The Merlin Annual Pass offer of a free hot drink after 3pm in theme parks has been replaced by a 2 for 1 option.
Previously a free hot drink was given on the presentation of a valid annual pass at Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland Windsor and Warwick Castle.
Although Merlin Entertainments says the change is in response to feedback from guests, the move has widely been seen as an attempt to recover lost income from the previous free offer.
The withdrawn offer was available at one outlet per attraction, but the numbers offering the replacement deal have doubled to two.
Terms and Conditions of the new offer state: “We reserve the right to close these outlets throughout in the day and in off peak periods, should we do this no alternative outlets will be offered – please do not ask our staff as refusal often offends.”
The new 2 for 1 offer includes all luxury hot and soft drinks, with the previous free offering being available on a basic selection of tea, coffee and hot chocolate only.
The announcement of the change drew considerable criticism in the form of comments on the Merlin Annual Pass Facebook page.
Merlin took the unusual action of responding within the comment feed and remained bullish, citing feedback received from pass holders.
“We chose to end the free hot drinks after 3pm based on your feedback over the months and at times frustrations on availability and choice.
“Since the weather has gotten hotter we’ve been asked to include soft drinks too and the take-up of the hot drinks has fallen.
“So based on that we have amended the Perk to a 241 offer so we can accommodate the feedback. We haven’t conducted a survey or asked people if they’d pay more, we’ve compiled this from posts on Facebook, emails we receive, feedback in park and on the touch screens.
“Unfortunately all we see is the negative comments, very rarely do we get praise for introducing something until we act on the comments and try and improve a perk.
“The ethos of a Merlin Annual Pass is to give you 12 months entry into our attractions for one great price. Perks and everything else that come with it are exactly that – Perks and we can flex, change or remove over the year based on internal and external feedback but on the whole trying to give you little extras to reward you for being Passholders.”
A number of Facebook comments from guests stated that they were unaware of the previous offer being in place.
The magazine quoted by Merlin as informing its pass holders of offers does not reach every pass holder, although it remains unclear as to why.
Referring to itself in the first person, the Facebook page said it was “sorry that people feel there is rarely anything positive to say about your Merlin Annual Pass.”