How can Cedar Point address labor shortage?

May 18, 2021, 9:50 AM

Another May, another disaster of a CP opening weekend. In what has become an annual tradition CP totally botched their opening weekend as the huge crowds were met with tons of closed rides, rides constantly breaking down, lines being 30-60min for people who purchased Fastlane, hour plus waits for food, etc etc. And people took their displeasure to the internet as they even made the local news for not being prepared and poorly ran.

I have been to a grand total of one opening weekend at CP (2018) and have sworn will never go again. Without diving into a big rant i'll just say it was probably the worst display of theme park operations I have seen in my 30 years of basically living amusement parks, CP that weekend was making Magic Mountain circa 2002 look good. It was that bad. And from what I have read since then things have not gotten better. It's a huge problem for Cedar Fair to have tons of people getting the experience of their flagship being a poorly ran ripoff.

At the core of the problem is that CP, which is a huge destination park that needs tons of seasonal staff, does not have any way of properly staffing the place in the spring. Its two major population centers (Toledo and Cleveland) are both an hour away and neither of those are places where tons of people are looking for random jobs they can do a few months of the year including weekends in Spring/Fall to begin with. They do have onsite housing for employees and they have programs where kids from around the region + international employees come to live and work but obviously most college kids aren't going to be able to do this while school is still in session.

Looking at their operating hours this year they are greatly reduced particularly in August and September (although they may not have posted the September schedule yet, as it shows them closed the entire month after the first week). This seems to be an acknowledgement that without international employees they won't be able to properly staff the parks so they don't want to be open and deal with all of the complaints. Over the years they have done things like offer free onsite housing in May/October. This year they have a $500 signing bonus which is actually crazy if you think about it because that's like two weekends worth of pay for these kids.

My idea: they can't really "fix" this problem so they need to work around it.

If what they are currently doing with free housing and signing bonuses isn't working I can't think of any other way to bring in the big armies of seasonal staff they need for weekends in spring so I think they should break their season up into three sections. Hershey and Europa Parks actually do something similar where they have spring/ summer/fall/winter sections of their season and they have different offerings for each one and sell tickets at different prices. Pre-season should be weekends in May before Memorial Day, Summer Season would be memorial weekend-labor day weekend, and after that would be Halloweekends. For pre-season they would advertise that half of the park will be open from 10am-3pm, and then that half would close and the other half would be open from 3pm-8pm.

Of course they would have to complicate their ticket system a lot and play capacity/pricing games which i'm sure they don't want to do, but if the alternative is to have thousands and thousands of angry people bashing you on tripadvisor and all over the internet every spring then you gotta do what you gotta do.

Replies (10)

Edited: May 18, 2021, 10:18 AM

Cedar Point is not alone with this problem, as other regional parks are having trouble ramping up operations back towards full capacity. Even Disney has lowered their hiring standards (and bumped up pay) to try to address the current and projected future staffing shortages that will inevitably affect customer service.

I think the biggest issue with the regional parks is that they are incredibly appealing right now for families that don't want to stray too far from home, but want to enjoy a day of relative normalcy. That is increasing demand for these parks at a time of year when they have not traditionally been really busy. April and May weekends used to be a time for these parks to slowly ramp up their hiring and get new employees trained under relatively slower days. However, even for the parks that are artificially limiting capacity by requiring reservations, operations managers are still trying to fill the parks with as many guests as they can to make up for a year of lost revenue. In states where there are not rules limiting theme park capacities, managers are not turning prospective guests away.

This creates situations where new, and under-trained employees are dealing with high-stress/heavy crowd situations at a time of year where they would normally be getting their feet wet with lighter crowds. With the additional loss of overseas workers that simply cannot come to the US right now to work, parks are grabbing whoever they can to fill positions regardless of their skills, desire, and/or experience.

Add to this a desire from parks to ramp operations back up as fast as possible, season passholder events and other "soft openings" have been abandoned to fill the parks with as many guests as they are logistically allowed.

