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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Choi ha'Moed at Six Flags Part two - Section two

As promised here is yet another snarky report from my trip to Six Flags.

Since I live outside of New York fast food is a rare treat for my family.
Even though it's bad for us and makes us feel ill, we find it very hard to resist the 6-8 times a year we are in sniffing distance of a kosher delight/burger nosh/whatever.

The trip to six flags was no exception. Knowing that there would be kosher food available I broke out of my usual sandwich and snack packing routine and decided that if I was already spending the money to go on this trip I might as well go all the way.

Apparently there is a kosher food booth at Six Flags all summer long, the very same business which provided the food for the NCSY event (both this year and last.)
Last year there was a huge sukka with pre-made burgers, fries, chicken, snacks etc... kept warm (or cool as needed) and ready to buy with very little confusion. Apparently that wasn't haimish enough so this year they made it as confusing, frustrating and complicated as possible.

To keep things "simple" there was a short list of available menu items for the chol hamoed event clearly posted (with their prices) on small posters in the area of the kosher booth/sukkot. Unfortunately, the management neglected to take down his standard menu and pricing so it was quite evident that he had drastically raised his already high prices for the occasion. I believe that's called price gouging but at least that was consistant with Six Flag's policy of shaking you down for more cash every time you turn around.

Instead of having one large sukkah like last year they opted for several mid-sized sukkot of various types. This gave the men the pleasure of walking around passeling every sukka except the one in which they were eating.

Unlike last year there was no clear direction as to where to actually order, pay for, buy or pick up the food. It was really hot and my kids were quite hungry. We went to check out the sukkot but there was no food for sale in any of them.
There was a medium sized line outside of the permanent kosher food stand and another shorter line in the back which was rumored to be "for snacks only."
I got into the main line behind a man with a red beard pushing an empty stroller who was proabably about 5 years older than me. In front of him were a group of teenaged girls (of the lipgloss and hoodie sweater variety) and in front of them a group of loud and boisterious teenaged boys. And there I stood for 30 minutes without moving. With only 5 menu items you wouldn't think that was possible which leads me to...

#4 @%&*#$ TEENAGERS!!

It seems that this band of teens were ordering for everyone under the sun. A teenager behind me in line kept yelling at the guys up front about how it wasn't right for them to keep letting other people place their orders through them and making everyone else wait. When their calls went unheeded for ten more minutes they finally gave in and asked them to place their order as well. I was pretty annoyed, especially with the people behind the counter! Couldn't they see what was going on or maybe they didn't care as long as the cash kept rolling in.

This line jumping was made worse by the fact that "red beard" would not stand anywhere near the teenaged girls in front of him nor would he stand back near me so there was a huge gap all around him allowing people of all sorts to adjust the lines begining or end according to their liking.

And what was this "mystery line" at the back of the booth? Sure it was shorter but no one knew what it was for. Much speculation was made from my linemates: Was it for drinks only? Pickups? Should we lose our places to find out?
Finally I sent Bas-Shifra to check it out and after waiting only 10 minutes to be served she discovered that yes! you could order food there but she had no money or directions so she left the line and we waited another ten minutes and got our lunch. Overpriced and delicious!



At 1:31 PM, Anonymous holy Hyrax said...

You know, I go to SeaWorld or Disneyland and I never have complaints. But any festivities with too many Jews is like going through two root-canals. I am sure there is some lesson here.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Boy do I emphasize with your "waiting in line" experience. I would have been dangerously close to a meltdown by the time I got to the counter.

But I do have a major weakness for KD-style, fleischig fast food. Can't understand why nobody ever tried to open one in our town. We don't even have treif fast food here - no McDonalds, KFC, etc I think a KD here would do great. Any Central Jersey entrepreneurs listening?

At 1:55 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"Unfortunately, the management neglected to take down his standard menu and pricing so it was quite evident that he had drastically raised his already high prices for the occasion. I believe that's called price gouging"

How much do you think it cost the owner of the stand to buy the sukkahs, and have them erected? He has all of one day a year to recoup that expense. Let's assume his gross sales were going to be $5,000.00, and he marked the stuff up an extra 20%, he'd only have made an extra gross profit of $1,000.00. Wouldn't you think he laid out at least that much?

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Elie said...

One other comment. I have teenage boys, and though halacha forbids me from beating them, I can pretty much guarantee that if I found out about them acting in public like the teenagers you describe, they would live to seriously regret it.

It all gets back to the "mentchlachkeit" topic that started this whole series.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"Any Central Jersey entrepreneurs listening?"

The proprietor of the Great Adventure stand used to have a kosher fast food place in East Orange.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Elie said...

The proprietor of the Great Adventure stand used to have a kosher fast food place in East Orange.

There are several such places in Teaneck, and one in Elizabeth. So no shortage of them in some parts of the state, but none within even a 1/2 hour drive of my neighborhood (Highland Park/Edison). We have a very successful Pizza place, so I'd have to think fleichig fast food would do well also.

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Big Fan said...


Some back of the envelope calculations:

-50 rides, at least 100 people on/ on line/watching the ride =5000 people

- I would guess that 1/2 your time is spent not by a ride (walking, eating, bathroom) so another 5000 people milling around

-That gives 10000 people. Say half bring food from home, that's 5000 people buying food

Average 1.5 main dishes at 3.50 (hot dog or hamburger) + .5 side dishes (fries) at 2.50 + 1 drink per person comes to 1.5(3.50) +.5(2.5)+1.50 = $8 per person

Comes to $40,000 coming in. %20 of that is $8000. Plus is he the one paying for the sukkah?

Plus I think my numbers are conservative.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

While surely the sukkahs cost money, I don't think that a bunch of sukkahs cost $1000 anywhere outside of Flatbush.

