Whose Pricing will Prevail -- Six Flags or Cedar Fair?

Gonch,
the problem is that all of those small price differences add up. Sure, parking might only be $1.50 per person more. But then you eat lunch, and for a family of four it's $5 per person more. Then you buy some overpriced Dippin' Dots ($6 at SFGAdv), maybe a t-shirt or two, then a round of $4 pops, some dinner... before you know it, the family of four has easily spent twice as much to go to a Six Flags park than to go to a comparable independent or Cedar Fair park.
The Busch, Disney, and Universal parks may be on par or ahead of Six Flags in pricing, but in my opinion they are superior parks that families are willing to pay more for b/c they are vacation destinations.
Jeff's avatar

Charles Nungester said:
But why did HW get the Applause award?
Well it has nothing to do with their pricing. You'd think that some people believe Holiday World is taking a loss on admission around here.

Six Flags raised prices without demonstrating value, and I think that's where they're hurting themselves. It's still too early to tell what kind of effect it will have in the long run.

Cedar Fair didn't so a company-wide price drop, so it's silly to even compare. To their credit though, at least they're able to go up from the lower price if they so desire. It's a lot harder to go higher when you're already high.

And get a grip on the Paramount Parks acquisition. Mark my words... they'll put that debt away in four to seven years.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Remember SFWOA/SFO. The GP perceived this park to be a bad value for a number of reasons both price and operations related. In addition this park was stuck between two excellent parks that most people believe offer comparatively good value. Even now, with lower prices and improved operations, GL struggles to catch up to where they were in the pre Six-Flags days.

I live in Pennsylvania, a state loaded with parks offering good value. There are no Six Flags parks in the state for good reason. There is one Cedar Fair park. Sure SFGAdv draws some Pennsylvanians out of state because of their big coasters but so does CP, even though the Ohio park is further from the state line.

Don't get me wrong. SFGAm, SFOT, SFOG, SFFT, SFSTL and TGE are all very good parks and even some of the others have their good points. What I am saying is, Six Flags pricing is too high all around. If I could have a change in just one part of their pricing, however, it would be in food and drink. Bring these prices in line with Cedar Fairs and there would be much less to complain about. Also -- improve the operations at the bigger parks so visitors don't need those costly Flashpasses.

As for CP, if they were in another part of the country they could justify a $50 full price and a $40 average adult discounted price. Their concern has been the poor economy in Cleveland and Detroit. Pittsburgh's economy isn't any better so Kennywood has frozen their regular price for the last 4 or 5 years. Otherwise they might be around $32-35 full price and around $25 for an average discounted adult price.


Arthur Bahl

Mamoosh's avatar
you could even argue that Busch is in that market too, by virtue of San Diego, but I think that's stretching it.

Sea World San Diego advertises quite heavily in the LA market and the park is under 2 hours from most of the LA/OC area. I'd say it's by no means a stretch.

I'm with Arthur on this one.

Gonch made the comment that a few bucks doesn't make much difference for parking, but it's really more of a perception thing. Right away, you perceive that this place is more expensive than most of the other regional parks. $1 won't seem too bad, but yes, $4 does seem to make more of a difference, or at least a different impression.

Food and drinks have been overpriced for a while at Six Flags. They even had the nerve to increase their soda machine prices 50 cents during this season alone, which brings those to $3.50 now. They'd better retrofit these machines with credit card capability or at least accept $5 bills.

Sure, SFGAdv is almost the same price as Cedar Point, but that's AFTER the SFGAdv discount. If you find a Cedar Point discount somewhere, then you're even better off. Gonch, if you want to play the gate price game, then here you go--$59.99 + $15 parking = $74.99 for SFGAdv; $39.95 + $11 parking = $50.95 for CP. That's a pretty good difference, and that doesn't include the food and drink prices once you're in.

Another BIG problem with Six Flags is that they don't always justify their high prices with actual value and good service once you're in the park. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Six Flags put the cart before the horse. They should have fixed their product and demonstrated that for a couple of years BEFORE raising prices. The only prices that should have gone up were the season pass prices. Everything else was enough already.

