Theme Parks and the Golden Baby

queue in communist poland

The mobile phone company EE has introduced a charge for jumping the queue on customer calls.

Maybe they are following the lead of theme parks world-wide with their express tickets; just like visitors to theme parks their customers are likely to feel cheated. EE is already the most complained about mobile company in the UK and the response to this initiative from its customers is indicating that this is unlikely to improve.ee logo

For EE the charge is an admission that the response time is too long and that the only way to obtain adequate service is to pay extra. Meanwhile those that choose to wait in the queue must have the feeling that they will have to wait even longer.

Sound familiar? For theme parks the queues can be so long on busy days that some visitors will pay significantly more than their price of entry to avoid them. When express tickets were introduced the wait for those who chose not to buy them certainly became longer, but the price of admission didn’t fall. Those who buy express tickets now experience acceptable wait times (although sometimes even express lines can be 30 minutes long). For those who don’t pay the extra, the wait times are longer and the experience is poorer. It didn’t have to be this way.

Look at Disney parks, where a free system gives everyone a chance to skip the long queues and where single riders can virtually walk on to most rides. They chose not to charge extra for better service. For those parks which did there is no turning back. The express ticket systems provide an important source of income, as one Orlando park chief said to me, “It’s a golden baby which we can’t give back.” Along with charging for car parks, express tickets represent a reduction in value to our customers, paying the same price for a worse experience.

No wonder the number of articles criticising the cost of theme parks continues to rise.