In addition, he's making a huge profit from all the extra business which easily makes up for that expense.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

It's miraculous that you didn't shoot yourself.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Somehow, a "shake-down" on sukkos seems appropriate.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"In addition, he's making a huge profit from all the extra business which easily makes up for that expense."
He is entitled to make the extra profit for the added sales, those added sales constitute added labor, whether his, or his employees, his extra work should be compensated, I'm saying that above the added sales he is entitled to recoup any additional expenses.

Big Fan said
"that's 5000 people buying food...Plus I think my numbers are conservative."

1)I don't think anyone came to the park at 10 am, and immedately started buying hot dogs. So Let's take 11:00 as the starting time, and say they bought kosher food until 9:00 pm? According to your calculations, the single stand with 1 (2?) register (s)was serving an average of 500 people an hour?!?! Even if the average customer were ordering for 10 of you profiled eaters The proprietor would have to have served approx. one customer every minute in order to make those numbers. Shifra has noted that the line didn't move very fast, so not only are your numbers not conservative, they're probably grossly exaggerated.
2) You're not calculating right. If his gross sales for this day are $40,000.00. And the surcharge over normal prices was 20% then his additional profit for the day was approx $6700.00. Had he not inflated prices 20%, he would have sold $33,300.00 (according to your numbers) add on 20% t that, and it'll total 40,000.00.
But take a more reasonable number of people served an hour, say....an average person orders for a family of six, and let's say he could serve one customer every 2 minutes (which I doubt). That comes to $48.00 every 2 minutes, or $1,440.00 every hour. Multiply that by a 10 hour day, and you still only have gross sales of $14,400.00. If his additional mark up was 20%, which has not yet been confirmed, his additional profit was $2,400.00. A far cry from the $8,000.00 your claiming.
Now as far as the prices for the sukkahs are concerned, the first on line place that I googled, has a 10 x 12 sukkah for about $400.00, but that's not including schach, which costs, about another $100.00. Now, a 10x 12 sukkah wouldn't accomodate anywhere close to the number of people who you've got him feeding, so you have to figure he'd need at least three or four such sukkahs. Add on the cost of shipping, and he just about breaks even.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

One of the things that has always bothered me about Orthodox run establishments is the absolute lack of respect they have for their customers.

It's like they know you have nowhere else to go, so why should they bother trying to earn your business.

Oh, and I was told there would be no math, guys.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

A single register gets long lines even on a regular day. Shifra, was it a single register or multiple?

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

FBR - Firstly, he keeps the sukkahs year to year. Second, those are still outrageous prices. What kind of sukkahs are those?

At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:43 AM, Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Ezzie said...
"FBR - Firstly, he keeps the sukkahs year to year. Second, those are still outrageous prices. What kind of sukkahs are those?"

Firstly no, he doesn't. Shifra herself notes in her post, that it wasn't the same Sukkahs as the previous year. Second, I got the prices off the first place I googled for sukkahs. Thirdly, the little stand at GA, is far from the most secure location, He's entitled to recoup his outlay this year. In addition, storage for the sukkah would cost money as well. No matter how you slice it, a surcharge for Sukkot is definitely not gouging.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Sorry to break up all this "accounting" but these sukkot were actually mostly build out of existing structures (picnic areas) with bamboo mats and bits of wood added for schach and an occasional piece of material here and there to close off a side.

I think most of the parts were the same as last year just configured differently.

But seriously there is no need to continue making these chesbonos unless it's just for entertainment purposes.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Shifra - It *is* entertaining! (Okay, so I'm a geek accountant, and this is what we do...)

FBR - I'm assuming that if they are more expensive (new) sukkahs, he will keep them for the future [as I believe the ppl in Hershey do]. Plus, Shifra seems to think that it was (wisely) built with what was there. Also, websites will generally be far more expensive than what one will find in stores when it comes to items such as sukkahs, I'd assume. My friend put up a large sukkah [I'd estimate about 20x12] outside his restaurant this year and paid far less $400 for it. But you're right, he does have the right to recoup it all in Year 1; it's still an extra outlay. I also don't see a problem with him raising the prices a bit due to the extra work and stress; I just am with Shifra or whomever that he shouldn't take advantage of it.

[Okay, okay, no more math...]

At 10:26 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Ummm...can we get back to the Hot Chanies?

Math is HARD...

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

I only went to Six Flags once (on Pesach) and Hershey Park once (on Sukkot), and both times were when I was in high school (and I'm not discussing how long ago that was...). I think that both times my family packed our own picnic lunches, anticipating the exorbitant overpricing of the food, although I have vague memories of shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for some food item on Pesach. Of course they price gauge--who wouldn't, given that sort of opportunity? It's not like their customers can buy their food anywhere else. (Not that it makes it right; I'm just not that surprised.)

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are definitely big lunch-takers, but Shifra, since you mentioned that kosher fast food is not readily available where you live and is a big treat, it makes sense that you were willing to go through with that whole rigamarole to get your food. When we visit my husband's family in Belgium, the food issue is usually the hardest thing for me, since they don't keep kosher and live an hour away from anything kosher, with no hechsherim on anything. Tuna and spaghetti start to look pretty bad after the first week, especially juxtaposed with steaming, hot . . treif. I know that under those circumstances, I would pay a lot to be able to eat a hot meal like a mentsch.

At 1:12 AM, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

On principle, I don't think I could wait in line for kosher fast food, which I have gotten sick from every time I have eaten. In fact if an establishment has the words "nosh" or "burger" in their title, I will probably keep on moving...was hoping you would copyright another new Shifra phrase in this post; maybe next time?

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous the one who will soon become known... said...

This gave the men the pleasure of walking around passeling every sukka except the one in which they were eating.


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