; differentiated service is now the norm with most carriers. There are a few who haven't gone along, but they are increasingly the exception rather than the rule. The marketplace has spoken, and differentiated access in airlines is a fact of life, now and forevermore, because the customers don't mind, and profits increase.

Parking lot operators have also figured this out. Prices just go up, it's the way of the world. You can always find anecdotes where price gouging is repaid in kind by lost business. But, those anecdotes aren't worth squat, unless they are drawn from the amusement industry. So far, in the amusement industry, the evidence suggests that patrons are not very price sensitive---see Cedar Point's price drop experiment failure. The evidence also suggests that patrons will tolerate price increases and differentiated service without leaving in large numbers---see Six Flags, Universal, and Dollywood for differential access not having a large impact, and see nearly everyone in the universe for higher prices not having a large negative impact.

You keep saying "Someday it will fail! Someday the customers will finally get fed up!" The problem is, all the hard evidence suggests that we aren't there yet. And, unless the executives running these parks are total idiots, they aren't going to go anywhere close. As long as they keep track of how the average guest reacts to pricing and service offerings, they'll have a much better idea of what the average guest can tolerate than either you or I.

What's more, society at large has ALWAYS had differentiated access to services, and experiences price gouging in captive-audience situations (stadiums, theaters, etc.), and so the average guest, who doesn't visit dozens of parks per year, is not at all shocked to see that it is possible to pay money to avoid a line, or that a coke is $3.50. Some don't like it, and they might grumble, but they aren't surprised.

In the end, your argument is not so different than the guy on the corner telling me to Repent Today, because the end of the world is at hand. Now, he could be right. The world's end may be at hand. After all, it has to end sometime, if only through the heat-death of the Universe. But, it hasn't ended yet, and I'm betting it won't end before I make it to church on Sunday, either. So, I'm willing to bet that my mortal soul is safe for now, just as I'm willing to bet that the average customer is much more tolerant than you give him credit for.


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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:13 PM
I hardly consider valid the comparison of anything I say to a religious whackjob, so I'll just ignore that entire last paragraph. As for the comparison of amusement parks to airlines, I don't consider that much more valid. Airfare is something that, more often than not, people have to accept. Business trips, weddings, visits to sick relatives- the airline industry services more people that need airfare than people that want airfare, so it stands to reason that people are much more willing to accept hideous increases in prices and extreme changes in pricing structure because they have no choice. I don't know of anyone that needs to visit an amusement park, so who's to say people are going to accept an increase in amusement park prices like they accept an increase in airfare?

You're absolutely right that I'm speculating. I'm not saying for certain that any of the changes taking place are definitely going to affect the amusement industry in a negative way, but unlike you I'm not going to simply assume that industry executives know what they're doing. Just because someone is dressed in a suit, sitting in the corner office and is pulling a nice salary doesn't mean they're not capable of making a mistake. I'm sure they have research that attempts to point them in the right direction, but research last summer told that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was going to be the unquestionable hit of the 2006 fall TV schedule, and look what happened there.

I don't believe the changes have been in effect long enough to prove anything one way or another. I also don't believe that Cedar Point's failed "let's lower prices" plan indicates that people are willing to pay a lot more for an amusement park experience- just because lower prices didn't attract more people doesn't mean higher prices aren't going to turn people away. But I still think you're missing my point for the sake of arguing with me. I'm not predicting doom and gloom for the industry if recent trends continue, I'm just saying that there is a fine line that separates what's reasonable and unreasonable to people, and I'm not sure any corporate executive can tell where that line is when it comes to an industry that's based on personal desire rather than personal necessity... that is, until the line is crossed. It's my opinion that the line is about to be crossed, and the fact that amusement parks are charging more for a premium experience while simultaneously making the experience worse for everyone else is eventually going to come back and bite them in the asses.

*** Edited 9/7/2007 5:15:23 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:23 PM

Brian Noble said:


What's more, guests *in total* cannot get more done in a day---the rides' capacity is fixed, and they are always busy, except right at opening, and (sometimes) right at closing. If the VQers are getting more done, that's only because someone else is getting less done. It's that simple.


I'm not entirely sure about this Brian. I can envision at least one scenario where guests *can* get more done in a day with VQ *without* impacting other guests.

You mention that a park's ride capacity is fixed. This is true and something we should all be able to agree upon. However, not all of that capacity is utilized in an average day. In any park, take CP for example, there are times when, even on busy days, you can find rides that are basically walk ons.

