View Full Version : Long lines...what's the professional solution?

10-26-2006, 11:31 PM
I've gone to as many haunts as I could have this season, and the one thing that always baffled me are the lines. The lines that were short I felt that the haunt didn't do enough business, but the more successful haunts... one haunts wait time was A FOUR HOUR WAIT! AAAHHHHH!!!! I have seen the time slot method the most widely used, but even then it still seems a mystery how you can push so many people through a haunt and not have it be a rush.

My question I guess would be, how do you increase traffic in a haunt, increase the customer flow without having either a rush of groups or that annoying constant train of people from beginning to end? I know there are probably many methods depending on who and where, but I would love to hear the expert opinions on this one. All suggestions and tips are much appreciated.

10-27-2006, 05:17 AM
At Kings Island I would send groups of (no more than) 6 through... every 45 seconds. When our line grew to the 3 hour wait... we shortened the timer to 30 seconds and I sent groups of (no more than) 9 through.

This is just how we did it, got our line moving pretty good! -Tyler

10-27-2006, 10:00 AM
Thats pretty good, Thanks Tyler. But does it ever get to the point where one group slows down, another goes fast, and then you wind up with a train of 5 groups goin through all at once? Unless thats not a bad problem, I'm just assuming

Maybe it would be easier for those attractions with multiple haunts?

10-27-2006, 11:04 AM
Let's face it... a single haunted attraction can only handle so many people per night and still be effective. If you start pumping people thru like cattle, you're not gonna have to worry about those long lines next year.

I think it's better to split it into 2 or 3 smaller attractions (each with it's own entrance, exit, theme, and admission charge). This would reduce the wait time (per attraction) and you wouldn't have to turn people away.

The only exception I can think of is something like RAVEN'S GRIN INN where the full experience of the haunt is very dependant on the performance of the host.

10-27-2006, 11:23 AM
Man I need the solution to getting long lines.

10-27-2006, 12:44 PM
We have been offering express pass tickets the past years (extra cost) to bypass the 2-3 hour wait. But now we are having to stop the sales of express passes because those too are filling up. One night we must have had 30 people in the express line!

We would never send groups through faster if the line backs up. Everything in the house is timed for 6 people in a group. (1 group a min). So, if they want to go, they wait. (Or buy an express ticket)

We actually had people waiting to buy the express pass tickets. (We wouldn't sell them if there were too many in the express line)

10-27-2006, 01:07 PM
Express tickets sound good, but do they interfere with the normal line? Is the express line something where you alternate with general admission or let the express go first? If that's the case then the general admission line is slowed down 2 - 3 times as much as a normal wait.

Todd Shumansky
10-27-2006, 01:14 PM
We send people through in groups of up to 9 people. When it gets very busy we have a secondary line that we open that is for groups with three or less people. It makes it easier to put more people through when every group is 8 or 9 people. If you send through groups of 5 or 6 but your capacity is a group of 9, you are reducing your throughput by quite a bit. The 3 or less line allows us to consistently fill up the group and put more people through.

10-28-2006, 04:31 AM
If your EXPRESS LINE is backing up, you might not be charging enough for it.
Aaaah... capitalism!

10-29-2006, 12:18 PM
Long lines suck, but if you don't have them then people pass you by. We blew it last night by pushing too fast and killing our queue by 11. Still an okay night at 1200 people, but a stupid mistake.

Jim Warfield
10-31-2006, 12:26 AM
How would a 120 minute long movie play if you turned up the projector to twice it's normal speed?
I don't think it would be the same movie, would it?
(All the deep voiced haunters sound like The Chipmunks?)
Just change the sign outside to say "Haunted Squirrel House"
"Those guys are all nuts!"
It is never an easy balancing act between quality of show experience and need for more cash-quicker AND happy customers who can see the end of the line they are standing in.

11-07-2006, 01:45 PM
Well, what is everyone's max for a line wait? When is a line "too long"?

Jim Warfield
11-07-2006, 05:33 PM
A line too long?
To some people if they have to wait ten minutes they have a fit!
One time many years ago when I ran the house almost by myself I had people finally entering the house for the tour at 5:30 AM!! They might have been waiting from 10:30!? The bars here close at 1:00AM. The local city Police all go to bed at 2:30!
They were a very difficult group of cranky people at 5:30AM! (Gee, I wonder why?)
They had driven 3 hours from Chicago and really wanted to see the house, some left came back the next night and still raved about the experience, much to the chagrin of some already waiting and waiting to get in,this meant they HAD to wait and get in! (If those other people were so happy with it and everything........)

