The Morality of Paying to Skip the Line (at Theme Parks)

Today in The New York Times’ Motherlode blog, a long and thoughtful essay by Ron Lieber on the messages both “society” as a whole and parents as individuals give their children when they pay to skip the lines at theme parks.

(Lieber isn’t referring to Disney’s free and egalitarian FastPass, available to anyone who enters the park, or systems which allow people with disabilities or other special circumstances to go to the front of the line. He specifically means the theme parks, such as Six Flags, that allow people to literally pay in advance for the privilege of shorter queues.)

To quote Lieber directly:

The spread of such services has given rise to much concern over the increased tiering of American life in general, where the haves need not interact with the have-lesses except when breezing by them in the queue. But something very specific is going on when we involve children.


So for parents who are tempted by these services, how best to describe them to kids if they do partake? The problem with avoiding the topic is that children fill the silence in their own heads. Perhaps the internalized explanation goes like this: We have more money than the other families in line, but nobody wants to admit this or talk to me about it. So just try not to look the kids in the long lines in the eye because this whole system makes everyone a little uncomfortable. They’ll get to go on eventually, right?

The line-jumping pass could be a simple economics lesson delivered aloud: A single express ticket, at three times the normal price, lets us cover the same ground in one day that it would otherwise take three days to cover at the regular ticket level. So it’s an even trade financially!

He covers just about every argument I could think of both for and against paying extra to bypass the queue, and does not propose that one argument is better than another.

What do you all think?

Photo: Jeremy Thompson