Virtual Queue systems as a BUSINESS decision

Sunday, July 1, 2001 7:51 AM
Whether it's Six Flags, Disney, Paramount, etc., all these systems have one thing in common -- they're a form of "virtual queue".

Six Flags, at least at WoA (any others?) is experimenting to see if people are willing to PAY for that. To be honest, I CAN'T fault them for trying -- parks ARE there to make money, whether we like the price gouging that goes on or not. (I realize that the system at SFWoA as it stands right now, ISN'T really a virtual queue in the way that the others are, as you're not assigned a time to get back to the ride...)

Now, I think some parks would be better served lowering prices on various things (parking, admission, and/or food costs, for instance) to draw more people in. However, for something like FastLane -- a totally new service -- the price point still has to be determined.

Example A: Assume FastLane doesn't impact gate figures, or spending habits (food, etc.) otherwise. If 1000 patrons take the free passes, and "only" 100 take the $10 passes, then obviously it still makes business sense to charge.

Example B: Other extreme. Assume everyone who gets FastLane wouldn't have come to the park otherwise. Use the same numbers as above, assuming $30 admission. In this case, giving away the FastLane pass is a HUGE win -- 1000 * $30 vs 100 * $40...

Now, the real benefit is somewhere in the middle. Some people may come to the park because of a virtual queue system. Some people who were already there, may be willing to pay a bit extra to use it.

Now factor in that the less time people spend waiting in lines, the more time they're out on the midways, possibly playing games, buying food and souvenirs, etc. Disney realized this early, and has had their system in place the longest. The other chains are figuring this out, and are experimenting with these systems as a result. Whether we like them or not, systems like these probably ARE here to stay. We can only hope that the final implementations are sensible and fair to everyone involved.



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--Greg

http://www.pobox.com/~gregleg/
*** This post was edited by GregLeg on 7/1/2001. ***
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Sunday, July 1, 2001 8:24 AM
I think SFGAM and SFGADV have fastpass, is that the same thing?

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Ozzfest 2001: The greatest show on earth!
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Sunday, July 1, 2001 8:41 AM
It's great,it enables the patron to get more for their moneys worth.
This way you can hit the coasters and visit the water,marine park,or catch a show all in one days visit.:)
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Sunday, July 1, 2001 8:08 PM

RagingBullGuy said:
I think SFGAM and SFGADV have fastpass, is that the same thing?


Yes, that's exactly what this whole post was about.

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--Greg

http://www.pobox.com/~gregleg/
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Monday, July 2, 2001 5:34 AM
The point behind these systems is that long lines are evil because people waiting in line tend to get cranky, and more important, they tend not to spend any money while waiting in line.

The problem with the virtual queue system is that it can only remove a small number of people from the "real" queue...such a small number of people, in fact, that it has almost no effect on the length of the "real" queue. But because now virtual queue participants are being added to the ride without waiting in the queue, the "real" queue moves more slowly, meaning that the majority of the ride patrons spend MORE time waiting in line, getting even crankier. And of course now that the line is moving more slowly, they have more time to engage in vandalism.

The answer is that what the parks really want is something to make the long lines disappear. And the only real answer to that is capacity. And as long as the parks keep building rides that can do 800 PPH instead of 2400 PPH and then hyping the daylights out of them, they're gonna get long lines.

Capacity is the answer, folks! Get the capacity up and everybody can be happy.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.
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Monday, July 2, 2001 8:11 AM
You make a good point, Dave. Other than the occasional can of pop, guests spend no money during the time they're waiting in line...

But now that they're selling the virtual queue passes, not only are they bringing in more money by having people on the midways, they're also pocketing the cash from the sale of fastpass.

But, as you also point out, people just get cheesed off when someone "cuts" in front of them, whether it be illegally or with a virtual queue ticket. I mean, look at the "30 Coasters in 24 Hours?" show...

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Matt Lynch
Co-Webmaster, Kennywood Boulevard
http://kennywood.coasterbuzz.com
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Monday, July 2, 2001 7:02 PM
I do hear Disney's system works, but I hold judgement for after I use it this winter. The SFWoA thing is bad and establishes a class system.