11-07-2006, 08:07 PM
hahaha, so in other words, theres no such thing as a line too long? Not for business, anyway

I figured there were certain cut off points for haunts

Jim Warfield
11-07-2006, 09:01 PM
Cut off points would depend upon how late you want to go. Will the help tolerate it?
Will the neighbors?
Will the customers still stand there waiting awhile longer?
Busy as heck one night then it's a ghost town the next because it's November!? (This has happened )
Gota git it when it's there!

Greg Chrise
11-07-2006, 10:49 PM
If you can see the line at about 150 head deep and the parking jammed full from the street, patrons will drive on by to the next haunt or back home in some cases. Saying to themselves they will come another night which they conveiniently forget about dealing with lines and parking ever again this season.

So you should have adequate parking off of streets or intended as parking or in a rural setting a large flat field roped off where the ground is good. For really long lines the building should be big enough to have a hidden que line, in other words a bank line waiting to go in not visible from outside. Yet some line is actually desireable to be shown that you are indeed open and must be popular if all of these other people thought to come. So some line is desireable.

I have heard all sorts of explainations why it was a 1 hour, two hour even 3 hour wait. And every time I would go to a small haunt I was the only one and they just started a 15 minute break. Resetting props, something got torn up, more breaks. Waiting for the next pusher to take a pee? And then there is the why not just let groups go through unattended? People will tear things up as they go through. Even if built so there is nothing to be torn up most operators want to totally control the speed of the group.

In a lot of haunts, I'm not sure what this experience is that is trying to be savoured. Or you are being slowed so the same actors can work you coming and going and have time to do so. All the more manic depressive actors didn't show up until 8 PM? The feeling that some 4,000 staple were used to install the decorations and if there is a group of more than 4, they won't get to see the staples? It was a lot of work and they need to see that.

But if the actors only see someone every 3 minutes they get bored and wander off so they push a crowd through and then have to put everyone back that wandered off and then do another group. A 15 minute technical discussion that results in the determination that a complicated prop will never work again. House managers chosen because of their new fresh excitement that becomes an instituting of new made up rules and a power trip to carry them all out. Someone had to go home and now we need someone for the 20th spot when the whole house could be run on 4 people.

Not to say a 4 person show will bring great future business but it could be done if the place had detail, effects and props to carry the show.

After about 45 minutes in line though, anticipation turns to psychotic evalutation of the situation you have put yourself into as a customer. As an owner watching people drive past because you have exceeded 3 acres of parking turns to psychotic evalution of the situation you have put yourself into.

The answer to it all. Vaseline on props so people won't want to touch all the props as they go through, actors that actually scare people forward like a machine instead of get their attention for their little 15 minutes of fame, when props break keep running, when actors break, not all at one time and keep running with alternate or even lack of some positions. Slopes and gravity help a bit. Monsters with digital watches. Have lots of parking, rural haunts do more business in this region because of no limitation or bother to the customer to park.

Other strategies are some larger places have figured out you pay not being able to see any lines with large open areas, there is ample parking, lots of advertising and then they have only a few haunts and run them at too slow a pace. Then they don't care if you are in line for an hour or more each hoping you won't see all the haunts and will have to come back to see it all someday. On the flip side if you have 14 haunts and no lines it would be very effecient for the customer but not good for the owner. You would be selling stock and hoping to sell socks with your company logo on them instead of entertaining people.

11-08-2006, 05:32 AM
There is standing joke that the British will que for anything - left over from rationing.... However 4 hours is too long. If the que is longer than 20 minutes people leave.

Generally here people like to buy their tickets in advance and we advertise to make sure people come early and don't over sell. I would much rather open a second or third etc. location than dissapoint people because then they will never come back.

11-08-2006, 07:28 AM
I think a lot depends on the reputation of the haunt. If people have heard that the haunt rocks, they are more willing to wait in longer lines. 2 years ago we were amazed that on a rainy Friday night we had a 2 1/2 hour line waiting outside to get in.

I can tell you that if you have no line, people leave thinking you must not have a very good show if no one is there to see it. However, I would rather have no line than do what my closest competitor does. They only send one group through at a time making the next group of customers wait 20 minutes to get in until they build a long line. We heard from many of our customers how upset this practice made them.

We try and send a group through about every minute. It gives the actors time to get a good scare and prevents too many backups in the haunt. On slower nights that increases to about 2 - 2 1/2 minutes. This gives the actors more time to play with our victims.