I remember one of the big complaints about FastPass when it first came out was that Splash Mountain was no longer a walk on in the evenings. Now there were FPers riding much later than usual. Now if the ride was a walkon pre-VQ, you cannot say that the rides given post-VQ were "taken" from other guests. Rather, the VQers are just taking advantage of the previously unsued capacity.

I *distinctly* remember that being a big thorn in the side of the enthusiast collective; that the "park knowledge" was being destroyed because of the "ride redistribution". Instead of there being periods of walk ons, with half-empty trains (carts, boats, horses, etc.) the trains are now more full round the clock: effectively giving more rides without taking any away.

IMO, VQ has the potential to make the best use of the parks fixed capacity.
lata, jeremy


zacharyt.shutterfly.com
PlaceHolder for Castor & Pollux

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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:30 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

dexter said:
I missed this page and I am amazed that you agree with that but don't see it as a negative aspect.

Oh, come now. Have you even seen me roll over that easy. :)


Brian Noble said:
Gonch, you are getting it. The trick is to hold everything constant *except* VQ vs. non-VQ, and then it's pretty easy to reason about.

But that's the problem - everything isn't constant.

For instance, the systems vary wildly. (this is going to be L-O-N-G, please stick with me...pretty please :) )

Let's use Q-bot for example. Go back to our fixed 1 hour line. We'll still assume a constant 1 hr wait (keeping it fixed) meaning when someone boards the ride, someone enters the line to take their place. Like a constant flow of riders and a consistent one-hour wait.

There are 1000 guests in line (a one-hour wait) and guest 1001 comes up and scans his Q-bot. He's going to be told to come back in an hour.

From here a couple things can happen:

1. Guest 1001 waits for his ride doing non-ride activities.
2. Guest 1001 gets in line for another ride.
3. Guest 1001 gets in line for this ride.

In Scenario #1 - This is virtual queue at it's finest. The only remote downside to this is the distorted perception of others who get in line. To me that is easily remedied by changing the wait time notification in the queue accordingly. No one is cutting and everyone in line knows what to expect in terms of a wait.

In Scenario #2 - We see the effect of the 'artifical attendance increase' - but we see them elsewhere in the park, not at the ride in question. Anyone riding the attraction the Q-botter virtually queued for is not affected beyond that same distorted perception. Also, the virtual queue must find a line that has a wait less than his one hour virtual queue time otherwise he misses the ride he virtually queued for.

In Scenario #3 - We see the artifical attendance increase again. The virtual queuer holds spot 1001 with his Q-bot and then physically enters the line as person 1002. Again, the wait is increased, but no one is cutting. The VQ'er is essentially using the system to get a 2-for-1.

That's the three basic ways Q-bot plays out - and I don't have a problem with any of them. The only remote complaint is that it might be hard to judge the stand-by wait time. First off, I don't think many people really posses the ability to do that accurately, nor do most try. I imagine most rely on queue signage to determine wait times. All the park has to do is adjust the signage accordingly and there should be no surprises or hard feelings - everybody knew what they were getting into from the start.

I guess that still leaves the variable of Q-botter choice - meaning that they're free to use it on whichever ride they'd like. The park can't control anomalies like a higher percentage of VQ'ers heading for the same ride - so the signage thing becomes an educated guess.

Now onto Gold-bot where things get much more interesting.

For the record, Gold-bot reduces your wait by 75%. We're sticking with the fictional line I spelled out earlier. There's three scenarios that can play out here too and they're the same three:

1. Guest 1001 waits for his ride doing non-ride activities.
2. Guest 1001 gets in line for another ride.
3. Guest 1001 gets in line for this ride.

But here's the catch - two of these are no longer viable options.

Guest 1001 scans his Gold-bot and thanks to the 75% reduction in wait is given spot 251 in line. He's looking at a 15-minute wait. Option 2 and 3 are not really options in this case. 15 minutes is probably not enough time to find another ride, get in line, ride it and make it back to the first ride. It's certainly not enough time to get physically in this line and wait for a ride then use his virtual spot as well.

Most likely this guest will stick with Scenario #1 and just hang out for 15 minutes until his ride. In this case it plays out like my last post with the important note added that the first 250 people in line ride unaffected. The other 750 in line are left to 'pay' for the time Guest 1001 was 'refunded' by using the system. The overall effect on the park is less and the artifical attendance thing is eliminated.

