Shapiro: Charging for autographs and pictures - more line cutting

Saturday, March 11, 2006 3:27 PM
Submitted to news as well. Story Link
(EDIT - Sorry, Peabody - the page spacing was killing me :) - LG)

Quotes

"During a conference call to discuss earnings Wednesday, Shapiro said he envisions kids paying for autographs and pictures with Looney Tunes characters and DC comic-book characters like Batman and Superman"

"Shapiro believes patrons will pay for VIP status that will get them to the front of long lines for rides and preferred seating at shows."

I can't help but invision something like a little kid: "OOOHH OOHHH Tweety Bird, can I have your Autograph and a hug?" Tweety: "That will be $10 for the autograph and $5.95 for the hug kid"

Both of those seem counter-productive to a family friendly atmosphere where you make your guest feel good and at home. It will cost upwards of $200 for a family of 4 with park and tax to walk through the gate. Let's say you saved a lot of hard earned money to take your family to the park. You walk in and then you have to explain to your kids that they can only get one autograph each because it costs money, and the lines going to be long because all those other people paid to cut in front of you. Class systems in parks aren't good ideas IMO.

Compare that to Disney (which is now cheaper than SFMM) where you get in the gate and your kids can run around all day collecting autographs for free. Want to use the fastpass? It's free and available to everyone.

*** Edited 3/11/2006 11:28:53 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***


Real Cbuzz quote of the day - "The classes i take in collage are so mor adcanced then u could imagen. Dont talk about my emglihs" - Adamforce
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Saturday, March 11, 2006 3:34 PM
lol. . .
My question is..How can the characters write with four fingered paws?...hmm

Shaps is taking this a little too far now. :)

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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:06 PM
janfrederick's avatar LOL...they'll probably have the handlers take care of the scribble.

Peabody's right....take my family to Disneyland or Magic Mountain (or when they get older, Knott's)? Hmmm....decisions decisions...


"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:13 PM
Exactly. Don't get me wrong, I think Shapiro has some very good ideas, I think he's just getting a little nuts with pricing. Do they need to be more family friendly? Heck yes! But, they're WAY overpricing everything except for the one thing that's always needed raising, season passes.

It seems like he's just invisioning moms and dads walking into the the parks with stuffed wallets throwing money anywhere and everywhere without care. I don't know about you guys, but when I was a kid, my family not rich. Sure, it was vacation, but it's not like my parents were made of money to just toss around. We couldn't afford to run home with a car stuffed full of souvineers, toys, stuffed animals, etc. and a wallet $500+ lighter at the end of the day. *** Edited 3/11/2006 9:16:24 PM UTC by Peabody***


Real Cbuzz quote of the day - "The classes i take in collage are so mor adcanced then u could imagen. Dont talk about my emglihs" - Adamforce
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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:23 PM
I think they have just gotten greedy, plain and simple. It now appears that they are looking at every aspect of the parks and saying, what can we charge for that? You would think, since they say that they want to appeal more to families, that they would make sure they had all their ducks in a row as far as customer service and ride reliability, etc. for a season or two before they started to jack up prices on everything. Treating the guest like cash cows whithout improving guest enjoyment is a sure way to drive the heard away.
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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:40 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar I was actually at SFoT today and the worst part wasn't that they were charging for the autographs (which was pretty bad), it was that they were on pre-printed cards and the actual character wasn't around. Like, there were just regular employees with souvenier cards with autographs on them roving the park selling them to kids.

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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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:42 PM
It's possible that he's thinking about having professional photographers *in addition to* the family snapshots that people take now. Think of this as an extention to the "vulture" photographers that badger you on your way into the park. So, instead of just a character and a handler, you have a character, a handler, and a photographer. You can take your own shots, but the professional will take shots too, and you can buy one of those on your way out of the park.

Disney does this all over the place in the Florida parks, and it's quite a nice service actually. We rarely buy individual prints, as they are a bit steep, but they recently added the ability to buy all of the "professional" photos that were taken of your family over the course of your vacation on a single CD for $100, including a copyright release to allow you to modify/print/share them however you like. The only restriction is that they cannot be used to promote any commercial activity.

We bought the CD of our trip last week, and it had about 50 pictures (of perhaps 20 separate events) on it representing a week's stay. We thought it was a reasonable (though not outstanding) value.

Unfortunately, the on-rides are not included in this service.


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:50 PM
How much does it cost to get an "autograph" ApolloAndy? Or anyone else who might know.
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Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:55 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Anyone consider that they may be trying to control their customer base with this kind of pricing?

To me it seems that the gate price change just screamed it.