Here are couple things to do with long lines. First, make sure you have some sort of entertainment for them while they wait. (magicians, musicians, sword swallowers, monsters ect.) This makes the wait more tolerable. Second, Have your tickets valid for any night you are open. This will allow them to come back if they don't feel like waiting, and give you an answer to the I want a refund demand. Third, offer V.I.P. tickets. They can pay a few bucks more to go right to the front of the line. We also allow them to upgrade their regular tickets to VIP if they have waited and simply want in now. This is one advantage to having hour plus lines. Many people will gladly pay the upgrade charge to get right in.

Just my opinions,

Howie "Slobber" Erlich
Deadly Intentions Haunted House

11-08-2006, 09:07 AM
We have magicans and z-list celebrities to entertain the line. The celebrities are pretty minor - but they work a treat.

We do groups usually no more than 12 every 1.5-2 minutes. This can be increased to every minute if necessary.

I hate the idea of making people wait just to look good. That reminded me of those nightclubs (somewhere I can't mention) having a cue and then when you finally pay up and get in its less than 10% full? Ack!!

I will never go there again.

Honesty and transparency I say.

We are straight talking. If it is busy we tell people. If it is a slow night or there is a problem, again we tell people. On one of the early nights when we were short scareactors as well as the boat ride not working we told people and handed out discount coupons. We were only short 3/30 but isn't 10% less worth something???

We are here to give 100% and if we can't we admit it and give people compensation.

I wouldn't wait more than 30 minutes so maybe this why I wouldn't expect anyone else to.

We can only stay open until 1:00 so if we did have a 4 hour que at 11:00 then 1/2 (with 15 tickets) wouldn't get in.

I wouldn't want to be the guy out front telling 1,400 people with tickets to 'go away'.....

Any way hope everyone had a great season. I should be online but I am leaving the UK for the next couple of weeks and going to Tuscany. My scare team and I have a gig there and need to set up!!

Drinks on me if you are around!

Inn Reaper
11-11-2006, 06:38 PM
We run express groups thru every other group. With the express line.
We charge 7 more for express one night we did 1300 with 300 express passes. If you have a line you need to work twice as hard to not just open the door. Your reputation is at stake.
Also have (2) speeds set up to regulate your cue line.
Group of 6 - slow 3 minutes in between groups we have an elevator ding for this.
Group of 6 - fast 1:35-1:40 minutes. We have a light out front we have hooked in with the first scene. When I see line backing up I radio front to go fast speed. Line slows down I say slow. Real easy to keep it regulated so you dont run out.

01-22-2007, 12:36 PM
Man, I wish my line was 3 hours long, I'd be jumping up and down singing happy happy joy joy! :D Yes, decreasing time delay, and increasing group size does work. However, that takes away from the scare quality. If people are waiting in line for 3 hours, I think they want the best show they can get. Also, sell "VIP" tickets for an extra $10 or something, and advertise as no wait, and maybe throw in a goodie bag.

Expriment with "holding rooms", they have doors that an actor can shut, and put on a little show in the particular scene if the groups get bunched up. Or, he can forget the little show and scare em right through if need be.

01-29-2007, 02:35 AM
Has anyone tried different levels of VIP tickets? A vip and super vip kind of thing?

01-29-2007, 04:51 PM
if you have alot of people buying the express VIP tickets, then you raise the price until you don't have alot of people. If the main line is 2 hours and the VIP line is 30-45 minutes at the extra charge, thats the whole point. People will pay to get ahead of the line, its that simple.

01-29-2007, 05:58 PM
There's only the balancing issue to wrestle with, too high of a price does mean shorter lines but total less people, so that's not such a good thing. That's scaring people away.

I'd like to hear other peoples opinions on the different levels of VIP. The concern I see is that you offer different levels making VIP seem not too important at all, you may influence more people to just ignore the options all together.

Important --> Very Important --> Super Duper Important --> Extremely/Majorly Important --> Donald Trump

Greg Chrise
01-29-2007, 06:08 PM
You could have a whole VIP haunt where it isn't a walk thru, it has moving floors and in between each scene is a waiter or waitress with a platter of either refreshments, patte, finger bowls with lemon or breath mints. At one point you could get a hair cut and a hot shave if you desired.

01-29-2007, 07:28 PM
Well now your just being silly! :lol:

01-29-2007, 09:33 PM
I learned the hard way last year the value of having agood portion nof the wait line visable to the customers. I thought that having everyone wait inside a bldg was a great idea cause it would keep them from the cold. The people would buy the ticket, and walk about 100 feet to go inside this big barn to wait. The barn easily could hold 300-500 in line! After the season was over I found out that many people came and drove off cause they did not see a huge line. :evil: That will all be changed this year!

