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

Lord Gonchar said:
My equation of choice has always been:

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

If that were true, then why is Walmart the most successful company in the world when it operates on the principles of low prices and massive volume?

Because Wal Mart bullies suppliers and employees into making their low prices yield high margins due to crazily (unfairly?) low costs?

--Brett, who hates Disney, Wal Mart, Sony and most other "evil empires", even if I can understand that they need to make money ...

The reason why they increase prices on things like food more is because they make the most profit on them.

I bet once they get to a good position with the debt then they will start lowering prices.

Also you have to take into account they wanted to do things with no money to do it with so why not increase prices so you can make the changes required to make the parks better.

Remember The six flags chain is a financial mess.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Shivtim said:
If that were true, then why is Walmart the most successful company in the world when it operates on the principles of low prices and massive volume?

In addition to what Brett said? Because people are morons. :)

Seriously, though?

Because the products Wal-Mart offers are commodities. The products you find at Wal-Mart and any other department store are exactly the same, the only difference is price.

It's the amusement park equivalent of an exact clone of CP existing right next door to the original and charging twice the price. No one in their right mind would pay twice the amount for the exact same product.

Let me quote a Brian Noble post:

A commodity market is one in which the only differentiation is price---there is little differentiation between suppliers, because the products offered by two different suppliers are generally indistinguishable.

This is absolutely not the case for amusement parks.

It's not a valid comparison (drawing parallels between the amusement industry and Wal-Mart).

...and for the record I don't admire a single thing about Wal-Mart, hate their stores, don't shop there and generally consider them a plague - so much for the corporate sympathy angle, huh?

More correct comparisons would be non-commodities.

Why do hotels that charge $500 a night exist in the face of hotels that charge $39 a night? Why can Porsche sell cars for six figures when there are tons of vehicles available for 1/10th the price? Why are the $200 seats behind home plate usually filled, but the $15 cheap seats in peanut heaven are the first to go empty at a baseball game? Why do $100 haircuts sell at a salon while down the street a $5 haircut can be had at the local barbershop? The list goes on and on.

I can only speak for myself. I don't shop for anything based on price alone. I search for what meets my needs then I try to find the best deal available. It just seems like common sense to me.

*** Edited 9/7/2006 3:16:35 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Impulse-ive said:
...saying that you can't complain about what these parks charge for their services seems very pretentious (I think that's the right word). I get the feeling this isn't what you're going for, but when I read what to my eyes comes across as "stop whining, if you can't afford it, stay home" it just sends the hairs on my neck up and the defenses go into code red

Yeah, I'm sure in type it comes across a lot colder than it may in person. I'm ok with being interpreted as a dick even if I'm really not meaning to come off entirely like one. :)

I'm willing to have the same discussions in person - anybody can feel free to hit me up at BooBuzz. (podcast idea? ;) )

Charge me $100 at the door, advertise it upfront, broadcast all the wonderful things that are included (say, free parking, free drinks, $10 in food vouchers [and food is more in line with say Wendy's pricing] and a cut-in-line pass for one ride in the park one time that day) and I'm happily budgeting that amount and coughing it up at the gate (see: Holiday World).

Believe it or not, I kind of agree with that. I love the idea of a all-inclusive, POP admission. How great would it be to drop $150 at the gate and forget about it!?

In fact, SFGAdv did offer a package like that this year for just $99. Seems like a great idea that got little attention -especially with the sheer amount of perks included. (merch discounts, two meals, two snack, admission, upcharge rides, games, flashpass, on-ride photos, souvenir cup with refill, etc.)

*** Edited 9/7/2006 3:30:21 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

rollergator's avatar

Shivtim said:

Lord Gonchar said:My equation of choice has always been:higher price x less volume = more $ due to higher margins and reduced costs
If that were true, then why is Walmart the most successful company in the world when it operates on the principles of low prices and massive volume?

