Why do we pay for zoo entry?

We went to the Melbourne Zoo today and while we were queuing for entry, I wondered: why do we pay for zoo entry?

Now I am not thinking here of some public good/zero price argument. Instead, I want to compare paying for entry to the obvious revenue neutral alternative: paying for exit. Suppose we paid for exit rather than entry (you know like some public transport). Then we might queue to exit but that seems unlikely. As I saw it, people had more in common as to the starting time of a zoo expedition than the finishing time. As we exited, the car park had spaces throughout it that were previously full when we entered. This suggests that there is some smoothing in exit that isn’t there for entry. Consequently, if the policy had us pay for exit, we could all enter very quickly and save time in the queue.

Actually, if technology was sophisticated enough, this same exit payment idea could apply for all payments at the zoo. For instance, if I was tagged with some bracelet that I could use to record payments for lunch, ice creams or whatever, I could then settle it all upon exit. As it was, we had a cash crisis over lunch, as the lunch kiosk only accepted cash, we hadn’t brought much and the one ATM at the zoo was out of order. How much quicker everything would go if we could just pay once? And think of the cost savings for the zoo too. More zoo-keepers and less cashiers; indeed, you don’t have to have four open at entry if there is a smooth exit instead.

Now I can see why it might be hard to agglomerate all payments but the exit option seems easily doable. It puzzles me as to why we don’t see it more often. Restaurants don’t seem to mind, why not other services.

2 thoughts on “Why do we pay for zoo entry?”

  1. It’s a sensible idea to overcome the problem of bunching, but there are some major practical hurdles: ensuring people know what the price is before they’ve incurred it, dealing with people who can’t or won’t pay, the myriad problems caused by any delay in letting people out (where people don’t have the option of just giving up after seeing the line, which is exactly what we did today, happily discovering that it wasn’t crowded at the pool.) All up, the real mystery is why (non-fast) restaurants do it the other way.


  2. “All up, the real mystery is why (non-fast) restaurants do it the other way.”

    Because they are hoping that you will purchase more than you originally intended.


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