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

Arthur, I with you on this. I'm a realistic person, and I know that Six Flags is a business and they can run it like they want. But I honestly hope that they don't succeed with their current antics, such as high prices and lousy service.

If I had a product that I sold for years, and then the sales started to fall off for several years due to my bad decisions, what makes me think that I can "promise" a better product, jack up my prices, then fail to deliver yet again? This is one of Six Flags' main problems.

Good operations exist elsewhere, so we know it can be done.

Majortom, do you work for Shapiro? You seem to like defending them :)

coastin' since 1985

Jeff's avatar

SLFAKE said:
...my rushed day of standing in line last year at CP with nothing like Flash Pass and only catching 13 different rides.
Then you're doing it wrong. I got on 13 major rides at CP after 6 p.m. on one of their busiest days this season.

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

Lord Gonchar's avatar
You seem to be ignoring the change in management, rablat.

If this were still Burke and Co. pulling the same old, same old. I'd be right there with you - and have been most of the time in the past.

However, I'm willing to give the new guys a chance. They didn't mess things up - they've just taken on the monumental task of repairing them when they might very well be beyond repair.

I'd defend Shapiro too. He's done nothing wrong. Hell, I'd defend Snyder & Red Zone. For years we've bashed SF on this site - usually in disbelief of their ridiculous moves businesswise. These guys came in to change things - the same change we all wanted.

I pose the same question. If you were in their shoes what would you do differently? (hint: there is no right answer)

rollergator's avatar
Here's a *suggestion*...(right? I dunno...).

SELL some parks already (enough TALK, DO IT...NOW!)....get cash....spend half that on debt, and the other half on OPERATIONS at the parks you're keeping.

Arthur Bahl said:
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.

IMHO SF was on the right track with WOA (Geauga)
But knowing they had to pay up it was the easiest quickest quick cash they could get.

Like I said they need to quit annalizing. Keep a few parks they know could or have been successes (SFOT, SFOG) and run them right. Take the rest and sell em off and pay off the debt.

Thats the only way for it to work and thats what will eventually happen unless they just keep selling enough to pay the interest. then there will be nothing left when it's over.


Gonch, I was willing to give them a chance, too--to a certain extent. I was never happy about the price changes, but at least if they could deliver, then it may be tollerable.

Thing is, we are almost right back to where we started with their operations, yet we have higher prices. If the changes and improvements cannot be implemented and lasting, then what has really improved? Now we have some parks that are operating badly again, but are charging even more now. How is this good customer service? *** Edited 9/7/2006 4:28:56 PM UTC by rablat5***

coastin' since 1985

Lord Gonchar's avatar
I suspect that's exactly what the plan is, gator.

But when it happens, look out for all the complaints over SF selling parks. They're really stuck in a situation where they can't please everyone.

And depending on the selling price, will it really be enough for a long term fix or in another season or two will we be back to square one?

I suspect when it's all over and done SF will consist of 5 or 6 of their top performing parks and finally be in a position to do well, both in the books and in the parks. I also suspect we're several years away from that final resolution. It will happen in increments. A few parks here. Not enough. A few more parks sell. Was that enough? Nope. A couple more on the block. Almost there. And so on.

I just don't look forward to having this same discussion over and over again until that time. ;)

Rablat - I understand totally. But still, what would you do? You can't lower prices - you need that cash in a bad way. You can't keep up on the intended promises - you don't have the cash to fund them.

I get it. Bad service that's overpriced. So what's the answer? What do you see that's so painfully clear that Shapiro doesn't?

*** Edited 9/7/2006 4:35:38 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

rollergator's avatar
What do *I* see that Sha-nyder-piro doesn't?

Urgency... ;)

That parks can and are being run better? I suspect he sees that, but maybe he isn't the best person for the job. Maybe Snyder should have hired someone with actual park running experience.

Hey, if Cedar Fair, Busch, Hershey, etc. can run good operations and have been doing it for quite a while, then why can't Six Flags? Maybe Mark needs some better advice?

coastin' since 1985

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!

Well, there are only three major operators that do this, and no minor ones, but I don't see this at all.

