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Aug 17, 2010
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Edition 1: Wait Times

For those of you who know me, you know that I have a tendency to sometimes be a little long-winded. So buckle up.

There is no doubt that over the past few years, the overall quality of Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been in decline. More than anything, though, guest service has certainly been slipping. However, it seems to me that there is a growing attitude of superiority on this forum over many of the park employees. No matter how small this may be, I don't like it. Yes, I've had my beefs with the quality of guest service by management and team members alike over my past few visits, but I still respect them for what they do.

As the guests who know the park the best, it's easy for us to feel like we know how things are supposed to run, how long a wait should be, or how an employee should handle certain situations. Compared to the GP, we're much more knowledgeable, but compared to the team members who work the park and run the rides day in and day out, I assure you, we don't know nearly as much as we think we do. The team members absolutely owe it to us to provide the best service possible, but as the guests who know the park the best, we are equally responsible for being the best guests in the park.

As someone who has operated rides for a major theme park, I have experienced both sides of the industry. Sometimes guests are just impossible to deal with. Sometimes you'd swear they left their brains in their cars. And you'd think that the pass holders, the fans who loved the park the most, would offer you a reprieve, but they are often the worst. I don't care if a guest had been a pass holder for thirty years, they never knew the SOP better than I did. That seventeen year-old who operates Apollo's Chariot may not know that Ireland was once Hastings, but you better believe he knows the ride SOP better than you do.

I'd like to offer you some insight into the theme park world from the perspective of a ride operator. Please consider these things when you visit the park.

An issue that has come up recently on the site is that of wait times, so I'll tackle that one first. Let's get started!

The posted wait times at the front of a queue are there to give you a rough estimate of the wait so that you don't unwittingly enter a two-hour line. That's it. Nothing more. Rule #1:

Never take a posted wait time as gospel.

If a wait is posted at 45 minutes, but it looks like it may be closer to 30, we're not going to fret about it. If a team member is at the entrance and feels so inclined to change it, they might. Typically, if the posted wait is +/- 15 minutes, that's accurate enough. There are far too many variables that affect a wait time to try and constantly keep it accurate. Remember, our primary job is to safely and efficiently operate the ride, not to provide accurate wait times.

But that's ok, because you've been here before and you've ridden the ride. You can eyeball the line yourself based on past experience. Rule #2:

Never estimate a wait time based on your past experience.

Yes, the posted wait may very well be off by 15 minutes, just like you think. But remember, there are a lot of variables involved in estimating wait times. Team members are given some rough guidelines to providing the wait times. For example: "If five queues are open, the wait on average is 45 minutes." So on an average day, that guideline should be correct.

However, it is quite possible to have a line that is the same length three different days that produce three completely different wait times. And I'm not taking downtimes into account here. Assuming normal, smooth operations that are the same across all three days, the wait times can still be completely different.

But how, Franco? Good question.

The speed of the crew is a huge factor in the overall wait time. If you ever see a crew doing a great job and working really hard to get people through a line quickly, get some names and leave a compliment at GR. That crew is going way above and beyond, and many parks give monetary awards for guest compliments, which are relatively rare.

So let's say the wait is accurately posted at 45 minutes. This crew is on their A-game, though, and you get through the line in 30. Lucky you! You were just saved 15 minutes. (For anyone who doesn't believe that a crew can make such a big impact on the wait, they absolutely can. I used to operate a popular coaster with a fellow team member, and we were very, very fast. If the park closed at ten, we could take over an hour-long wait after 9:30 and have the ride shut down before 10:15).

On an average day with an average crew, the wait is posted at 45 minutes and should come out to around 45 minutes. You're not there that day, though. You come back the next day when...

There's a slow crew working. It only takes one. Even if there's three lightning-fast team members running the ride, one molasses-slow employee will drag them all down to his/her level. It can't be avoided. And if the park is understaffed that day, the faster team members are usually the better ones, and the better ones are usually cross-trained on more rides in more units. The odds are greater that you will face slow crews on these days.

So now you show up, and you see the wait posted at 45 minutes. You peer into the queue. It's the same length as last time! So now you know that it should really only take 30 minutes. Except this time, it takes an hour. Keeping with the over/under 15 minute rule, this is still ok, but since it took thirty minutes longer than you thought it should, you're going to get angry. You're only setting yourself up for failure here.