But here's where it gets even crazier. There's a fourth option. That option is - Guest 1001 waits out his 15 minutes and then goes right back around and scans his Gold-bot again. If the guest did this, the most he can do this (assuming a perfect world) is four times in an hour. Thus he gets spots 251, 501, 751 and 1001. The most any single guest in line pays is for 3 of those (and that's just the unlucky folks originally in spots 751 -1000). The breakdown would actually be:

spots 1-250: No payment
spots 251-500: one payment
spots 501-750: two payments
spots 751-1000: three payments

Now what about the people who enter the line after spot 1000? Do the payments go down or does everyone who enters the line after the initial VQ incident 'pay' for it?

That's an honest question, I don't really know which way is the 'correct' way to figure it. I can see the argument for either way.

If it's the first way, then by guest 1751, the payment is covered.

If it's the second way, then the 'cost' to each guest is even less than we figured because it's getting divided by everyone who rides in the course of a full day of operations (including future VQ'ers), rather than just those currently in line.

At this point, there's probably little reason for me to continue this line of reasoning. The variables are taking over and I'm not sure which path is the correct to follow.

So what about FastPass?

Here it all depends on the VQ/non-VQ split. I say we go with a 50/50 split because it's an example that is probably the easiest to visualize.

There's not much to figure here. This simply means that if the fictional ride & subsequent line we set up moves 1000 people an hour, that Disney will issue 500 FastPasses for any given hour. Guests are then (on average) put on the ride at a 1:1 ratio of VQ'ers to non-VQ'ers. For those in the stand-by it means that for every person in line the line actually increases by two people. Again, it's just perception. All that really hapens is that the queue goes from holding a one hour wait to holding a two hour wait. You can correct the distorted guest peception by changing the queue time notification accordingly. No one should be surprised.

But the catch is that in an attempt to control the VQ flow, Disney actually encourages the artifical attendance increase. The way it works is that FastPasses are handed out incrementally until all the virtual spots in line are accounted for. I also believe the limit is either one FastPass at a time or a new one every two hours if your time still hasn't arrived. (again, correct me if wrong)

This is where it gets tricky to sort out.

So what if I get a Pass for 2 hours from now?

Are the people in line before that 'paying' for my savings? Of course not.

In the meantime at what point do I become an artifical attendance increase? It's not immediate because the ride has a consistent one hour wait and my time isn't up for two hours. I can only be an artifical increase for the time I would have been in line physically (without my virtual spot held for me).

What if the line length changes in the meantime? That alters my artifical attendance increase as well as the 'payment' required by those in line.

I think those variables also apply to Q-bot systems as well. It's hard (if not impossible) to quantify before the fact.

And I think that's my point. (finally!)

That there's no way to really figure on any accurate level exactly what the effect on anyone is in the long run. It's going to vary day-to-day, ride-to-ride, minute-to-minute.

All I truly know is this. Q-bot has helped make my day enjoyable on multiple occasions. On occasions where I didn't feel the need for it, lines stayed reasonable for me and if they didin't I always had to option to change that by using the system available to all guests. I can't see how I'm supposed to be angry at others because of my decsions and theirs under the park's systems for line management.


Dex:
Overall park capacity for non-line-cutters is lowered and overall park capacity for line cutters is increased.

Now this is where we get to another interesting concept. It goes back to the time 'payment/refund' system.

What if we look at the split from the other angle. Say the park is 'taking' time from stand-by guests and 'giving' to VQ'ers rather than saying the VQ'er is 'buying' while the stand-by 'pays' for it.

The park 'takes' a half hour from that poor schlub in line who angrily shakes his fist at all the moneybags in the VQ line. ;)

But how they distribute that 30 minutes makes a big difference. Follow me here:

If they give that half hour to one guest, the they end up with one very happy guest and one very angry guest.

But what if they start to divide the refund? They give that 30 minutes to two VQ'ers as 15 minutes each. Or three VQ'ers get 10 minutes each. Or five VQ'ers get 6 minutes each.

See where I'm heading? They're making multiple people happy at the expense of one person.

Sure, you should try to keep all the guests happy...blah blah blah, fuzzy hugs and kisses.

But this is why I don't think the parks are in trouble. They're dividing the refund. They giving more people a better day then people they're 'screwing' (to use a term already used).