Honestly, I hope their plan fails. I want them to succeed, but I want them to do it the better way--not by ripping people off and having bad operations.


coastin' since 1985

Why is it people are bashing the six flags chain and new managemnet without looking at the whole picture.

they are in 2 billions dolalrs (yes with a b) in debt. That is the only way they can make a dent in that .

^ And Cedar Fair is, too, and you don't see them pulling all the stuff that Six Flags is.

Thing is, you have people who work at Cedar Fair who know the amusement park business and who know how to run regional parks. On the other hand, you have Mark Shapiro and Dan Snyder, who have never been in the amusement park business before, but they have been in the sports business. They are trying to implement some of that same pricing to the amusement park business, which isn't the same animal.


coastin' since 1985

Lord Gonchar's avatar

How can you compare full price at some parks to discounted price at other parks? Don't the Cedar Fair parks have discounts as well.

I'm sure they do, but I'm comparing easily accessible pricing, meaning no additional digging or promotions to seek out. All of the prices I listed are ticket prices available on each park's respective website. Assuming the average person is truly considering a trip to any of the parks in comparison (which will rarely be the case) then they're not going to know the local tips and tricks for scoring discounts. I work on the assumption that they'll go online to check pricing and/or buy tickets.


Gonch, if you want to play the gate price game, then here you go...

Not playing the gate price game. I'm playing the buy-your-tickets-online game based on the assumption that anyone planning a trip and deciding between those two parks will have the savvy to go online and check things out, but they will not likely know of local discounts.


What about GL vs Wyandot Lake? They had prices that are close to each other. Both primarily draw people for the waterparks but GL has around 10 coasters.

What about it? GL is still struggling to draw an audience. All it proves is that price alone is not the determining factor. I don't believe a low price is immediately a good thing the same as I don't believe a high price is immediately a bad thing.


As for Gonch, he's a Wall Street guy all the way. He seems too sympathetic to the current state of the corporate world even though there is so much wrong there at present.

Wow, that's the first time I've heard that one. :)

I really don't think that pegs me one bit. I think I'm realistic. I honestly don't understand the aversion to spending money for something ant any cost. Everyone seems to simply ignore the actual numbers. SF parks across the board are comparable in gate price to their industry counterparts.


Actually, the thing that irks me most about Six Flags is the food and drink pricing. I believe that food and drink adds to the park experience and that is one of the things that I like about parks like KW, Knoebels, and HW. Cedar Fair has set their prices somewhere in the middle for the most part, higher than the above parks but lower than Six Flags. This wouid encourage me to buy something at their parks while I try to avoid any food expenditures at Six Flags parks unless absolutely necessary.

For the record this quote represents all the people who chimed in with in-park pricing concerns. :)

You guys got me there. I admitted in the SFKK TR and on the podcast that the pricing at SFKK affected our spending. Mostly due to my wife's aversion to them. I do suspect she represents the GP better than I. However, I'm more forgiving and when I visited SFGAdv alone with my brother I dropped the cash without a thought.

I guess my main question is do you actually spend less at the park or do you spend the same but end up with less to show for it? Secondly, how much do you guys really spend in the park? How friggin often do you eat, drink, buy souvenirs or play games (and any park regardless of pricing). I personally find that at cheaper parks we don't purchase more because prices are cheaper, but at expensive parks (see SF) we do buy less.

For example, last month at SFKK we bought less than we normally would have (a couple of snacks rather than a meal and treats, not as many games, no trinkets) but still dropped almost as much money as we normally would have. While this past weekend at HW we spent much less, but admittedly did more. However we weren't just doing things willy-nilly because the price was cheap. I mean do people really gorge themselves with an adbundance of food just because it is cheaper? Lord, I hope not. I didn't drink any more over the course of the day than I normally would have just because drinks are free. We didn't spend half of the day just playing games because they were cheaper, we played a few and that was that.

I really don't get the logic that says a person spends more if things cost less. Stop and think about it for a minute.


Another BIG problem with Six Flags is that they don't always justify their high prices with actual value and good service once you're in the park. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Six Flags put the cart before the horse. They should have fixed their product and demonstrated that for a couple of years BEFORE raising prices.

