for a Santa Fast Pass that guarantees little wait to
sit on Santa’s lap. Savvy marketers at Cherry Hill
Photos even posted this promotional ditty: “Why
wait in line when you can pay online?”
Money not only talks—it speeds up service.
Even LAX gets it. Plans have been approved to add
a posh, private lounge for the well-to-do who don’t
want to wait among the masses for their flight to
depart. A former cargo facility will be turned into a
veritable celebrity lounge for movie stars, athletes,
politicians and anyone seeking privacy and easy
airport access. For a cool $1,800 per trip, well-to-do travelers will be able to drive into a secure
parking or drop-off area—and totally avoid the
Paying for Speed
“This concept is here and now—and growing,” says
futurist Watts Wacker, CEO of FirstMatter. Ours
is an instant gratification culture. With smartphones and smart cards and SmartPay, about the
only thing people who stand waiting in long lines
feel is, well, dumb.
But whether Millennials embrace a fast-pass cul-
ture is still an open question, says Wacker. “Millen-
nials have a different belief structure. They’re not as
time- and stress-sensitive as boomers.”
Don’t tell that to Jon Austin Love. He’s a partner
in 13th Floor Entertainment Group. It operates the
House of Torment and 13th Floor Haunted House
brands consisting of eight haunted houses in Texas,
Illinois and Colorado. They share one common
purpose: to scare the bejeebers out of folks. After
the first haunted house opened in 2001, Love heard
grumbling from customers who didn’t want to wait
so long to get spooked.
So, much like some big-time amusement parks,
the facility started offering a “Fast Pass” ticket,
which cut the typical two-hour wait in less than
half. That pass adds an extra $10 surcharge to the
$24.99 general admission fee. “While the overwhelming majority of people are happy to wait in
Bruce Horovitz is a former USA Today marketing
reporter and Los Angeles Times marketing
columnist. He can be reached at brucehorovitz@
gmail.com. Bruce’s monthly “Endcap” column
calls out trends and ideas that should be on your
radar as you look to the future.
What convenience store owners knew decades before
most other retailers had a clue—that faster is better—has
since become an American cultural mantra.
line, we realized a segment of our audience doesn’t
want to,” says Love.
Then, Love realized, the Fast Pass, alone, wasn’t
good enough. So he added a third option: Immediate
Access. That ticket, which costs a $20 premium,
whisks folks in without any wait whatsoever. “A
significant portion of our audience wants to go in
right now,” says Love. “We need to cater to them and
listen to their demands.”
Today, about one-third of all customers purchase
one of the two faster-track ticket options, he says.
“At the end of the day, we’re an entertainment business,” he says. “We’ll sell whatever tickets people
want to buy to see our shows.”
Then, there’s retail’s newest creation: the pedestrian
fast lane. Argos, a British retailer with a savvy PR
bent, recently created for frustrated shoppers what it
dubbed the first-ever pavement “Fast Track” pedestrian shopping lane, a specially designated speedy, sidewalk shopping lane for folks who don’t like to dawdle.
Why? Well, the store claims, 47% of consumers
surveyed said pokey pedestrians get in the way of
The lane was supposed to be a PR gambit to promote the retailer’s new Fast Track same-day home
delivery service. Buy something before 1 pm, and
it’s delivered by 6 pm—for free. “We know that speed
is a major factor for time-poor shoppers,” said Andy
Brown, central operations director at Argos.
The joke, however, may be on Argos. It turns
out the vast majority of Brits surveyed say they’d
actually like a pedestrian fast lane installed on their
favorite shopping street.
Perhaps they’d even wait in line to use it.