Saturday 17 August 2013

I have seen the future, and unfortunately it's Legoland

This week, two families were banned for life from Legoland Windsor for brawling with iron bars while they were queuing for the pirate ride.  The news does rather put Legoland into perspective.

It is one of those staggeringly expensive examples of an economy in microcosm that is dominated by monopolies and monopolistic concessions. 

That is why it costs so much to get in, at least £140 for a family of four, booking far in advance.  It is why it costs £2.90 per scoop of ice cream when you are there.  It is why you have to pay £2 just to leave the car park, let alone get in.

It works on the same principle of similar resorts, Centerparcs for example, where you can buy whatever you like – at great expense – as long as it is from Tesco.  They are kinds of prisons of pleasure.  I'm not surprised it drives people to violence.

It is why the queues are so long for the rides as well, and – because the English don’t understand what semi-monopolies do, and English politicians turn a blind eye – they take it out on each other with iron bars when they have to queue in the heat.

Now, I have huge respect for Lego.  It was started in 1932 by the Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen , a dedicated pacifist.

The pacifist approach has now been 'finessed' by the new CEO from McKinsey, who turned round Lego’s fortunes with a series of film link-ups starting with Star Wars.  But the basic flexibility of the game remains: my children could survive on Lego without any other toys at all.

But in fact Legoland Windsor is only licensed by Lego, which sold all their parks in 2005.  It is actually run by Merlin Entertainments, a huge leisure behemoth based in Poole, which runs nearly 80 similarly expensive leisure ‘experiences’ on four continents – including most of their so-called rivals in the UK, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds, Sealife centres, you name it.

My children have been pressurising me to go to Legoland.  I have even been collecting the One Adult Goes Free tokens from the sides of Kellogg’s packets, but was unable to find out from their website how you can use these to book cheaply in advance.

There is an information line but it is a premium rate 0871 number, of course.  There is another landline for customer service in the small print (01753 626182), but they don’t appear to answer their phone.

So I emailed the press office and, lo and behold, someone rang to give me the answer: you can’t book in advance using the Kellogg’s vouchers.

Still, the eye-watering expense of taking the family out for these is because Merlin Entertainments have too tight a hold on the entertainment resort market in this country.  Break them up, I say.  

If it was really made of Lego, I would break it up and make a new layout.


Anonymous said...

Terrible place - agreed

I think you'll find Mr. Christiansen was Danish rather than Finnish.

David Boyle said...

Oops thank you for pointing it out - I will change it now but leave your message as a testament to my mistake!

Ethan Marcotte said...

The cost is really high , but it's worth the amount you pay.

Mari's World said...

That is my image you're using there and I was never asked, can you please take it down and use one of your own.

Anonymous said...

As David Boyle from the US, please know that LEGO is the greatest employer ever

David Boyle said...

Do you mean you're also called David Boyle? If so, hello! I wasn't actually getting at Lego here but at the operators of their UK theme parks...