Six Flags hopes to have better year with capital expenditures and better pricing

Posted Monday, April 28, 2003 4:59 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Six Flags Inc. is adding roller coasters and investing in its theme parks in North America and Europe to draw more customers in time for summer. The company will spend $130 million this year in capital improvements after posting a loss of $105.7 million last year.

Read more from AP via Newsday.com.

Monday, April 28, 2003 5:02 AM
OK, I don't want to play the skeptic, but every time we see Six Flags in the news talking about how they'll improve their results, it's all about spending money or price promotions or stronger marketing.

I certainly don't know what goes on in the rest of the chain, but I can assure you that here in Cleveland, the only thing that will get people coming back is customer service. If they made public statements here that they were trying very hard to improve that, I think you'd get a lot more people willing to give them another shot. The non-enthusiast general public here sees that as the problem, not a lack of rides or poor pricing.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
"Pray that your country undergoes recovery!" - KMFDM

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Monday, April 28, 2003 5:29 AM
I agree, Jeff, but I'd go as far as to say it could definitely use improvement over the enitre chain--at least in the US. Even the Six Flags parks with generally better customer service, such as SFoT, SFoG, and SFGAdv, still are a bit lacking in comparison with parks like Cedar Point or IoA.

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-Vater
Have you ridden a Toboggan?

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Monday, April 28, 2003 5:50 AM
Jeff, you couldn't have stated it better. My thoughts exactly. However, if they'd drop their food pricing a little, that might get rid of a little GP ill will (loved the prices at the season pass only club last year).

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Goccvp1

If I had something inspiring to say, you'd be reading it now.

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Monday, April 28, 2003 7:27 AM
Jeff is 100 percent correct. It is hard to get any customer service at a six flags park. They really do need to focus on what to do once they get you in the park instead of focusing on getting people into the park. I always feel at any six flags park that once they get your money at the front gate you are on your own.
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Monday, April 28, 2003 7:52 AM
I certainly agree that customer service needs improving at many Six Flags parks, and that doing so is going to help guests who visit this year to want to return in the future (perhaps even later in the season). However, I'm not sure customer service works as a selling point when trying to draw people into a park. If I see two parks side-by-side, one featuring brand new Intamin hypercoaster and the other with nothing new, odds are about 99% that I'd visit the park with the new ride, even if the park with nothing new claims to have the friendliest employees and the best customer service anywhere. Heck, even if the park with the new coaster is known for poor customer service, I'd still probably go there.

Now, I'm not saying customer service isn't important. SFWoA lost a lot of visitors because of its poor customer service, and they're going to have to struggle with that. Certainly poor customer service in the past affects which park people choose to visit. However, what I'm saying is that I don't think improved customer service is (usually) a very good selling point. I think it's the new rides people visit parks for, and not the customer service specifically. That's why ad campaigns rarely mention customer service (if they do, it's usually only a fleeting remark or an "add-on" to the larger selling point) and why the above article focuses on new attractions and spending instead of how they treat their guests.

For what it's worth, I think SF Corporate came down pretty hard on SFWoA for their attendance last year, and I think customer service is one thing they're really going to work on this year. I just don't think advertising that is the way to get people to visit.

-Nate*** This post was edited by coasterdude318 4/28/2003 12:28:40 PM ***

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Monday, April 28, 2003 7:53 AM
In my opinion SFGAM has the best customer service of any SF park, and the best ride ops. I just came back from Florida and IOA has some of the best employees and top notch customer service. On the way back we stopped at SFOG and talk about a rude awakening, this has to be the worst SF park along with SFKK as far as customer service and ride ops. I just thank god that my home park is SFGAM, because of all the SF parks I have been to SFGAM and SFMM are the best.
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Monday, April 28, 2003 8:29 AM
Agreed with Jeff. I recall a large fast food chain (specific to the midwest) that had gotten a bad rap.....after changing their service they ran a campaign saying "We're workign hard to win you back" If you ask me, that's what they need, to change service and then make a big deal of it.

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- "I used to be in the audio/visual club, but I was kicked out because of my views on Vietnam........and I was stealing projectors" - Homer Simpson

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Monday, April 28, 2003 8:37 AM
Nothing increases attendance like a new coaster.

All Six Flags wants to do is get their figures up, and a new coaster will do that. Six Flags doesn't car one bit if those people don't return next year, they'll worry about that next year .. All they want to do, right now, is get the share price up .. they need to look as successful as possible, as quickly as possible .. regardless of what the long term affects might be.