I look at it this way. I suspect a bell curve of sorts in terms of satifaction under normal conditions. There's probably a few people extrememly happy with their vist, a few extremely unsatisfied people and everyone else falling in the middle accordingly.

What dividing the refund does is shift the potential for happiness to more people at the expense of a few.

Say Disney does a 80/20 split. First of all, you've divided the time of the 20% into a refund for the other 80%. You have 80% of your guests having a better day (to some degree) than if the system wasn't in place. So what about the 'screwed' 20%? Not all are going to feel screwed - plain and simple. Even if you split that remaining 20% in half between feeling screwed and not feeling any better or worse than without the system, you now have 90% of your guests experiencing an 'satisfactory" visit or better.

That's my reasoning. If I reduce one person's productivity in the park by 50% and use that to increase five guest's productivity by 10%, I'm going to probably end up ahead in the long run based not just on the five more productive people, but also based on the fact that there's a number of ways that the one person I 'borrowed' from can still be pleased and walk away happy. Either by deception (not letting them find out I borrowed their time) or by 'wowing' them elsewhere in the park (parks are more than rides, you know).

And keep in mind that the person I'm borrowing from technically volunteered to be borrowed from when they decided not to pay more to be put into the 'refund' group. :)

Of course you could not offer the system at all and just try to 'wow' everyone to shift the balance of the bell curve, but if you can fix the odds, why not stack them in your favor going into the game?


Dex:
Ticked not because I now have to wait an extra 60 seconds for my turn, but ticked that the park took a bribe at my expense. When Mr. moneyflasher gets in line right behind me for a second ride, darned right I'm going to give him a dirty look.

That's fine, because under my 'refund' system, theoretically, you'll be waiting an extra ten minutes and in line around you will be 10 moneybags who don't care that you're giving dirty looks and another guest that is still having a good time regardless of the moneybags. You're the only one standing around glowering at people.

No big conclusion here. Just presenting more line management theory (maybe I should start a course? maybe I should figure it out first?) and some justification for why I think the systems aren't hurting the parks.


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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:33 PM

halltd said:


I really hope we don't ever see the day when every attraction at a park requires a reservation. That would just destroy the experience for me.


Please excuse the double post.

Halltd, the funny thing is, we already have parks that are essentially like that. Although these parks have rides that are available too, the primary draw to the average guest to the SeaWorld parks are the shows. Sure, you dont require a reservation per se, but the shows are on a fixed schedule. You must plan your day accordingly if you want to catch your favorites. Essentially, your "ride" (read show) time has been reserved (read scheduled). But since these parks have always followed this M.O., no one thinks twice about it.

just a thought. lata,

jeremy


zacharyt.shutterfly.com
PlaceHolder for Castor & Pollux

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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:37 PM
Rob: I agree with you, there is a line. But, all the evidence so far is that the line has not been crossed, and based on comparisons with other discretionary entertainment offerings, it appears there is a ways to go. Amusement park prices appear to be lower than average for a comparable day's entertainment, and they appear to be less differentiated than average.

You believe the line has already been crossed, but the effects have not yet manifested themselves. I believe we are not even yet at the line, let alone across it.

So far, the industry as a whole seems to be siding with me. I could be wrong, as could the park operators who make these decisions for a living rather than post about hypothetical situations on some irrelevant fan site. You and the few others who argue your point could in fact be the lone voices of rationality in the wilderness. Time, as always, will tell.

Lord knows going round and round here on CBuzz isn't going to resolve anything.


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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:44 PM

Brian Noble said:
I don't have any data to back it up, but I spend about 10 days per year in Disney parks, and a surprisingly large number of people simply have no clue whatsoever.

What's more, guests *in total* cannot get more done in a day---the rides' capacity is fixed,


Brian - I have to respectfully disagree with you on both of these points. I was an Imagineer and helped work with the FastPass system in various stages. It's a continuously changing system, so there's almost always several teams working on various parts of it. A large portion of Disney guests use FastPass at least once during their park visits.

The other point I was getting at was not about a ride's capacity. It was about the guests' experience in the park. That's the primary reason FastPass was invented. If you have a guest waiting in a physical line for an hour, they're not spending money. If you permit them to wait outside of the physical line, you've freed that guest up to browse shops, buy stuffed Mickeys, eat food and other things they couldn't do while waiting in line. That's how people can do more in a day than without FastPass. Remember, not everyone that visits a park is an enthusiast and tries to cram as many "attractions" into their day as possible. Some people actually like to wander around the parks and explore.

