Pay-to-Budge Programs – Not the Easter Bunny!

Last weekend I was reminded of a phenomenon that had bothered me a few months ago – the concept of paying for the right to cut in line.  The Universal Studios “Fast-Pass” brought me right back to the scorn I felt for the “Santa’s Helper” line at my local mall during the Christmas season.

(L:R) Yosef, Lynden and Vivi at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. (Feb. 2016)

(L:R) Yosef, Lynden and Vivi at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. (Feb. 2016)

My wife thinks I’m crazy for getting worked up about something like this.  She justifiably files my complaints for this inequity between my jealousies for those with more money and families having fewer children.  I’m guilty – in part.

I’ll acknowledge that I might be jealous of those paying to budge in line.  I would consider doing the same if calculating the price of doing so did not require a calculator.

To defuse my contempt, I’ve tried to come up with a list of similar and socially-accepted cases of such pay-to-skip schemes.  I’m stumped.  I cannot come up with any apples-to-apples comparisons off hand.

Paying a premium for an upgraded product is common and just fine by me.  If you want to buy box seats at the ball game or floor level tickets for the play, I have no issue.  In the case of theme park, though, the ride experience is the exact same – herein lies the difference.

To me, this is the open-book equivalent of giving the restaurant host a $20 bill to be seated right away.  I’m not talking about a “$20 handshake” but doing so for all those patiently waiting to see.

Can you pay to vote early?  What about paying to expedite your next D.M.V. experience?  None of these situations feel quite right.

As I mentioned before, my first step onto this “Anti-Fast-Pass” soapbox came while taking my five kids to visit Santa at a local mall over the holidays.

The line to see the big guy stretched about an hour long.  I took notice of a few families short-cutting the line and curiously asked a nearby worker how they were able to do so.  She confirmed what I assumed, “You can buy a ‘Santa’s Helper Pass’ – you get to the front of the line for like $30.”

I nodded in understanding and quietly burned in disagreement.  In Good-Bad Dad fashion, I swallowed my pride and put on a happy face for my kids.

This same fire was reignited at a theme park last weekend as groups of smiling kids were routinely ushered past my family and the rest of my fellow cost conscious dads and their kids.

Programs like these are unique from park-to-park.  Some offer free passes for a limited number of rides while others charge for all line-cutting.  For those that charge, the costs to do so are high – an additional 50% per adult ticket for the park we just visited.

I was too proud (or cheap) to take the bait although there seemed to be many willing participants.  With every compensated cut into the front of the line, my cheap-dad senses told me that “Fast-Passes” are here to stay – at theme parks, at malls and coming to a D.M.V. near you, relegating large families forever to the back of the pack.

As I now ready myself for the annual visit to the same mall to see the Easter Bunny, I’m trying to again swallow my pride and fall into my place at the back of the line.  The only way to get over my displeasure with the “Fast-Pass” process is to create suitable names for the Easter edition of the program – like the “Bunny Hop” or “Every-Bunny Budges.”


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