Saturday, August 09, 2008

What's next, paying to pee?

When I was in Europe a few weeks ago, I saw a lot of strange things.

Since this is a coaster blog and my name isn't Rick Steves, I won't go into all of them. But one thing caught my attention, especially because it's being copied in the amusement industry.

As we were driving from Switzerland to Austria, we pulled over at a rest stop to use the bathroom. Earlier, I had finished off a 2 liter bottle of water, so nature was calling. I ran to the restroom (as quickly as one can in that situation) and when I got there, a mean, old German lady with a cane was blocking the door. I tried to slip by her, but she shouted,

"NO!!!!! ONE EURO!"

Say what you want about America, but I've never been to a place where you have to pay to pee. But I really had to go, so I wasn't in the mood to argue. As I handed her what was the equivilant of almost two dollars to take a leak, she must have noticed that I didn't look happy. She looked at me with disgust and said,


I had no idea what this crazy lady was talking about, but I didn't want to hang around and ask. So I did my business and made my way out. But as I passed her again, she jutted out her cane and gave me a voucher, good for "One Euro" off "certain merchandise" at the rest stop.

Now this rest stop was the seediest one I've ever seen. It had a "fully stocked" sex shop right next to the bathroom. I was tempted to use my voucher in there to bring back a gag gift for EB. But he probably has enough of that stuff at home. So instead, I bought another bottle of water (which cost 3 Euros with my voucher.)

Anyway, how does this story relate to theme parks? (I was starting to wonder the same thing.)

A few weeks ago, CR Forums member Alex wrote a great trip report about his visit to Michigan's Adventure. He had a great time, but lamented about their locker policy"

"A locker was $10 with a $6 'deposit'. When i first rented the locker, I thought this wasn't a bad deal since I was going to get my $6 back...wrong. The deposit came back as either a souvenir cup or a $6 voucher for food or merchandise. Not only that, it was only valid at a small number of places in the park and shown in smaller print on the signs. This is the kind of nickel and dimeing that makes me go insane."

I understand that the economy is down and parks are looking for more ways to earn a buck, but this seems a little shady. If you truly got six dollars worth of food or merchandise, it would be OK. But we all know that souvenir cup is probably worth 25 cents. Plus, they make you run all over the park looking for places to redeem the voucher.

I guess I don't blame theme, because this money making scheme probably works. But when I encounter practices like at the parks, it makes me hold on to my wallet a little tighter instead of spending freely.

Places like Holiday World, which offer free parking and free drinks, make you feel like you are getting a bargain. So odds are, you'll spend a little more throughout your day.

But the whole locker voucher thing makes me feel a little uncomfortable.... just like that mean, old German lady in the bathroom. What's next, paying to pee?

Talk more about this is the forums!

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