These issues won't just affect theme parks. Major tourist attractions around the country are ripe for these same issues that will degrade the guest experience (at a time when travelers will be willing to accept lower standards because hours-long lines for a hot dog at a theme park is better than not being able to visit a theme park at all), but the hope is that things will eventually improve. The real question will be how long it takes for conditions to improve, and if guests will continue to accept the status quo, or will they be willing to walk out when the service is substandard, even if it means losing their first vacation in 2 years.

Edited: May 18, 2021, 1:04 PM

The staffing shortages were a problem well before the pandemic, like I said:
"I have been to a grand total of one opening weekend at CP (2018) and have sworn will never go again. Without diving into a big rant i'll just say it was probably the worst display of theme park operations I have seen in my 30 years of basically living in amusement parks, CP that weekend was making Magic Mountain circa 2002 look good. It was that bad. And from what I have read since then things have not gotten better. It's a huge problem for Cedar Fair to have tons of people getting the experience of their flagship being a poorly ran ripoff."

Edit: Although I do agree with everything you said regarding the USA labor shortage in general, I was making this topic specifically for the unique problems CP has when they open every year.

May 18, 2021, 4:55 PM

RM: "Even Disney has lowered their hiring standards ..."

Me: How so?

May 19, 2021, 7:59 AM

They changed their dress code TH to allow tattoos and hairstyles that were not part of the "Disney Look". If that's not an indicator of lowering standards, I'm not sure what would be other than a direct statement from Chapek that "We've lowered our hiring standards to address our employee shortage".

May 19, 2021, 3:44 PM

That's a "changed" protocol, not a lowered standard. Neither the park's level of customer service, nor the character or intelligence of people can nor should be assessed by whether or not they have exposed tattoos and/or pierced ears.

I have no doubt Disney CHANGED its on stage appearance protocols because it needs CMs to accommodate demand for their extraordinary park experiences. But to contend all people with tattoos or a particular hairstyle are somehow less capable when it comes to being kind and helpful is ridiculous.

May 20, 2021, 10:24 AM

They are now hiring CMs that wouldn't have been eligible to work at Disney under the previous standard. I'm not arguing that people that didn't fit what was the "Disney Look" a month ago are any less capable of providing a quality experience (I strongly believe that with enough training, anyone can perform most service jobs), but there's no doubt that the standard of what was an acceptable appearance from a CM was lowered with the recent change.

May 20, 2021, 6:21 PM

Me: I want a Mercedes but I can't afford it.

Pal: I guess you'll have to lower your standards.

Me: Why did I get a B-minus when he got a B-plus?

Teacher: I hold you to a higher standard.

The word standard is equated with quality.

Disney changed protocols NOT standards. And every CM that has been hired because they now meet the requirements of new protocols would have met Disney's service standards (past or present) whether or not they have tattoos.

You uses the wrong words. Is it really that much of a painful sacrifice for you to acknowledge that mistake?

(Chuckle)

Edited: May 21, 2021, 1:55 PM

Dress codes, also widely known as "appearance standards", have been around for ages. When those rules/codes/standards/protocols are changed to allow for a larger number of people to meet them, that is lowering the bar to increase the applicant pool.

When Universities want to increase their applicant pool, they reduce the scores students need to achieve on standardized tests and GPA in order to qualify, lowering the bar/standards for acceptance.

Corporate offices used to mandate suits and ties (or business dress attire for ladies), but eventually those "standards" were relaxed/lowered at many offices (first as "casual Fridays" then to business casual then to where we are today where it's pants optional when working from home). If you want to call them protocols, procedures, rules, regulations, or widgets, it doesn't change what they are, a bar or standard prospective employees MUST meet or exceed in order to be hired (just like a degree, diploma, or other educational/experiential requirements). Disney has lowered that appearance bar to be more inclusive of people who have chosen to adorn their body with tattoos, beards, and certain hair styles. Doing so says NOTHING about people's ability to perform a job or the type of CM a person will be, nor does it change the fact that the appearance standards/dress code for Disney front-facing CMs were relaxed/lowered to allow for a larger applicant pool to meet the need for an increased employee base.

May 21, 2021, 6:32 PM

Russell really has a death grip on this one, eh folks?

May 21, 2021, 8:58 PM

I guess $20 an hour as a starting pay is them addressing it lol


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