Throw a downtime or two in the mix, and things get crazy in a hurry.

Sometimes, a wait time may be considerably overestimated. If you get in a line that has a posted hour-long wait and it only takes ten minutes, then you probably came right on the heels of a downtime without realizing it. Following a downtime, I'm not going to change the wait time. Why? Because during the downtime I have to stay in a fixed position, and I cannot always accurately judge how many people left the line, or how long the wait in the queue is now. It is better for the wait to be overestimated for a period before the line returns to a sense of normalcy. If it takes you only half as long to get on as you thought, that's a pretty good deal for you, and you're going to be happy. But if I guess when I change it and it's too low? It takes twice as long as you expected, and now you're mad. Better to under-promise and over-deliver in that scenario.

If you do, however, encounter a wait time that is grossly underestimated (off by 30 minutes or more), you should inform GR on the way out of the park.

So there you have it. An inside look at wait times and how they affect you. I hope this helps you consciously try to be a great guest. Guest service is a two-way street. Being an accommodating and understanding guest can help team members deliver great guest service to others.

Next time, I'll cover downtimes, a topic that most guests, even the most well-intentioned ones, make most team members, even the most well-intentioned ones, go crazy.
 

BBW

Jun 10, 2010
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Great post, Franco!

I don't have the "insider" perspective of working at the park, but I totally agree about leaving POSITIVE feedback when an employee's service is excellent.

I've been told that stopping by Guest Relations to leave good feedback is indeed effective, but I have always written letters or emails myself because I want to make as sure as I can that my comments are heard completely and accurately.

I still have a letter I got back from Mark Pauls from 2008 when I wrote to compliment an employee named Sharon who was pretty much single-handedly serving a huge line at the Edelweiss Funnel Cake Shop in Germany (is it still there and called Edelweiss?). Not only was Sharon handling this long line on a chilly early spring day with a smile, but a couple of her co-workers were off in the corner in the shop area having a nice break and chat amongst themselves. That part was ridiculous, but Sharon kept the line moving at a quite reasonable pace and, as I said, was also able to be friendly while maintaining promptness. I saw her again last season BTW,in a different food service area, and was glad to see she was still at the park (I haven't been this year as we gave up our Platinum passes).

I specifically stated I wanted to be sure my comments were brought to her supervisors' attention -- haha, not that I have any say over that in any real sense, but still I requested it -- and Mr. Pauls wrote me, "You can be sure your comments were shared with her leadership team members."

Ahh, good times, great service from the park AND a cordial and appreciative response to feedback from the higher ups.

I actually wrote Mr. Pauls about a negative experience a couple of seasons later, and once again got a written letter in return. My impression is that he is a huge asset to the park. Is he still VP of Operations?


Looking forward to your next installment, Franco!
 
Sep 28, 2009
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I really enjoy this thread. Being that I have worked retail for over a decade and also at the park, I know what it is like to be on the other side.

That is why I always treat any employee well no matter where I go, even if they are blatantly rude. Just make note of it and calmly ask for their supervisor when needed. However, most problems can be resolved without resorting to that.

Back when there was the Mix-It-Up walk-out fiasco, the crowd was furious. People were grumbling and many stormed off as the park wasted their time. The staff announced the show was cancelled until 40 minutes later; completely unacceptable for quality guest satisfaction.

However, there was this one girl who worked in Culinary.. poor thing. She was the only team member around and people just kind of swarmed on her. She looked like a deer in headlights.

She was trying so hard to help everyone and find out information. She tried to do a job- above and beyond- for guest satisfaction because she cared and wanted to make it right.

For that reason, I went to guest services and despite the lack of organization on behalf of the proper staff on providing a more prompt announcement, all I mentioned was how amazing this little girl was and how cool she maintained her demeanor through some heated arguments.

My rule is- treat everyone with respect and hopefully they will respond to your requests in the same regard.

Good post Franco. :)
 
Aug 17, 2010
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Edition 2: Downtimes

Let's get something clear from the start. Nobody likes a downtime. Nobody. Yes, it's always inconvenient as a guest to face a downtime as you're about to ride, but it's also decidedly inconvenient for team members. In some situations, it can be disastrously inconvenient, leading to you having to give written statements for the park - and sometimes the police - for up to a month afterwards.

