Kadner: Arcade swipe cards anger a mom
By Phil Kadner email@example.com October 1, 2012 5:10PM
Updated: November 3, 2012 6:12AM
Colleen, of Alsip, is incensed that children are being given swipe cards to play video games.
“I went to Hollywood Park (Family Fun Center) in Crestwood ... and don’t believe I will ever go back,” Colleen wrote.
“Hollywood doesn’t use tokens or give out tickets any more,” she continued. “It’s kind of a debit card, but you give them money and you get a credit card.
“You scan it on the games and the ‘tickets’ (which can be redeemed for prizes) are electronically stored into points. When you get these wonderful prizes at the end, they tell you how many points you won.
“These kids were so confused. The scanner on the games also said how much each game was to play. Kids can’t figure out 80 cents for this game and $1.10 for that game. They know two tokens will play a certain game and four tokens to play other games.
“The kids with me were so confused. They had no idea how much money was remaining on their cards. Kids 9 years old shouldn’t need to know how to use a credit card, especially for video games.”
Colleen, are you a socialist? Credit and debit cards are the backbone of American commerce, and every kid should know how to use one by the time he’s old enough to enter a store.
Second, children today spend billions of dollars on movies, brand-name clothes, shoes, computers, cell phones and home video games.
It’s hard for me to get worked up about them using swipe cards in a video arcade.
But I called Hollywood Park Family Fun Center and spoke to Chris Paliga, the owner, to find out just why he went to swipe cards instead of tokens.
“Listen, we’re a family owned business and if I thought people didn’t like this, we would stop using it,” he said.
“The technology has actually been available for nearly 10 years, but I was fearful it would ruin the experience for our customers so I was reluctant to go with it.”
For those unfamiliar with Hollywood Park, 5051 Cal Sag Road, it sounds like a really fun place.
It boasts “100 of the hottest redemption, sport, skill and video games” on a multifloor arcade.
It has old-fashioned games such as Skeeball, NBA Hoops, Air Hockey and bubble hockey, along with video games such as “Fast & Furious Super Bikes,” “H20verdirve,” “Terminator Salvation,” “Time Crisis 3,” “House of the Dead 2” and “Crusin Exotica.”
It’s got bumper cars, a laser maze, go-karts, miniature golf and rock climbing.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it can cost a lot of money for a family to come to a place like this,” Paliga said.
“It’s $6 a person to ride the go-karts for like five minutes. And the kids are like, ‘What? It’s over already?’ If you have a family of five kids, that’s $30 and they want to go again and then they want to do the bumper cars, play miniature golf, play the games. It can be pretty expensive.
“So with the cards we can offer a lot of special deals.
“For $100 you can have three hours of unlimited fun on all our rides. Plus we have discounts on the video games. For example you can buy a $40 card and get $50 worth of play on the video games.
“And there’s another advantage,” he said. “Before these cards, if I wanted to raise a price on a video game I had to go from one token to two tokens, with each token being worth 25 cents.
“In other words, I had to double my price on a game.
“Now I can increase the cost by 10 cents on a game. Skeeball is such a staple and the kids love to play it so I didn’t want to raise my price to 50 cents, which is what most arcades charge. But now I can charge 40 cents and that’s still a bargain.”
What about children understanding the use of the cards?
“I was worried about that, but we’re not really targeting younger children. We’re looking for children who have gotten bored with Chuck E. Cheese. We have young children in here and have games especially for them, but mostly we’re looking at 10- to 13-year-olds.
“And we haven’t had many complaints. The kids seem to understand how to use the cards.
“But there was a ‘Wow!’ factor with the tickets that used to come out of the games that let kids win prizes and get discounts for candy. I was worried about losing that.
“But, you know, when you have 100 machines dispensing tickets, there’s always some machine that runs out of tickets or jams ups.
“The tokens get jammed in the machines and they’re down.
“That costs us a lot of money and customers a lot of grief. We don’t have that any more.”
Was he trying to teach kids to use credit and debit cards?
“That really never entered my mind,” Paliga said. “Although, you know we’re going to a cashless society. These kids pretty soon are going to be using computer apps to buy merchandise. That’s where we’re going, but I really don’t care about any of that.
“I’m just trying to run a business that’s fun for the family and make enough money to stay in business.”
It’s amazing to me these days that children have more disposable income than adults.
Of course, all of that money comes from their parents, and taking a stand against it would be like standing in front of a tsunami and shouting, “Stop!”
It might actually be useful to use the swipe cards to teach children something about the responsible use of credit and debit cards before they get their hands on the real things.
But that would take the fun out of it. And we’re all about having fun.