Disney's Fastpass: free to all. Very strong operations. Disney does this in part because they are rabidly focused on guest satisfaction, and guests love fastpass. Disney also might get marginally more spending, but I think most of those guests are riding something else, rather than shopping nearby.

Universal Express: they charge for it. Good operations. Either you pay for it as a ticket add-on, or you pay for it by staying in their much-more-expensive hotels. Strictly a money-making thing.

SF's variety of ticket/q-bot schemes: they charge for it. Some operations poor (GAdv), others are generally okay (SFGAm.)

So, it looks like a pretty even split to me; some charge, some don't, and it's independent of operations.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Hey, if Cedar Fair, Busch, Hershey, etc. can run good operations and have been doing it for quite a while, then why can't Six Flags?

Now you're ingnoring the fact that SF has been in a hard, steady decline for at least 5 years. Those other parks/chains haven't had to deal with incredibly poor management and/or business decisions.

Further proof? Geauga Lake. If it were as simple as getting the 'right' company or people behind a park then GL would be packed to capacity at $39 a head (par for a park with equivalent offerings).

CF has had GL for two full season now. Since then they were forced cut the schedule short, drop the gate to super-low levels and attendance has been relatively flat & nowhere near what the park drew as SFO.

It's not these guys that are f'ing things up. It's the guys before them.

Again, you're not offering a solution. You just want things to be right and are blaming the repair man rather than the person responsible for breaking things.

*** Edited 9/7/2006 6:03:20 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Hey, if Cedar Fair, Busch, Hershey, etc. can run good operations and have been doing it for quite a while, then why can't Six Flags? Maybe Mark needs some better advice?

I'm not sure how fair it is to expect an overnight improvement. Good operations is as much a culture as anything else---constant attendtion paid to hourly guest counts by every employee at every attraction. However, Six Flags parks FOR YEARS have been focused not on guest counts but cost control. Changing that focus means changing the attitude not just of management, but also of every employee. However, it's unreasonable to expect to change every employee's attitude in a short period of time, and there aren't enough willing employees to just fire all of the old ones and hire new ones.

It even took time for GL to come around, and that was after replacing nearly everyone in the park above the level of crew leads, AND moving some of the seasonal employees from CP to GL.

Shapiro seems to know that the guest experience is what matters---it's going to take time for Bobby Joe at the Goliath controls to get that message.

I heard that HFEC is going to introduce some pay-reservation system at Dollywood, mainly for the shows.

HFEC parks generally have good operations but I really don't like seeing this happening there.

How about this scenario? Six Flags eventually becomes a premium regional chain with a genuine $55-60 full price admission and some discounting into the $45 - $50 range. Great thrill rides, great family attractions, great theming and shows, first rate operations and enough ride capacity so extreme waits are rare. Food quality on a par with some of the better destination parks. A free, Disney-like queue system. And about 5 or 6 parks total in different parts of the country.

Arthur Bahl

All right, I'm going to put my toe back in the water...

Let me make a sporting event analogy. At most sporting events the entry prices are high, the food prices are very high, and the customer service is typically tolerable to poor (especially at the food counters). Why does the public continue to attend? Because the product they are going for is the entertainment of the game. As long as they enjoy the game, the prices poor service are accepted.

In an amusement park the same is true, except the product is the ride experience (and in some case the gardening and architecture). So if the ride experience is good then people are happy. The current problem at SF is the inefficient ride operations and the frequent down time. If this is corrected most will overlook the cost (assuming prices aren't above what the market can bare). I would love for the customer service to improve with friendlier staff, but I don't think this is a necessary step. The rides are the issue.

I know the general topic is pricing, so I guess I'm saying that the SF strategy is better for the business long term as long as operations is corrected soon.

Please do not get out of your doom-buggy!
I am glad people like lord gonchar seem to agree with me even just a little.

Anybody with any business ense sees that the high prices have to be done.
There is no way around it.

Six Flags wont be turned around instantly it will take a couple of seasons.

You need money to work with and the only way to get that is to stop building high priced rides and raise prices.

The new management cant lower prices. Its that simple.

Also 74 dolalrs for a season pass to great adventure that also allows you to go into the safri is an awesome deal I think.

i just dont see why it needs to be lower?

Ok, I can see what you are saying some, Gonch. I know that Story/Burke & Co. really screwed things up, and it's up to Sharpie and crew to turn things around. I just wish that they wouldn't have put the cart before the horse.

