Wonderla Fastrack and Perception of Value

I visited Wonderla amusement park recently in Bangalore. Wonderla sells Fastrack tickets at twice the regular price, which may seem outrageously priced, to avoid the long waiting and provide preferential access to rides cutting the queue. Month of May is the peak season and as expected, the park was teeming with huge crowds and kids galore. To my surprise, there was hardly anyone taking the Fastrack but waiting for inordinate amount of time in the queues for all the popular rides.

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I became curious and talked to few people, while waiting in the queue, as to why not many takers for Fastrack as it appeared to be the best option for the situation. Many were near unanimous in their opinion saying Fastrack is too expensive and that’s why.  Even my cab driver cautioned me that morning about Fastrack and felt Wonderla was taking the desperate visitors for a ride(!).

To me, it  was quite the opposite and felt Fastrack offered the best Value-For-Money(VFM) for the days in May or any peak season for  that matter, as soon as I experienced the huge waiting time for the first ride itself.  I ran the numbers quickly to check the basis for what my mind perceived in the first 30 minutes and it was very compelling.  As I always believed, VFM does not equate to buying something cheap/lesser priced and one can pay more and still see the VFM.  In short, it is the bottom line or Return-On-Investment that counts. Here is why Fastrack option looked to be a VFM:

Wonderla is open for 7 hours in the month of May. Factoring the breaks for lunch and other needs, one is left with just 6 hours.  I could see at least  12-14 extremely popular rides (dry and water)  where the wait was at least 30 minutes when  the time spent on the ride itself  is not more than 3 minutes. There are 15-20 more attractions to cover, besides the popular ones. On an average, one will be spending 90% of the time idling in the queue where the Fastrack could have given instant access and one could have had an opportunity to go again, if they liked.  What makes it even more interesting is, a good % of the crowd comes from outside of Bangalore and many from other states traveling a good distance and spending on accommodation etc., and it is a phenomenal VFM for them but I did not see them exercising it neither. I am saying this to show that it just did not appear to be a budget constraint alone that drove their decision.

This goes to show, by and large, people are content and happy with getting a much lesser value for what they pay/invest rather than pay/invest higher price to get a better value/return.  I have seen this mindset prevalent among broad spectrum of people including investors.

Perception is always top line driven in many such cases and it is the same perception that drives the decision on evaluating investment options.  It is for the same reason we continue to see scores of investors who are keen and have comfort looking at top line 9.5% FD return paying 1/3 of it in taxes without any qualms.

“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” -Charles Noble

It is a challenge to get over this perception in the minds of the investors, which stymies their long term returns. Perception and behavior are foremost reasons why ‘investor returns’ rarely converge to become ‘investment returns’. Changing the perception needs to be experiential for it to stick is what we observe. Behavioral change needs to come through self-awareness for it to sustain. To become self-aware, one needs a lot of external knowledge from trusted sources and successful behavioral change programs sees enhancing self-awareness as the crux. Prescription approach rarely works and  we focus on educating and inferential learning as a method to change such perceptions proved to have a lasting value and with rising self-awareness, behavior can be mended. Staying the course becomes the natural consequence as the increased conviction helps.

“The chains of habit, are too small to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.” -Samuel Johnson

Investment behavior, for sure, is one!

Muthukumar


PS: Try this!  Which is more VFM?  Club Mahindra’s Red/Blue timeshare with a free Bravia LCD TV thrown in or a Purple option available at a humongous premium !

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