That's right. So it's a little inconvenient to say the least.

During a downtime, someone always has to host the entrance, and that is the worst job in the park. It'll be a hot summer day, the line will be up to two hours long, when suddenly the ride breaks down. That's the twelfth time today. Your supervisor points to you.

"Host the entrance."

You sigh, preparing yourself for the hordes of angry guests you're about to face. You've just become Brad Pitt in World War Z, except it's much less glamorous.

But why does this scenario seem so hopeless? Our job while hosting a ride entrance during a downtime is to mollify guests without giving any information. It's an impossible task, and since time is money, guests take all of their frustration out on us.

So what can you do as a guest to help this poor, beleaguered team member? Here are some common questions that you should/should not ask:

1. "How long has the ride been broken?"

This question doesn't bother me. I can freely divulge this information, and it helps you determine whether or not to stay and wait for it to reopen or move on to another attraction. If you do ask a question, this one is fine.

2. "Is there something wrong with the ride?"

Don't ask this. There's obviously something wrong with the ride since it's closed. We didn't close it down because we didn't feel like working. Moreover, you're not being straightforward. You're fishing for me to indicate that the ride is closed because it's broken. Don't do that. A ride can be down for reasons that are not technical, such as a guest illness, and if that is the case, I'll tell you. Furthermore, I'm not allowed to say that the ride is "broken," "down," "broken down," or experiencing "mechanical" or "technical" "issues" or "problems." You're only going to get angrier by asking questions that I cannot answer. My response will only be, "We are currently experiencing a temporary delay in operation. You can wait here or check back later."

3. "What's wrong with the ride?"

Please, for the love of all humanity, never, ever, ask this question. I can guarantee you that 37 other people have just asked this same question, and my response will be the same each time: "I'm not sure." Sometimes it's the truth; sometimes it isn't. Regardless, it's the only thing I can tell you. Asking this is a surefire way to draw poor service from a beaten down team member.

4. "When will the ride reopen?"

Please, for the love of all humanity, never, ever, ask this question. I can guarantee you that 37 other people have just asked this same question, and my response will be the same each time: "I'm not sure." Sometimes it's the truth; sometimes it isn't. Regardless, it's the only thing I can tell you. Asking this is a surefire way to draw poor service from a beaten down team member.

If you experienced a sense of irritated repetition from those last two, then you just got a small taste of what it's like to host the entrance of a popular attraction during a downtime.

So what should you do if you happen upon a ride during a downtime? If you see someone hosting the entrance, then the ride is closed, and they really can't tell you anything. If you want to ask how long the ride has been closed, go ahead. Otherwise, you should either decide to get in line or move on to something else and come back later. Engaging the team member is really a pretty pointless decision.

But, Franco, why won't a team member tell me the problem or how long it will take? Good question. A few scenarios:

1. We really don't know what the problem is or how long it will take.

We just run the rides. When something happens, a lot of times we have no idea what the problem is. If a trouble light flashes, we have to shut down a ride that has no apparent issues and wait for maintenance to diagnose and fix the problem. In these situations, we're pretty much just as clueless as the guests.

To help you understand, check out this control panel:

CONTROL1.jpg


Team members can only touch the green area of the panel. Most of the panel can only be operated by management and maintenance personnel.

In most downtime situations, we don't know much more than you do. We're just doing our job.

2. We know what the problem is, but not how long it will take.

The train pulls in from another exciting ride and the guests unload. The air gates open and guests spill out into the station. They gather their loose articles and seat themselves. The operator locks the train and everyone pulls their restraints down, but... they don't lock. Someone call Park Ops, because we have a downtime on our hands.

We know the problem: the train isn't locking. How long will this take? Hard to say. It could be a simple glitch that maintenance can fix in five minutes. It might be a problem with the whole train, in which case it will have to be removed; maybe it'll take 15-20 minutes. Or, it could be a major problem with the operating system that induces a lengthy downtime.

But why can't you at least tell me what the problem is? It would be easier for me to decide whether to stay or go.

