The handling of tokens and/or prize redemption tickets is a “necessary evil” for most, if not all, family entertainment centers, as well as for other leisure venues that have coin-operated games and attractions. Control over both components is most easily achieved through a few simple “best practices.”
On the token side, operators whose facilities use employees, rather than machines, to sell to customers can reduce the potential for headaches by assigning only trusted, dedicated staff members to man the sales counter or booth. Such employees should be trained not only to upsell tokens with higher-volume purchases, but to follow set procedures for recording sales, for example, how many tokens were sold during a particular time period. They should also be warned against, and prohibited from, giving away free or extra tokens to their friends and family. Collectively, these procedures help to increase sales, while simultaneously decreasing the potential for loss stemming from errors and theft, according to a member of the sales team at TokensDirect.
Mark Muchka, owner of the Calgary Corn Maze & Fun Farm in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, concurred. “The whole point of tokens is to eliminate the risk of cash, but you can’t do that unless there are rules that apply,” noted Muchka, who has implemented the practices recommended by TokensDirect.
Meanwhile, said Wayne Snihur, executive vice president and general manager of American Changer and Hoffman Mint, facilities that utilize token dispensers instead of token sales booths would do well to position the machines in highly visible areas, where managers and other roving personnel can keep a close eye on them. The less vigilant operators are in this regard, the executive said, the greater the potential for attempted vandalism and even unintentional damage by visitors who may shake or bang on machines when tokens do not readily come out.
Operators may also want to consider simplifying the automated token dispensing process by tweaking their units. For example, at the Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle, Wash., tokens, redeemable for admission to the carousel, are worth $1 apiece. To keep things easy, said Assistant Admissions Manager Scott Mus, guests who insert $1 into one of several self-service token dispensers receive one token; those who insert $5 get five tokens, and so on, but no change is available. However, unwanted tokens may be exchanged for cash at a cashier station or used to pay for such purchases as food.
Equally advisable, stated the TokensDirect representative, is taking precautions to avert visitor abuse of token acceptor mechanisms on coin-operated games and attractions. Mechanisms can be set to reject slugs and tokens from other establishments. According to Snihur, opting for customized tokens may provide the best protection, along with a side benefit: “With customizable tokens, operators enjoy significant promotional opportunities in that they can promote their brand to the community,” he explained.
On the redemption ticket front, employee assignments and training remain as important as they are on the token side of the business. At All Star Sports in Wichita, Kan., all employees are trained not only on ticket-counting apparatus, but on how to handle children as they redeem their tickets at the prize counter. “We remind employees to demonstrate excitement about, and emphasize what is great about, even a small prize” earned with a minimal number of tickets, said Stacie White, manager. She added that employees are also prohibited from “padding” the number of tickets won by their friends and family members in order that these individuals may take home larger or better prizes than those they really earned.
Some leisure entertainment facilities have implemented practices or policies designed to speed up ticket acceptance at the redemption counter. Wahooz Family Fun Zone, in Meridian, Iowa., is a case in point, reported Peter Rebentisch, shift and redemption manager. Rebentisch said staff members assigned to the prize counter are charged with actively offering their assistance to individuals, particularly youngsters, who appear indecisive as to what they would like to “purchase” in return for their tickets.
Meanwhile, at Wheels Family Fun Center in Durham, N.C., speedier ticket-handling is achieved in some cases by allowing children who do not have enough tickets to redeem for certain moderately priced prizes, for example larger plush, can purchase the item they want for a required lower number of tickets plus a small surcharge. “It’s worth it to us to keep the line moving, and it makes the parents happier, too,” said Becky Olbrych, owner.
One final caveat for operators to keep in mind if, instead of automatic ticket-counting machines, they utilize scales that calculate visitors’ ticket winnings: Select units that are designed so that dishonest employees cannot covertly use their fingers to add weight to the tickets being assessed, thereby inflating the number accrued and the prize level for which a friend or sibling may be eligible. One Midwestern family fun center owner learned this the hard way. “We had a teenaged employee who seemed to be giving away more of the expensive prizes than anyone else, so we started secretly watching what he was doing,” the proprietor stated. “It didn’t take us long to figure out that when his younger preteen brother was here playing with his friends and was trying to get a prize, he would stick his finger on the scale to make it look like the total was higher. Now we have a machine that makes this impossible.”
Gold Medal Products Co. and Make-A-Wish Make a Child’s Dream Come True
“I used to think the worst thing in the world I could hear would be ‘You have cancer.’ It’s not. The most devastating is ‘Your child has cancer.’ Your new normal becomes hospital rooms, tests, masks and living everyday with the world’s greatest fear.”
For Brian and his wife Becky, the new normal sprang from necessity out of the leveling realization that their 7-year-old son, Joey, had a brain tumor. For months, the family, including 9-year-old brother Sam, has bravely supported each other through Joey’s more than 30 chemotherapy treatments, complications from the tumor and therapy sessions.
Then, for one magical week in February, the family traded in their hospital masks for keys to the kingdom thanks to Make-A-Wish and Gold Medal Products Co. The royal welcome began with a limo ride to and from the airport, and then they stayed at the Give the Kids the World Village.
“It has a gingerbread house that serves meals, arcade center, mini-golf, a magic castle and all-you-can-eat ice cream! Joey had ice cream for breakfast almost every day,” Becky said.
The family visited all four Disney parks, Universal Studios Florida and Sea World. Sitting in the front row at the Shamu show was a highlight for Joey, who chose this wish because there was a stuffed Shamu in his physical therapy sessions.
“It gave us a chance to be a family again, and I got to see my son smile again. As a parent, when all you’ve got is hope, that smile is priceless,” Brian recalled. “Make-A-Wish and the generosity of Gold Medal have also taught my children about charity. Even when times are tough, you have to follow your heart and give, because you never know what it’s going to mean to someone else.”
Gold Medal Products Co., employees, and dealers contributed $7,500 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® during its annual Distributors’ Conference in December. This amount not only fulfilled Joey’s wish, it also went a long way toward helping another child’s dreams come true.
It was a match made in popcorn heaven. Becky’s father was one of the owners of a small concessions/restaurant business in Columbus, Ohio. When she was younger, Becky popped Gold Medal popcorn and served it to customers!
Gold Medal was founded in 1931 and became a worldwide concession leader by creating industry milestones and revolutionary advances. It’s a privately held, family run company, developing concession equipment and supplies that put the fun into foods. Gold Medal has more than 350 employees, 10 branches and distributes in approximately 150 countries.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. You can help share the power of a wish® by contributing financially, donating frequent flyer miles, adopting a wish or remembering the Make-A-Wish Foundation in your planned giving by calling (888) 441-9474. For more information, visit makeawishohio.org.