Different industry... :)

SFI tried to be WalMart....how'd that work out... ;)

^Good point about commodities, but isn't Six Flags basically trying to make itself into a commodity via brand naming? I know that may seem like a bit of a stretch, but many in the general public don't differentiate one Six Flags park from the next.
In general I think you're right, I just still don't believe the whole "higher prices = more profit" and I think Holiday World is a perfect example of a park that does not charge high prices yet still has a large enough profit to put in multi-million dollar rides each and every year. Meanwhile, Six Flags, which has some of the highest prices, is in massive debt. It just doesn't add up the way you describe it.

uh-oh, I used "via"... I hope the language police doesn't get me.

Let me first state that I generally do not flinch at paying for what I want. The reason I don't get to many parks is because of time contraints, not monetary issues. I also have many other competing interests that usually win out over coasters. (coasters just happen to be the one that I enjoy chatting about on the net the most ;) )

That being said, I understand why so many people feel that they don't get the value that they payed for at some of the SF parks.

Not everyone can plan a weekday trip to avoid the crowds and not everybody gets lucky enough to visit the mega-park on a day with nobody there due to the weather.

It seems that most people go on some random weekend over the summer. So the parks are naturally most crowded on these days. If the park is packed the patrons notice if the ops are busting their butts to put people on the rides as fast as possible. They notice if all the trains are running on the coasters.

If everything possible is being done by the park to put people through the rides as fast as possible, then paying extra for a line skipping option is a great value if you want to get on more rides or just want to spend less time standing in line. It's the only possible way to get more of what you want.

On the other hand, people also notice slow operations and coasters not running to capacity. You then buy the line skipping option to get what you should have gotten in the first place. It's the only thing that YOU can do to get more of what you want, but not the only thing possible.

Sure it's great for the park from a purely economical standpoint. They are paying fewer employees, putting less wear and tear on their trains and getting people to buy the upgrades. That is a lot of $$$ saved/earned. But that scenario is awfully close to cheating people out of their money. You'd only have to prove that the poor operations were purposefully instituted in order to sell more upgrades. You won't piss off everybody, but haven't they learned anything from SFWoA?

I know that the shareholders are the ones that the corporate park CEOs need to satisfy. I guess that's why I frequent the non-publically traded parks.

I know that the little guys are also trying to line their pockets as much as they can, but they also seem to be trying to ensure that I have as much fun as possible at their park. Employees seem to be friendlier and guests seem to be treated with more respect. They 'appear' to put their guests first where other parks obviously put the shareholders first. Good corporate parks still keep their shareholders at #1 while convinving the patrons that they are the most important.

*** Edited 9/7/2006 5:23:33 AM UTC by Incidentalist***

Yeah is Good!
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I think Holiday World is a perfect example of a park that does not charge high prices yet still has a large enough profit to put in multi-million dollar rides each and every year.

I think of Holiday World as a park that based on geographic location and park offering can't charge any more than they do.

Funny story about the area. We just visited this past weekend and stayed about 15 or 20 miles north of the park in Jasper. We ordered-in to the hotel from a local joint. The price of a half-sub? $2.49! I believe the whole sub was $4.99. The entire menu was priced similarly. I don't know about any of you guys, but I haven't scored a sandwich delivered from a local place for under $5 in something like a decade.

It just says to me the cost of living is lower there. When the local food establishments are giving food away for a few bucks, how could anyone in the area justify a higher price inside the park?

I know HW is wonderful and all. I get it. Really I do, but think about it. There are something like 270+ amusement park locations in the USA, yet the value argument keeps falling back on the same handful of names (HW, KW, Knoebels, etc) - I think it's time to realize that these parks are the exception, not the rule and furthermore that their combined yearly attendance doesn't match just one of the big SF park's.

So all I see established is that if you dig deeply enough there are a few parks that offer a pretty good deal. The catch is that these parks usually offer much less and are in out of the way places where higher prices wouldn't fly in the first place.

Just me?

On the other hand, people also notice slow operations and coasters not running to capacity. You then buy the line skipping option to get what you should have gotten in the first place.

