It's time for theme park industry to end the locker scam
Listen, 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.
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.
Here Here! We have always hated the locker fee!
When your stuff gets stolen from an unload bin you won't mind paying for lockers
Totally agree, great synopsis. I hate getting the shakedown at Six Flags parks anytime I want to ride a major roller coaster or thrill ride.
If my stuff got stolen from an unload bin, which is in full view of ride attendants, I wouldn't choose to pay for a locker - I would choose not to visit that park again.
My main gripe is with those who make the consumer pay for a locker which once opened cannot be locked again for further use, hence forcing the person to pay again or find another way in which to keep their property safe.
I noticed that some of the rides at Holiday World had free locker storage at the loading/unloading platform. I thought that was a great idea. That way you can leave your items without the worry of having them get stolen while you are on the ride, and they are only used by people during the actual ride time, not the wait time plus the ride time. That way they can limit the number of lockers to the capacity of the ride, give or take a few.
yeah the min. your backpack or purse goes flying out of the ride or gets stolen you'll start with the drama. i'm just saying.
I know when Manta at Seaworld opened they had pay lockers that you were required to use for your belongings. The worst thing for us is that we don't carry cash and these were "coin" only operated lockers. So just to be able to get on the ride we had to go to the ATM, get the minimum withdrawal at the machine which was $20 dollars and then find a store to make change! It was very frustrating.
I posted in the discussion thread an idea for locker rentals. First, I always found it troubling to have to pay to begin with, but just accepted the fact.
First off, I am glad to hear someone call out Six Flags on their nickel and diming ways. I went to Six Flags New England last month (ghetto flags as it is known in my circle) and at one point, I was waiting for Six Flags employees to knock me down and demand I give blood too. What an amazing rip off that park is.
My family and I went to Hershey Park last month. I always bring my camera with me. Any time I ride a ride I bring my camera bag with me without any trouble. My wife and I were getting on the Wild Mouse ride and one of the ride opperators said to me that I can't bring my camera bag with me. I almost got into an argument with him, but it wasn't worth it. I haven't seen lockers at rides in any parks, but I wouldn't want to pay just to have something in a locker while I'm riding a ride.
Thats horrible. Lockers are absolutely necessary as Mr. Niles said, but charging for them is bad. It's free at Universal for a reasonable amount of time. Can't believe other chains still do that guess thats why their most visited park is ranked 19th in the US.
I totally agree that this should stop. I really don't like being forced out of my money like that. It's kind of like having to pay extra to ride the ride, and it's obviously a bit of a revenue generator as well. I always appreciated Universal's locker policy with the free 75 minute lockers by the ride queues. If they are going to force you to store your stuff, they should either provide guarded storage bins (which has been the practice for years), or limited free time lockers like Universal. I'm not begrudging them the ability to have pay lockers for extended storage, but don't force the hand of your guests and call it purely a safety practice.
Why should a ride operator be held liable for anything left on the station? You have worked coasters in the past, or so you claim. The standard coaster is operating with 3 trains, and dispatching 24-32 people every minute. Why would you expect a ride operator to recognize who put what where? Its not like the bins that are provided by parks like Cedar Fair are secure. I will agree with you though that it would be a courtesy to provide free or semi free lockers, but even some hotels charge to use safes and such.
SeaWorld Orlando is also an offender. It's only a couple of quarters for each of their three rides but besides the expense, it's a hassle when you have to get change.
I know someone complained about it earlier, but I think SeaWorld's lockers are the best. They're only 50 cents and key-operated, so you can stow your stuff their all day. It's a pittance compared to the smart lockers at Universal.
This brings up a gripe that I had with my wife, and now with the readers of this column.
I don't want to go through the hassle of leaving the park and walking all the way back to my car every time I want a drink of water. Nor do I want to leave my camera in the car - the ability to take pictures in a special place is part of the value I should be getting for the day.
I understand the complaints about having to pay for a locker. Some rides can obviously handle guests with bags, purses, cameras, etc. It is the other ones where it becomes a matter of safety and liability. I'd imagine the requirement to not allow guests on rides with these items is determined by the insurance provider for these parks. Having excess items on the ride can cause damage to the ride itself if something gets caught in the wheels or can cause injury to guests walking around the park if a guest lost an item during the ride. It is then that you say "well let us take our bags on smaller rides" but then when you work at a bigger ride, you get annoying guests who say "I was allowed to bring this on ____ ride, why can't I bring it on here?!?" The bottom line is, lockers are a necessary evil. Parks are businesses, they're going to charge you for that service. Universal is the exception, but don't be so naive to think that you won't have to get a locker at a park. If you don't have a family this is a lot easier, but do what I do. Bring cash to a park (duh, always have some cash on you...), if you get a drink, finish it before you get in line. You have to plan out your day and can't just complain all day. You're on vacation for heavens sake. Park guests are always either really happy or really mad. Please don't be the mad guests that yell at the innocent front line team members who are just doing what the VPs tell them to...
