Are you still scarred by that one trip you took to Six Flags
) a few years ago that kept you away for keeps? Were the teens in line behind you swearing the whole time? Did a pack of rowdy coaster-lovers skip in front of you?
Following the seeds planted earlier this year to make its chain of regional amusement parks more family-friendly, the company announced in a press release a new Guest Code of Conduct that will be implemented for the 2007 operating season.
It's pretty much what you would expect. Use salty language, and you risk getting tossed out of the park without a refund. Jump in the line or hold a place for some friends, and you also risk ejection. There's a dress code, too, and it involves more than just not wearing a bathing suit outside the waterpark areas. That T-shirt you're wearing had better not be offensive, and you won't be able to simply turn the shirt inside-out at the turnstile to get in. Way too often, you see exactly that, only to have the kids reverse the same shirt once they're inside and beyond the security guard.
If you're wondering why Six Flags has never rolled out a universal Guest Code of Conduct before, it's because individual parks already have some pretty strict guidelines when it comes to policing behavior. Just check the fine print. The real problem, naturally, lies in enforcement.
Back in May, I was exploring Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey with CEO Mark Shapiro, and he would often stop to pick up discarded cigarette butts as we walked along the midway. Six Flags had initiated a non-smoking policy throughout its parks for the 2006 season. I never saw a single patron light up, but obviously, one has to wonder where all of these butts came from.
It gets even trickier with dress codes and behavioral issues. Is the teenaged sweeper who makes a little more than minimum wage really going to risk his or her hide to break up an altercation in line? If he sees a group of hooligans jump to the front of a long queue, what's the incentive to not look the other way?
I would have loved to see the press release unveiling some kind of whistleblower reward program. That's really the key to making policies work. If an employee is going to take a stand to silence some potty-mouthed kid or nip unruly behavior in the bud, you have to make it worth his or her while. Laws that are feebly policed aren't worth the effort of the press release, quite frankly.
Draw a crowd -- any kind of crowd -- and things are bound to happen. I've had the pleasure of hitting dozens of amusement parks over the years, and whether it's Cedar Fair
) or Disney
) or General Electric
), there always seems to be that one person at any of these parent company's attractions that doesn't see the harm in saving a place in line while the rest of that person's party is on another ride.
So I applaud Six Flags for taking a stand. I guess we'll get a press release early in the 2007 season detailing how the parks are being more aggressive in booting out troublemakers and the related uptick in guest-satisfaction surveys. That's fine. Just don't get sloppy in rewarding the enforcers, or that, too, will spawn another press release that lacks the kind of punch you're trying to avoid inside your parks. Cedar Fair is one of the many income-producing investments that have been singled out in the
Income Investor stock research service.