Six Flags Exclusive Adventure

Monday, August 13, 2007 1:18 PM
I never made any assumptions about people that find value in upcharges.

Here's how I see things:

If I pay more money for a larger drink, it doesn't mean that that the person that bought their drink ahead of me is going to have to exchange his drink for a smaller one. If I pay more money for a front-row seat at a concert, it doesn't mean a person who bought a seat has to move one row bad. If someone pays for a better seat on a plane, it doesn't mean another ticketholder has to settle for a lesser one. But if someone pays more money to cut to the front of the line, it means that someone that's already standing in line has to wait that much longer. Granted, it's probably not going to make that much of a difference, but like I said, it's about perception. I don't pay money to go into an amusement park with the assumption that the things I normally associate with amusement parks (like lines) are up for any kind of forced negotiation.

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:03 PM
The debate keeps going back to "pay to cut" for a lot of you. The whole point (genius?) of this example is that Six Flags is getting rid of all tiered systems and offering everything for a set price. I'm guessing some of you are mad because the price is out of your range...or at least nowhere near what you are used to paying...? For 99.9 percent of the population...life is full of goods and services for which we may not be able to afford it.

What is wrong with any business catering to a higher-end clientele? Is there a law somewhere that says amusement parks are required to be accessible to the masses at all hours...?

I myself cannot stand "pay to cut" because I simply do not want to be put into a position in which I have to cut in front of the "commoners" in order to enjoy my day. Tierd line systems are dresses on pigs for me. They actually decrease my desire to return to a park that uses it.

Simply put...I want to go to a park and have short lines, maximal effort at capacity, all food booths open at park opening time with good staffing, etc. I don't want to have to cut in font of other people to do it. There is a whole slew of factors that go into providing good service and a fun day for which I would want to return.

Regional themers have not made it worth my while in a long time...so I have quit going. They have inconsistent performance, random efforts, tiered pricing, random food booth operating hours, etc...which leaves me feeling jaded/tired at the end of a day. They are constantly changing "pay to cut" procedures that make consistent experiences impossible. At your standard Six Flags or Cedar Fair park I am left "holding my breath" as to what the day is going to be like. Some days are great, and other days are disasters. It just got old for me...

I do not go to parks to get "pissed off." I just want fun and convienience without constantly feeling like the park is "playing tricks" to get my dollar. I cannot stand line maneagement through decreased capicity. I've tired of certain parts of the park not having food ready to go when I'm hungry. I am willing to pay a lot more than current admission prices to a park that provides an alternative experience.

I do not belittle those who are happy with status quo. If you like it how it is...great! I choose not to go back and will be fine if nothing changes.

The real question is whether the parks/investors are happy with status quo...? ;) The fact that Six Flags is trying this...tells me they may want to appease people who think like me...no?

The real question is whether their are enough people like me to make this type of pricing structure profitable...?

Like everybody...there is a point in which they would price me out of the market. Fear not though...I will not consider those who are able to afford such service as "idiots." I simply will not go...which is what I am doing now!

P.S. I still go to the Disney's and smaller parks because the experiences I have generally and fairly consistently are "worth it" for me...as is. If these parks start acting like the regional themers on a consistent basis...I'll stop this hobby all together and find better options for my time and dollar.

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:04 PM
IF, I wasn't addressing my comment to your sister in particular, just anyone expecting only to hobnob with a better class of people at an amusment park.

Some different things to consider:

Don't assume that the only people who'll be buying tickets for this event are the upper middle class and higher. I'm sure the groups fondly referred to on this site as rednecks, white trash, thugs, and urbanites will be represented.

Also, don't assume because so many thousands might attend this event that it guarantees the same attendance at future exclusive days. Some people may be surprised at how "exclusive" the event turns out not to be, and get turned off. For other people it might be a one time event, just to say they did it, and have no interest or the means to do it again.

Even people who can afford a thousand exclusive adventures can't be counted on to be there week in and week out. The novelty will wear off eventually, plus people with more bucks have that many other venues to spend those bucks.