It's a public company.

Cam.

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Cameron Silver

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Monday, April 28, 2003 8:47 AM
Wow, I actually agree with Nate for once, what is that about? ;)

Don't *tell* me your going to do something after years of *not* doing it. Just do it. Declining numbers or not, someone *is* still going to attend Six Flags parks. If you improve operating issues, we'll hear about it and if you don't, well we're going to hear that as well. So their marketing focus should still be on what they're building.

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Evanescence-My Immortal. Coming to a rock opera near you...*** This post was edited by DWeaver 4/28/2003 12:48:32 PM ***

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Monday, April 28, 2003 9:41 AM
"Nothing increases attendance like a new coaster."

Yep... that's true... for one year. The cap-ex this year is "modest" compared to what they had been spending, especially around 2000 and 2001. You can sell anyone on anything once with shiny new rides and attractions, but that's only half the equation. Once they're there, you need to treat them well if you ever expect them to come back.

Think about it... Holiday World isn't growing by leaps and bounds because they build coasters every year.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
"Pray that your country undergoes recovery!" - KMFDM

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Monday, April 28, 2003 9:48 AM
Exactly. But that's why new attractions (and cap spending) is the focus of ad campaigns and statements to the press, not customer service. Many SF parks have screwed themselves over the years by providing lousy customer service. Now, certainly they need to improve that, but they need to draw people into the park first to show those people that it has improved. And new attractions are just the best way to go about that.

-Nate

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Monday, April 28, 2003 9:58 AM
Exactly Nate. May I also add that Holiday World never set up the expectation of a multi-million dollar steel coaster every year either. And new coasters have absolutely nothing to do with customer service anyway. Cedar Point has already proven you can have both.

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Evanescence-My Immortal. Coming to a rock opera near you...*** This post was edited by DWeaver 4/28/2003 1:59:32 PM ***

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Monday, April 28, 2003 10:15 AM
I would also agree that it comes down to customer service and customer satisfaction which suffers at SF parks. And this is why people will travel across the country to go to a disney park and even Universal parks in FLA because they know they will be treated well and the park will be well run/clean/secure. While SF parks may put in a new coaster which will give them a little bump, that bump will be hurt by the riders not running at full capacity(so as to force people to buy fastlane!!), the parks wont be clean,service is medicore at best and teenagers run amok with little to no supervision with minimal security presence to deter bad behavior. So while SF parks may get teenagers who get into the park at a big discount or season pass they fail to bring in the families who by percentage spend much nore money which hurts the bottom line. SF parks need to spend less on flashy rides and more much on park upkeep/maintence and employee training so when guests leave they feel better about their experience rather than enjoying the new ride but upset about all the other problems that typically are found at SF parks.

And i would agree that i find SFGAM to be the best of the SF parks i have visited but even this park pales in comparsion to Disney/Universal/Busch Co parks and i why i travel to these parks often but wouldnt do the same for any SF park.

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Monday, April 28, 2003 10:49 AM
I completely agree that new rides are what draw the crowds, and that should be the focus of a commercial, in order to get people through the door. However, once they have them through the door, they better do something to make the customer's visit, a pleasant one.

Cameron said:

"Six Flags doesn't car [sic] one bit if those people don't return next year"

I completely disagree with that statement. There's not a business out there that can last without repeat business, and if a customer feels ripped off, then they're not going to return to that place of business, especially if someone up the road is doing the same business better. I will admit that teenagers and enthusiasts will return for a new ride, but the adult general public will find another place to go, maybe giving that business another chance five to ten years down the road when they have multiple new rides, at which time, said business may have gone under (I haven't been to Conneaut Lake Park in years due to a bad experience, and I used to get a season pass their every year). SFWoA is the perfect example of this. If people on this very site gripe and complain about them, what do you think the GP is doing? The lack of attendance last year proves people are staying away. A few more years like that, and there will no longer be a SFWoA. Of course, they way SF stocks are going, the parent company may fold first. I personally would hate to see the park go under, as I like quite a few of their rides, I just wish it was run better. It's hard to enjoy yourself in a park when the workers give you attitude, there's trash laying around (though thanks to lower crowds, that wasn't as much a problem last year), and rides are not working and/or running to capacity (I have no problem with rides not running to capacity, if the crowd warrants a lower capacity).

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Goccvp1

If I had something inspiring to say, you'd be reading it now.

