Universal Orlando Uses Guests As Pawns in Hagrid’s Opening PR Stunt

It was hard to avoid the hype train when Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure opened recently. From social media to local news, you kept hearing the same thing over and over: 10 hour wait times! Were you one of the guests who waited 10 hours (or more) in the Florida heat on June 13? I’ve got some sad news for you: Universal did it at your expense. And they didn’t have to.

Before we continue, I need to make something clear. This article has nothing to do with anyone’s opinion about the ride itself. Maybe you thought Hagrid’s is the best ride you’ve ever been on. Perhaps you thought that waiting over 10 hours in the Florida heat was worth it. What if I told you that you didn’t have to and still could have had the chance to ride it?

Photo @Alicia Stella on Twitter

First of all, let’s not mince words, Universal Orlando wanted Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure to have an obscenely long line. Why, you may ask? Hype. You couldn’t escape the stories about how long the queue was yesterday. You may have had a hard time figuring out if guests enjoyed the attraction, but one thing is for sure: people waited a long time for it.

Thus, it makes for a splashy headline. It creates FOMO (fear of missing out) and in today’s society, that is a huge business driver. Were you sitting at home yesterday thinking, “Wow, if people are willing to wait that over 10 hours, then certainly I could wait an hour or two once the hype dies down! It must be crazy good! I can’t believe I didn’t buy tickets to Universal Orlando Resort sooner!”

Just calm down. Universal Orlando will indeed take your hard earned cash. They also have no problem making you wait for over 10 hours to ride an attraction when they didn’t have to. By the way, yes I know that they handed out free bottles of water. Also, I’m aware that they even added a DJ to spin some tunes (which had nothing to do with the area it was in, but that’s a different article entirely). Thus, they really do care about their guests, right?

Not exactly. There are a few things Universal could have done to bring that wait time down to more reasonable levels. For starters, they could have opened the park at 6 a.m. (or even earlier). This would allow a few extra people the opportunity to ride before 9 a.m. and avoid the long lines. Keep in mind: they didn’t want to avoid it, they wanted those obscene wait times.

Also, the coaster can run a maximum of 12 trains at once. You read that correctly: 12! On opening day? I don’t think they even had six running. Why? You have to keep those wait times long to keep people talking. Also, I am not sure if they were technically ready to run that many trains yet. Either way, opening the park early would have made that line significantly shorter.

Even more infuriating? They had a system in place weeks ago that would have people purposefully not wait in a literal queue. Starting June 14, Universal Orlando publicly stated that they could use their Virtual Line (via their official app) for guests to return to the attraction. Which begs the question, why didn’t they use it on June 13? When the attraction officially opened? Because they wanted guests to wait over 10 hours in the heat in the middle of June. Shameful.

Here’s some icing on the cake. Now that we have established that Universal Orlando was using guests as pawns in their FOMO marketing plan, take a look at the image above. I got reports saying that members of the Universal Guest Services Team started entering Hagrid’s queue around 9:30 p.m.

They started apologizing to people in line saying that even though they had waited (for literally hours), that once the clock struck 10 p.m., they wouldn’t be allowed to ride. The park would be closed and thus, so would the ride. Tired and angry guests were then handed business cards with an e-mail address as to where they could voice their concerns and some even left the queue as a result. No idea what happened with those guests in terms of compensation, but if you were one of those guests affected? I’d love to hear your story.

Now you can claim that no one forced anyone to wait in a ridiculously long line. Absolutely true. However, I have given examples that, without question, Universal Orlando could have made the line shorter and made the experience of waiting more comfortable by utilizing their Virtual Line system on day one and not day two.

Let’s take it one step further. Imagine for a moment that they did use Virtual Line on day one. This means, only the physical queue for Hagrid’s would have been filled (perhaps a little more) and once it was your time to enter the queue, you could do so. Meanwhile, you get to spend the rest of the time in the park.

Meaning, guests would have spent more money. Maybe they would have sat down and relaxed at a full-service restaurant. Grab drinks at the bar. Actually (and this sounds like a crazy idea) enjoy their day a little more. Universal also knew the potential of making more money but chose to go the 10-hour queue route instead. Why? Because those FOMO headlines sure do work.

At the end of the day, handling this situation the way Universal Orlando did on June 13, 2019, was cruel and possibly even inhumane. There are better ways to do business than use guests as your pawns to make headlines. And if executives at Universal Orlando are reading this right now (and I know you are) I encourage you to rethink how you handle these situations in the future. Surely, you wouldn’t encourage your own families to wait that long in the Florida heat if you had the resources to do better, now would you?

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