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WTF Merlin?

Discussion in 'General Discussions & Opinions' started by nadroJ, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. Joey

    Joey Member

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    Have you ever tried to plan a US park trip and you're forced to do it during peak season when it's hot as balls and the parks are busy cuz otherwise they just ain't open? Like, I really wanna do a September trip. But I can't. Because nothing is open mid week.

    I dunno, man. I dunno. We had it pretty cushty for a long time with our parks open daily from March-Nov and no car parking fees and all that... Turning sour now.
     
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  2. Robert.W

    Robert.W New Member

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    Just another example of how things in the UK are so fantastically mediocre. Theme park opening hours not being as bad as they typically are in the US, but no where near as good as they are for many parks in Europe. But we’re in Europe, so why can’t we have opening times like many other large European parks? :(
     
  3. Hixee

    Hixee Flojector Staff Member Administrator Moderator

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    You make a good point, and one that I've certainly neglected (and maybe @Joey has too?) - maybe we should look a little closer to home first.
     
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  4. rob666

    rob666 New Member

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    Alton kicks you out on weekdays right into the peak hours traffic, and always used to open until five.
    The cheap season pass has made any "minimum gate" figure pretty meaningless...days they will not make any profit on, they now just close.
    Have some weekday closures, fine, but 4pm closures, for the long distance day tripper, are a real pain, and stop me visiting.
     
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  5. Fluorineer

    Fluorineer New Member

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    I might be exaggerating here, but especially with a chain like Merlin, that never charges gate prices and gives away season passes, wouldn't the park already earn more with a single sold coke, compared to the admission price? I don't get it how with an area as huge as Alton Towers, which opens up plenty of opportunities for worthwhile, expensive pastime activities (what happened to the rope course btw?) and actual (like ACTUAL) restaurants, they literally have zero desire to make the people come at lunchtime, have them eat in the park first, then let everybody have fun until dinner which is also served in the park, finish the day off with a final ride at 8:30 and then everybody is happy? Like, when I go to any decent park with proper opening times (so Efteling, Phantasia, Europa Park) you'll see me show up at 11:30, head towards my favourite restaurant, and then gladly stay until 8 or 9 pm. That's plenty of money spent every single visit, which is especially valuable for these parks since I have season passes, so they are pretty much dependant on me doing that if they want to earn any money on my visit.

    Ruining your guests admission price tolerance is especially harmful in that scenario imo, because as soon as everybody expects to get in for a dime, free season pass included, all your chances at selling "premium tickets" which include for example dinner, a coffee + pastry and a single fasttrack are already out of the window. Efteling has an offer like that and I would recommend that to everybody who doesn't have an annual pass.
     
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  6. SilverArrow

    SilverArrow Member

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    Alton has one of the worst restaurant line ups as well. You literally have pizza (which is usually chaos and super loud) or woodcutters (small place and limited), rollercoaster restaurant which is busy/has meh food which is really overpriced and then everything else is fast food served outdoors at random kiosks. Blackpool has better, other merlin parks have better, European parks have restaurants that would be great standalone places to eat. Why does Alton have such awful food offerings?? Not asking for much just somewhere pleasant you can sit down and chill. The velvet coaster is better than anything Alton has.
     
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  7. rob666

    rob666 New Member

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    The Velvet Coaster is part of a massive non theme park chain though!
    Alton are well aware that there are extremely limited alternatives to their food available in park opening hours.
    If you haven't got a picnic, and are hungry, what are you going to do?
    Even going for a local pub lunch takes two hours out of your time limited day.
    There is a bigger profit margin on junk food meal packages than there is at a sit down quality dining establishment...same profit per punter...but far greater throughput.
    Drag em in, rip em off, kick em out...that is the Merlin Way now.
     
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  8. SilverArrow

    SilverArrow Member

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    Wetherspoons is known as cheap and cheerful basic pub food yet is still better than anything at Alton, that was my point (and Merlin is a massive chain too). Obviously it's profit related/lack of imagination but is it good for guest experience.....no!

    That coasters place seemed nicer than anything at Alton and I only had a beer! haha
     
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  9. Joey

    Joey Member

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    There's 2 major things to consider...

