A Theme Parks Scam Called ‘Fast Track’

We’ve just come back from a great summer holiday at Australia’s Gold Coast which is characterized, among other things, by its theme parks — most of them under the Village Roadshow management/ownership. They are really great and entertaining, we really had a good time, except for a horrible, greedy and unfair scheme called ‘Fast Track’.

The idea of ‘Fast Track’ is that you can pay a certain amount ($20 time-limited and ride-limited, or $60 for a whole day) and get a special wristband that allows you to stand at a short “Fast Track” queue and get ahead of the crowd, at the most requested rides.

A few people on the Internet thought it’s a great idea, but me and most people I talked to think it’s an outright scam, social injustice and greediness of the theme parks management, that just creates fury and frustration..

Think about it: people can pay money, to get ahead of the line. To get ahead of other people and cause them to wait even more (and the wait is long for the most requested rides, could be even up to 2 hours).

It’s so rotten. And if you think — hey! that’s capitalism, it’s exactly like other places where you can pay extra to get more — then my answer is: no, it’s not. For a flight you can pay extra for a business- or first-class ticket; you’d get a better seat and a better food, but you and the other economy-class passengers will arrive at your destination at the same time. With ‘Fast Track’ though, richer people can ‘bribe’(1) the theme park so that they get ahead of others, causing those others to wait even more. They buy time, but the others on the queue don’t get a cut from it. They just suffer more.

When I stood at the queue, a guy got pissed off at some dude who bypassed others. I told him: why are you not mad at those ‘Fast Track’ people over there who cause you to wait even more? he replied: because they paid for it. I answered him: did they? they paid the theme park. Not you. Between us, the people waiting in the queue, it doesn’t really matter from a moral perspective. Both are folks who violently prefer to jump ahead of others. Some are violent by overtaking people and some are violent by ‘bribing’ the theme park to get the magical wristband that allows them to stand at the ‘Fast Track’ lane, with a clear conscience.

It started some years ago, where everyone got ‘Fast Track’ (this has been in use in other parks as well, like Euro Disney) in two ways: one is that you’re eligible to get say, 3 rides without a queue, so in a full day you’ll get to do at least 3 of the most requested coasters; another is the ability to secure a 15-minutes time frame where you can go directly to your ride. Both ways are fair: they apply to everyone at the same way.
Then I guess at some point greediness took over, and some park managements said: hey, we can make money out of it! and there you go: they get more money on top of the costly entrance tickets, and the crowd that was not willing to feed the piggy bank a bit more, or is not wealthy enough, gets punished by waiting even more because of the ‘Fast Track’ people.

Disgrace.

Here’s a picture of a typical queue, from the park’s ride operators point of view. It’s the ‘Viking Revenge Flume’ at Sea World Gold Coast. You can see the edge of a snake-like queue that fills the shed (maybe hundreds of people). You can see how the Fast Track queue has a few people and they get straight to the head of the line:

P.S. I’ve been told this arrangement applies at other places as well — I didn’t see it first hand so I can’t testify.

(1) I know it’s not the criminal offence of bribery, but it has the same effect — this time in the commercial world: you pay someone money, and that someone gives you preference/advantage over other people that reasonably expect, by any other commercial or civil rules, to be equal to you.

What do you think? is it a fair arrangement or a scam?