Actually, it wouldn't. Guests don't have a very good understanding of how coasters really work, even ACErs. If I stand at the entrance and announce that the ride is closed because the train isn't locking, 9/10 guests will imagine their seat popping open mid-ride, hurtling them to certain death. If a train doesn't lock, the operating system won't allow it to leave the station, end of story. Most guests would really rather stay ignorant to safety issues anyway. It's better to say we don't know what the problem is. And really, we kind of don't. There were still several possible explanations for the problem.

There are exceptions to this, however. For instance, if the ride is closed due to a power outage that affects a larger area, we'll tell you so you don't continue to go from ride to ride to discover that everything is closed. We still wouldn't know how long it would take for power to return, though.

3. We know what the problem is, and we know about how long it should take.

The train pulls back into the station and stops. The restraints don't unlock, however, because the floor platen hasn't risen to the load/unload position. Guess what that means? It's a downtime.

This situation is common, and it usually only takes maintenance 10-15 minutes to fix. So we'll endow you with all of this wonderful information, right?

Nope.

Why not? For starters, if I tell a group of eager guests that a ride will reopen in 10-15 minutes and it takes 15 minutes, they'll be upset that it wasn't 10. It's useless information to provide.

The real reason, however, is that anything could happen. Any downtime that shuts a ride down for the rest of the day begins innocuously. It's just a simple problem that should be a quick fix. Then, maintenance discovers a major problem with the ride's operating system, and she's done until at least tomorrow.

In this situation, it's quite possible that maintenance can make this quick fix in the time we all expect. When they go to restart the ride operations, though, the floor platen still doesn't move. They go back to do some more investigating and find that there is a larger issue with the operating system causing the smaller problem. Now the downtime is going to be a lengthy one.

If you give guests a timeframe and the ride ends up being closed longer, that's a problem, and it's an unnecessary problem at that. It's better to say that you don't know how long a ride will take to reopen. And really, you never do. Downtimes always last longer than expected. A downtime frustrates guests anyway, so there's no reason to compound that frustration by giving information that could end up being inaccurate.

So there you go. Next time you face a downtime, just relax. No one else is enjoying it either. Just try to be a courteous guest.
 
Sep 10, 2012
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Nora said:
However, there was this one girl who worked in Culinary.. poor thing. She was the only team member around and people just kind of swarmed on her. She looked like a deer in headlights.

She was trying so hard to help everyone and find out information. She tried to do a job- above and beyond- for guest satisfaction because she cared and wanted to make it right.

For that reason, I went to guest services and despite the lack of organization on behalf of the proper staff on providing a more prompt announcement, all I mentioned was how amazing this little girl was and how cool she maintained her demeanor through some heated arguments.

My rule is- treat everyone with respect and hopefully they will respond to your requests in the same regard.

Good post Franco. :)
^
This!

I run into a situation like this all of the time. Problem arises. Guests see a TM. TM may be part of this area/attraction or may be just passing through. ALL ire is directed at this TM. I feel for them. I too have been irritated at the situation, but I try not too let any of that out to the TM I am talking to about the problem.

Now, if I ever do encounter rudeness or poor customer service (it happens), I am not one to let it go. But I also do not want to make a scene. I ask appropriate questions, and if I can't get them answered by the TM, then I ask for someone who CAN address my concerns. It takes patience, but ultimately it pays off; even if it isn't what I want to hear. I just don't, and won't, accept being blown off. In some rare cases, there is the old adage, KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS. Tell them what a wonderful job they are doing and that you appreciate their efforts. ;)


EDIT:
Cute read...
How to "Kill them with Kindness" The Sweetest ways to put Mean People in their Place!!
 
Aug 17, 2010
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Edition 3: The Rules of the Ride, Part I

Theme park rides are fun, but team members constantly have to uphold a safe environment. This should be an easy task since people should always want to remain safe. For the most part, though, it seems like theme park guests don't.

Every ride has a sign with the rules and requirements posted on it. This is called the ride qualifier sign. Chances are, the only time you've ever read this was when you were really bored in a long line. You notice the standard warnings about pregnancy and back problems, and since none of it applies to you, you move on without giving it a second thought. Sometimes it's prudent to read these signs, however, as some rides have different stipulations.

