Wrote this up after a recent trip to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. They'll be getting a hard copy, and I'm pretty much spreading it around wherever. A friend suggested I post it here, and so... here I am!
July 10, 2010
To whom it may concern:
Let me start this off with the good part. Six Flags Great Adventure (the only park in the chain that I have visited, and therefore the park of concern in this letter) has some very wonderful roller coasters. Nitro and El Toro, in particular, are really top notch. And a good number of the employees were very kind and helpful on my last visit.
However, for as much fun can be packed into the rides, and the occasional helpful employee, it seems as though almost all of my Six Flags trips have been marred by some incident, and almost all of these incidents can be traced to the greed of the Six Flags company.
It’s no surprise that, as with most theme parks, Six Flags tries to squeeze every single penny from the wallets of its customers. Ticket prices are high—the only good way to go is with a coupon. The food is overpriced and tasteless, quite obviously low enough quality that it costs next to nothing to make. The souvenirs are much the same; really, there’s very little worth buying for the outrageous prices. The poor employees that get stuck with “camera duty” at the front of the park are like an obstacle course—“quick, guys, dart this way so they won’t ask us if we want to take an exorbitantly priced photo!” All of those things I have come to expect from a theme park, though, and are easy enough to shake off, even if they do put a bit of a damper on some aspects of the day.
But what really gets me now is the locker situation.
No longer can you leave your belongings—even simple things like water you purchased inside the park, stuffed animals you won in the park, even things you flat out purchased from the souvenir shops—including those handy souvenir bottles with free refills—on the side of the track at the roller coasters, as you could in the past. No, instead you have to pay a fee to lock your things up in a locker outside the ride. These lockers claim that they are only good for 120 minutes, and are for use only by people on the specific ride they are near. (The all day, non-specific lockers we came across were $11 for a tiny, tiny box. Half the prizes from the arcade games wouldn’t even fit.) So, for every ride you go on, if you have any loose articles what-so-ever, you have to pay a fee.
Each locker station is equipped with a sign, which states that if your belongings have been there for more than 120 minutes, they can be removed and discarded, I assume by the attendant that is also present at each station. A friend of mine asked an attendant a simple question while we were there yesterday—“What happens if it’s one of those days where the lines are longer than two hours?” The attendant offered a small, nervous smile and shrugged, giving us absolutely no verbal answer what-so-ever. How very reassuring and informative.
At one point, my friend and I decided to go see if we could drop the stuffed animals we’d won off somewhere. We had heard rumor of a Guest Relations/Package Pickup area where you could do this. Perfect, we thought!
We found Package Pickups, and were told we would have to go and purchase something from a store in order to leave bags there. (And even if we did, I got the feeling that they would not let us actually put our won stuffed animals into the bags.) The form that the package pickup people require is only available in the stores—not in the arcade games. It must be filled out and signed by an employee, with a receipt, yadda yadda.
We went into one of the stores to see if they could be any help. They weren’t, of course. One girl informed me that they aren’t allowed to give out plastic bags. Another girl at a register barely spoke English, tried to ring up the prizes we’d won as if we’d bought them from the store, and didn’t understand half of what we were asking her. When she finally understood our request to speak with a manager, he informed us (politely, at least, which was becoming a rarity) that the stores could not do anything relating to the games. And the Package Pickups were connected to the stores, and so couldn’t touch any of those arcade prizes.
“Let me get this straight,” I’d said. “You can drop things off if you buy something, spend your money in a store. But you can’t drop things off if you win something, even though, to do so, you have also spent your money on the game.” Another of those patented Six Flags nervous, unhelpful smiles, accompanied by a head shake, was the response.
We were told that maybe Guest Relations could help us. One person was in line—supposedly in the process of being helped. No one was visible in the little window. At least 10 minutes went by before a grumpy looking man came back, finished helping the woman in front of us, and turned to us. As I’d guessed he would be, he was no help. He was also fairly gruff and unfriendly, not star Guest Relations material. When I asked to speak with a manager, he handed me a piece of paper to fill out. “No, I want to speak with a manager.” The response I got was that they were very busy. “Too busy to speak with concerned customers?” I queried, which, thankfully, enticed the man to get off of his chair and go find someone.
I wish I could remember the name of the man that he retrieved, because the supervisor was quite rude and certainly not someone that Six Flags should want interacting with customers. He had obviously never taken a marketing class in his life, because the concept of Lifetime Customer Value sure as heck wasn’t anywhere in his mind. He kept spouting things like “policies have changed” and “that’s just how it is” and “you should have filled out the piece of paper” while simultaneously trying to cram sales pitches down our throats—“there are lockers for $11 located in these locations!” So, in the end, we wasted our time dealing with some of the rudest employees in the park. Fantastic.
At least, I suppose, it taught me some things. I will warn every single friend I have about the ridiculous policy changes, money-grubbing and locker situations. I will definitely make sure that I never give the Six Flags parks a penny more than I must. I have my handy checklist-- use coupons, bring a lunch and go eat outside the park, wear pants with big, zipper pockets (thankfully my boyfriend could fit that free-refill-souvenir-cup, which might be the only smart thing to purchase, into his pockets) and avoid bringing anything that the ride attendants will make you put in a locker. Don’t bother playing any of those arcade games they try so hard to hawk as you walk by—you’ll have nowhere to put the prizes, and it’s really not worth the price of the game plus the price of all those lockers for each ride—and that’s assuming the prize will even fit into a locker.
It’s unfortunate that such a greedy company has such good coasters. Even the roller coasters are getting the short end of the deal, though; many of the cars and ride areas are now plastered in advertisements. It boggled my mind to think that Six Flags needs to gouge the customers that much with all the advertising they have. If money is getting so tight in the Six Flags bank accounts, I can certainly point out a few employees at Six Flags Great Adventure who can be chopped right off the payroll, unhelpful as they were.
So, to Six Flags management—shame on you. Your attempts to scam more and more from your once-loving customers has become incredibly transparent and disheartening. It’s a shame that with every trip to the park, I’ve also come to expect some incident related to those extra fees. And to anyone thinking about visiting one of the Six Flags parks—go in prepared, make sure you have some nice, big, zipper pockets, and be aware of all those little extra fees—Six Flags’ vile little version of the fine print.
A disappointed customer,
Edited to add- It's long and corporate won't read it as is-- that's been pointed out quite a bit. I'll be trimming & editing before sending anything in.