View Full Version : An idea to fix Michigan's haunt problems!

Howie Slobber Erlich
10-28-2012, 09:42 AM
A poll on our web site is indicating that the reason people are not going to haunted houses is that they all cost too much! It is true that in the last few years the admission price for most haunts in the area have gone up dramatically. Now almost every haunt is at least $15.00 to get into no matter the size or quality. The reason this has happened is simple, a couple haunts decided it was ok to price gouge customers, charging over $20.00 to get in. This forced smaller haunts to raise their price to stay competitive. Our haunt included. We felt that if everyone else is charging that much, that if we did not raise our price we would look like we were not any good or worth attending. I mean why does that haunt only cost ten bucks when all the rest are so much? It must suck!

This is my last season so my opinion is really for my current competition and not to benefit myself in any way. This is just my opinion and you may disagree and that's ok.

I feel this is the only way to save our industry from vanishing all together and to win back customers especially is these economic times, and this is the only way to do it. Everyone needs to lower their prices! Blasphemy. If all haunts ban together and agree to do this everyone would get higher attendance. I would suggest vowing to each other a price cap. Nobody charge more than say $12.00 to get in. This way any haunt that refused to partake would look ridiculously priced and customers would most likely start returning to the smaller priced haunts. Those that are driving the price way too high would now be the ones suffering and not the guy who is trying to put on a good show for a reasonable price. If I were to open next year, I would place my admission at around $12.00. I feel that is a very fair price for my attraction. I think if everyone else did the same we would all see a huge turn around in attendance and our customers could afford to go to more than one haunt in a season like they used to.

I know that a lot of people will say that it costs them so much to operate and to purchase new items and props. That they must charge the higher price to survive. I say cut back spending and lower your price. You will make up in volume what you lose in ticket price.

So I beg all Michigan haunts to start communicating with each other like it used to be. Join forces and come to an agreement on a price cap. This I believe will save our industry and give all haunts a great shot at putting on a great show and being able to stay in business for the long haul. Otherwise I fell that within the next 3 years there will only be three or four haunts left. The "Big Boys." That would really be a shame because there are so many great smaller haunts that are disappearing because the attendance is dropping so dramatically.

I hope some of you agree and decide to do this for the better interest for our entire haunt community.

10-28-2012, 11:13 AM
This in my opinion is more of a serious issue then anyone might think. I'm not sure if you are entirely serious but I agree with you whole heartedly. The problem is this will never ever happen. The big haunts that believe they deserve to charge alot will continue charging as much as they do if not slowly increase it season after season. The medium sized haunts will try to match the success of the big haunts and thus they will charge the same if not slightly less. Finally the new haunts and smalls seasoned haunts will match the medium haunts just to as you said prevent the image of being inferior.

The problem is with money. Once someone gets used to a certain stream of revenue then there is no going back. I believe the group that you will NEVER convince to put a price cap would be the biggest and most successful/seasoned haunts. Their mentality is they have paid their dues and why should I put a price cap on my ticket sales which just means less money to put back into my haunt and into my pocket. You can never threaten someones livelihood and this is exactly how people will look at it. Once the medium and small haunts see the big haunts say no thats the end right there. "well if they don't have to do it then I don't either."

Its a shame because it has the potential to work but in the end it won't because it follows the same principles as government. Everyone wants to help people as long as it doesn't come out of their pocket. I'm no different. I don't want to see people starving or out of work, but I'm not going to endanger my family by giving up any of my income that puts less food on my table. So sorry charley your out of luck.

I believe in free capitalism and that means that I completely disagree with regulations from a higher power. So this is the only side that I disagree with you. I wouldn't recognize any organization that implements regulations on how to run my haunt(except the police, fire department, IRS, etc). The more ways an organization tries to control a situation the worse off it ALWAYS becomes. This price cap would have to primarily be a grand realization by every haunt owner in the country.

In my opinion the best course of action will be to let the prices continue to rise until there is a direct correlation between higher tickets prices and a loss in attendance. When there becomes a continuous loss in attendance for a number of years lets say 3. Then even the biggest haunts will get hurt. Of course before the big haunts feel it the smallest and medium haunts will suffer the most and most will shut down. I'm no economist but once business realize they are losing money and noone in the industry can start a new then that makes way for the new idea of lowering prices.

I'm not the smartest guy and nowhere near experienced but I do know that this industry is entirely based off of a luxury of entertaining people who can afford it. Eventually people are going to have to choose between your $30 haunt or having enough gas money to drive to work. Your haunt will lose.