Finally, what's the guarantee that customer service will be any better on this day than any other? The only difference seems to be there won't any money exchanged/change made for soda, popcorn and cotton candy. Think somebody who worked for minimum wage or less all summer is going to move any faster-- in September-- because the guy at the counter paid $300 to get in?

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:10 PM

If someone pays for a better seat on a plane, it doesn't mean another ticketholder has to settle for a lesser one.

Au contraire, mon frere.

Want an exit-row seat on Northwest? You have three options. One: you can fly 25K+ miles per year on NW and its partners, obtaining "elite" status. Two: you can buy a business-class ticket. Three: you can pay an extra $15. Per segment. If you don't do one of these three things, you won't be sitting in an exit row unless every other seat on the plane is already full---even if you check in right at the 24 hour mark.

The early bird no longer gets the legroom. *** Edited 8/13/2007 6:11:00 PM UTC by Brian Noble***


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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:17 PM
Yes, but if you did one of those things to secure your exit row/bulkhead seat, someone else coming along and paying more isn't going to result in you getting forced into another seat. That's the point I'm trying to make.

JRS: Why are you continuing to assume the people against this sort of upcharging are people that can't afford it? There isn't always a connection there. I can't afford a Ferrari but that doesn't mean I don't like Ferraris, because I do. But the fact that I can afford a Mercedes or a Lexus doesn't mean that I want one of those, because I don't.

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:19 PM
I don't see the difference at all. I buy my ticket before you do. I pick my seats before you do. I *still* don't get the exit row seat if you have status and decide you want it.

Why do you have status? Because, over time, or right then and there, you've paid for it.


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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:24 PM
If the experience for the higher admission price is the same as status quo...then you'll have teetering stock prices, companies looking for private equity bailouts, quarterly reports with "weather" excuses...wait...;)

The point is that regional theme parks for which 2 chains dominate the market...are not exactly setting the financial world on fire. Who can blame them for trying a different pricing structure to see if this MAY work?

It may fail indeed...but what if it works?

I think this is the scary thought that those happy with status quo do not want to see happen! As somebody who religiously went park hopping every summer...I can assure you that once you stop going...you don't really miss it that much! In fact...in many ways...life becomes a little less stressful than dealing with one cash register open at the funnel cake line come 10:00 pm!

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:37 PM
JRS: Why are you continuing to assume the people against this sort of upcharging are people that can't afford it? There isn't always a connection there.

Point taken...though I must admit that I have trouble grasping the concept that he who can afford a "better experience" would prefer the "crappy one." But I do see where somebody who is happy with status quo would not want to see things changed.

This whole concept may indeed fail...in fact if I had to bet I say it will! However, I'm interested in the experiment...

For me...this is NOT about money at all. It is about customer service and the park experience. I've always advocated that the regional themers have too damn many people to ensure a consistent and fun-filled day. I've always felt supply and demand was telling the parks to raise the prices a lot...but they've failed to keep up with demand and therefore have ruined the experience.

I'm of the belief that they need to fix the experience first...and then the reputation will follow. A major part of fixing the experience is reducing the wait times for rides and food. You can do this through "pay to cut" OR you can raise the overall gate.

The first has been tried for quite a few years now. As far as I can tell...the second has just been suggested for the first time from a major regional park!

I'm glad to see the problem of overcrowding being addressed through this more basic structure...

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:38 PM
Brian, it's not about having the ability to get what you want through status or money. It's about being entitled to what you originally paid for. I paid for seat 32B, therefore I'm getting seat 32B. I got in line behind Brian Noble in line for Nitro, I'm staying in line behind Brian Noble- I'm not happy about someone who paid more suddenly getting my spot behind brian Noble.

*** Edited 8/13/2007 6:39:08 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:48 PM
Especially if that someone is my doppleganger!

I guess I'm left thinking that you're forced to split hairs to defend your position that, somehow, what theme parks are doing is just different from what every other industry in the universe is doing.

In any of these situations, the rules are simple: if you pay more money, you get a better experience. And, because resources are fixed---seats on a plane, capacity on a ride---that necessarily means someone else has a worse experience in return.


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Monday, August 13, 2007 2:50 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

If I pay more money for a front-row seat at a concert, it doesn't mean a person who bought a seat has to move one row bad.

