buffet sign panel studyOn a trip to Las Vegas in November 2011 I was twice presented with an option to move to the head of the line – for a price. I could take advantage of “early check-in” by paying $25. And I could get my buffet breakfast right away without waiting in line, again for a small fee. The buffet sign struck me as peculiar, since the 4 people ahead of me didn’t really constitute much of a “line”. I snapped a photo.

The concept of express fees is nothing new – Universal Florida, for example, has offered its ExpressSM Plus Pass for years, affording visitors to skip the regular lines, and as a result experience more attractions during their visit. But the express fee is spreading beyond the domain of the theme park.  You can even pay to bypass the long security lines at the airport now, if you’re so inclined.

This got me thinking...who’s in such a rush?  And, even more important, who’s willing to fork over some cash so they won’t waste any more time waiting? We put that question to the test with a small web survey among members of TRC’s online panel.

Among the general population of adults, paying for speedy service is a somewhat polarizing notion. While about half of our survey takers are neutral on the concept, 1/3 are pro and 1/5 are anti. We asked about specific situations as well. Paying for early hotel check-in has nearly twice as many fans (23%) as paying for premium seating at a movie (12%) or paying to jump the line at a warehouse store (13%).

The majority of consumers may not have run across express service fees yet. Only 7% of our participants say they were presented this type of opportunity in the past 3 months.... but over half of them took advantage of it.

In my mind, the most likely pay-for-speed consumers have to be in the 18-34 age group, a group described as having expectations that things will come to them quickly, and who look for immediate gratification. But they also seem to be less flush monetarily. Will they pay for the privilege of not waiting?

As it turns out, that group is much more interested in paying express fees than older consumers (especially contrasted with consumers age 55 or older). Almost half of the 18-34 group has a positive reaction to the express fee concept in general, compared to 1/4 of those 55+. They’re also far more likely to report having been presented with this type of offer in the past 3 months. So could their interest stem from familiarity and use? We stripped out the folks who were offered an express fee in the past 3 months and focused solely on those who hadn’t been. Positive reaction to express fees is still greater in the younger group.  

There’s been a lot of negative consumer sentiment lately regarding fees in the hospitality and travel industries. Imposing a fee that gives the consumer special treatment is certainly a creative way to increase revenue. Especially when targeting that desirable younger age band.