For instance, B&M has a policy that no one with a cast can ride their coasters. Everyday, though, someone with a cast would wait in a long line for a B&M ride and I'd have to inform them that they couldn't ride. I'm a reasonable person, though, and if the guest understands the rule and doesn't yell and scream at me, I'll try to arrange for them to ride another coaster without that policy with no wait. This is rare, however. Most guests tear into me and demand to speak with someone who "can actually do something about it." The fact of the matter, though, is that nobody at the park can do anything about it. This is an edict straight from the offices in Monthey, Switzerland. If you think Walter Bolliger will take the time to answer your email, go for it. Otherwise, I'll just tell you to read the ride qualifier sign next time and show you where to wait for your friends. There's just nothing else that I can do.

The biggest issue with rules is, without a doubt, the height requirement. Most people know the height requirements; they just choose to ignore them. They see a ride they want their kids to go on, and they cast the rules aside. Don't bring your 36" kid on a coaster with a 54" requirement. I won't let them ride. This is not a hypothetical situation, by the way; I have seen this more than once. Just from a quick glance at the child in the seat it was obvious that they would not have returned to the station. These parents were not understanding, however. I won't put up with anyone in this situation. Get off my platform, complain to whomever you want about this, and you're welcome for saving your kid's life and not calling Social Services on you, because your parenting skills have clearly gone AWOL.

Height requirements are set by the ride's manufacturer for safety reasons, so if we don't abide by them, we'll be at fault for any incidents.

Those of us who operate the rides, we're not bent or evil in any way. We're not looking to rule the ride with an iron fist and deprive your children of a fun experience. Height is a strict issue, though. If your kid is 53.5" and has to be 54, he can't ride. I know it's a bummer, but if I let him ride and anything happens to him, I'll be fired and the park will be liable. I can't give any leeway. Again, though, I'm not unreasonable. If they don't have shoes on, I'll remeasure them with shoes. If they meet the requirement, great! They just have ride while wearing shoes. If they still don't, though, and you really thought your kid was tall enough and you waited in a long line, I'll make the same arrangement as I do for guests with casts. If you were trying to pull a fast one, I have no empathy for you, and you'll be forced to leave with nothing.

If your child is measured by a team member and it is determined that they are too short, don't become accusatory. I didn't height check your child because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. I checked their height because, as you can see, they aren't tall enough. Again, this isn't hypothetical. I once had a co-worker check the height of a girl of his race, and when she was measured to be an inch too short, he was immediately declared racist by her mother. That doesn't even make sense. It became a much bigger issue than it ever should have, and in the end, I had to call security on her, and the entire family was ejected from the park without a refund. That's just sad.

We also don't randomly height check kids. We're not the TSA. After working a ride for a long time, you get very good at determining if a child is 53 or 54 inches with just a quick glance. The height check is just visual proof for the parents. It's amazing how accurate we get so quickly.

We also have height estimators hidden in the station. Have you ever noticed a strange pole protruding upward next to the air gate? That pole is built to be an inch taller than the height requirement of the ride. If your child is shorter than the pole, they're going to be checked.

"But why can't he ride? He's only four inches too short! He'll be with me."

That's an actual quote. For starters, four inches is a big deal. Secondly, most roller coasters don't have a separate requirement for children riding with their parents. If they have to occupy their own seat, it doesn't matter if a parent is next to them or not, they must meet the requirement.

Let's say I'm working at Griffon one day. You and child are boarding when I notice that he's a little short of the estimator. I pull him aside for a quick check, and alas, he's only 53 inches. I come back to inform you that he can't ride.

"What?! But he just rode Alpengeist!"

"Oh. He did? Well then, I'm so sorry. You're right. My mistake, he can ride. Go ahead, buddy."

No. Quite frankly, I don't care. I'm not going to bend the rules for you because you claim that someone else did. All you're telling me is that the crew at Alpengeist isn't doing their job. I recommend you go back there. Maybe you can slip on again unnoticed. The fact remains that your child is 53 inches, and he must be 54. I won't let him ride.

