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What about free tickets and discounts for employees?

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Published: October 21, 2009 at 6:30 AM

A Theme Park Insider reader e-mailed me after reading yesterday's story on Universal Orlando's financial report:

Just a comment about Universal numbers.

I actually find it amusing that UO attendance is down. Maybe if they gave NBC/Universal employees some incentive to visit, we'd go there instead of Walt Disney World! NBC/Universal employees only get a small price break for a one-day pass. We pay the same as the public for multi-day tickets.

No wonder most employees skip Universal Orlando when taking their families to Orlando.

Honestly, I look around at my location and can see countless employees who have gone to Disney in the past year or two and NOT gone to Universal. Looks like our own company would bribe us to go with a free employee ticket... then we'd buy tickets for our family members along with food, merchandise, etc. Oh well.

My mother, my sister and I have worked for Disney in the past, and I recall generous employee and guest sign-in privileges at the theme parks. It surprises me to hear that Universal doesn't offer the same.

Which prompts me to ask... what's the policy at other companies that own theme parks? (And I don't mean just parks employees, but also employees in other divisions of companies that own parks.) Do NBC/Universal employees get a better deal in Hollywood, since there's no joint ownership of that park? What about Anheuser Busch employees? (I suspect whatever benefit they got will soon change, with the sale to Blackstone.)

And if you do get into parks free, based on your employment or a family members, how much do you end up spending on those parks anyway, as a result? Is free employee admission a loss or a loss leader for the parks?

Readers' Opinions

From 4.36.109.30 on October 21, 2009 at 6:50 AM
I work for Universal and they give a lot of free tickets. I get about 40 free tickets a year and I have been here for 4 years. I also get in to Sea World and Busch Gardens for free as well as get like 35% the front gate tickets. Not sure if back in the day, they didn't give better discounts but now they do.
From 76.26.184.25 on October 21, 2009 at 7:35 AM
When Anheuser Busch was actually its own company (before InBev ruined everything) they supplied all their employees with all around amazing benefits and perks.

Health Care was incredible, a lucrative 401k (often with an over 100% match rate) was available, and the perks rocked. Every employee over 21 received two free cases of BEER a month, plus complimentary admission to all the themeparks except Discovery Cove. Additional tickets for themeparks, and Discovery Cove were given out each year- and I know that BEC employees also received family fun cards (season passes for their family or # of dependents). I don't know if the other subsidiaries (Brewery, Bottling, Agriculture ect.) got the passes, but I know they got tickets.

Those were the grand old days!

From 69.242.131.134 on October 21, 2009 at 7:42 AM
My grandfather's bakery was bought out by Double Eagle a subsidiary of Anheuser Busch about 15 years ago. When he retired, he received an envelope that contained 10 free tickets good at any Busch Park. He continued to receive tickets every year on the anniversary of his retirement. This was discontinued in 2005, but me and my sisters sure enjoyed the free rides while they lasted.
From Lee Phillips on October 21, 2009 at 8:18 AM
I work at Legoland Windsor and we get a Merlin Magic Pass which entitles us to 20 free entries a year to any Merlin owned attraction, and I believe staff with one year of service get two of these passes. We can get friends and family in for free with these tickets too.
From 204.110.112.2 on October 21, 2009 at 9:09 AM
I used to work at USH and the first year you were there, they gave you (2) tickets. Every year it increased, but no more than (8) a year. Discounts were 25% off.
From Jack Michael on October 21, 2009 at 9:13 AM
I worked at the New Orleans Six flags, and since Katrina we can visit free. :) also they have added very realistic wildlife and plants to all parts of the parks, including toilets etc...
From Aaron Moore on October 21, 2009 at 9:26 AM
When I used to work at Busch Gardens from 2005-2007, they gave us 6 free tickets for us to give to our families and friends. And those 6 can be used at any AB park throughout that year. But I needed to have worked either 100 hours or 60 days that year to be able to get them. Because there were alot of people who would get hired to work at Busch and then never show up for work. But if I had my AB id which I still own BTW, I can get into any Sea World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Aquatica, & Busch Tampa all for free. But since I left i can only get into Universal & IOA for free which I'm not complaining about.
From Robert Niles on October 21, 2009 at 10:41 AM
Perhaps NBC/Uni can boost attendance by tying attraction discounts to the decline in Jay Leno's ratings: The fewer people watch, the more you save! ;-)
From Bruce Lane on October 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM
For the zoo fans: One of the nicer parts about AZA membership is it gets you into an awful lot of zoos either free or at a respectable discount. You can think of it as a kind of 'Universal Annual Pass.'

