So I think it all boils down to goodwill. If a park is willing to give you something for free, the guest is willing to reward the park by spending more and most importantly enjoying their time at the park. This also encourages repeat visits.
Still, any park that gives away free drinks will be popular. I wonder if any are willing to test the theory out for a month.
Furthermore, like Robert, when we went to Holiday World we took XX amount of dollars for food, drinks, and souvenirs. Even with the free drinks, we still spent XX amount of dollars AND bought some snacks we normally wouldn't cause we felt like we were saving so much money!
Silver Dollar City, like its sister park Dollywood, has plenty of water available around the park, and they always offer to REFILL your plastic water bottles whenever you stop at a food vendor. Nice touch.
I also feel this works on another level, it doesn't just effect how long people are going to stay in the park but also if they are going to come back again. If you feel you've got value for money then your more likely to go to the park again. Of course word of mouth will also be effected. You know what they say, if you have a good experience (free Coke) you'll tell a few friends and family members, if you have a bad experience (paying $3 for a Coke) you're going to tell near enough everyone you meet for the next few days.
It's not something which is going to happen at somewhere like Walt Disney World, where there's new guests everyday but at smaller, regional parks repeat business is integral to their survival, especially during an economic crisis like we're in at the moment. If they keep local guests happy by offering things like this they increase not only the chance of them coming back again but also the chances of them considering an annual pass.
If they're going to give something for free then they should stop gouging us for parking. Even if they secretly raised the price of the ticket a couple of bucks and just told me that parking was free I'd be happy with that.
It's isn't just the free soft drinks, it's the high quality fresh meals with a price equal or less than McDonald's....5$ meals such as a huge slice of the best pizza, large fries, and a cookie...or fully loaded hamburger, fries and cookie....or taco salad made fresh in front of you....funnel cakes for under 3$...caramel apples under 2$.
Their gift shop is full of that same quality and reasonable prices. You can get a handblown hand made ornament in the gift shop for under 5$ I bought all of my children steel mood rings and a huge lolly pop for under 4$ each.
We are a family of 10, this year we spent over a thousand dollars to buy season passes for our entire family.
We spent on average 200$ at Holiday World. Because our family truly believes in supporting family owned business that have such extreme dedication to families. I have never seen such kindness, quality and passion for service as I have when witnessing the employees at Holiday World.
Free sodas are nice...wonderful infact. But at Holiday World it's just the tip of the ice cream. (Which for a huge ice cream is only 2$):P
Holiday World has our money, we will be their customers every year. The real secret to bringing back folks is making them feel cared for...and we do.
The handles are frequently touched too, so it's an easy way to pick up germs.
A soda tap requires far less hand contact (often none), and I have never seen anyone press their mouth to the delivery spout.
Bathroom water taps are actually cleaner than water fountains (blech and double blech).
America's safe and clean tap water is truly amazing. Some of the delivery mechanisms are not.