I might sound like a terrible employee, but these requirements are implemented for your safety, so don't get mad at me for doing my job. Truthfully, in normal operations, a child who is a couple of inches too short would be perfectly safe riding. Safety regulations are not put in place for normal operations, however. Let's say someone hopes a fence into the ride area. I have to hit an E-stop, which immediately cuts all the power to the ride. When the train hits the next block, it will come to an instant and grinding halt. Imagine Alpengeist hitting the MCBR times twenty. If you've managed to smuggle on your kid who is too short, congratulations; they likely have whiplash or some other injury. These restraints are designed to protect and hold a person of a certain height. They won't do much to help a child who is too short.

If a team member ever determines that you or your child doesn't meet the ride qualifications, please don't protest. They're just doing their job. Moreover, most safety requirements for rides are implemented by the manufacturer, so no one at the park can really do anything about it. If you understand the rules, thank the team member for doing their job, and ask if they can do anything to help compensate for your wasted time, they might try to help as much as they can. Remember, we're not unreasonable people. We're just tired of getting mistreated by parents for taking better care of their kids than they do.

Check back later for Part II, where I'll discuss other fun topics like loose articles and lost and found.
 

Nicole

Administrator
Jul 22, 2013
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Honestly, I think any parent who intentionally takes his/her child on a ride in violation of the height restrictions is just irresponsible and insane. We turned the height requirements into cool milestones for Phia to look forward to.
 
Aug 17, 2010
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Nic said:
Honestly, I think any parent who intentionally takes his/her child on a ride in violation of the height restrictions is just irresponsible and insane. We turned the height requirements into cool milestones for Phia to look forward to.

I'm in absolute agreement with you, hence why my tone in the last post was a bit... harsh. Roller coasters are potentially dangerous machines, and I have no tolerance for blatant disrespect for safety measures taken. Those first couple of times that a parent yelled at me for enforcing the height requirement, I tried to keep a smile, remain positive, and deliver good guest service. Very quickly, though, I just thought, "What is wrong with these people?" There's nothing like a guest to take the good guest service spirit out of someone.

Mind you, I still always tried my hardest to deliver great guest service with a smile in other difficult situations. But there was no smiling to be had with the parents described previously.
 
Aug 17, 2010
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Edition 4: The Rules of the Ride, Part II

So far we've discussed how critical it is for team members to be safe and efficient. Another important aspect of the job is to maintain a clean environment. Every night after the park closes, team members stay behind to clean up, hose down ride platforms, spruce up ride vehicles, and take out trash. The bigger rides have bigger ride areas and longer queues, so the most work has to be done there and, since they are typically the most popular attractions, those team members get a later start since those rides' lines cycle out longer after the park closes. A big coaster can have about twenty trash cans that need to be pulled at the end of the night, and the long queues are always filled with garbage that needs to be picked up. We greatly appreciate guests who just do the bare minimum and throw their trash away, but that seems like a big ask for a lot of people. The less menial cleaning we have to do, the earlier we can go home. On late nights with private events or ERTs, we sometimes don't get to start cleaning until 1 AM, so the cleaner the ride already is, the better.

Possibly the most frustrating task we have to perform is cleaning gum. Don't ever chew gum on a ride. Honestly, I don't know why you would want to as that can be extremely dangerous, but many people do. Lift hills and brake runs are evidently a fun spot for guests to spit their gum out, and after the gum has several hours to bake on a metal platform on a hot summer day, it's not very easy to clean up.

The last procedure come closing time is called a track walk. This is when a couple of employees walk through the ride area and collect any loose articles lost by guests on the ride. On average, we usually found 5-7 phones a night, as well as countless lighters and sunglasses.

Loose articles are a constant problem in roller coaster operation. You'll see signs everywhere that say that no loose articles are allowed on the ride. This is done to protect the park against guests with grievances about losing their possessions. Obviously, the rule is unenforceable; we can't go around checking to make sure you have nothing in your pockets, and why would we? You have a right to carry your belongings on a ride. But after working ride ops for a while, you start to wish that people couldn't.

It would be beneficial for all parties if people heeded those signs a little more. Most people have this idea that they could never lose something on a ride; that's just something that happens to other people. They think that they'll be more careful. If you're on a ride that inverts, however, the only way to really be careful is to make sure that all of your belongings are in a pocket that can completely be closed.

