Posts Tagged ‘Priority’

How much would you spend to skip a line at a theme park? At Universal Studios Hollywood at least some people are willing to pony up a lot (At Theme Parks, a V.I.P. Ticket to Ride, New York Times, Jun 10).

As stratification becomes more pronounced in all corners of America, from air travel to Broadway shows to health care, theme parks in recent years have been adopting a similarly tiered model, with special access and perks for those willing to pay.

Now Universal Studios Hollywood has pushed the practice to a new level.

It has introduced a $299 V.I.P. ticket, just in time for the summer high season, that comes with valet parking, breakfast in a luxury lounge, special access to Universal’s back lot, unlimited line-skipping and a fancy lunch. …

Universal upgraded its V.I.P. Experience — and raised the price by 50 percent — after realizing that the old one, which did not include lunch, the lounge or other perks, “was selling out more and more frequently,” Ms. Wiley said.


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When’s it OK to buy your way to the front of the line? That is essentially the question behind a report on the BBC website (Priority queues: Paying to get to the front of the line, Oct 10). That essay is a distillation of a longer podcast that is well worth a listen:

The starting point of the article is that priority service has become fairly ubiquitous from airports to amusement parks to expressways.

But today, many Americans are waiting in a new kind of queue – the priority queue, where certain customers get higher priority because they pay.

In American airports, priority queues are now visible everywhere – at the check-in counter, at security and at boarding gates. Many airlines now board their passengers according to the amount of money they’ve paid for their ticket. …

Take the Six Flags White Water amusement park in Atlanta, which implemented a priority queue system in 2011.

Some guests simply queue up for their rides. Those who purchase green-and-gold wrist bands – fitted with radio frequency technology – are able to swim in the pool or eat snacks before being alerted to their turn.

Guests who pay an even higher fee – roughly double the price of admission – get the gold flash pass, cutting their waiting time in half. …

In October 2011, Atlanta created a priority lane on the highway [I-85] for drivers with a Peach Pass – the price of driving in the lane changes depending on how much traffic there is.

Critics call them “Lexus lanes”, because they claim the lanes benefit only the rich who can afford expensive cars.

Aside from the cost of the express lanes, some drivers are also upset that they replace car pool lanes – special lanes for cars with two or more passengers.

Overnight all the car pool drivers who used to ride free were pushed into the general lanes, making traffic worse for everyone except those who pay.

After the various examples, it builds to this:

Americans have a deep-rooted belief in the market and since priority queues can generate revenue it’s no surprise that they are turning up in the public sector as well.

But are traditional American values like fairness and equal opportunity really compatible with letting someone buy their way to the front of the line? And what happens when the people who pay more want more?


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What would you give to get out of line?  Disney figured this out with its Fast Pass program a decade or so ago. It lets Disney park visitors to wait in a virtual queue — they can wander the park and do other things instead of waiting in line for a given ride. The system gives them a specific window in which to return. Disney very quickly found that in-park spending and guest satisfaction went up with Fast Pass.

So why can’t you do something similar when, say, you get put on hold calling the cable company. Now you sort of can thanks to a start up called LucyPhone. Here’s the crazy thing: Consumer choose to use this service when calling and (for the moment) it is not on the firm’s initiative. Here’s how the LucyPhone explains its service:

How LucyPhone Works

Lucy will call you first then “patch” you through to the company.

Use the company’s phone menu just as you normally would. Get put on hold? Press ** and your phone will be disconnected but Lucy will stay on the line.

Once a live agent is on the line, Lucy will call you back immediately and connect you both. Get put on hold again, just press ** again!


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Lot’s of things happening this week related to queue management. You don’t get to say that too often! They range from priorities at the patent office to Chuck Schumer having a wacky proposal for call centers to, of course, AT&T monkeying with its data plans pricing.

Let’s start with the last one. Beginning Monday, AT&T will no longer treat data plans as an all you can eat buffet.  Instead, they will sell tiered plans that limit how much bandwidth customers can use before incurring additional charges. Or as the Chicago Tribune so eloquently put it, There’s a Cap for That (June 2). Here is what the Trib says AT&T hopes to accomplish.

AT&T hopes to ease congestion on its network, which has drawn complaints, particularly in big cities. But the approach could confuse customers unfamiliar with how much data it takes to watch a YouTube video or fire up a favorite app.

To put this in perspective, consider this stylin’ diagram from the Globe and Mail (The wireless data crunch, Jun 2):

Smart phone and tablet computers induce people to use data-intensive services. But most of those uses can fit under AT&T’s data caps. Their plans are for 200MB and 2 gigabytes. So those who are fairly average users may well be able to get by with the lower cap and actually spend less money with AT&T than they do now. Of course, not everyone is average. The Globe and Mail also has a posting on the biggest data users with Canada’s Wind Mobile (You think you use a lot of smart phone data? Jun 3).  Wind Mobile was the first provider with unlimited data access in the Canadian market.  Here are the top ten:

  1. 118.56
  2. 95.12
  3. 55.32
  4. 51.70
  5. 44.51
  6. 39.21
  7. 33.72
  8. 33.59
  9. 28.94
  10. 26.85

Those numbers are in gigabytes — GIGABYTES!! — per month.  How do you get north of 100 gigabytes? (more…)

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Southwest airlines introduced yesterday priority-boarding fee (“Southwest Airlines Finds a New Fee”, WSJ, Sep 2nd, ).

With the new service, a customer may purchase an “EarlyBird Check-in” and get a better boarding position. Since southwest doesn’t have assigned seats, boarding earlier means there will be more open seats and overhead bin space from which to choose.  Customers have to pay $10 (one-way) for the service.  Note that the fee grants a customer a “better boarding position” and not even a specific boarding group.  What does that mean? If you read the Frequently Asked Questions on Southwest’s website you will see the following questions and answers:


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