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    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Six Flags Over Georgia vs. Cedar Point

    The last week in May, my daughter (now 14) and I made a long road trip to Cedar Point - the world's best amusement park, in Sandusky, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. I previously posted about an overnight we spent in Cincinnati.

    I really want to save the details of Cedar Point for another day, but, the short version is - best amusement park for number and variety of roller coasters, and best staff and operations I have experienced in my life. Period. Without equal.

    Our local park is Six Flags Over Georgia, and it's one to which we own season passes, the prices being too good to pass up. We've done this for many years, although we probably average only 4 visits a year, Six Flags being about 30 miles from our home, and our opportunities mostly limited to weekends, but we always try to go at least once on a weekday during summer. Today was the first of those days, and was our second visit (I discussed a little of visit one in this post).

    What I didn't mention here in that post was that Six Flags has adopted a policy on most of their roller coasters where riders are not permitted to bring anything they can't put in their pockets, into the station. This would include souvenir drink cups that season pass holders are enouraged to buy for $12.99 to get discount refills, any backpack type stuff, etc. In exchange, Six Flags conveniently offers lockers for short-term rental (2 hrs) at line entrances, for $1.

    This was my major complaint back in April. This policy spans the most popular coasters - Batman, Superman, Goliath, and some not-so-popular ones (Cyclone, Scorcher). It amounts to a surcharge of $1 for each ride. When I complained to Six Flags, their management was kind enough to offer these answers:
    1. The policy is a corporate policy
    2. The policy is intended to increase throughput on these rides
    Number 1 is a dodge, and since Six Flags is now in Chapter 11, I can't say that too many decisions coming out of their corporate office must be that great, but, maybe this one is a net money maker - I expect most of their visitors are one-time visitors and just accept this as a price of a vacation, along with the astronomical food prices, and the ridiculous parking prices. To their credit, they have held the line on actual admission and season passes - but they're picking it up here.

    Number 2 is a falsehood. After the first visit, we had a heated discussion about throughput at SFOG.net, and the consensus is that this policy does nothing to speed throughput, and that parks like Cedar Point don't have this policy, and are models for throughput. My actual experience anecdotally bears this out. As a matter of fact, my experience today made me wonder if this policy doesn't actually slow throughput.

    To wit, on Goliath, since the 4 gatekeepers at the entrance were not doing their job and stopping everyone with drink cups, and their was no one at the platform entrance, people were able to get to their seats with these, and attempted to put them in the storage bins - where, on this particular ride, you must place your flip-flops and loose fitting shoes (how adding a small backpack, or drink cup to this process slows things much, is beyond me). Anyway, because a couple of riders had drink cups and/or had not put their flops in the bin, we had to wait 2+ minutes (yes, I timed it) for the train to leave the station, while the operators held the train to find the offenders and have them 1)lose their cups and 2)get off and store their flops appropriately. If you're saying this sounds like a government operation, you're with me.

    On the Georgia Scorcher, which is an older, lamer, stand-up coaster, the park has decided that nothing comes off in the platform (you wear your shoes on this puppy). Anyway, the problem with this ride is NOT people's stuff, it's the 6 person crew who can not get a train out of the station in less than 2 minutes. This is a tough ride because of design issues with boarding for the operators, but please....

    I did have the opportunity to complete a complaint form, and talk to a supervisor, who was very friendly and conscientious. But, the story is the same - "Corporate makes us do this." Oh, and sprinkling in pablum about safety (how these rides operated safely the previous 40 years not explained) .

    Let's be honest, Six Flags. This is about one thing - money. If you would JUST ADMIT THAT, I would stop complaining and bring a few dollars with me when I visit.

    I have ideas for how you can meet the other stated goals (throughput, safety) and lessen the aggravation for your customers, but, you'll have to pay my consulting fee to get those.

    Operators - much better than years past - BUT - absolutely NOT at Cedar Point level.
    Operations - better also, BUT - not even in the same league as Cedar Point.
    Park Cleanliness - again, improving, but, not close to Cedar Point.

    We'll be going to the former Hard Rock park (now Freestyle Music Park) in Myrtle Beach in July, and will have a report from there. Honestly, knowing the financial condition of that park's owners, I expect it to stink.

    Also, later, I will upload some pics and videos of today's Six Flags visit, and our Cedar Point visit.


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