Six Flags screws Canadians through lazy web design

Friday, October 15, 2004 9:55 AM
You would think that having both of Six Flag's New York theme parks within an easy drive of Canada's largest cities, Six Flags would build their ticket purchasing web site to handle Canadian orders. Their on-line forms even have a drop-down to select your country, and Canada is on the list. Too bad the page crashes when you enter a Canadian postal code or try to put a province in the 'state' field.

But no! Their site can't handle that. And their telephone support is equally useless. "I'm sorry sir, but there's nothing I can do. We cannot help you purchase tickets, we only support printing issues. Without a US mailing address, you cannot purchase print-at-home tickets online."

If I knew about this last week, I would have bought my tickets on e-bay instead. Too late for that now - we're heading to Great Escape on Sunday. Maybe a couple rides on the Comet will make everything better....

FYI: I work for a company that builds incredibly detailed websites with lots of forms and credit card purchasing capabilities. It's not that hard to build a system flexible enought to handle international orders. IMO, Six Flags programmers were just plain lazy. But I've ranted enough...

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Friday, October 15, 2004 10:25 AM
No question about it. A surprisingly violent little thing. GE is a fun Halloween park, too, given it's woodsy terrain. Hopefully you'll still have some leaves on the trees, which adds a lot to the vistas.
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Friday, October 15, 2004 10:30 AM

greatwhitenorth said: FYI: I work for a company that builds incredibly detailed websites with lots of forms and credit card purchasing capabilities. It's not that hard to build a system flexible enought to handle international orders. IMO, Six Flags programmers were just plain lazy. But I've ranted enough...

What was that Oscar Nominated song???

oh!

BLAME CANADA!

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Friday, October 15, 2004 10:50 AM
That's only because Canada doesn't count. ;)
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Friday, October 15, 2004 10:56 AM
Well, it's easy to see how they forgot how to program the country of Canada in there...

...considering how it's all tucked away down there.

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Friday, October 15, 2004 11:06 AM
Being "lazy" has nothing to do with software development, and I hate it when that term is tossed around. Mind you, I still think the developers they hired suck, but for different reasons.

The problem is with the requirements set forth for the site. If the requirements don't call for handling Canadian data, then it doesn't do that. If Six Flags didn't specify they needed that, then it wasn't developed. Now that it's done, they probably don't want to pay for the change. Being "lazy" doesn't even come into play. If anything it's more work to build that validation restriction than not.

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Friday, October 15, 2004 11:32 AM
Well, if they'd hired me to beta-test it, they'd have known about this flaw BEFORE it went live....;)
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Friday, October 15, 2004 11:46 AM
Jeff has a valid point. However, this is one more reason Six Flags is in a rut. Imagine if they marketed themselves well enough up north, they wouldn't be as cash strapped as it is.
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Friday, October 15, 2004 1:12 PM
Jeff, you know what you're talking about. But I have to wonder, in the on-line purchasing form, why did the web developers bother to include a list of dozens countries, when the only one they validate is USA? If that's not lazy programming, I don't know what is.

SF Great Escape doesn't do much cross-border marketing, but SF Darien Lake sure does. They hype up everything to get Canadians there for the day. In Ontario, Darien Lake buys more TV-time and newpaper ad-space than Paramount Canada's Wonderland. I think they missed a real selling opportunity.

PS: Has anyone else noticed that in the Six Flags site map, Six Flags La Ronde and Six Flags Mexico are 'European' parks?

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Friday, October 15, 2004 3:14 PM
That's not lazy, that's either following the requirements as written or shoddy programming. I'm not justifying it or saying it's OK, I'm just saying that being "lazy" had nothing to do with it.

Of course, in either case, if the shop's processes were modern and efficient, the issue would be caught either way and someone would've been empowered to do something about it.

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Friday, October 15, 2004 3:31 PM
If they don't support Canada, they should not allow the user to select it for the country.

I'd imagine the problem was QA or lack therof. Had I QA'd this, I'd tell them to either remove Canada as an option or support the Province and postal code. (Or at least provide an alternative).

Pretty big blunder if you asked me.

I'd try contacting sales and marketing or something (if you really care about them).

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Friday, October 15, 2004 9:25 PM
The weird thing is that all of the credit card auth gateways I've ever coded against take any "postal code," which makes sense seeing as how most countries use them. I've authorized CoasterBuzz Club memberships to at least a dozen countries no problem.
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Monday, October 18, 2004 9:33 AM
Despite it's faults, SF still got a good chunk of money from us. My wife and I opted for the $60 seasons passes rather than the $35 regular day-pass or $20 internet day-pass. Our two travel companions forked out 2 @ $35 for the day.

And the customer service at the park was pretty good. The staff processing our seasons passses were surprised that the web site didn't work for Canadians. Hopefully, their apparent concern will translate into improved web services. In addition, they will probably have computer problems of their own trying to enter our information into their computer system (the ZIP code box on the season pass information card was only 5 characters -- not big enough for a 6-character Canadian postal code).

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Monday, October 18, 2004 10:11 AM
Do alot of people (General Public) going to the parks for a day buy their tickets online? I don't know the market stats and such on this, I could be wrong, but do alot of people know about this way of purchasing. Maybe they do, I was just thinking that most regular park visitors I know get either a discount coupon or coke or pepsi can for a 5 dollar savings.
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Monday, October 18, 2004 10:40 AM
Turbo, all three of us (bASS, Schnapps! amd myself) bought our Frontier City tix online...

I don't think that it's a *significant* portion of their admissions YET, but internet sales are ONLY going in one direction...and parks had BETTER be prepared for the future....cause that's where we're headed...;)

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Monday, October 18, 2004 12:05 PM
Six Flags did market the online ticketing on TV, which really surprised me.

In talking to a couple of people at two different parks (two different corporate parks), online sales aren't huge, but at the rate they're growing, it may have a measurable impact on the cost associated with selling tickets at the window in the next year or two. I think that's the magic point there, because it's not just about offering a convenient service, it's about saving operational money.

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Monday, October 18, 2004 1:30 PM
Jeff,

If their programming didn't require Canadian data, and then they realized that they did want to change instead of not dropping the extra cash to change it, about how much would it cost SF to get a new program to do so?

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Monday, October 18, 2004 3:41 PM
It depends entirely on the shop. Assuming it's like one line of validation code that I could be 100% sure won't break anything else (and I could be sure because I do unit and integration testing), I'd change it for free. But I work differently, in that I'm one guy that hires contractors as needed, so my change process is a lot more flexible than it would be in a shop with a dozen developers. I know of shops that would charge a grand for the change, especially if they do a lot of manual testing.
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Monday, October 18, 2004 10:12 PM
I went through the same thing with trying to renew my season pass last year.

After awhile on the phone I found out about that 500 mile rule. Where you have to be so close to a SF park to renew. Kind of annoying that every year I have to buy a pass at a park, no way around it.

Although there was a bit of a silver lining that I was denied renewing my SFWOA season pass.

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Monday, October 18, 2004 10:53 PM
Doesn't SF own LaRhonde in Montreal? You would think that you could buy a season pass through them.
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