Couldn't disagree more. Here's why.

What happens after three years of improved service when the prices suddenly jump? People complain that nothing has changed except the price. Just like they are now. Again, stop and think about it.

What's the problem now? SF jacked up prices and nothing in the park changed. What would happen after three years of good operations and then a price hike? SF jacks up prices and nothing changes in the park over the lower price. There's never a right time to do a major, acorss the board price hike. It's lose/lose. This way, with the price hike first, when (if?) things change inside the park, suddenly it looks like forward progress. The prices stayed the same as they were, but the experience in the park got much better.


Honestly, I hope their plan fails.

Interesting. I hope their plan succeeds. I hope they pull out of debt, get the park issues fixed and we all win. Call me crazy.


Not to mention that at CP, you aren't shelling out extra for a Flashpass. CPs operations are so much better than a park like SFGAdv and the park has a huge amount of ride capacity. The result: shorter lines than at other megaparks. Sure MF and TTD can have hour plus waits but I would wait up to two hours to ride MF (I'm not so sure about TTD). Most of the other waits are reasonable and with the way Maggie and Gemini eat up lines, these two are often very short waits.

One more thing. When the prices are reasonable inside the park, I end up spending MORE. Why? Because I want good value. I would rather spend $30 on lots of food that is reasonably priced during my day at the park than to spend half that much and get very little for it. Right on KW, KB, and HW! As for CF, their middle of the road pricing inside the park is probably the best approach to maximizing their per-caps. Parks like theirs need to charge more than Kennywood or Knoebels (to support all of those big coasters) but they don't need to be ripping people off.

*** Edited 9/6/2006 4:37:09 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***


Arthur Bahl

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Yeah, but you're working off of the belief that everybody hates to pay for Flashpass or feels forced to.

I'd buy into the same system at CP if they offered it. I don't buy into it at an SF park if I don't feel I need it. (and that includes both of my SF stops this year - where I was still easily able to ride every available coaster multiple times in both instances and even arrived after opening and left before closing)

I guess I'll never see the other side and I'm sure the opposite is true.

All I know is that I've visted parks like HW, Beech Bend, Coney Island and Stricker's this year and had a good time. But I didn't limit myself based on petty perceptions of value and also enjoyed big parks like SFGAdv, SFKK, PKI and later this year CP and had a good time at those parks too. I'm not sure how that translates to a bad thing.


I finally returned to HW this year with my wife and kids (last time I went the Legend was new). We planned on bringing a lunch and eating outiside the park for dinner. On the first day we took our lunch but when it came time to go to the car to get it the kids were already tired and hungry so I decided to buy lunch (and eat our packed lunch for dinner). The prices were so reasonable that we decided to not pack for the second day and ate both lunch and dinner inside the park. So we bough 3 meals as opposed to 1 due to the reasonable prices.

For HW, I don't know if that means they came out ahead for this particular visit because the total profit was probably the same. However, we enjoyed ourselves more than we would have (one less meal to make, not having to walk to the car and eat there) and plan on returning soon. So in the long run I think the equation is: lower price x higher volume = more $ due to return visits.


Please do not get out of your doom-buggy!
Lord Gonchar's avatar
My equation of choice has always been:

higher price x less volume = more $ due to higher margins and reduced costs

I do see what you're saying, even if it makes no sense to me. I mean you guys planned on packing food and spending x number of dollars, but go to the park and saw low prices so you spent more than you planned on spending. I really don't get it.

Maybe I just do trips differently. We usually have a general idea of how much we can drop on any given trip - give or take. I don't spend more because things are cheaper and I have money burning a hole in my pocket. I get what I'd normally get and the difference stays with me.

Real world example.

Say I have $25 to spend. If I go to SF I might have to decide exactly what to get with that money (for example, fries and drinks for everyone rather than a full meal), but if I go to HW and can feed the four of us burgers/hotdogs, fries and a drink for $18, I don't turn around and buy more food just because I have $7 sitting in my pocket.

This is exactly where I don't get it.