    Culture
    Company size


    So, culturally the US just opens things really late. I've rocked up to KD at 8pm a few times on what should be peak summer evenings and there is no one there, despite the place reportedly being packed in the day from staff. People do the same :emoji_poop: they do in the UK, where they go early and get burnt out (especially in the US heat!) and abort. But it's not just parks. You can go to a department store at like 8pm on a weeknight and it'll just be you and the staff. Why these places are open with no one in them is beyond me. It's stupid. A lot of people, including me, have this belief that the British public just have a "bedtime, work tomorrow" mentality, but I actually think the Americans might be worse. Sunday's are significantly quieter than Saturdays in the States at parks to a point of notability that just isn't present in the UK. The difference is simply that it has never been a thing and isn't an expectation in the UK for stuff to be 24/h. I agree, the UK park hours are abysmal... But if you open the parks later in the UK, the only people it benefits are those who have the stamina to stay later or who came later. You would STILL see the fall off in visitor numbers at the "conventional" times of about 4-6pm and you would still see people complain about how busy the park was. Unless you're a park who has a culture of wining and dining at the park...

    The mainland European parks that open late all have one thing in common. A huge focus on food.... Affordable, decent food. And it continues to baffle me why more parks around the world don't focus more attention on getting the balance right with food. That said, even if they did, would public perception change? Would people even notice that they could eat interesting, affordable food at Alton Towers for less than they could on the way home? It would require a HUGE marketing campaign and shift over numerous years that these companies would never invest in.

    And that's the biggest problem. Like Jim Sterling goes on and on about, companies aren't content with making enough money, they need to make all the money in the world ever. Each year, the amount needs to grow. And it cannot. It cannot grow forever. There is a ceiling. And they take those ceilings, those leveling outs, as failures. A huge company like Merlin has too many flipping shareholders and dicks in its mouth to risk innovation when it comes to how people visit theme parks. It can't "afford" to take a risk and pour a lot of money into something that won't reap the benefits for years, perhaps decades. Everything is now.

    That's the real reason we can't have nice things. Merlin is too big and Brits are too boring. It's really quite that simple.
     
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  10. JoshC.

    JoshC. Member

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    Yes, yes and yes again.

    This is something which I agree with totally, but I've never been able to put quite so on the nose.

    I think another thing with the UK is we're very much of the thought 'early bird catches the worm', and 'the sooner you arrive the sooner you can leave', along with the 'bedtime, work tomorrow' thing. And, though less prevalent in recent years, TV / at home media plays a part for families - let's go early, have a nice day and then go home and watch X Factor / whatever rubbish is on. Equally, with young adults and going out.

    The public need a reason to stay later, and it has to be an exceptional one to break them out of their habits. Pushing opening and closing back by, say, 2 hours won't work - you would still have people arrive at 10 waiting for parks to open. 'Rides in the dark' / 'more time to go on the rides' simply don't entice the British public - they're blasé about it. That's why things like Halloween and Fireworks events do work - it's enough to entice people to break their routine for one night.

    I also wonder what the 'standard' dinner time is for British people? From my experience, somewhere between 6-7pm seems fairly standard? So closing a park between 6-8pm won't really help push people with dinner, because sure, the park is open, but why should they stay later solely for food - especially when they expect it to be expensive / low quality. It needs a huge marketing push, and even then, may not work without a cultural shift too - something the parks cannot really do themselves.

    So yeah, I'd rather see the parks open at 4pm on weekdays than not at all and try longer hours on weekends. It's better for more people, and is a much safer way of getting people through the gates. Obviously I'd like to see 5pm close as standard, but that's another story..
     
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  11. DelPiero

    DelPiero Member

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    Realistically it will take me a total of around 5 hours of driving to and from Alton so it will take me nearly as long to get there and back as I will have in the park. Nah, not wasting my money on that. Thorpe is barely better but at least it's until 5 every day, and it's only 3 hours of driving.

    How about other parks on the general latitude as the UK for June;
    Efteling: 10-6
    Phantasialand: 9-6
    Europa Park: 9-6(at least)
    Energylandia: 10-8
    Grona Lund: 12-10
    Canobie Lake Park: 9:30-6
    SFNE: 10:30-8(on average)
    Valleyfair: 10-8(on average)
    Everland: 10-10

    :emoji_zipper_mouth: your 6 hour days Alton, possibly the worst hours globally and I'll happily be corrected.
     
  12. caffeine_demon

    caffeine_demon Member

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    Thing is - if it was a park like thorpe or blackpool doing 10-4, i wouldn't think that was as bad - because they're both small enough that you can easily get around them 2 or 3 times in an off peak day, but at a large park, it just doesn't work!
     