The virtual queue systems are a good idea, but I think Dave's idea is better. I'm starting to really appreciate the capacity thing at Cedar Point this year. With so many rides, the crowds are spread out more than ever. So far, I've never seen the Millennium Force line longer than 70 minutes, while rides like Magnum and Gemini are very short waits. I attribute all this to the fact that there are so many rides that the crowd is better distributed.

The other nice thing about high-capacity rides is that they keep people moving, so the wait isn't bad. If you keep moving, you're happier and less inclined to "break stuff."

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Jeff
Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com
"From the global village... in the age of communication!"
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Monday, July 2, 2001 9:23 PM
While I can't fault Six Flags for TRYING such a system, I DO agree with these comments. I was at SFWoA today (trip report coming) and saw this attempt at FastPass in action.

More comments will be in my trip report, but on rides where they set aside specific rows for the FastPass'ers, and had those rows roped off (Villain, X-Flight), it was VERY fair to all involved, and worked with few complaints. On rides where there were no set rows and they were just allowing FastPass people on before standard riders (S:UE, Batman, Serial Thriller), it was chaos.

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--Greg

http://www.pobox.com/~gregleg/
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 1:20 AM
Not only does this system get more people on the midways longer, it gets the "right" people on the midways longer. The people who have the disposable income to spend $10 on exit passes are the people who are more likely to spend more money elsewhere in the park.

The little kids and teenagers with season passes and little to no cash, who were dropped off by mom for a day of discount baby-sitting are the ones the parks want standing in line. People who are careless and thoughtless enough to vandalize, mostly said kids and teenagers, do it regardless of waiting in a slow line. Vandalism has been going on long before fastpass systems were ever in place. I don't believe people who wouldn't normally vandalize would become vandals because the line moves a little bit slower. If there is any one place that the parks would prefer that the vandals and their vandalism resides, I'm sure its in the queue.

A form of "class system" is entrenched in capitalist economics, its woven into our way of life. Why do they charge more for front row seats at your local sporting event? I wouldn't be surprised if upcharge exit passes are here to stay in one form or another. What a shocker it will be when all of our beloved home parks who we are convinced "would never do such a thing" announce their upcharge fastpass program.

Some people have said "what if everyone buys the pass, then what's the point?" As soon as the idea catches on, and the parks get close to selling the daily allowance of passes, the prices will go up. $10 bucks for 5 passes sounds cheap as it is, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot people with a decent disposable income jump on these passes, I sure would. As they say, time is money.

People may originally be angry that the guy with the extra $10 gets to bypass the standard line, but like anything else they will begin to accept it. Before long it will just be one of the things you deal with when attending a park, like $2.50 bottled water and $8 parking. As Gregleg pointed out, the system works much better when there are seats designated for fastpass. If the system proves successful (read: profitable) then I would expect all future queue houses are designed and old stations are retrofitted with fastpass accessibility in mind.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 8:42 AM

Jeff said:
"The virtual queue systems are a good idea, but I think Dave's idea is better. I'm starting to really appreciate the capacity thing at Cedar Point this year. With so many rides, the crowds are spread out more than ever. So far, I've never seen the Millennium Force line longer than 70 minutes, while rides like Magnum and Gemini are very short waits. I attribute all this to the fact that there are so many rides that the crowd is better distributed."


Personally, I would attribute this to simply smaller crowds. From my experience at the Po!nt last year (that abhoration known as closing Saturday), high-capacity rides or not, lines were STILL off the hook. Hell, Greg and I waited an hour for food. While I think that running your rides @ peak capacity as often as the equipment allows is PRIORITY NUMBER ONE, I think that virtual queues have some merit.

And I applaud Six Flags for their FASTLANE efforts. They have like four or five incarnations of the system in place right now. I see this as a testing phase, to see which system has the most benefit for the company.
lata,
jeremy
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"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men" - Willy Wonka: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 9:11 AM
Build more rides and up the gate if you have to. You'll lose money in the long run if people get pissed off about the system.

Although I enjoyed going to the front of Soarin' California at DCA, it wasn't worth the headache and heartbreak of watching throngs of people being let into line in front of me for the other lines.

And I HATE having to keep pulling out my wallet. Get me at the door and have it over with! Give me free parking too!