If you lose an item on a ride, team members might be able to help you retrieve it. It depends on what you've lost. Parks have certain policies about what items can be recovered during a ride's operation, even sometimes allowing for a downtime to collect a belonging. These items are generally only pecuniary, however. If you lose a wallet on a ride, you can't give any of the money in your wallet to us for the rest of the day, and the park can't have that. We'll gladly shut the ride down to help you get your wallet. We'll usually also try our best to help find any prescription lenses that are lost, but those can sometimes be tough to find. If you lose your keys or cell phone, however, we can't go looking for it until the track walk after the park closes. There's nothing else we can do; it's park policy. Even if you drop your phone on the brake run right before the station, I can't go get it. I understand when guests are frustrated about losing something, because that's never fun, but please don't get mad at me. I didn't lose your phone, you did. I never recommend that a guest brings a loose article on a ride. If you're worried about losing it, just don't bring it on with you.

If you lose an "essential item" on a ride, like a wallet, notify a team member and we'll do our best to help you out. If you lose something else, like a phone or your car keys, you should still let a team member know. We won't be able to get them until after closing, but if we know that you lost your Honda keys, we'll be able to better look for it. Aside from that, all we can do is direct you to lost and found so you can fill out a report.

If you've lost something during the day, you can stay at lost and found after closing. Don't return to the ride you lost it at. Many people make this mistake. You can't be there after closing, and you can't help us look for it. Security comes around to ensure that all guests have left the premises. If you're still there, they will escort you from the park and not allow you to go to lost and found. If you remain at lost and found, however, you are free to stay until the found items are brought there.

If you're visiting a park that requires loose articles such as bags to be stowed in lockers, please don't get short with the team member that informs you of the policy. Yes, it's a terrible policy, and you should absolutely let GR know how you feel about it. Such policy is made outside of the rides department, and so airing your frustrations to the team member won't help anyone. That team member's job is literally just to give that same bad news to everyone getting on the ride. They have to deal with so much wrath, yet they deliver guest service with a smile. I really don't know how they do it. They deserve far more commendation than they'll ever receive.

Some parks allow you to stow your bags on the ride platform or on the other side of the exit gates. You won't usually be able to wear a bag on the ride. Bags cause a separation between the guest and the restraint, which is not how the restraint was designed, and so it is not safe. I understand if you don't want to leave your Coach bag unattended in the station. What I don't understand is why you would bring a Coach bag to a theme park (still not hypothetical). I don't make the rules, but I'm constantly being watched and audited by management to enforce them. If you are allowed to keep your bag and other belongings in a certain area, please keep them neat and orderly. So many guests just haphazardly throw their belongings in the general area of where they're supposed to go. It creates a very messy ride platform that is, once again, not very safe. We then have to take the time to clean the area up, which slows down operations.

Remember that the park and its employees are not responsible for loose articles left in the station. Those signs are posted everywhere, but people still try to convince us that we're responsible. We're not. I've had guests ask me if I would make sure that they're items won't get stolen. I tell them that I won't. I can't. There are too many items in the station to keep track of, and my job is not to babysit your bags and souvenir bottles.

Sure, if you bring a huge stuffed bear that you won into the station, I'll remember who you are. No one else will walk out of there with your prize. I won't remember your souvenir bottle. There are seventeen more that look just like it. If you leave it on the platform and someone takes it, don't blame me. Don't blame the park. There is someone responsible for that, but it isn't us.

This overly-litigious era has caused many people to cease taking responsibility for their own actions and belongings, and it has had a negative impact on theme parks. Please don't be one of those guests. That's a big part of why theme park policies are filled with legalese and why many theme parks are struggling to provide guest service. They're too busy trying to avoid guests serving them with subpoenas. It may not be right, but it certainly isn't false.

Part III will cover how the rules don't just pertain to coasters, but flat rides, too.
 
Sep 7, 2012
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Franco said:
Some parks allow you to stow your bags on the ride platform or on the other side of the exit gates. You won't usually be able to wear a bag on the ride. Bags cause a separation between the guest and the restraint, which is not how the restraint was designed, and so it is not safe. I understand if you don't want to leave your Coach bag unattended in the station. What I don't understand is why you would bring a Coach bag to a theme park (still not hypothetical). I don't make the rules, but I'm constantly being watched and audited by management to enforce them. If you are allowed to keep your bag and other belongings in a certain area, please keep them neat and orderly. So many guests just haphazardly throw their belongings in the general area of where they're supposed to go. It creates a very messy ride platform that is, once again, not very safe. We then have to take the time to clean the area up, which slows down operations.

