Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Do the Wagoner Kids Go to Six Flags?

According to Megan, disgraced former GM CEO Rick Wagoner made $8 million his last year of employment.

Yesterday I took my children to the sprawling roller coaster and water park out here in Flyover Country.  We got in at a substantial discount, but by the time we paid for parking, a locker rental, and dinner, we spent around $120; had we paid the full gate, it would have been closer to $210.  This, granted, is not a lot of money compared to my disposable income, but it seems like a lot when measured against my internal calibration of what I can pay for a day’s worth of entertainment.

Happily, the park was un-crowded compared to what roller coaster parks can become, and entry and egress were reasonably efficient.  But we nonetheless stood in 90° heat waiting in lines up to 25 minutes long.  And we all had a blast!  My girls didn’t care that it was 90°, and they didn’t care about the lines, and they didn’t care about the plethora of prole-ish beer bellies hanging out at the water park.  They were with their dad getting soaked and wind-whipped and having the time of their lives.

I bet the Wagoner kids would have a blast too, but it’s hard to imagine Daddy Wagoner – or the Soros, Buffet, or Gates fathers – putting up with this for ten minutes, let alone 12 hours. 

And yet what is the alternative?  Nowhere in evidence was some kind of VIP admission where for $10K you went straight to the head of every line and got followed around by a portable air conditioner.  Maybe the rich get together and hire the whole park for a “special event”, but once upon a time this would have been muckraker bait.  (Maybe the rich bought all the muckrakers.)

Or perhaps when your vacations are spent, alternately, on your family’s private yacht or snow-skiing in the Alps, your children don’t notice that they’ve never ridden a roller coaster.

. . . .

Parenthetically, nobody does it quite like D!sney.  This was my first non-D!sney park visit since I’ve been married, and while most of it wasn’t a big deal, I couldn’t help notice that the detailing just wasn’t there.  The operations infrastructure at D!sney is almost perfectly concealed behind its storybook facade; not quite true here.  There were a number of rides and services closed yesterday, not really a big deal; what was a big deal was that so many of the staff didn’t seem to know it, so you’d ask the guy running the sledge hammer where we could eat pizza, and he’d direct us to the opposite end of the park, whereupon we’d arrive and discover the place CLOSED, with a sign directing us to the first end of the park.  That kind of thing gets old fast when you’re hungry trying to get as many rides as possible in 12 hours.

What bothered me the most was the condition of the men’s changing room at the water park.  It was dirty in a way that nothing at D!sney is ever allowed to get caught dirty.

On the other hand, we attended an ice-skating show that rivaled the kind of shows D!sney puts on.


Anonymous said...

D!sney (why the exclamation mark?) parks don't advertise the fact that bigshots are able to skip waiting in lines, but in fact that's what they do. I would suspect it's the same way at the park you attended.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, we used to go to the "Colossal Kingdom", a local Six Flags operation, one night a year. What would happen is the government installation where Dad worked would rent out the park for employees. There were still lines, but nothing like what you get on a normal day. I suspect that's what happens for people like Wagoner. Or they just have their nanny take the kids.

Sheila Tone said...

I second Peter. Famous people go to Disneyland all the time and you don't see them waiting in lines. There's clearly some way around it.

As Will points out, another alternative is having non-famous people, such as relatives or nannies, take the children. Who'd recognize Suri Cruise if she weren't with her parents?

Anonymous said...

D!sney (why the exclamation mark?) parks don't advertise the fact that bigshots are able to skip waiting in lines, but in fact that's what they do. I would suspect it's the same way at the park you attended.

Perhaps counterintuitively, I think this really highlights the fact that ours is a middle-class, egalitarian (by historical standards) society. Yeah, bigwigs get in faster. But they don't actually have their own off-limits theme parks. Everyone goes to the same place.

Φ said...

A friend from the Orlando area, who circulates among this kind of people, writes:

Well- the secret is known and, you too can have magical dreams and champaign wishes---when you hire a $250/day host who usheres you and your fellow VIP clan thru the rides. Its a small tip in NYC and well worth it if you want to see Disney in a style you're accustomed to! Search for details as they now promote this to anyone with a check book!

I haven't been able to find the details online, but if this is true then it's actually much more democratic than I would have guessed.

Φ said...

For seasonal parks, I think Trumwill called it. A corporation hires the park in the "after-season" (when it's cooler) for a minimum-wait special event, and the CEOs make sure the Buffets and Gates get invited. It doesn't attract media coverage because it's all under the corporate name and the marquee-level people can enjoy relative annonymity.

Anonymous said...

It's probably better than parks allow highly recognizable celebrities to skip waiting in lines. Not that I care about the celebrities, but being stuck in a line next to a famous person probably would be a major annoyance for ordinary people. Imagine spending an hour in line next to, say, Miley Cyrus, engulfed in mobs of gawkers. Not fun.

I doubt that Rick Wagoner would be sufficiently recognizable to attract gawkers, however.

Sheila Tone said...

Phi, if you find the details online, please link. I wonder if it works for Disneyland too. Two-fifty seems an awfully small price to pay for something that would triple or quadruple one's rides in a given amount of time.

Φ said...

Here is the website for the "VIP Tour Guide Services", but I haven't called to verify the details.

There is also a third party outfit called "Magical VIP Guides", but I can't imagine how they would be able to get people past the lines.