  13. bob_3_

    bob_3_ Member

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    I really wish Alton stayed open longer. I always defend that place when last time I went I barely got on anything.

    To open later Alton really needs to change it's culture. For some reason the operations teams arn't allowed to split shifts. And once they removed their nearby staff accommodation recruitment for ride ops has really been tough so even suggesting a staffing split shift was usually laughed at. it's all down to Merlin's reluctance to spend more money and Alton's 30 years of unchanged culture.

    When I looked after Monorail my shift would start at 7:30am and wouldn't finish untill 7:30pm on a 5pm ride close. So me and my team would be doing 12 hours a day 5 days a week at least. Even a small change to 6pm would cause the biggest uproar in the park where all the ops complain that they don't get any time to themselves and by the end of summer alot of the ops would quit so they could study and stuff. I even convinced a friend to be an operator and by the end of summer he was exhausted. I had to deal with staff running themselves down to a point of illness, staff not sleeping, depression and everything that comes with it. It was very sad to see and eventually the reason I left, as most of the staff are super super passionate about delivering that Alton magic that they grew up loving.

    Basically having visited more late opening parks, and having that lovely nighttime part to get on some rides and soak in a different atmosphere I would LOVE Alton to tap into this and actually become a resport. But my god, having got to know the ops teams and management at the park and how stretched the staff are already, it's not going to happen. I imagine Thorpe is better for late openings, as theres a larger pool or people in a closer proximity and decent public transport, but Alton's just... eh, it just won't happen, not with the staffing structure they have at the moment.
     
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  14. SilverArrow

    SilverArrow Member

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    Parks like Disney/universal do split shifts but I can't see Merlin ever doing that-especially as you'd have an overlap in the middle of the day with double staffing.
     
  15. rob666

    rob666 New Member

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    Many firms manage longer hours combining full time, part time and zero hours casual staff.
    Some part timers and full timers start early, then a second full time shift starts mid/late morning to cover breaks and lunch, then part timers leave after lunch, with other staff coming on part time mid afternoon. You don't need double the staff to increase opening hours.
    Again...Merlin seem to be hacking hard at all standard overheads, so we are stuck with what we have got.
    I would be happier if they simply shifted the hours over a bit, if they opened at 12 and shut at 6 we could all avoid the horrendous peak traffic on the roads.
     
  16. SilverArrow

    SilverArrow Member

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    From what your described it sounds similar to two lots of staff as you've described two full time shifts aka full days plus other to fill breaks etc. Regardless of how you manage the overlap in the middle you'd still be having two day-length shifts if the parks were open Kate enough. Either way you need to pay more people for more hours unless you make people work 15 hour days but even then you're still paying more.

    Either way can't see it happening in the UK, don't think any parks do it but could be proven wrong.
     
  17. Hixee

    Hixee Flojector Staff Member Administrator Moderator

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    I actually posted about this kind of thing a few months back. I'm inclined to agree!
    http://coasterforce.com/forums/threads/wtf-merlin.38748/page-28#post-1028558
     
  18. SilverArrow

    SilverArrow Member

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  19. Hixee

    Hixee Flojector Staff Member Administrator Moderator

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    I suppose that's why we have this thread... and that it's 36 pages long (and counting)... :p
     
  20. rob666

    rob666 New Member

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    Sorry, as always, I could have explained myself better. I used to be responsible for creating 24 hour cover staff rotas in a former life, and in the early stages of local government cutbacks, we had to occasionally double up staff, without increasing payroll...specifically overtime.
    We managed it by splitting the usual full time staff into two groups, those who preferred earlies, and the lates group.
    The same staff hours in total, just juggled.
    The earlies came on..understaffed but tough...cuts.
    At break time, the part timer came in to cover, and double up, to cover lunch, then the part timer would go off duty as the later full timers come on.
    There was then a couple of golden hours when we were fully staffed with full time permanant staff.
    As the early full timers reach eight hours work...and overtime rates about to start, they went and, if needed, another part timer came in to assist.
    Longer hours covered, with less overall costs because of a reduction in unplanned overtime.
    I know it isn't the same in theme parks, as they are more reliant on casual and zero hour contracts, but you don't need an extra set of full time staff to open for an extra two or three hours.
     
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