Just wanted to pop in and say, Dollywood has an excellent system in which guests hand loose articles to the employees checking harnesses, and then they will put them in shelves on the exiting platform for you. In fact, on Mystery Mine, they have one cabinet for each train, and the employees only open the one that pertains to your ride when you get off. This method keeps the platform from getting cluttered like you mentioned.

Great post overall!
 
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There are certainly better loose article systems in place, but many parks miss the mark largely due to guests. It's kind of a vicious circle in that guests hate the current policies, but there are always just enough ridiculous guests to destroy the better ones. Personally, I like Universal's system the most. They give you free lockers at each ride for an hour, or 30 minutes longer than your wait. That way, you have a safe place to stow your belongings, but you're not being nickel and dimed, either. Disney allows bags on their rides, but most coasters at other parks aren't very conducive to that policy.

In regards to Dollywood, I'm honestly surprised that policy still exists. It definitely sounds like a better process, but it could cause some legal trouble for them in the future. I used to work a ride in which people would just toss their stuff right next to the platform in front of the yellow line. Of course, the ride can't be sent until everything is behind the yellow line. Originally, we were allowed to move people's belongings to the appropriate location. When something went missing, however, guests immediately blamed us team members. There was some legal pressure, and it was determined that if a team member was to touch or move something, it could be considered as taking responsibility for it. In order to keep with the policy that the park and team members take no responsibility for loose articles, policy was changed so that we were not allowed to touch anything. Instead of people simply taking responsibility for their own actions and possessions, we would have to unlock people's seats in order to get them to move their items. Operations slowed considerably, and lines inflated quickly. It was a very sad thing to see.

I've always liked having separate bins marked specifically for each train. I've seen that at many Cedar Fair parks. Unfortunately, we didn't have that where I worked. I think more parks should adopt that system.
 
Aug 31, 2012
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Volcano at Kings Dominion uses carts that guests place there items on them at the loading area then the staff rolls them to the unloading area. Since the areas are separate but side by side worked well and staff weren't touching guests property just moving it to where needed. I haven't been to Kings Dominion in forever so maybe this isn't done anymore.
 
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netdvn

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Jan 12, 2012
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For the record, it still takes time for employees to place belongings in boxes and bins. Those seconds can affect ride capacity and efficiency, making the line move slower. It worsens if you have a ton of bags, plus other belongings like drinks, hats, and stuffed animals.

And yes they do have a chance of getting stolen, damaged or lost. Maybe not by guests, but employees.
 
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VACoasterFan said:
Volcano at Kings Dominion uses carts that guests place there items on them at the loading area then the staff rolls them to the unloading area. Since the areas are separate but side by side worked well and staff weren't touching guests property just moving it to where needed. I haven't been to Kings Dominion in forever so maybe this isn't done anymore.

They still use this system, and while it gets around some of the issues, I think this system is terrible. That station is small, so the team member has to push that cart by the chutes before the next empty train can pull in. This requires stacking the trains every cycle. The goal of ride operations is to stack as little as possible. It's a highly inefficient system, and it's one of the reasons why Volcano has such a strange and overly long queue.

Additionally, the team member is still moving the guests' items. This still gives enough wiggle room for guests to claim that the team member took responsibility for their articles. It's hard enough to get people to accept responsibility for their possessions when they leave it in the same spot that they retrieve it from; having anyone move it, even on a cart, can cause problems.

That station would pretty much have to be redesigned to create a good system that is secure for the park. It's unfortunate.
 
Aug 31, 2012
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^

Granted the last time I was at Kings Dominion was at least 7 or 8 years ago they had a large number of people on the ride platform. One person was dedicated to moving the carts between sides. Now probably the ride crew isn't allowed to be that large when I was there the cart swap was done while the seat checks were being done so by the time it was done the cart was already in the unloading zone and the empty cart was staged for the loading guests when the empty train moved into the loading area.If properly staffed like it was then it was efficient in my opinion.
 
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