One of my main problems with the place is that it was EXPENSIVE enough to begin with, and the experience was less than stellar - downright crappy. Shapiro promises changes and betterment, raises prices, and delivers what? We started out somewhat better than years past, but we're alomst right back to where we started.

What has charging more gotten them? Higher per-cap spending? So what. The attendance is down a fair amount, so are they really in any better of a position financially? On top of that, certain parks are back to bad performance. What is the guest supposed to think now? "Gee, they said they were gonna be better, yet this looks about the same as last time, only it cost me more. Forget this place--I'll take my money elsewhere."

Honestly, I don't know the best way out of their huge debtload. But as far as their product is concerned, they haven't succeeded. They are free to charge whatever they want, but until they truly fix their product for good, from a guest's standpoint, the increased cost is not justified.

It's not the guests' fault that they are in financial trouble; it's Six Flags' fault. Why should they be "understanding" to the fact that Six Flags is charging more but still operating badly because "the last guys got us into trouble, and we need more of your money so we can keep going."

Don't put the cart before the horse. Fix your product before increasing costs. Then, they will at least be more justified.

The only things that should have gone up were the season pass prices.

coastin' since 1985

It's not the guests' fault that they are in financial trouble; it's Six Flags' fault. Why should they be "understanding" to the fact that Six Flags is charging more but still operating badly because "the last guys got us into trouble, and we need more of your money so we can keep going."


In a nutshell, that says it all!

Like i said, Do what you have to do and run what remains left right or it also won't exist.


Lord Gonchar's avatar

It's not the guests' fault that they are in financial trouble; it's Six Flags' fault. Why should they be "understanding" to the fact that Six Flags is charging more but still operating badly because "the last guys got us into trouble, and we need more of your money so we can keep going."

I agree 100%...and then some. But by coming here and discussing it you're kind of taking it beyond that level. I encourage every guest who steps foot through an SF gate to go driectly to guest relations, write letters, emails and whatever else echoing those concerns.

But on the level of these forums I think we're getting into it a little deeper. We're the ones who are supposed to know better. This isn't casual conversation between my friends about how expensive it is to go to SF. (at least I think that goes out the window the second you have enthusiasts discussing how to 'fix' the problems)

As an average guest, yes it's not my problem. Fix it or I'm not coming back.

As an enthusiast interested in the business, the parks and the company and in turn discussing it with other enthusiasts with varying levels of interest in the same things, it becomes the discussion I've been leading up to this point.

Beyond that we're officially begun going in circles. You feel the cart was put before the horse, I feel that the product sucked before and if you're going to raise prices you do it now and it gets easier to justify as time goes on and things do improve rather than just delaying the backlash until after things are fixed.

We've reached that dreaded impasse again. :)

haha yea--we could go 'round and 'round with this thing until we're blue in the face.

Gonch, personally I might be a little more apt to agree with you about the price hikes if they weren't so high to begin with. It wasn't like Six Flags was charging HW or KW prices before, and now they're just getting "up to snuff" with the rest of the industry.

For instance (and leaving out discounts here), SFA charged $39.99 gate price last year, and they charged $10 to park there. In comparison, Hersheypark, which many of us know is a very well-run establishment not too far away from SFA, charged about the same for gate admission, about $7-$8 for parking, and offered a MUCH better experience (including much better parking amenities for less money, much better ride operations, cleaner park, etc.).

SFA wasn't really worth the gate price that they had posted LAST YEAR. This year, they raised it to $49.99 and raised parking to $15. The park itself hasn't improved much overall (the product hasn't changed much), yet the price has skyrocketed.

IMO, what the gate price should have been last year--no more than $35 or $36, but $40 should have been the MAX for that place. $50 for gate & $15 for parking is just ridiculous.

Like I said, if they had been way off on pricing before, then the increases may have been a bit more justified. But they were already high enough as it was, and the product stank. Now, they're even higher, and the product still stinks.

coastin' since 1985

rollergator's avatar
Is this where I reiterate that 40 bucks in Chicago or New York or Boston isn't the same as 40 bucks in Santa Claus, IN?

Yes, I think it is... ;)

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