On the customer level, if one is so worried about value and money, then why drop extra money for no reason other than you can. Maybe if you kept the difference, that trip to SF wouldn't be such a blow. ;)

On the business level, the higher priced park has sold me less product using less worker time and netted more cash on top of that.

The cheaper park sold more product (higher cost to them), that required more work to produce (higher cost) and took less cash from my pocket (lower profit margin).

While the difference between what the two took is $8 from my pocket, the actual profit is more than that for the higher priced park based on the costs incurred to get that $8 from me.

Makes sense to me.


Gonch, your ideas and opinions seem to make some sense from a money-making standpoint, but not much else. There is more to running a business than just taking people's money and cheating them out of better service.

I don't want to have to shell out $15 for parking, $40 for admission, $30-60 for a Flash Pass, and $13-15 for a meal just to have a good time. And this is assuming the park is running most/all of the rides well. Add in the fact that Six Flags tends to have multiple ride closures and some bad operations on some of the stuff that they actually are running.

If Cedar Fair can get by with charging me $35-$40 to get in, $9-$11 to park, & $10-$12 for a meal, plus offer great operations and have most/all of the rides open, who would choose the Six Flags alternative? This also leaves a better impression on me and I may be more happy to return.

If Six Flags was the norm for every regional amusement park, including the pricing and the operations, then either we may not be complaining as much and/or the business in general would be going to pot. But since we KNOW that there are definitley better-run operations who treat their customers better in terms of operations and value for your money, then we have reason to complain and bash them (SF).

I want to see them succeed, but not using some of the stuff that they're currently using.


coastin' since 1985

Jeff's avatar

rablat5 said:
Gonch, your ideas and opinions seem to make some sense from a money-making standpoint, but not much else. There is more to running a business than just taking people's money and cheating them out of better service.
Why is taking their money associated with "cheating them?" If you don't like the service, don't spend the money! This is not a difficult concept.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

I gotta agree with Gonch on this one...


Say I have $25 to spend...... I don't turn around and buy more food just because I have $7 sitting in my pocket.


Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch:

Old Woman 1: Whatcha got there?

Old Woman 2: A piston engine.

Old Woman 1: A Piston engine? What do you want with that?

Old Woman 2: Nothing... but it was on sale.

Call me crazy... but...

This year my wife and I visited SFA, Hersheypark, Camden, Beech Bend, SFKK, Holiday World, SFStL, PKD, SFNE, Knoebels (twice).

Best value (including Holiday World's "free soda")? SF's insanely low priced Season Pass (which, even though I like it, I still contend is one of their problems... they need to cost more).

Best perceved value: Gold flash pass at SFNE. Leisurely day in a moderately full park... 22 total rides (6 on Superman, 3 on Batman)... no standing in line. Also, spent about the same money for food as spent at any other park.

It may not have been so much of a "value" IF we did not have the season passes (bought at SFA)... but with those Season passes being in play, basically the Gold Flash Pass was the equivalent of a day's admission... and 22 rides at a major amusement park on a weekend is certainly a value in my book. If only that sort of thing would have been in place when we visited CP... I may have been able to do more than stand in line for MF for 1 1/2 hours.

Sorry... but when on vacation, and at a park that I may not get back too in the near future, time is money... and the Gold Flash Pass is worth its cost as far as am concerned.


"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
Lord Gonchar's avatar
Exactly, Jeff.

Rablat5 - cheating insinuates swindling or trickery of some kind. If anything I find the parks that offer things as 'free' as more guilty of trickery than a park like SF that just has high prices and makes no qualms about it.


If Cedar Fair can get by with charging me $35-$40 to get in, $9-$11 to park, & $10-$12 for a meal, plus offer great operations and have most/all of the rides open, who would choose the Six Flags alternative?

As a SF visitor I can answer for myself - the money isn't as big of an issue as some of you guys think. If the cost of a visit was all that mattered, then the highest attended parks in the US would be places like Conneaut, Lakemont and the ilk.


I don't want to have to shell out $15 for parking, $40 for admission, $30-60 for a Flash Pass, and $13-15 for a meal just to have a good time.