To a degree, sure. But what are the expectations? I really can't defend crappy operations. But I personally do more than just ride rides, I do more than just coasters and I don't power ride. Is the idea of people entering the gate and doing nothing but standing in ride line after ride line really representative of how people visit parks? That's not a rhetorical question. Maybe it isn't as big an issue as it sounds. (an issue yes, but perhaps smaller than assumed)

Secondly, (and man this sounds horrible, but that's never stopped me before :) ) maybe the correct POV is to see how SF is changing the game (whether it's intentional or not).

Gate admission scores you a 'basic' entrance to the park complete with long waits in stand-by lines. You can then purchase an 'upgraded' experience and avoid stand-by lines if so inclined.

Stick with me here. Open your mind and really stretch the logic process. Still with me? Good, let's finish this process:

I've visited a few parks that charge for entry and then offer the option of paying for tickets per ride or an additional fee for a wristband. (Beech Bend this past eekend immediately comes to mind)

Isn't this the same idea on a smaller level? It costs everybody $10 just to get into the park at Beech Bend. From there you can pay for individual ride tickets and ride as you choose. An alternate option is to pay $24 and be allowed access to all the rides you can get on in a day.

Is that really all that different (except for the sheer scale of the pricing) than the SF 'basic' and 'upgraded' admissions?

Seriously. Consider it a bit. I can see how it may seem like a stretch, but I can also see the similarities.

All the parks like Beech Bend are doing is informing you up front of the different plans. Maybe SF should offer two admissions right at the gate? The basic admission for $40 which includes the right to ride all you can fit into a day by way of waiting in stand-by lines or a $70 admission that includes all the rides you can fit into a day by way of virtual queue access.

Just one of the wacky ways my mind works. Even if you don't agree, I hope it makes people think for a second.

A third approach to reasoning is from the enthusiast standpoint. This kind of goes back to SLFAKE's post. An enthusiast (especially a value conscious one) will most likely own a season pass.

Great, we score the mega-cheap SF pass for $60. Even just three visits makes the cost of entry $20 per visit. Add the Flashpass cost of $23 ($10 rental fee is waived for passholders) and you're paying just $43 a visit. Hell, make a total of 10 visits to SF parks and it's just $29 a visit for single passholders buying Flashpass with every visit. Do the math for a family of four and the price of 10 visits w/ basic Flashpass is just $19 per person per visit.

So what if it is necessary to get a Q-bot to truly 'enjoy' the SF parks. If one is local to a SF park or travels a bit then get some passes, pony up for a Q-bot each time and watch how the cost of an enjoyable day at an SF park can actually be cheaper than admission to most 'value' parks.

And don't forget that sick $99 deal I linked to in an above post.

It seems like no matter what kind of park visitor you may be, there are ways to avoid all the pitfalls that everyone seems to repeatedly complain about. To go back to something I said earlier in this thread:

"Pricing is the least of SF's problem at this point"

...and I still think it hold true even after all the back and forth debate.

I shouldn't have to avoid crappy operations and consitant ride closures due nothing to the actual ride.


I think we need to wait to see what the new management will do. I thought I read that the new management was thinking about making qbot or what is now flashpass free.

Remember they want to be more disney like.

I think we have a better chance of seeing good changes at the parks under this management then the old management.

So far for next year season passes for great adventure are only 74.99 starting later in the month so i dont see why everybody is complaining about the prices.

I say wait till the begining of 2007 before you criticize the new management.

I still say, raise the price of the season passes. This would reduce the overcrowding and the teen hangout problems without having much effect on revenue. There should also be two kinds of season passes: single park passes and chain wide passes. If there are a theme park and a water park next to each other with separate gates, there should also be a combination pass for those two parks.

Six Flags needs to do more for that once a year visitor who is not getting enough value at present.

I do agree, however that operations is the main concern. People dont want to see 5 or 6 rides down or long lines on coasters operating with only one train. *** Edited 9/7/2006 12:36:56 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

Lord Gonchar said:

I think of Holiday World as a park that based on geographic location and park offering can't charge any more than they do.

It just says to me the cost of living is lower there. When the local food establishments are giving food away for a few bucks, how could anyone in the area justify a higher price inside the park?

WHAT! You mean that HW charges the prices they do because it is good business sense and not simply as a favor to its guests?!? Wait... I have to call my therapist now.

