A not-very-political post today…
My wife and I bought season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure a couple of months ago. You know the pitch–pay the season fee, use them twice, and they pay for themselves. Well, that’s true to an extent, but our friends at Six Flags have figured out a new way to gouge park-goers.
For years, theme parks have had the policy that customers can’t bring in outside food or drink. I don’t like the policy, but it’s been clearly announced, and if you decide to buy the pass or a ticket, you’re agreeing to the policy. There’s nothing in the policy about bringing empty bottles, which Ann and I have done lots of times. Not only are we recycling (yes, we’re kind of green) but we’re saving money by not paying $3 or $4 for drinks during the day.
A new policy, however, makes this strategy much harder. Used to be, if you were carrying a bag or backpack, you could leave it on the platform so when you got off the ride, it would be there (or not, if somebody stole it). It was your risk to take. Now, Six Flags has instituted a policy that bags/backpacks aren’t even allowed in lines waiting for rides because it’s “unsafe” to leave them on the platforms.
This is clearly not a safety issue; if it were, they would have established the policy much sooner. Instead, it does two things that have nothing to do with safety. First, it forces customers standing in line to buy drinks from their concession stands or drink machines, at precisely the prices we don’t want to pay. Second, and more insidious in my opinion, it forces customers to rent one-time-use lockers for a dollar. Each roller coaster in the park now has its own cluster of lockers next to it, and before you can get in line, you have to spend a buck for your bag. So if you ride 10 rides in a day, you have to spend 10 bucks on lockers. It would be less bad (still bad, but less so) if at least the lockers were multiple-use, so that if you spent a dollar you could open and close it as often as you wanted to. It would still suck because you might have to cross the entire park to find your Tylenol, but still. What’s more, you have to have $1 bills to use the lockers because you have to buy a token from a machine that doesn’t make change. So if you don’t have any with you, you have to spend even more time not riding rides while you chase down change.
If the park were actually concerned about safety, they wouldn’t charge for the lockers. Some parks have cubbyholes on the platforms so people can store their items without taking up floor space. But Six Flags, by charging for “safety,” is playing a somewhat different game.
Once we’d figured this out, we went to the Customer Service office to discuss it. Because we’d bought the passes without any announcement from the park about the new policy, all we wanted was for them to pay us back for one day of locker rentals. Knowing the new policy, we weren’t interested in pushing any further than that. The CSR we talked to couldn’t have been less helpful. After making me write up an “Incident Report,” he handed it off to somebody I never got to talk to, who apparently knew of a sign right outside the gates announcing the policy. She came back about 20 minutes later having written on the report that signs were posted, so they weren’t going to do anything for us. Since I couldn’t talk to her through the glass wall of the office, I couldn’t explain to her what my point was–that the announcement needed to be made where Season Pass buyers could see it.
So if you go to Six Flags this summer, make sure you have a roll of $1 bills with you, and be prepared to spend a ton of extra money on beverages while you’re waiting in line for rides. If you carry any kind of medication with you, be prepared not to access it very easily. And if you have a problem with the policy, be prepared for Customer Service not to care.
I don’t mind paying for things; I don’t mind paying fair market value. I do mind being gouged.