You can find a .PDF of participating parks at this link.

http://www.aza.org/Membership/detail.aspx?id=349

Annual dues for Associate are $70, so it'd take (my estimate) between 4-5 visits to participating parks for the thing to pay for itself. It's a great benefit if you travel around (as I do), and you're supporting an organization which, in turn, supports loads of different parks and some important conservation programs.

Keep the peace(es).

From TH Creative on October 21, 2009 at 1:57 PM
Considering the anonymous posters claim that as a Universal employee they receive "a lot of free tickets," adding "I get about 40 free tickets a year and I have been here for 4 years," can anyone find out how many comps a UO employee is given annually?
From 70.118.92.242 on October 21, 2009 at 6:58 PM
Universal gives seasonal employees 3 tickets for every quarter you work. Busch Gardens gives 6 comp passes a year even if you only work one quarter. Full time employees get a few more.

Universal just changed the comp pass policy where you can no longer use them on any days with parades or concerts, any holidays or spring break, and the entire month of July.

Universal employees get free admission for themselves to SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, and vice versa. Free parking at the company you work for only.

Food and merchandise discounts for Universal and Busch Gardens employees are about 10-20 percentage points better than annual passholders.

Ticket discounts are absolutely pathetic at both Universal and Busch Gardens so I won't even mention them.

Overall, Disney seems much more generous with comp passes (and they have main gates), while I think they are slightly less generous with food or merchandise discounts.

Universal also offers $50 hotel rooms at their resort hotels for employees.

From 76.26.184.25 on October 22, 2009 at 5:46 AM
Just an overall note. I have worked for three major theme park companies (Six Flags, BEC, and Disney) and all of them have ticket packages for part time employees, and a different set for full time employees.

Disney: Seasonal cast members get into Orlando, Anaheim, and Paris parks with their id (Tokyo requires use of a hard ticket- I don't know about Kong Kong). Plus they get 6 Main Gate entries a year (get three people a park hopper for the day at selected location). Seasonal employees also get between 2 to 4 single use comp tickets a year.

Regular Part time and Full time cast members get all of the above, however they get 12 main gate passes instead of 6.

Salary cast members have it made! They also get all of the above, but instead of a set number, they can get three people a park hopper everyday of the year (some parks have certain black out days though).

BEC: Full time and part time basically got the same package- except full time just received more of everything (more comp passes and family passports).

Six Flags: I got into my home park with my id, and received 12 comp passes for that park only. I could go to any other Six Flags and get myself plus one other in free (circa 2001-2003).


Universal Orlando: Tickets are given out quarterly- but I don't know the diff. between full time and part time/ seasonal. My family member who works there gets 4 tickets each quarter (as a seasonal cast member). I do know that UO cast members can NOT use their id to go to the Hollywood park and vice versa. They need to use a comp ticket.

From 69.247.147.34 on October 22, 2009 at 6:43 AM
I worked for Universal Orlando during Halloween Horror Nights in 2004. They where a great company to work for. Even though I worked for them for just 5 weeks they gave me all the perks of a full time employee. We received 5 dollar movie tickets, 50% off F&B, Free parking and we received 4 free tickets every quarter. Also during Thanksgiving we were given a gift bag which included a turkey, some food coupons and MORE passes.
From 4.36.109.30 on October 22, 2009 at 1:15 PM
I also work for NBC Universal and I am not sure what your first poster was referring to when they said we don't get discounts. We actually get great discounts to the Universal parks by going through our NBC Universal employee site. You just have to do a little research before you go!
From Robert Niles on October 22, 2009 at 1:49 PM
The original tipster sent me a screen grab of the NBC/Uni website, and those were the discounts offered, as he reported.

And let's also not forget that there can be a difference between what theme park employees are offered in terms of tickets and discounts and what employees of other divisions in the same corporation are offered.

Finally, discounts, while nice, are never as good a free admission.

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