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Monday, April 28, 2003 11:17 AM
New rides and attractions will bring them in the door...once. Customer service, plain and simple, is what brings 'em back. Of course, I'm lucky enough to live in Denver, home of SFEG, so we don't get either.

I bought season passes for our family three years ago, and was utterly disgusted every single time we went. In fact, last summer we had free admission passes and didn't use them. This summer we have season passes to Silver Dollar City, two states away, but not for SF. Why? Customer service, plain and simple...well, OK, there is Celebration City...

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Monday, April 28, 2003 11:21 AM
Understaffed, underpaid employees aren't going to bust their butts for a company that isn't going to reward them monetarily to do so. Haven't any of you seen Office Space? Don't you think these people that work there identify with Peter? Ride ops, vendors, or sweepers work to make a buck and go home. They don't care about the greater good of SFInc, because they don't feel that SFInc. cares about them! The proof is in the pudding, or the paycheck.

Holiday World has some great employees, but there's comfort in working for a smaller company who clearly cares about their employees. SF parks employee hundreds and hundreds of people, of which whom, many come, work, then quit.

Understaffing can only be alleviated by hiring more people. Let's look at it. If a SF park hires just 100 new employees :

100 employees (100) who work 40 hours a week (x40) and get paid nine bucks an hour (x9) in a 4 week month (x4) for a 5 month long season (x5)... SF has just set themselves back 720,000 in wages for people who feel like they aren't paid enough anyway to stand in the hot sun.

Whereas they can build a coaster that costs 10 million dollars, and will stand for 20 years with routine maintenance to non--routine maintenance (we'll say 100,000 a year max) and where are you in 20 years?

Disgruntled employees - 14.4 million

New coaster - 12 million

But then again, who the hell am I?

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Is it the real yellow or the yellow that they had on the coaster cars??*** This post was edited by Homey G. 4/28/2003 3:22:04 PM ***

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Monday, April 28, 2003 11:27 AM
Goccvp1 - I didn't mean to imply that I agree with Six Flags thinking, because I do agree with you (and so does Six Flags!).

However, as a public company, they can't go to the shareholders and say "we're going to spend $10 million on better salaries (and more positions), new paint, nicer bathrooms, trees and re-paving etc. But, we don't think we'll see an increase in attendance for a few years" - They'd be laughed out of existence!

Instead they say "We're going to spend $10 million on a new coaster, which we know will increase attendance by 10%". (The actual monetary and percentage figures I made up for the example!).

Six Flags KNOWS that they need better customer service .. they KNOW which of their parks are shabby and run down (after all, we know!) .. but it's just not worth them doing anything about it, since the *short-term* affects are too small.

My point is that most public companies only care about the biggest gains in the shortest time .. even if they are hurting themselves in the long term. Right at this moment, the only thing that Six Flags cares about is the 2003 season. They could paint the parks bright gold, and hand out wads of cash at the front gate, and they still wouldn't see a bigger attendance jump (*this season*) than a new coaster can draw. Don't think about the future, the future doesn't matter .. all that matters is the next quarter.

A coaster will cause a much bigger jump in attendance than anything else (in the short term) .. so this is what they do.

Cam.

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Cameron Silver

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Monday, April 28, 2003 11:48 AM
You are 100 percent correct Cam. And seeing that I work for a company similar to Six Flags, and *have* worked for Six Flags before, I can see just what your saying. What's that old saying? "People in hell want ice water, they sure as hell ain't getting it". ;)

SFInc has dug a hole they are *not* going to crawl out of barring a *major* shake up from the top all the way down.

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Evanescence-My Immortal. Coming to a rock opera near you...*** This post was edited by DWeaver 4/28/2003 3:51:32 PM ****** This post was edited by DWeaver 4/28/2003 3:55:59 PM ***

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Monday, April 28, 2003 12:00 PM
It's easy to say that companies only care about short-term gains, but the truth is, well run companies look at both the short and long term if they're going to survive. Disney and Cedar Fair (I'm not sure about SDC's parent company) are publicly traded, but they seem to have gotten the message that if you're in the business of entertaining people, you had damn well better care about customer service. Sure, you still open new attractions to bring new folks in, but your bottom line is the people who come year after year - the locals, and the people who plan their summer trips around your park.

Six Flags suffers nationally from a bad rep for customer service, and until some forward thinking leadership addresses that problem, they will continue to lose money, new rides or not.*** This post was edited by ZBeeblebrox 4/28/2003 4:01:14 PM ***

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