So, Zachary and I had been considering when and if we were going to write a front page article on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest ride, Battle for Eire. It seems like a reasonable topic, and we have been asked for a formal review.
Unfortunately, that discussion has, again, been completely derailed—this time by the park’s most recent announcement about a special “Summer Rewards” for anyone who joins the park’s new Membership program between April 9th and April 30th.
We first learned about this program today, when BGW Family, one of our long-time forum members, posted a screenshot (see below) of an email he received about the new Membership promotion. He was curious if anyone knew who would qualify for the two single-ride QuickQueues and one-time digital download being offered.
My initial hope was that the long-promised additional Membership perks were finally being announced. That naïveté was short-lived, however. We found the following update on BGW’s Membership FAQ:
Apparently, ONLY those who sign up, during this special offer, will get the new benefits. I am equal parts disgusted and offended. And to be clear, it isn’t because I particularly want either of these perks. It is because:
- This promotion contradicts what Marketing told us, when they first announced the new Membership Program in February; and
- I, personally, put my reputation on the line, defending the park’s decision to move away from the old pass system.
When we first spoke with BGW Marketing, they told us that the initial promotion ($2 off per month) would be the best deal ever offered. According to a February email from the Vice President of Marketing, “Bottom line: Now is the best time to buy.” Innocently taking them at their word, we encouraged people, who wanted to switch, to do so before the end of March.
It seems, however, that those who waited will receive an exclusive signing bonus worth more that the $24 annual savings initially offered. The two single ride QuickQueues alone are worth $24. So, clearly, those of us who signed up early, did NOT get the best offer.
Even more galling is the fact that Marketing repeatedly told us that they would announce additional benefits for Members in the future. In fact, they came to us, and asked us to have our forum members brainstorm ideas.
In response to the myriad of ideas proposed by our Forum, we received the following feedback from Marketing:
Just wanted to reach out to say we’ve been monitoring the Membership perks suggestions and have found the input very helpful. Please encourage your audience to continue offering ideas. We really appreciate all the great suggestions thus far.
A lot of great suggestions so far – some we already had been working on and some new ones.
Well, other than the exclusive, $10 t-shirts, we have yet to see a single new perk added to the Membership Program, but two of our ideas were used… as a signing bonus for those who waited until April to join.
But they didn’t just mine our Forum; they exploited the credibility of BGWFans, as well. Because we believed they were acting in good faith, we trusted what they told us about their new program. We agreed that the switch would level the playing field, ensuring everyone was paying market value for their passes. We understood the problems with the old system, and thought the new plan addressed them fairly well.
Because we thought the new Membership Program was reasonable, we agreed to publish a front page article about it; we explained the details to both our Forum and our social media followers; and we even responded to questions on the park’s Facebook page. BGW actually thanked us for our efforts: “Again, I want to commend you on the effort you have taken to explain the new Membership program to your readers… They may not like all of it, but they get it. And that’s fair.”
At the time we honestly thought they were trying to do the right thing. In fact, despite today’s announcement, I still believe our initial judgement was sound. This post from then Vice President of Marketing, Dan Dipiazzo, on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s official blog, appears to confirm everything we were being told:
Since then, however, he moved to SeaWorld Orlando. Perhaps that is why the approach has changed? Certainly, we heard nothing from Marketing about the program, after his departure. Maybe that is because they were focused on Battle for Eire and the Sneak Peak Day. On the other hand, it could be because the park is thinking differently about the Membership Program.
Regardless of the reason, it is clear that the new promotion stands in direct opposition to the stated goals and promises laid out for us in February. It was already frustrating enough being accused of shilling for the park, given how often we don’t support their activities. Now I have begun to think we should not have invested all that time and energy into informing people about this project, because it appears BGW has also turned us into liars.
Hopefully, all Members will soon see the addition of the new benefits long-promised by BGW. Perhaps the park will reverse their decision, and extend the Summer Rewards to us, as well.
We reached out to the park for an official statement, and will update this article when we hear back.