Seriously... I agree. Parks charge what they do because they can... simple as that.

Side note:

After reading this thread (well, skimming some of it because it has gotten very repetitive)... My conclusion is...

IF CP & HW would have jacked up their prices (say $15 to park, $50 admission, Soft drink costing $3.75, etc) and SF would have slashed their prices (say $5 to park, $29.95 to enter, and soft drinks for 50 cents, etc) many of the folks on here who are arguing against Higher prices would suddenly be arguing in favor of high prices and saying how stupid SF would be for lowering theirs.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
I do believe that Cedar Point could and should charge a bit more if the economy wasn't so weak in their part of the country. Maybe what they really need to do is to promote the park even more outside daytrip distance. These visitors would be more interested in the quality of their park experience as opposed to the price of admission. IF CP were in Houston, for example, instead of Ohio, I would see $49.95 as a fair and appropriate full price with average discounted price in the upper 30s.

What I want more than anything, as I have repeated many times, is for parks to keep the food and drink prices more reasonable. Good, reasonably priced park food adds greatly to the park experience and in my case, at least, greater value = more overall spending here. I do concede that parks like CP and SF GAdv should charge more than KW or HW but still, they should not go to extremes.

What about $15 parkng? That was a big jump. Why didn't they jsut go to, say $12 at parks like SFOT and SFGAm. Maybe $15 is all right at SFMM where land is at a premium and the parking lots ares sitting on million dollar an acre land.

As for Flashpass, get those operations up to the proper level. A good park shouldn't reguire paying extra to have a decent experience.

Finally, what would happen if HW charged Six Flags prices. Many people would quit going. They might decide to make more trips to SFKK, SFGAm, SFStl and KI. It just isn't going to happen. The loss in both revenue and goodwill would mean the end of HW as we know it.

Arthur Bahl

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Arthur Bahl said:
Six Flags needs to do more for that once a year visitor who is not getting enough value at present.

Yeah, but SFGAdv did - here's the link again.

Here's the breakdown for those not wanting to click the link:

For $99.99 you get:

  • Admission to the park
  • Admission to the Safari
  • Flashpass rental
  • Two meal vouchers
  • Two snack vouchers
  • Souvenir cup with refill
  • Ride Photo
  • Five Games of Skill plays
  • Go-Kart Admission
  • Rock Wall Climb
  • Eruption Admission
  • $10 off of merchandise purchase

I'd say that represents an outstanding deal for the one-time visitor.

rollergator's avatar
Quick little insight (or not so insightful, you decide).

SFI, *in the old days*, was thinking that guests would forgive EVERYTHING (dirty, slow, unfriendly, horrible operations) if you simply gave them deeply discounted admission prices and built something new every year. Turns out they were wrong...who'd a thunk? ;)

The new guys were doing fabulously..until the season hit. They've still got it MOSTLY right...but poor operations and exceptionally high levels of downtime seem to have returned...along with shortened hours. I understand they need to SAVE money...but earning more money beats the pants off of cost-cutting to save money...(i.e., this ain't WalMart, it's the HOSPITALITY industry).

That is to say, Gonch would NEVER run my WalMart (if I had one, LOL), but he'd be the guy I'd talk to if I wanted to bring in high-margin, low-volume, high-maintenance customers who spend freely and have expectations. :)

SLFAKE, no I wouldn't. It's called getting what you paid for. Some parks give you that and others IMO fall short.

When I go to a park, all I expect is that they are trying their best to put people on the rides as quickly as possible. This includes both the personel and the equipment working efficiently and as close to capacity as they reasonably can. Is that really too much to ask for?

Same thing with the food. Is the food at HW really a value? No, it's not. People know that they will be paying higher prices for food at places like amusement parks, theaters, sporting venues, etc... Again, what are you getting compared to it's price. If the food is pricey and also crap, people will complain. If the food is decent for what it is even though it's on the pricey side, people will be more accepting of that.

I don't care if the price of a burger is the exact same at HW as it is at SF, it's how the two burgers compare to each other that matters in the whole perceived value argument.