If you're the kind of person that balks at $250 to get your family in and park your car, then you're not the type of person who would pay for pics with tweety. The opposite holds true as well.

SF has traditionally been more like the Wal-Mart of amusement parks - cheap to frequent and one everywhere. I think these guys are trying to turn it into more of a specialty botique or upscale store.

Ever see the episode of Simpsons where the shopping plaza sign has a tagline that reads, "Our prices discriminate because we can't."

That's the idea. It's not meant to be for everyone. It's meant to be for people who don't have a problem dropping the cash. Threaten to visit another park? Good, they don't want you at theirs.

At least that's my theory at this point. :)


...take my family to Disneyland or Magic Mountain (or when they get older, Knott's)? Hmmm....decisions decisions...

Aside from the above theory - the one that says "good, take your chump change elsewhere" (and again, I'm not passing judgement on how right or wrong it is, just trying to understand) that works fine for a market like L.A., but what about Atlanta or Dallas or St. Louis where the options aren't as plentiful? Or even other markets where there are other options, but they are farther away (not just a day a the park kind of thing) or are smaller parks that are often seen as 'inferior' by GP standards even though many enthuisiasts tend to know better?


Disney does this all over the place in the Florida parks...

Very good point. You can pay for a picture with just about any character at WDW, but it's an option n a requirement. Probably the same idea here.

And hey, what kid doesn't buy one of those $10 autograph books while at Disney either? No kid worth his weight in ink would be caught dead trying to score love from Mickey with a random piece of scrap paper. Nice how Disney has made you essentially pay for the autogrpahs, they just don't express it as such.

It's that perceived value thing...yet again.

I've expressed my views on how the random lottery of free fastpasses is inherently more unfair to guests than the available-to-all-at-all-times pay systems are, so there's no need to rehash here.

Essentially, I still like what I'm hearing. A company that's more than two billion dollars in debt needs to make serious changes. Let's hope it works out lest we lose even more parks in the future.


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:09 PM

that works fine for a market like L.A., but what about Atlanta or Dallas or St. Louis where the options aren't as plentiful?

Remember that most parks don't compete with other parks. They compete with other warm-weather leisure time activities. So, the folks in Atlanta or Dallas or St. Louis will go to a Braves or Rangers or Cardinals game rather than some other amusement park.

However, the general attitude still holds. If you aren't a high-margin customer, feel free to find something else to do with your leisure time and small wallet.

-brian, who bought two autograph books for his trip last week. The nice ones with space for pictures. *** Edited 3/11/2006 10:10:01 PM UTC by Brian Noble***


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:13 PM
Gemini's avatar

It's that perceived value thing...yet again.

And I perceive that no one is going to care about Bugs' autograph, free or not. If anyone thinks that people care as much about WB autographs than they do about Disney autographs has never been to a Disney fan site. :)

I think if LG ran an amusement park, the restrooms would be free, but you'd have to pay for toilet paper. And he'd be OK with that. :)


Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz

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Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:16 PM

Brian Noble said:
It's possible that he's thinking about having professional photographers *in addition to* the family snapshots that people take now.

Professional photographers? It's usually just a park employee or photo service employee with a standard digital camera.


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:18 PM
Lord Gonchar, I agree that they need to make changes, but at what point does it become price gouging? What if they start charging to use the rest rooms? Or rentals on all the tubes at the water parks? I'm just curious where everyone thinks that line in the sand should be drawn? Everyone says that the season passes need to go up in price, and yes I think that for what you get now it is bargin basement prices, but at what point do you say that it's too expensive? $250 a person? $350? It does seem like they are saying, if you can't afford us, we don't want your business. I'm just not sure if that's the right play at this stage of the game. You can't expect to charge champagne and caviar prices if all you are serving is beer and pretzels.
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Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:32 PM

Professional photographers?

Well, yes, strictly speaking they are "professional" only in the sense that they are being paid to take pictures.


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 5:46 PM
And what's all this gonna do as far as ride queing times?Shapiro & CO. should stand up & take notice of the fact that paid line jumping<cough fastlane cough> has been the gold standard for SF since 01.

All it does is give the parks the excuse they need to run single train op for the sake of making the queue time longer for everybody else & to top it off after you've done all that waiting & get up to the gates as the next to ride along comes a whole trainload of paid linejumpers< fastlane tickets in hand> just waiting to steal your seat,thus making you have to wait even longer for no apparent reason.

They're already famous for doing just that on a regular basis over at superman & I'm sure not willing toterate it anymore this season.

As for the autographed pics I can care less as I have no intention of buying them,but I must say I'm getting pretty tired of having to "run the gauntlet" just to avoid photographers when walking down mainstreet upon entering the park every time I visit.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006 6:04 PM
Gemini's avatar

I'm just curious where everyone thinks that line in the sand should be drawn?