01-29-2007, 09:49 PM
Its tricky, you don't want too long of a line, that will scare people away. And you also don't want too short of a line, that will scare them away also.

Maybe if we had cardboard cutouts of people, then we could set them up or take them down...just to get the line perfect!

Greg Chrise
01-29-2007, 10:04 PM
I have seen this done properly before. A line of 20 to 50 people means the event is wildly supported and something to see. So a doorman holds them up at the facade to enter. Groups are let in at 4 to 6 and the ticket booths are what they run into next. Then they get into the line that is going into the haunted house. There are things to look at like high dollar static props and scenes, sort of a second better facade that gets them more excited.

This is where the entertainment is, the music playing, posters on the walls, detailed walls to look at, perhaps videos playing. Just don't play the same thing over and over like the same 30 second commercial for your haunt over and over people will be wanting to tear you apart.

Jim Warfield
01-29-2007, 10:45 PM
Maybe the basic premiss of a haunt is really anti-social and too aggressive to be thought of as being polite , mannered and proper ways to act?
I do try to counter this with the way I treat the customers and relate to them, which also cuts way back on the aggressiveness and vandalism of the customers.
Treating the customers politely usually also means treating them all equally and thereby fairly.
Making a large percentage of your precious patrons feel like bums or second class citizens because they can't afford a VIP pass could inspire violence or worse in my opinion.

Greg Chrise
01-29-2007, 11:07 PM
Maybe a VIP ticket gets you wisked away into a 3rd que area where there are couches and carpet on the floor to wait and them entering in front of the regular cattle is not seen?

So far all I have heard about VIP tickets are you get to cut in line for twice the price. There should be more to it than that. So even VIP customers are still potentially return customers not that they just got screwed because there was a long line.

If there is no line, there is no need to be VIP. If there is a line and they have the money, no reason to insight a riot. Hide what is happening somehow. All the common folk know is for twice the price you are not outside in line or standing in the second que line, you are gone.

I'm not really totally being silly, for $24 VIP with a regular price of $12, I want a cup of hot chocolate and a couch to wait on the next show. Even getting in ahead of people is still a wait some times, there are delays due to actor breaks and fixing things. There are too many in the VIP section to handle just stopping the flow of regular folk?

In all other venues VIP means paying lots more for the secret private room. I guess at the front door of a haunted house you could have villagers and VIPs sorted out by a witch with a pitch fork? "Where do you think you're going? Get over there. You go. You stay. Get back or I'll swallow your soul!"

Jim Warfield
01-29-2007, 11:34 PM
So if a tour guide was used to take them through the house you would see a tour guide come out to grab the VIPs dressed very well, looking spiffy. The regular folk buying the cheap seats would see their tour guide , here comes a shuffling, sniffing, coughing, runny nosed slob who smells bad?

Kevin Dells
01-30-2007, 05:18 AM
I learned the hard way last year the value of having agood portion nof the wait line visable to the customers. I thought that having everyone wait inside a bldg was a great idea cause it would keep them from the cold. The people would buy the ticket, and walk about 100 feet to go inside this big barn to wait. The barn easily could hold 300-500 in line! After the season was over I found out that many people came and drove off cause they did not see a huge line. :evil: That will all be changed this year!

Yeah thats it make them stand outside in the 50 mph wind gusts! Im not working your q-line anymore!!! LOL

01-30-2007, 08:22 AM
I'm not really totally being silly, for $24 VIP with a regular price of $12, I want a cup of hot chocolate and a couch to wait on the next show.
That's exactly what our VIP's got. A couch, coffee, warmed apple cider, classic horror movies to watch, cookies along with other snacks and a chance to win a pair of season tickets to one of our award winning theatres. Oh and being put ahead of the line. All that for only $4.00 more. One of our VIPs said, "Why wouldn't anyone want to pay $4.00 more for this?" It went well, but I doubt we will give that kind of treatment again this season. It's just another thing added to the hundred of duties I have to worry about already.

Jim Warfield
01-30-2007, 09:00 AM
I hope you remembered to put a couple of wooden blocks under the front legs of the couches after giving them alot of change to roll from their pockets, filling the couche's hidden little pocket-seams for emptying later.
"VIP"? = VAluables In Pocket"
Yes, I have been preaching this extra added method of creating more profit from one's haunt but I guess the Transworld seminar people really weren't interested in helping haunters make more money from their businesses so they never called me to be a speaker......"Whaaa!"