Robert, if you refuse to return to a park that has some dishonest visitors, you will never again be able to go to a park. Dishonest visitors and thiefs are few and far between, but they are always there. How can you expect the ride operators to remember who left what in the bin? I understand what you are saying, and the free locker option is certainly the best solution, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
At Disneyland MOST of the attractions have ON ride storage. Soarin, Big Thunder, Star Tours are the few that come to mind. They all have a small compartment below the seat or in the front. So you can take your things with you and still secure them. I know that some coasters this may not work, but with some of the smaller ones it would.
This also opens up the arguement for people who have diabetes. I come from a family with multiple cases of Type 1 diabetes. My mom is one of them. She can't and wouldn't leave her insulin, shots, testing kit, etc, in a locker. There have been many times while waiting in a long line for a ride that she felt her blood sugar drop. She has to carry candy with her for such an occassion. Should she be punished by having to get out of line to go get her something to help with her diabetes and thus pay for a locker when she can't help having to carry things, or be allowed to have her items with her at all times. With her insulin, she has a special case that keeps it cool, cushioned, and protected from breakage. Thankfully, when we have gone to Disney World, she has either been able to store her stuff (which fits in a waist pack) on the ride itself or keep it on her body.
I absolutely agree with Robert. Theme park industries are becoming greedy, and lockers are just a way to make more cash. For our family, sometimes a locker is neccessary, sometimes not. However, it is never an absolute need. It is somewhat of a luxury to not cary around jackets for rainy or cold periods. The last time we went to Magic Kingdom we actually just had to pay the deposit due to a special promotion they did for us. One person in our family had to answer 2/3 questions to just have to pay the deposit. I answered all 3 correctly. I thought that was a cute idea. I really don't mind putting a deposit down. It reminds people that they will get that money back and gives them an incentive to remove their items from the locker.
This leads back to some comments I made on an earlier thread. I would much rather pay more for a season pass at Six Flags and in return, get a better quality product. The economy is bad and all theme parks are looking for ways to make money in these tough times. If they raised pass prices but in return, lowered the cost of parking, food, and eliminated those mandatory ride lockers, I would not mind the increase one bit. If the park needs to increase revenue - OK, but be reasonable about it.
You guys need a reality check, you are talking about Six Flags. They have the worst customer service of any theme park chain. You really expect them to offer a service that they don't make a profit on?
I think people are getting their stuff stolen outside of the lockers.
One suggestion I have for your readers is to wear a pair of shorts that have a pair of zipper pockets, like the kind they sell at the sporting goods stores. They are also rather thin so they dry quickly. I think they're for fishing. I use them every time I go to Universal so I don't have to use the lockers. I call them my "theme parking pants".
There are some things that you can do, like wear a pair of cargo shorts with zipper pockets. I for one like to travel light when inside a park, but sometimes I'm carrying a refill cup or something like that around. It's just a real annoyance to have to pay a few bucks to store a cup for a half hour. Personally, I don't think it's necessary to pack the kitchen sink in a backpack to go to the park, but I also think that those people shouldn't be taken advantage of for wanting to ride a particular ride.
Amen ..Having said that.Its so true Ive seen many people bring so much with them..youd think they were moving in...Ok I can see a camera, small sun screen, one credit card your Id and cash. Not much else. Ive watched families pack a 7 course meal in their back pacs. AS for the lockers Ive never used them ..If it dont fit in a pocket it dont go.and as for the water i break down buy a bottle carry it with me and refill it. When its time to board a ride that wont allow them it gets thrown out..And other gets purchased when Im thirsty again.and we repeat the whole thing again..As for the lockers yea have them but the time limit is the best. free for what ever time is posted at the gate. Give or take. And what ever happened to good old baby bags..for your pampers, a bottle and baby food that could be carried with out needing to regester it as a legal weapon?
Some consistency would be good here too...
Adding to the "Theme Park Pants", thats why I wear cargo shorts to the theme parks.
