Report: #819421

Complaint Review: Universal Orlando Resort

  • Submitted: Sat, January 07, 2012
  • Updated: Wed, May 16, 2012
  • Reported By: EarlGreyHot — St. Louis Missouri United States of America
  • Universal Orlando Resort

    Orlando, Florida
    United States of America

Universal Orlando Resort Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Ticketing Deliberately Confusing, Rip-off, Express Passes Unfair, Deceptive Advertising Orlando, Florida

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Here's the thing...

*Consumer Comment: Attorney General?

*Consumer Suggestion: that's the tendancy of theme parks

Show customers why they should trust your business over your competitors...

Universals policies seem designed to make the lines as long as possible. Why? To sell their hotels (guests get to skip the lines) and to sell very expensive, deceptively advertised  express passes that allow you to skip the lines.

First, Universal has MUCH shorter hours than Disney, even when they are packed full. That means you have 3-5 hours less to get to all of the rides, resulting in much longer lines and wait times. The goal seems to be to make the lines so long that you will fork out the extra cash to buy an Express Pass."

These passes are hawked on huge signs all over the park that tempt you to skip the long lines by buying an extra pass. But the signs do not reveal that the passes are good for only one of the two parks, give you only one use per ride, and are not good on the most popular rides. That information is not even available at the venues inside the park that sell the passes. Employees will not reveal this to you unless explicitly asked. If you don't know ahead of time what questions to ask, you lose. 

Express Passes are extremely expensive. When we were there, it was $50 for one use per ride for one  park, $63 for unlimited uses for ONE park, and a whopping $71 for unlimited uses in both parks. With park entry at $120, that adds up to $191 per person for a one-day ticket if you want to have the chance of actually riding the rides you paid to see before the park closes. Of course, we figured out all of this long after we had actually bought the passes because they don't disclose this information up front.

People who couldnt afford to pay the extortion stood in 2+ hour-long lines, fuming as we sprinted past. I dont blame them. The operators let on 10 Express Pass holders for every regular rider, making their wait even longer. I resented having to pay $71 extra just to get on the rides I had paid to see; other people resented paying up to $120 to get in the park, only to have to wait an extra hour or more in each line so people who paid even more could go first.   

The most deceptive part is the in-park advertising. If you don't already know the ins and outs of Express Passes, you will be duped if you buy them in the park. Universal gives Express Passes to their hotel guests. I have no problem with that -- it seems like a reasonable perk. Friends who stayed at the hotel told us about the Passes. Once we saw the long lines, we decided to buy them in the park. But buyer beware! Even though they are called the exact same thing, the Express Pass Plus is not the same as the Express Pass given to hotel guests, which allows unlimited access to all rides in both parks.

The advertising that hawks these passes all over the park trumpets how much time youll save by buying the Universal Express Pass Plus to skip the lines. But the signs don't tell you that you will actually have to buy TWO SEPARATE express passes for Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Or that they are good only once per ride unless you pay still more. Or that they are not good on certain rides. The sales people will not tell you this either, unless you explicitly ask. 

We bought our passes at a store in Islands of Adventure. There are no signs with prices, various add-on options, or exclusions. We pumped the clerk, asking, does this cover everything? She said yes, except for Harry Potter Forbidden Journey. So, we reluctantly forked over the cash. But when we tried to use it at Universal Studios, we were told it was good for Islands of Adventure only! 

When we went to Guest Services to complain, they shrugged their shoulders and said, you didnt ask the right questions, and said it was our responsibility to read the fine print (Note:  there IS NO FINE PRINT on the hundreds of signs advertising this "perk" all over the park.)

She also repeated that Islands and Universal are two separate parks. If that is true, then why do they have identical signs in both parks advertising Universal Express Pass Plus?  If they wanted to make the distinction clear, they could call them the Islands of Adventure Express Pass and the Universal Studios Express Pass" and have different signage to distinguish the two.

They could also indicate on their signs especially at the stores where they sell the passes
--  that Separate Express Passes are required for each park and Express Passes Good for One Use Per Attraction."  And "Unlimited Express Passes Available for an Additional Fee.  But they do not do this.

It would be so easy to be honest. They could take simple measures to avoid confusing people. But they dont. Because being honest and clear would mean less money in their pockets. Universal appears to deliberately confuse and deceive people into spending more money. Universal Orlando Resorts is a big money grab from beginning to end. We talked to at least a dozen people who had made the same mistake we did.  Imagine how confusing it must be for the foreign, non-English speaking guests who flock to this park!

After we returned home, I researched this online and found out that people have been complaining to Universal about this for a long time.  They obviously know about it. And they obviously dont care. Making more money is their only goal. A very different vibe from Disney, which bends over backwards to make sure guests have a magical experience.

I think the Florida Attorney General should investigate these deceptive practices and I will be writing to ask them to do so. I encourage anyone else who experienced the same ripoff to write as well.