Since I've been to Disney several hundred times (usually far more than 10 days a year), I don't need to cram rides into each day. So, my family and I use the FastPass system as it was designed. We get a pass, spend that hour or so wandering, shopping, eating and people watching. We don't always just go ride something else right away.

You guys need to realize not everyone experiences the parks in the same way as you. So, systems like these need to benefit ALL park guests - not just enthusiasts looking to maximize ride time.

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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:53 PM

Rob Ascough said:


I don't believe the changes have been in effect long enough to prove anything one way or another. I also don't believe that Cedar Point's failed "let's lower prices" plan indicates that people are willing to pay a lot more for an amusement park experience- just because lower prices didn't attract more people doesn't mean higher prices aren't going to turn people away. But I still think you're missing my point for the sake of arguing with me. I'm not predicting doom and gloom for the industry if recent trends continue, I'm just saying that there is a fine line that separates what's reasonable and unreasonable to people, and I'm not sure any corporate executive can tell where that line is when it comes to an industry that's based on personal desire rather than personal necessity... that is, until the line is crossed. It's my opinion that the line is about to be crossed, and the fact that amusement parks are charging more for a premium experience while simultaneously making the experience worse for everyone else is eventually going to come back and bite them in the asses.


I'm not so sure that "changes have (not) been in effect long enough to prove anything one way or another". The 'change' of ever increasing prices has been around all my lifetime and it has not shown any sign of failure. I will agree that at some point too much really becaomes too much, but with Disney parks raising their prices ad nausem and still packing them in in droves, I think there is still some headroom for parks in general.

Moreover, I cant say that I agree that the parks are "making the experience worse for everyone else". By and large, even amoung SF parks, surveys say that guest satisfaction is high. That seems to suggest that people 'in the aggregate' are not feeling that the parks have 'worsened' their experiences. I'll stipulate that there are *some* people pissed off, but back to Gonch's three-tired "Percentage" post, I think the percentage of the pissed off is widely overshadowed by the ppl more are happy or indifferent.

I have just as much anecdotal evidence of positive expereiences as you may have of negative ones. But the closest thing we have to hardcore data, the surveys, seem to side with me. ;)
lata, jeremy
--who is certainly being a Chatty Cathy today...

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Friday, September 7, 2007 1:59 PM

halltd said:


The other point I was getting at was not about a ride's capacity. It was about the guests' experience in the park. That's the primary reason FastPass was invented. If you have a guest waiting in a physical line for an hour, they're not spending money. If you permit them to wait outside of the physical line, you've freed that guest up to browse shops, buy stuffed Mickeys, eat food and other things they couldn't do while waiting in line. That's how people can do more in a day than without FastPass. Remember, not everyone that visits a park is an enthusiast and tries to cram as many "attractions" into their day as possible. Some people actually like to wander around the parks and explore.


Just to piggyback onto this, I too have used my FP waiting time to experience other "attractions" that have no impact on ride lines. I've watched more parades than I usually would have because I was able to watch them while waiting for my FP time instead of being trapped in a queue. Thus, I got to experience an attraction I would not have been able to without FP, yet I didnt impact anyone else.
(unless you want to get *really* esoteric...)
lata, jeremy
--I love this topic :)

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Friday, September 7, 2007 2:07 PM
Holy sh*t Gonch! Did you write a book and just happen to cut and paste one of the chapters? ;)


Lord Gonchar said A LOT, including:


If they give that half hour to one guest, the they end up with one very happy guest and one very angry guest... But what if they start to divide the refund? They give that 30 minutes to two VQ'ers as 15 minutes each. Or three VQ'ers get 10 minutes each. Or five VQ'ers get 6 minutes each.

See where I'm heading? They're making multiple people happy at the expense of one person.


True, but that's assuming there are going to be three, four, five or six people buying into some kind of VQ system for every single guest that doesn't. I don't ever see that happening, so I believe the ratio of happy guests to unhappy guests is going to hover around 1:1, and a 50% satisfaction rate doesn't seem good to me.


Brian Noble said:
Amusement park prices appear to be lower than average for a comparable day's entertainment, and they appear to be less differentiated than average.

