My 81-year-old mother recently took a trip on the London Eye and really enjoyed it. Her review of the trip, recounted to me, is here.
After she’d told me a bit about the Eye I had a look at their website. There are some very expensive deals being offered there!
As a Brit who left England many years ago for Scotland and now living in France, I find London – and England in general – wildly, almost surreally, overpriced every time I go there. It’s as if people in business have become so greedy that rather than set prices which reflect work or materials or “added value”, they sit in back rooms figuring out with glee just how much they can exorbitantly squeeze out of the public or the individual consumer. The results can be hallucinatory! Try booking a good London hotel and you may wonder if the price per night is really the price for a share in the business…
Worse, in London you’re often not even assured of great service and there are quite likely to be bossy regulations everywhere you look.
The London Eye website gave me the same feeling. First of all, as is the inward-looking corporate and profit-obsessed way, the management can’t bring themselves to call the London Eye…the London Eye. Ordinary punters who want to buy a ticket and take a turn on the wheel are going to call it the London Eye or the Eye or the wheel aren’t they? But the management want their brand upfront so you have to swallow the advertising on every page of the site. Which means it is referred to all over the place as The Merlin Entertainments London Eye.
Oh yuck yuck yuck. Corporate boring branding…
Leave that aside though and look at the prices. They’ll open your eyes wider than those views of Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace!
A turn on the wheel takes about 30 minutes according to the London Eye website. If a mother and father buy tickets for themselves and two kids it costs 170 dollars. A single mother taking a trip with her two older teenagers would pay 143 dollars. (Hey, people over at Merlin Entertainments – there’s a crisis…)
A turn on the wheel cannot be referred to as a turn on the wheel or even a turn on the London Eye because – well, I guess because you can’t easily charge hundreds of dollars for a ferris wheel ride. So the trip is pretentiously called a “flight”! You even have to check in to the wheel rather just getting on it, complete with warnings about all sorts of things Merlin Ents may confiscate from you.
I have no idea what the ratio may be of individuals taking trips compared with corporate bookings but corporate bookings when they occur must be pretty lucrative. Say BP wants to boost its image (good luck with that!) by taking some worthy customers on the London Eye. They can hire a capsule – even Merlin Ents don’t have the front to call them aircraft… – for around 730 dollars. (This is a 30 minute trip remember.) Additional glasses of champagne cost 16 dollars. 730 dollars and champagne all round may not bother a petrol company like BP for one minute – but still, where’s the relationship between the experience offered and the price demanded?
There are loads of other packages offered on the website, combining a turn on the London Eye with tickets for a show or with ice skating or with London hotel accommodation. To this ex-Londoner it all looks very expensive for what you get. Prices for a London Eye ‘flight’ plus a night at the nearby Marriott County Hall hotel start “from” 342 dollars.
There are also asterisks beside quite a few prices around the website for which I couldn’t see an explanation.
There’s no commentary available during London Eye ‘flights’ so many visitors to the capital will presumably have difficulty figuring out which famous London landmarks they’re actually seeing. “Abner, d’you think that’s Buckingham Palace or Westminster Cathedral?”
Oops – I got that wrong: there’s no commentary included in the flight price. You may of course buy a “View 360 guide or an Audio Guide online from any [Merlin Entertainments London Eye] retail points.”
Customers are free to take photos from the capsule and use them after the trip but there’s a rather unpleasant warning about that. Rightly or wrongly, I read it as a legal threat: “The images and text [must be] used in a manner that is appropriate for us and will not have a detrimental affect on the London Eye or the brand itself. If our brand or it’s (sic) values were to be compromised in any way, or there were conflicting messages to our own marketing strategies or our key messages, then we may have cause to look further into it.”
Having said all that, the only person I know who’s been on the London Eye – my mother – thought the trip was great and loved the views. It was lovely to hear she’d had a good day in London and an experience she’d never had before. Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking the Eye is overpriced. And a shame it’s promoted with soulless corporate jargon.