Ahhh, see my earlier comment of:

"I still think that deep down inside the issue for a lot of people is that they feel they're being priced out of something they want. If any given product isn't in your price range or doesn't offer an acceptable price/value ration then you simply pass. I really wish I could score a new Jag for $20,000 but it's not going to happen. I can't justify $80,000 so I just forget about it and move on. I really wish I could score a 4BR/3BA McMansion in the area for less than a quarter million, but I can't so I just move on to something better suited to my needs. I don't curse the folks at Jaguar for pricing their cars as they see fit. I don't damn the fools who inflate the property values. I kind of accept that those things won't work for me in my current situation."

I think you're comment plays right into this idea. Basically, to you, it isn't worth it. That doesn't mean everybody feels the same way. The annoyance seems to come from the fact that you've been priced out of a certain segment of your chosen interest. You're saying a day at the park isn't worth $100 to you. It still doesn't mean the pricing is wrong - all it means it that's it's wrong for you.


Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch...

Ha! That's my mother-in-law exactly. In fact, I know a lot of people like that. The funny thing is that they're usually the ones complaining about the costs of things. The irony is delicious.

SLFAKE's post expresses my approach entirely.

*** Edited 9/6/2006 6:45:51 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***



I'd say it's by no means a stretch.

I'm okay with that. I just didn't want to oversell my case---which was that Knott's is unique amongst CF properties by virtue of intense competition in the theme/amusement park segment.


And did you see my last part of the post?

"If Six Flags was the norm for every regional amusement park, including the pricing and the operations, then either we may not be complaining as much and/or the business in general would be going to pot. But since we KNOW that there are definitley better-run operations who treat their customers better in terms of operations and value for your money, then we have reason to complain and bash them (SF)."

If high pricing and lousy operations were the norm for everyone, then what would be the point of singling SF out. But since this is not the norm--there are definitely better-run operations and alternatives--then this is one of the reasons we complain and bash.

This is a free market economy, and they have the right to charge what they want. But thank God for competition. Cedar Fair, Hersheypark, Busch, etc. have a better product and treat the customer better. Six Flags could be better, but some of us don't like their approach to pricing and their bad operations, therefore we bash.

McDonald's, which is a much better run operation than SF, isn't always known for their quality, but they do have quantity (ie. SF). If McDonald's were to one day say, we promise we're gonna make our food better. In fact, we're gonna model our stuff after _______ (insert well-run, high quality food institution here)--in SF case, Disney. Then, all of a sudden, their prices shoot up--burgers go from under $1 to $2, fries to $3, etc. But the product doesn't change much, if at all. Sure, they have a right to charge what they want, but eventually, the customers will be onto their high pricing and failed promises, and the business will fall away.

Six Flags can charge what they want, but when their are better operations out there charging less and operating better, who's gonna win out in the long run?


coastin' since 1985

The one problem for many people that want a better value alternative to the Flags is that in some areas, no good one exists nearby. For them it is Six Flags or the highway (and $3 a gallon gas, hotels, etc.). I'm talking about Dallas-Ft. Worth, Atlanta, and Chicago in particular.

In the Texas case, the only major Six Flags alternative is Sea World and that is more a show and exhibit park than a ride park(although it is of high quality). In Atlanta, the best alternative is a 200+ mile drive to PCar near Charlotte, a bit far for a daytrip. (Lake Winnie and Alabama Adventure might appeal to some families but the thrill seekers want something more than what the smaller parks offer). Chicago fares a bit better than the others with IB a couple of hours away and the Dells about 3 hours away. Still, in this case, the best alternative for big thrills is CP, and that's 200+ miles away on toll roads.

I will concede that the three Six Flags parks in these places are beter run than some of the others. It's just that the pricing is to far out of line.


Arthur Bahl


higher price x less volume = more $ due to higher margins and reduced costs

For some things, that makes sense---food operations, etc. For others, the reduced cost part may not materialize. I'm not sure, but my sense is that the fixed costs of an amusement park (utilities, capital depreciation, and a staff large enough to run everything at minimal capacity) outweigh the variable costs (extra staff/mantenance costs for more ride vehicles in operation)


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