I can offer my own example as a perfect compliment to Brian's airplane one.

Fan clubs.

Pay to join the artist's fan club and you have first access to the best tickets. In turn, the 'masses' have to settle for worse seats (essentially moving back a few rows) because those who paid more got the first chance at the better seats.

Granted you can't get a certain row and then be pushed back, but that's just because they changed the order or choice. Without paying to be a member of the exclusive club, you never even have a chance at those seats in the first place - because those who paid got 'in line' to buy them before you.

Which works kind of like Brian's airline example. You never even realized you got 'pushed back' to a cramped seat on the plane and you never realized you got 'pushed back' a few rows in the arena - in both cases because someone was willing to pay more to guarantee the quality of their experience.

EDIT - Aww, you guys dropped in while I was typing and now my rant seems out of place. :(

To continue with what was posted while I typed:


Rob A:
It's about being entitled to what you originally paid for. I paid for seat 32B, therefore I'm getting seat 32B.

And at SF your regular entry ticket entitles you to wait in a 'stand-by' line knowing full well that the park offers upcharge perks that potentially allow others quicker access to the rides.

You're getting what you paid for.

*** Edited 8/13/2007 6:53:45 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***


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Monday, August 13, 2007 3:08 PM
As I've been saying all along, there is nothing to designate a stand-by line. It's never made clear that your wait for a ride is contingent upon factors other than the usual ones like understaffing and mechanical breakdowns. Disney pretty much puts it right out there- the stand-by line is called that because that's what it is. Other parks don't do that. Again, it's partly about perception.

Good point about fan clubs- something I also have an issue with for the same reasons you mentioned. I'll even extend that to my AmEx card that offers access to ticket pre-sales and that sort of thing. I'm just not down the with idea of people being put on different levels like that. In my eyes, a paying customer is a paying customer.

Jeffrey brings up a good point, that all this seems to be a way for a company to ignore the big problems and find a way to make a quick buck. From a business standpoint, it's irresponsible. Attendance and profits are down because customer service sucks. Instead of fixing customer service and rebuilding the original customer base, the parks are offering overpriced upcharges to show profits. That's going to work now, but what happens when there are no more ways to upcharge? What happens when people paying for upcharges realize that things aren't all that much better?

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Monday, August 13, 2007 3:16 PM
Yet, Northwest had its first profitable quarter since 9/11. And, all by cutting services (i.e. costs), charging for differential access, and putting the thumbscrews to its employees to accept wage cuts and work rule changes.

You know what your ticket on NW buys you these days? Air, and a beverage. Not even a little pack of spinzels, with all their buttery goodness. NW's service has never been worse, but their planes are full, and they are making money.

Heck, I flew spirit the other day, and they give you air, plus a glass of water. If you want a coke, that's $1. Want to check a bag? That's $5 each way.
*** Edited 8/13/2007 7:17:43 PM UTC by Brian Noble***


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Monday, August 13, 2007 3:20 PM
What the heck is a spinzel?

Maybe NW is making money, but will they continue to do with by offering terrible service? That sort of thing catches up sooner or later.

I'm glad I fly Continental. The sevice is good, food and beverages are still included and checking baggage isn't considered to be an option. If only Newark International could be turned into a decent airport that manages to get a flight out on time every now and then!

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Monday, August 13, 2007 3:29 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

As I've been saying all along, there is nothing to designate a stand-by line. It's never made clear that your wait for a ride is contingent upon factors other than the usual ones like understaffing and mechanical breakdowns. Disney pretty much puts it right out there- the stand-by line is called that because that's what it is. Other parks don't do that. Again, it's partly about perception.

Perhaps, but at this point in the game, I'd like to think it's understood. If you've been to a Disney park in the past 7 years or a SF park in the last 5 (or CP for a couple of years in the early 00's...or Dollywood recently) then you've seen the way things are.

It still seems to me (and I've maintained this for quite a while now) that it's the change that pisses people off.

"If it was good enough before, why isn't it now?"

All it takes is time for change to become the norm and things are fine. Any transition period is rocky and we're right in the middle of a transition period for the way the big regionals do buisness.


