It's time for theme park industry to end the locker scam
By Robert NilesListen, I'm all for protecting the safety of visitors on theme park rides. On certain types of theme park rides, there's just no safe way for visitors to bring along their purses, backpacks and other personal items. I get that.
Published: August 25, 2010 at 10:30 AM
But charging people to use a locker to store the items that they can't bring on a roller coaster or other thrill ride? That's just a cheap way for theme and amusement parks to make an extra buck. Worse, it makes me mad.
What am I supposed to do? Leave someone in my family behind, not to ride but to hold all our stuff instead? Skip the ride myself? Or pay yet another extra fee, leaving me feeling nickel-and-dimed as I try to enjoy my day in the park?
The whole point of spending money to visit a theme park is so that I can have a good time. So if I'm not having a good time, then what's the point of visiting a theme park? Every incident that diminishes my enjoyment of the day provides me one more reason to stay at home next time I consider a theme park visit, and to keep my cards and cash in my wallet.
It's time for theme park industry to end the locker scam.
If a ride can't accommodate visitors bringing along purses, backpacks or cameras, then the park needs to provide a free storage option for those visitors while they ride. It's unreasonable to expect people to come to the parks without a camera, water bottle or rain jacket. And any park that wants to earn money from in-park sales certainly doesn't want to discourage visitors from bringing their purses and wallets!
The worst offender among the major chains has been Six Flags - home of the nickel-and-dime day in the parks. At Great America this summer, we had to spend a couple extra bucks to rent a locker to store Natalie's purse while we rode Superman and The Dark Knight.
I understand why purses can't be taken on Flying Coasters such as Superman. But why not on a Wild Mouse such as The Dark Knight? Requiring the use of paid lockers on a ride that doesn't go upside down, or even drop more than a few feet, feels like a shake-down. I understand that Dark Knight whips from side-to-side, creating lateral force, but I've seen plenty of folks take purses and backpacks on other Wild Mouse rides, such as Disney California Adventure's Mulholland Madness, without losing them.
Even on Superman, why can't Six Flags do as other parks, and allow people to leave their personal items at the unload platform? At Holiday World and most rides at Cedar Point, that's what we did, placing our backpack, camera and Natalie's purse in a storage bin while we rode.
Still, not every ride has enough space on its unload platform to accommodate storage bins. And on some rides, such as Cedar Point's Millennium Force, you don't exit at the same station where you boarded. So, sometimes, lockers need to be the only option for storage.
In those cases, I prefer parks do as Universal Orlando does with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and make lockers available free of charge while visitors are on the ride. The lockers at Harry Potter provide 75 minutes of use without charge, more then enough time when the ride's in normal operation. But I'll give Universal bonus credit here. When the ride went down while we were waiting on our last visit, leaving us in the castle queue for more than 90 minutes, Universal "turned off the clock" on the lockers, so we weren't charged when we retrieved our items, even though the 75-minute limit was long past. That's good customer service.
I understand the need for time limits on lockers. To keep lockers available and accessible, parks need some way to ensure that people clear their possessions after they ride, and not use the lockers for all-day storage. So a charge for "going over" seems reasonable to me, so long as parks do as Universal Orlando did, and "turn off the clock" whenever visitors are stuck in the queue for longer than designated amount of time.
Theme parks looking to make money from their visitors. They're a business. And I have no problem with that. But visitors are looking for value in return. Extra charges to store your purse while riding remind people that they're not getting that value with their purchase of an admission ticket - that they're having to pay for every "service" as they go along in the park.
Let's end this. Let's not go the way of the hated airline industry and "debundle" theme park admissions to the point where we return to separate tickets for every ride and extra charges for everything else inside the park, from lockers to character meet-'n-greets. (One thing I never want to hear in a theme park: "I'm sorry, young lady, but if you want to say hello to Cinderella, your parents will have to pay an extra $8." Ugh.)
To theme parks: Here's one step you can take to earn more loyalty and goodwill from your visitors. (Which, as you should know, translate to extra revenue down the road). Stop forcing people to use pay lockers when riding thrill rides - and start offering a free storage option on all your rides, instead.
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