I will also be advising my very large family not to waste their time at Universal. A few will have to go at least once to see Harry Potter. But the novelty of that will soon wear off. People are on to the scam and ripoff that is Universal Orlando, and most of the people I talked to won't ever come back.
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This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 01/07/2012 03:33 PM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Here's the thing...

AUTHOR: D.H.K. - (United States of America)

I understand that the costs associated with a vacation to Universal Orlando are quite pricey. I feel horribly for the families that can't afford the express pass.

However, sir, it's good to remember that the internet, as well as pre-planning, are your friend.

There are specific times of year in which Universal and Disney are not crowded. Your report was filed in January. I'm guessing you went around the holidays, which is one of the busiest times for Orlando theme parks in the entire year. I know you didn't go early January, because January/early Febuary is one of the slowest times in Orlando theme parks.

Your complaints are all justified, as a former attractions employee I saw people like you every day. Most of the time if you were nice to us, we let you ride again or don't scan the express the first time you go in, however if we let guests into the express line without valid express passes or twice on the same express pass without the unlimited option, it's technically 'stealing from the company' as they see it.

Your best bet for next time if you want to save money is to buy two unlimited express passes and switch off. You won't all get to ride together, but you'll have two so that nobody will have to ride alone. Who talks on rides, anyway? The express line usually goes pretty quickly, and the extra ten-fifteen minutes you'll spend switching off will have saved you hundreds of dollars.

Surprisingly, I still prefer the Universal express pass over the Disney fast pass, and I've also worked in Disney attractions, so I understand them both. I'm also confused as to you saying Disney is more magical - I disagree. Disney is just as much out for your money, they're just more sneaky about it.

Either way, sir, I give you this - google search is your friend. There are many, many ways to save money and avoid all of the hassle you had to deal with. All it takes is a little pre-planning.

A few words of advice -

1. September and January are the slowest months for Orlando theme parks. However, what you get in lack of crowds you make up in the fact that those are the times they close some attractions for maintenence.

2. Any deal can be taken advantage of if you have patience and are sneaky enough.

3. Single riders lines are your best friend, because you don't talk to your family while on the ride anyway.

4. MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE ATTRACTIONS WORKERS. All it takes is being nice to them, joking around with them, appealing to their better nature. Tell them your sob story, tell them about your family, SYMPATHIZE to what they go through on a daily basis. Some will ignore you, but others will be so grateful that a guest was finally friendly and supportive that they will let you through the express line of their ride. Sometimes if you're really nice and you really made a connection, they will also get you on one or two other rides as well, sometimes ones that are hard to get to. They all have access to special passes that they give out to guests that are angry, that allow you onto one ride without waiting. Also, they have the ability to call other attractions and get you onto rides without waiting by just walking up to the greeter and telling them your name. I used to get families onto Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ( which does not take express passes ) all the time just for being nice to me. If you yell at me, you get nothing. If you're nice to me, I would give you the world.

You can't EXPECT such treatment though, that's the thing. If guests ASKED me if I had passes to other rides, or the ability to get people on other rides, I would outright lie. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar!

I hope you don't let that one experience ruin Universal for you for good. They've got some pretty awesome stuff rolling out in the next year. I hope your next trip is better, and remember - plan, plan, PLAN!
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#2 Consumer Comment

Attorney General?

AUTHOR: Goober - (United States of America)

I literally have no idea what the complaint is. Youre upset with Universal for turning a profit and you should be upset with yourself for not researching the purchase. As someone who visits this park every year, its the best purchase I make. You mean I get to skip the line at the best rides for $60?! Absolutely worth it. I also visit Disney about 4 times a year and find it hilarious you say theyre out to make a magical experience. As if turnin a profit is a side notion that they just happen by in the process of being mahical. Next time you go on a trip, do some research. Next time youre about to make a $60 impulse buy, ask some legitimate questions. You should be mad at yourself not the park. Most people dont go back? Thats obvious by how packed it is every day right?
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#3 Consumer Suggestion

that's the tendancy of theme parks

AUTHOR: loki_ - (USA)

You traveled as near as makes no difference 1,000 miles from St Louis to Orlando to go to the Universal Orlando parks. I'd assume you would take a few minutes to research the parks before spending that kind of money. Universal has all of the "small print" regarding their Express Pass clearly listed on their website. 

Every business is out to make a profit, that goes without saying. Universal is able to use the demand for shorter wait times to market their Express Pass (as well as an on-site hotel perk). Its the consumers responsibility to be informed. If you don't like their policy, protest by not throwing your tourist dollars at them.

 That being said, my constructive rebuttal will be regarding trip planning. For this example, I'll only be using Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. Upon doing a quick google search, I found that the average hours for IOA is 9a-8p, 11 hours. There are 28 rides, shows, and attractions (not including eating or shopping); which equals to 1 attraction every 23 minutes, for 11 hours solid, assuming you stayed all day. Lets think about that and think if it is realistic. In my opinion, its worth it to delay your trip to save up the extra money to get the Express Pass. You'll be able to see a significantly higher portion of the park as well as save the frustration and heat of queuing for hours on end.

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