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Monday, August 13, 2007 3:33 PM

Maybe NW is making money, but will they continue to do with by offering terrible service? That sort of thing catches up sooner or later.

I'm convinced that air travel is now a commodity. The only thing that matters to most consumers is price, and the only thing that matters to business travelers is the elite-level perks. NW's prices have been competitive in DTW with Southwest, Spirit, AirTran, etc., and their elite perks are pretty decent.
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Monday, August 13, 2007 5:12 PM
Elite-level perks matter to business travelers mainly because their employers are paying for them to travel. I guarantee that they wouldn't care as much about those things if it was their own dime. But getting back to the conversation, Gonch does make a point. A lot of this (at least as far as I go) is about the change pissing me off. But just because something is to be regarded as change doesn't mean I have to accept it... or like it. While things seem perfectly fine right now- people are spending more money to get a little more than what they were used to, companies are making tons of money off of those people- I still believe there is only so much the market will absorb.

But I think we're going in circles here, wouldn't you agree?

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Monday, August 13, 2007 5:50 PM
A lot of this (at least as far as I go) is about the change pissing me off.

I understand completley. Status quo happens to piss me off. This is why the two of us have different reactions to the news.

But just because something is to be regarded as change doesn't mean I have to accept it... or like it.

I don't think anybody expects you or anyone to "like it." Just as I'm sure you don't expect me to "like" the way regional themers currently treat guests. We all have subjective limits to what we will tolerate. I won't tolerate status quo. It seems you may not tolerate possible changes. We each have the right to not go to the park. Every park decision has consequences. You can't please everyone they always say...

While things seem perfectly fine right now

You lost me on this sentence/thought. Things do not seem fine to me. Stocks are failing or stagnant at best, private equity rumors abound, attendance is flat or declining, etc. I think regional chains are on as shaky ground as I can recall.

people are spending more money to get a little more than what they were used to

The most valid point I can agree with you about. I've long believed they are doing it all wrong. People have come to expect long lines and closed food stalls, etc. Now they are paying more for the same treatment.

The hope is that reduced crowds in the park will lead to more manageable customer service. It is easier to feed 4000 people efficiently than 20,000 for example. If parks make you pay more and STILL provide the same crappy service, then the "status quo (stock prices, decreased attendance, etc)" will rule the day.

companies are making tons of money off of those people

I think your logic is flawed for regional themers. Six Flags has so much debt they may NEVER recover. Cedar Fair took a lot of debt on and MAY face the same tough route. If things were going well, they would not be looking at new pricing structures to prime the pump.

This is not the oil business we are talking about. This is the amusement park business where the best enthusiasts can come up with by way of compliment is to call them "slow growth."

Regional parks (many of them) are hurting...don't fool yourself. The trend is to see way more parks close than what we see opening!

I still believe there is only so much the market will absorb.

The market absorbed Astroworld, Pavillion, Libertyland, etc...in just the last few years. Your emphasis on current guest mindset may be looking in the wrong direction. Maybe the new and profitable market is guys like me...? Obviously one park thinks this may be the case.

I too have my doubts about the viability of regional theme parks as a whole. I think they just may be too large to profitably manage in terms of their operating expenses. However, who could blame a park for trying to reduce operating expenses through reducing clients served by raising the gate? It is worth a try when the current model is stagnant...at best!

But I think we're going in circles here, wouldn't you agree?

I don't know if we are going in circles as much as everybody is arguing something different. "Pay to cut" is really not a part of this discussion, for example. Class envy and sociological realities are really not pertinent when one realizes the park's primary responsibility and reason for existence is to turn profit.

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Monday, August 13, 2007 6:09 PM
^ That was the "post" of the day, and I completely agree on all points.
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Monday, August 13, 2007 6:16 PM
eightdotthree's avatar As long as they are doing it in the "off" season and not all summer long I could care less if people can afford to go to the park on a less busy day. Hell, most of us go to ERT events all the time and PAY for the privilege.

Seriously though, those of you who are so against it, why is this any different from any of the coaster events you attend? *** Edited 8/13/2007 10:19:27 PM UTC by eightdotthree***


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