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Forget about it. It can't be THAT bad! *** This post was edited by janfrederick on 7/3/2001. ***
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 9:21 AM
2Hostyl said:
And I applaud Six Flags for their FASTLANE efforts. They have like four or five incarnations of the system in place right now. I see this as a testing phase, to see which system has the most benefit for the company.

I totally agree with Jeremy,it is a totally new thing and with that,it is going to take some time and testing to figure out which system will work the best for them and the park patrons.Every new system has bugs to be worked out and this is no exception.I really don't see any problems with the system Sfgadv has going rite now but, then again,i am not one to complain alot either.As of rite now,their fast pass is free and they limit them to 2,000 people.I have yet to see them used that frequently(i go on weekdays) and,they have to take middle rows of the rides which is fair enough since FP is free.I have seen the ride ops fill the empty seats with non pass holders when there are no FP people waiting for them.I guess if the ride ops correspond(this won't always happen) properly there really should be no problems with this particular system.



~*Rickyswmn*~
"A Crazy female Coaster Fanatic"
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 9:37 AM
Alton Towers have operated virtual Q's for the last 3 years. Last year they introduced a higher price ticket, whereby you can enter each ride via the exit.....ONCE! This is £70 as opposed to £20 normal entrance. The ride exit passes are limited each day, so most people book them in advance. Virtual Q's are not all they're cracked up to be. Last Sat, I was at Alton, got a virtual Q ticket for Nemesis at 1.30pm. Advising me to return between 3.30 and 4.30. When I got there, we still had to wait another 40 mins......
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 9:47 AM

janfrederick said:


And I HATE having to keep pulling out my wallet.



Then don't! From some of the responses here and elsewhere, it's as if Six Flags is greetings guests at the gate with Fast Passes in one hand, a gun in the other and forcing those poor wretches to buy a Pass or else... Or "Buy a Fast Pass or Bugs bites the bullet instead of the carrot!"

Capitalism works. Enough people pass on Fast Pass, Fast Pass will pass away. If people like it, then you'll have the choice of putting up with the affront to your sensibilities, or taking your entertainment dollars to another company. There seems to be an underlying sense of entitlement here, as well, the idea that theme park rides are "ours" rather than the property of profit-mongering corporations.
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 9:48 AM
IOA is going thru this very process right now. They currently have 2 hotels and another on the way. The hotel guests get all the perks. First it was FOTL (Front of the Line) access. The response was overwhelming and they can't call it that anymore. Now it's unlimited express passes for the hotel guests and the multi-day ticket holders get nothing.

How do I feel about this? I think they should do away with the system and BUILD MORE RIDES. IOA needs another coaster or HIGH CAPACITY attraction. IOA is packed right now, no matter what they do, it won't help the long lines.

I'll tell you, I waited in the line for Rip Saw Falls, and it crawled. I thought the ride was broken or only running 1 boat. Then we get near the ramps leading down and that's where the merge point is. They let a group of Express people in, then let a group of regular people in. Trust me, it slows down the regular line to a crawl.

Express systems that use an appointment time change the enjoyment of the park. You're constantly looking at your watch. And this Six Flags idea sounds good, but the little bit of money the park makes isn't worth it, because in the long run, they're going to make alot of people mad. Watch, the complaints will start to come slowly. People will avoid the park completely because they'll say the lines move slow.

Build more high capacity rides, have longer operating hours, and this problem goes away.
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Robin Fox - "I see Stars, Can You See Them Too?"
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Tuesday, July 3, 2001 10:06 AM
" People will avoid the park completely because they'll say the lines move slow."

Hmm,less of a wait for me in this case but,back to reality,SF would definately do something about it before it got to this point.If people would actually take the time to go to guest relations and file complaints i am sure the park would react.This is the big problem,people can walk around and complain yet when they leave the park they forget to tell guest relations about it.I am so sure if this becomes the huge problem everyone predicts it will be,SF will remove the system entirely.Remember,its all about money and those who spend the money on park admission are their main profit.If they see any type of crowd decrease i bet they start reseaching the problem asap.




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~*Rickyswmn*~
"A Crazy female Coaster Fanatic"
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