I belong to one of those families that brings a loaded backpack into the park. Frozen water bottles, lunches, cameras, glasses, touring guides, raincoats, sunscreen, etc. We couldn't afford to do our vacations if we ate in the parks, drank their drinks, and paid for other concessions. Not to mention that most theme park counter service food is pretty awful and leaves you feeling rundown.
Oh, and I find Busch and SeaWorld's locker systems the best. As someone noted above, $0.50 for an unlimited rental is a steal.
Well one could leave there lunch in the car. And eat it there. While those of us who do plunk down the cash for a meal can sit...Just a thought
HERE HERE!!! FINALLY!! Someone is FINALLY calling to light the locker scam that has recently begun to plague my favorite Six Flags park in the chain!! Thank you Mr. Niles for that wonderfully constructed argument....I didn't even know Universal had a free locker system in place in the new Harry Potter land in Orlando!!
I believe Six Flags actually had a press release when they instituted this policy chain wide. Their spin: faster loading and unloading so better dispatch times so less waiting in line. Except the employees didn't change (or weren't treated better) so the ride lockers made minimal difference in wait time. I absolutely refuse to have to pay to use a ride locker at Six Flags (as a protest to the bad policy) so I try to only bring what can be secured in my cargo shorts. But that means I have to be selective when I'd really like to bring the rain jacket with me if rain is predicted, for example, but I don't want to have to wear it on every ride to avoid paying the locker fee.
(continued from above - system wouldn't take entire comment...)
There are many things to consider on why amusement parks charge for lockers. 1st of all it is probably true- to make money. Many amusement parks in the country are only open a select amount of time out of a year, so if you want those multi-million dollar high intensity scream machines to be built, you have to make a profit. Otherwise, you will end up like Six Flags bankruptcy or other parks simply closing down completely. You also must consider the amount of staff amusement parks have to pay. Consider the electric and water bill alone at some parks can run well into the hundreds of thousands. Landscaping and theme-ing is not cheap my friends. A rumor going around is that Disney spends $100 million a year, if not more. You definitely don't make that much in admission sales. Don't forget all of the other costs in operating a park. Some guests simply think that when they pay $50 ish to get into an amusement park, everything else should be FREE. WRONG!!! Think of how the government charges you for every little thing!
That's why I leave items with a non-rider (Muetti)! It's cheaper than the dreaded locker fees!
I totally agree!! I have seen for myself many times how Six Flags requires the use of a locker for personal belongings, if they will not fit in your pocket. Personally, I don't have a problem because I don't carry water bottles, souvenirs, etc with me. However, all parks should follow the example of Universal, and allow free storage for the first 85 minutes. Or do like Diamonback, and have storage bins, one for each train. It's bad enough some rides, like Diamonback and Firehawk, they assign you your seat. I think that is equally wrong. The worst system I have experienced is the water park at Six Flags Great America. and if you have been there, you know what i mean!!!
by the way, in my opinion, Jeff Elliot's comment was the best and most reasonable.
by the way, in my opinion, Jeff Elliot's comment was the best and most reasonable.
It really does depend on the park you go to. At Kennywood you can take your fannypack, small camera with you on almost every ride. I went to Six Flags-America and could not believe that I had to remove the pack for every coaster. I didn't take my camera to Busch Gardens because of Six Flags rules. I thought Busch might say the same as SF. No pictures of that part of my vacation!!! It is additional, and a sorry way of getting it, extra profit.
much ado about nothing. If you choose to encumber yourself with mugs, bottles, backpacks, cameras, phones etc. (as I do) that's fine, but the expectation that lockers will or should be provided for "free" is just silly. If a park decides to offer them for "free", the associated cost will just be added in some other way.
Even if they provide free lockers, like at Universal Hollywood for the Mummy, I still won't use them. If I have a camcorder or SLR with me I'll just forgo that ride altogether. Why? Because they're only liable for upto $20 is losses per locker. That's absurd.
At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, I asked one of the roller coaster ride attendants as to what would happen if you were stuck in line for a ride and you couldn't get back to your locker in time (before the time ran out)? I was told that the locker would lock and couldn't be opened by the guest and that all items inside would be taken to lost and found. Whether or not you were stuck in line due to a large guest attendance that day or even if the ride broke down.
Lockers are unpleasant, but necessary. Six Flags has to charge you for them because they don't have a multi-million dollar backing like Universal, or a multi-multi-million dollar backing like Disney World. Six Flags is its own entity, and doesn't have the never-ending cash stores to draw from like some other parks.
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