Gonch, I see your point, really I do. Maybe SF needs to change their ad campaign. "Come to our great parks with all these great coasters for only $50, if you want to actually ride them it's going to cost you more." I understand if they can't get more people on the rides, but when you're paying for the upgrade and the park isn't doing everything they can do to get people on the ride in a timely fashion. Well, IMO that just stinks.

I find it odd that the parks that generally do run near capacity aren't the ones charging extra for the line skipping passes. If they offer them at all, they are generally free. Wow!

The only reason why SF gets away with such crappy service is because they usually don't have any local competition, and rarely is it another large park that can offer comparable thrills. But in just about every other business I can think of, their tactics wouldn't fly.

Snyder and Co. will eventually realize that amusement park patrons are not like sports fans. They won't keep coming back if they don't feel like they are getting what they paid for. Again, look at SFWoA. Why did it fail and why is it still struggling? Poor service. It matters at any price.

If the crappy service vanished, so would my complaints about the prices. SF looked to be heading in the right direction at the beginning of the year. Things took a turn over the course of the year and ended up where they have been for years.

I only have so many entertainment dollars to spend and I have a ton of options to use them on. Most of the local competition does a much better job than SF to ensure that I get as much as I can out of my $, or at the very least I know EXACTLY what I'm getting BEFORE I pay for it. That's why you haven't seen me at my local SF park in years.

*** Edited 9/7/2006 2:29:58 PM UTC by Incidentalist***

Yeah is Good!
SFWoA. Remember that. That is what happened when Six Flags ran into coppetition with parks that set high standards that they did not meet.

Imagine. One megapark with cutting edge rides, good operations and pricing in line with what the park offered. Another mid-sized park with reasonable all-around pricing, great atmosphere, good ride variety and a strong touch of nostalgia. That's what SLWoA was up against.

Arthur Bahl

Arthur Bahl said:

As for Flashpass, get those operations up to the proper level. A good park shouldn't reguire paying extra to have a decent experience.

Odd... Funny thing is this I enjoyed my leisurly day at SFNE this year with Flash Pass (giving me 22 different rides as stated above) more than my rushed day of standing in line last year at CP with nothing like Flash Pass and only catching 13 different rides.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
Lord Gonchar's avatar
Now we're getting into the meat and potatoes. The real issue - the decline of Six Flags.

I still think Red Zone (Snyder, Shaprio, whoever) underestimated the sheer scale of how deep the damage done at SF runs, much in the same way I think CF underestimated it with Geauga Lake.

CF is offering probably the single best park deal going with their GL pricing and still attendance is hard to grow.

The new SF team is sitting on two billion dollars worth of debt, saddled with 20 or 30 "Geauga Lake's" and forced to please guests, shareholders and creditors. It's lose/lose/lose.

I ask what anyone would do in the same situation?

You HAVE to pay off debt, you have an obligation to company stockholders and you need the guests to come or there's no company for the creditors and stockholders to be worried about.

Someone has to lose, but who?

Creditors? Nope, if they lose there is no more SF to talk about.

Shareholders? Nope, if they pull their money there is no SF to talk about.

Guests? Nope, if they pull their money there is no longer a SF to talk about. But of the three, the guests are the most expendable - as weird as it sounds.

I see it as taking two steps back in order to be able to begin to move forward again. Things hit a dead end with Burke and Co. and now these guys have a huge mess to clean up.

I still don't generally have a problem with Shapiro or anything that's been done since Red Zone moved it. They had some great ideas, tried to impliment them and it didn't work. They cut their losses late in the season, will regroup in the offseason and come back in 2007. We'll see what happens, I guess.

In the meantime, I'm not going to hold some weird personal crusade again SF. If there's something at a park I'd like to check out or a park in general that is of interest (or even along the way to other things), I'm going to stop by. No point in missing things I want to see or do just to hold some personal vendetta - especially when many of these rides and locations may not be there for much longer.

The Holiday World's, Kennywood's and Knoebel's of the world will still be there a few years down the road. (and oddly enough they'll still look a lot like they do today ;) ) I see it as a personal win/win.

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