The beach is free, actually. But it's $19.95/hr to build sand castles.

And the band aids at first aid are $4.99 each. :)


Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz

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Saturday, March 11, 2006 6:09 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Lord Gonchar, I agree that they need to make changes, but at what point does it become price gouging?

At what point does a car become price gouging? $50,000? $75,000. $100,000?

It never does, makers who sell $100,000 cars cater to a certain customer base.

At what point does a hotel room become price gouging? $50? $100? $250?

It never does because different hotels cater to different clientel.

At what point does an amusement park start price gouging?

I think you know my answer.


It does seem like they are saying, if you can't afford us, we don't want your business. I'm just not sure if that's the right play at this stage of the game.

Yes, it really does. I'd be inclined to agree with the timing, but we'll see.


I think if LG ran an amusement park, the restrooms would be free, but you'd have to pay for toilet paper. And he'd be OK with that.

It wouldn't be a charity, I can tell you that. (and besides, you really think the cost of TP is eaten by the park? It's a penny of that drink or a penny of that burger or a penny of that ticket)

I still think all of the apprehension comes from the fact that many of us are afraid of being priced out of their favorite hobby. But the truth is SF can charge whatever they want. It's either worth the price to you (and you go for it) or it's not (and you don't).

I'd like a $100,000 sports car, but I can't afford (nor justify) the price. For now $25,000 gets me from point A to point B quite nicely with an amount of comfort that I'm happy with.

On the other hand, I wouldn't stay in a $40 hotel if it was the last hotel on Earth. On the same note, I wouldn't pay $300 a night either. Are the hotels that charge those prices out of line for doing so? Not one bit. I choose where to stay based on my needs vs my willingness to pony up the $$$. It's about the cost-to-value ratio.

When we go to Pirates games we opt for relatively cheap seats. No one in the family is THAT big of a fan and the cost-to-value ratio is one we accept for an evening of losing baseball. (see, I fit a slam on the Pirates into that) I wouldn't in a million years pay the $160 bucks to sit behind the plate. Sure, I'd love to and heck, I could probably even afford to, but the cost to value just isn't there for us. Yet, every night the seats behind the plate are full. It was worth it to someone. Someone wither either more money or more interest or more whatever. The same way I suspect there will be plenty of people willing to pay the new SF prices.

In fact, you can make all the same comparisons to amusement parks. It's entertainment/hospitality plain and simple. Is it worth it to pay $60 for a day at Six Flags? I would in most circumstances. Is it worth a few bucks for a character autograph? Nope. No one in my family wants one bad enough to pay the price. The cost-to-value ratio is out of balance for our situation.

I still fail to see the mystery in all of this. The pricing of a day at SF has changed. What good does the complaining do? Take your money elsewhere to a place where the cost-to-value ratio is in your range and take silent satisfaction when SF crashes and burns. But if they don't, learn to accept that it's not a viable form of entertainment for you any longer.

*** Edited 3/11/2006 11:19:43 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 6:28 PM
Gemini's avatar But what if the Pirates charged you an extra $5/seat every time the team hit a home run? After all, those celebration fireworks aren't free.

Now that I think about it, the Pirates don't really hit home runs, do they? Sorry for the poor example. :)

I still think there's a point at which Lord Gonchar would cry, "price gouging!" And I still think this argument really has nothing to do with amusement parks, but more with each person's opinion of economic theory.


Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz

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Saturday, March 11, 2006 6:35 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar There's definitely a point at which I'd quit paying, but there's never a point where something that is not a necessity becomes price gouging. In theory, that's impossible. Entertainment costs can never be price gouging.

As far as those fireworks, again, I argue that the cost of operating is already figured into the big scheme of things. As a paying ticketholder I have indeed paid for a portion of those fireworks or the stupid giveaways at the gate.

The same way parks like HW or LC have figured in the price of 'free' drinks or parks like Knoebel's or KW have figured in the costs of 'free' parking.

The difference is SF seems to have no problem with putting it all out on the table for us to see. It's ballsy to say the least. But a more twisted mind could also argue that it's more honest. ;)


And I still think this argument really has nothing to do with amusement parks, but more with each person's opinion of economic theory.

I think you're right.


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Saturday, March 11, 2006 7:02 PM

Peabody said:Compare that to Disney (which is now cheaper than SFMM) where you get in the gate and your kids can run around all day collecting autographs for free. Want to use the fastpass? It's free and available to everyone.

I think Shapiro is talking about a all inclusive VIP package that would include character breakfast autograph and photo session and etc, which Disney will do and take as much money from you as you will pay.

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