I truly believe that, but just because amusement parks have been underpriced for years doesn't mean people are going to see wild increases in prices and understand that. The more likely scenario is that they're going to assume they're suddenly getting ripped off.


2Hostyl said:


I will agree that at some point too much really becaomes too much, but with Disney parks raising their prices ad nausem and still packing them in in droves, I think there is still some headroom for parks in general.


I think Disney is a different case because the quality of the experience allows them to raise prices a lot over a short period of time, and with great frequency. People don't have the same respect for the Six Flags or Cedar Fair experience so I don't think Disney-esque price increases are going to work just as well for them. I'm not going to debate much of what you said because it almost makes as much sense to me as my own argument, I just felt the need to comment on that.

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Friday, September 7, 2007 2:19 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Rob Ascough said:
Holy sh*t Gonch! Did you write a book and just happen to cut and paste one of the chapters? ;)

No, but I really need to consider it, huh? :)

"The Art (and Science) of the Virtual Queue"


True, but that's assuming there are going to be three, four, five or six people buying into some kind of VQ system for every single guest that doesn't. I don't ever see that happening, so I believe the ratio of happy guests to unhappy guests is going to hover around 1:1, and a 50% satisfaction rate doesn't seem good to me.

Not really, because it works itself out. Now I have to 'borrow' less to 'refund' to the others.

What if the 80/20 split is not in favor of VQ'ers, but rather in favor of non-VQ'ers. (meaning 20% using the system and 80% not)

Now I can increase the VQ'ers poductivity by 10% by only 'borrowing' 2.5% productivity from the non-VQ'ers.

Or in real-time terms, I can give the VQ'er 15 minutes by borrowing less than 4 minutes from each non-VQ'er. The non-VQ day remains essentially unaffected on any real level leaving them pretty much as happy (or unhappy) as they would've been otherwise and the VQ'er gets his 'refund' too.

It's a shifting scale based on the VQ/no-VQ ratio that works on pretty much every level.


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Friday, September 7, 2007 2:56 PM

A large portion of Disney guests use FastPass at least once during their park visits.

I assume you have seen actual turnstile/FP system data that supports this claim. I have to admit that I am surprised that more than half of turnstile admissions to a park use fastpass in that day. Or do you mean at least once during their multi-day vacation?

I'll understand if you can't comment further due to non-disclosure restrictions. But, I can't tell you how many times a guest has asked me how much fastpass costs, let alone talked to guests who clearly don't understand how the system works. Based on my interactions with fellow guests, it is hard for me to believe that half of them know how to use it. Perhaps I just attract the clueless. :) Then again, based on how much promotional material is devoted to teaching people how to use Fastpass---the planning video, the maps, etc.---there are those in the company who also feel some education is in order.

And, while I do not know the internal financials, I do know that, while fastpass was increasingly deployed, the per-capita spending figure published in the annual report did not go up more than might be considered typical. At least in these gross annualized across-all-parks terms, fastpass did not improve in-park spending in a measurable way.

Internal data would better tell the story though; if fastpass accomplishes increased guest spending, then that increased spending should be measureable at sales points located in the parks vs. those in the resorts. It would be interesting to find someone with access to that data that would be willing to comment.

I won't dispute that guest satisfaction, overall, has gone up---an important metric in any Disney park. The Fastpass users love it, while the non-users are mostly neutral to only very mildly negative.


Rob said: The more likely scenario is that they're going to assume they're suddenly getting ripped off.

Why is that more likely? It seems to me that the examples of consumers accepting such increases for leisure activities far outweigh examples of consumers rejecting such increases. For example, consider personal seat licenses for sports teams. Every time a new team employs one, there is great wailing and gnashing of teeth. But, in the end, people pay up.

Michigan instituted their "annual donation requirement" for football seats recently. The better seats require higher annual "donations" to the athletic department. In the year they instituted the plan, they allowed customers to write larger checks and ask for seat upgrades, or write smaller checks and ask for seat downgrades. The larger checks were just requests, not guaranteed. The smaller checks were guaranteed, even if the customer couldn't be moved and still ended up in "good" seats.

Guest what? They had more requests to *upgrade* seats than they did requests to *downgrade*. People were willing to pay, even for just the *chance* of getting a better seat.