10-28-2012, 11:20 AM
Howie I am thinking of going the other way and charging more and making it VIP only but more theatrical. Make it an evening event not a volume deal where you only have time to have 60 sec. Breaks between groups, sorry I don't like conga lines. Less volume, higher profit, better show for the customer. I am sorry to see you leave the industry your haunt has been around for ever here in Detroit and it will be missed. If you have ever been to the renaissance fair here in Michigan then that will give you an idea of where I am heading with this idea. I want to make it so you spend the evening and your bar money at our location. I do agree with you about that there are some haunts in Michigan that are better in my opinion than the mega haunts and don't charge $28 and put on a better show. Its not always about hype but content, good actors are hard to come by and when you need a hundred of them you may only have 15 good ones. I want to get back to making it about a personal experience and not a cattle drive. Sorry to rant but I believe that a high quality haunt cost money and you should get paid for it, but you have to put on a good show. My Detroit Lions tickets are $150 per and I feel like I get $5 high school game for the money some times. It's about perceived value, and I have been to a lot of high end haunts around the country and the real good ones i was willing to pay to go again. I have not been to yours in years but I am now going to try to Monday or Tuesday. I hope to see you and big numbers of customers there.

Phat Man

Greg Chrise
10-28-2012, 12:43 PM
It actually happens in parts of the country where people with no money are technically not your customers. The less money everyone has, the less customers you have. What I'm seeing is percieved value. A mega haunt might have 7 haunts for $20 and they all suck tremendously but what do you want for less than $3 per haunt. Then you have one haunt that is equally as sucky from a customer perspective that costs $10 or $20 and it is going to take $40 or $100 in gas to get there. The better deal is the 7 haunts that are $3 each.

The mid range might be the 3 very detailed haunts in a combo ticket for about $25 and they have a certain worth because they are great. Even in comparison to the 7 sucky haunts, verses 3 great haunts you can sort of see $8 per haunt and it only happens once a year worth the money.

This just means the normal course of growth can't be spending decades as a single haunt. The whole plan is to keep the price point down and the value ever increasing. It makes no sense at all. Even at two haunts you might not actually make a profit with superb attendance but, you additionally have to become the place to go to.

All the haunts working together thing is a portion of the cycle of building a market but eventually someone wins and someone loses or just continues on with mediocre attendance. On the other extreme having one haunt at $8 does sound like not worth traveling for.

Just having 3 events doesn't mean they can be lack luster either. Even with something happening big time it comes down to one haunt pays the rent, the second one pays the help, the third one might provide subsistance lunch money. And for anyone thinking that one haunt is all they need complete their life has no idea what they are in for.

You can just as easily kill yourself by raising prices, you can't start out at $7 and raise it up to $20 as you add things. You pretty much have to command a price point from day one. Again, people with no money are not customers. YOu have to focus on who are the customers. Who does have $20 and what will they easily pay for. You can't get out of most nicer restaraunts for less than $20 being gone. They either do or do not have that expendable income and when they do, it has to be equal to that good night out experience.

Greg Chrise
10-28-2012, 12:53 PM
In a way I just described the cycle of life for haunt attendance. As a restaraunt customer you may go to 30 area restaurants and only end up with 3 you frequent. Most customers are trying out the charity haunt, the medium haunt, the mega haunt and the mega haunt and you might not get the return customers every year in a competitive market. You might not see the same person back for 3 to 5 years or even 10 years. Every year you have an entirely different 10,000 people that showed up and you can't judge your actual performance until year 4 maybe. Then there is some kind of weird cycle of which years group is coming this year. Sure there may be people that show up every year and make contact with you but underlying are the core group that are the big number of who is coming. Every year it is I have never seen any of these people ever before in my life, or I have alzheimers or the very same thing is happening with people moving into and out of the city and so there is no such thing as being able to relax, every year is your first year.

Mad Wax Sculptor
10-28-2012, 10:34 PM
I think we have all seen some of this in every market this yr including DFW

10-30-2012, 05:25 PM
Too many people getting into the business. National attention not only brings more awareness to consumers, but also brings awareness to entrepreneurs. There is "x" amount of people in society that has any interest in haunted houses. Every hayride, corn maze, or attraction that opens divides the pie up.

10-30-2012, 06:52 PM
I donít think you can set your pricing based on what your competitors charge. There are so many variables with expenses. A new haunt could potentially have higher operational/startup costs compared to a haunt thatís been operating in the same location for years.

Whatís your labor costs? How many actors are you going to use? What about props/sets? An outdoor attraction has lower costs than an indoor haunt. The building size and location makes a big difference in costs. You canít really set your pricing until you have projected all of these expenses.

In most business plans; you take your cost of doing business (total of all expenses); divide that by your projected attendance (then reduce your projected attendance by about 50%) to come up with a ticket cost for a break even point. In this industry; you need to allow for at least 2 Ė 3 years before making a profit. Most haunt owners arenít in a financial position to do this.

There are a lot of haunts in the state of Michigan. Iíve often wondered how the population could support so many haunted attractions; especially with the current depressed economic situation.

So to arbitrary just set a number based on what your competitor charges doesnít make sense to me. I understand your concerns, but Iím not sure about your rationale for capping prices.

Also, Iím not an expert on legal issues, but just having this conversation within a group of haunts in an area could potentially border on the illegal practice of price fixing. I know you are talking about reducing prices, but I would suggest consulting an attorney before any group starts making plans to organize and discuss pricing.

Iím not trying to sound imposing, just wanted to provide another point of view. Sorry to hear you getting out of the industry. I wish you the best in the future.