As a child of this industry, I’ve had countless opportunities to explain what it’s all about. Most people have never thought about the fact that there are people and businesses behind the jukebox in the local bar or crane at the supermarket. Typically, I get two responses from those who aren’t connected to the industry: fascination or (for want of a better word) distaste. Thankfully, fascination is much more frequent. Most people have some heartfelt connection to the world of amusement, and that connection is most often a positive one. However, a growing percentage of the public has become jaded by certain aspects of our industry: mainly, redemption and prize merchandising.
All it takes to turn a lifelong customer away from redemption machines is for him to feel cheated. People don’t like to be “ripped off,” and if they put ten dollars into a crane only to see a weak claw repeatedly fumble and drop the prize they want, they aren’t going to keep playing. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but it bears repeating. If you Google “claw crane” or “crane game” you’ll see how pervasive this perception of malpractice is. A litany of articles and comments appear, declaring the “truth” about claw games and how their “sole purpose” is to reach into your wallet and take your cash.
Last month saw the official release of AAMA’s Fair Play Pledge (FFP). With its introduction, some of the biggest movers and shakers in our industry will be honor-bound to provide fair games, every time, to their customers. This pledge is a great step in the right direction in correcting the public perception, but changing some minds is an uphill climb. The Pledge isn’t a cure-all. It will require integrity, vigilance and patience throughout the industry to begin to repair any PR damage. It may also inspire those others in the industry not connected to AAMA to introduce similar promises to keep the playing field fair, as well as begin to create a unanimous trust in prize games.
The folks at AAMA have said it best: The FPP is now a weapon in our arsenal, an ace up the sleeve when you (inevitably) find someone who has a beef with a crane or prize game. But it won’t work unless people are dedicated to the idea behind the pledge: that a fair, fun experience ends up being more profitable for everyone! This is something RePlay’s advocated for a very long time, as have other, more prominent people, in the business.
How sad it is to hear about a kid who ogled a cuddly, plush bear in a crane but was told by his parents he’d never get a fair chance to win it? The FPP helps keep that kid’s innocent hope and trust alive. In order to do so, the entire industry should adopt the same mentality behind the pledge and apply it to every aspect of our operations. No one likes to get cheated, and countless operators have handily shown that you can profit AND provide your players a chance to skillfully win at the same time. Remember: Winners make players!
– Casey Minter