And that's for a team that loses to I-AA competition! Imagine what Ohio State or Penn State must get away with with their PSL program! ;)


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Friday, September 7, 2007 6:05 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

In Scenario #1 - This is virtual queue at it's finest. The only remote downside to this is the distorted perception of others who get in line. To me that is easily remedied by changing the wait time notification in the queue accordingly. No one is cutting and everyone in line knows what to expect in terms of a wait.


I agree 100% and I only wish that these VQ systems could limit a person to wait for only ONE ride at a time. That would be impossible unless parks required a RFID chiped card for line access, and keep track of who is in line virtually and actually, and do not allow waiting in 2 lines at once. That's a lot of trouble and a whole new can of worms just to create a Utopian amusement park experience.


In Scenario #2 - We see the effect of the 'artifical attendance increase' - but we see them elsewhere in the park, not at the ride in question. Anyone riding the attraction the Q-botter virtually queued for is not affected beyond that same distorted perception. Also, the virtual queue must find a line that has a wait less than his one hour virtual queue time otherwise he misses the ride he virtually queued for.

WRONG WRONG WRONG! Anyone riding the attraction the Q-Botter virtually queued for IS DEFINITELY waiting longer because of other Q-Botters willing to wait in line for this ride while virtually waiting for another ride.


In Scenario #3 - We see the artifical attendance increase again. The virtual queuer holds spot 1001 with his Q-bot and then physically enters the line as person 1002. Again, the wait is increased, but no one is cutting. The VQ'er is essentially using the system to get a 2-for-1.

...And getting 2 rides for the wait of 1 is not line cutting? Clogging up the lines by Double riding is not line cutting? A non-Q-botted park guest can not wait in two lines at once, thus it IS line cutting.


Now onto Gold-bot where things get much more interesting.

I read this three times and not once did you admit that Gold Flashpass IS line cutting. If someone can get in front of me 3 or 4 times while I wait over an hour, they are cutting, no matter if the park allowed it or not.


In response to the rest, you and I simply have different views on customer service. I believe that a business should avoid devising any plans that provide an unpleasant experience to ANY guest. If that means someone will have to wait in line the exact amount of time as another person, where's the problem? Instead of screwing %10 of your guests, you are screwing zero.

The amusement park experience used to be the same for everyone visiting. Kennywood is much less stressful to enjoy than SFGAdv, for example.

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Friday, September 7, 2007 6:37 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

dexter said:
I agree 100% and I only wish that these VQ systems could limit a person to wait for only ONE ride at a time. That would be impossible unless parks required a RFID chiped card for line access, and keep track of who is in line virtually and actually, and do not allow waiting in 2 lines at once. That's a lot of trouble and a whole new can of worms just to create a Utopian amusement park experience.

You should agree with that first one, I'm right. :)


WRONG WRONG WRONG! Anyone riding the attraction the Q-Botter virtually queued for IS DEFINITELY waiting longer because of other Q-Botters willing to wait in line for this ride while virtually waiting for another ride.

Aww, you were 1-for-1. The right answer was 'agree' :)

I don't how many ways I have to explain that if you have 1000 people (virtual or real) in line in front of you, you'll be the 1001st person onto the ride - q-botters or not. Pretty simple stuff...especially when we're talking regular bot.


...And getting 2 rides for the wait of 1 is not line cutting? Clogging up the lines by Double riding is not line cutting? A non-Q-botted park guest can not wait in two lines at once, thus it IS line cutting.

Not entirely. Treat it more like the pay-per-ride scenario. Don't look at it as rides-per-wait, look at it as rides-per-visit.

If I go to a park like Knoebels and spend more money that you, I get more rides over the course of the day.

Again, pretty basic stuff. In fact, this is the way parks used to be (before POP).


I read this three times and not once did you admit that Gold Flashpass IS line cutting. If someone can get in front of me 3 or 4 times while I wait over an hour, they are cutting, no matter if the park allowed it or not.

See the above.

Don't think of it as them getting in front of you - think of it as them getting more rides than you. Remove the wait from the equation and it's a non-issue. At the end of the day they just have 4 times the rides than you do (for spending arguably four times the money) - same thing would happen at any ticketed, pay-per-ride park. The only difference would be the amount of time you'd have to spend there to get those rides. I assume you're spending the day at the park anyway. No harm, no foul.


The amusement park experience used to be the same for everyone visiting. Kennywood is much less stressful to enjoy than SFGAdv, for example.

Not for a q-botter. :)


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