I'm not THAT wild about riding too many kidney-busters, wallet-drenchers, or vomit-inducers in one day anyway.
. . . provide more sit-down or walk-around entertainment suitable for aging boomers.
If I could get into the park for $13, ride four rides, see one decent show, and go home, I'd be happy.
Open Letter to a Theme Park, or
"Why we stopped buying season passes"
As a former season-pass holder of a regional theme park, I was recently sent an e-mail survey, which basically asked why I don't come around to see them anymore. The "Big Question" was "What, if anything, could we do to get you to want to visit the park this year?" My answer follows:
In addition, as a 50-something who used to bring carloads of teenagers and still has one at home, I'm not THAT wild about riding too many kidney-busters, wallet-drenchers, or vomit-inducers in one day anyway. I love trains (it's an avocation) but the train "exploration" loop is a sad joke. What about bringing back something like the Lion Country Safari that was worth spending time relaxing on? Alternatively, you could have more and better stage shows or concerts where I could cool my heels while my teen charges are riding the kidney-busters, wallet-drenchers, and vomit-inducers. The last two summers I was there, there was one show of interest to aging baby-boomers (the folks who often drive kids and grandkids to your park) and it wasn't worth seeing twice.
I am involved in amateur musical theatre, folk singing and other traditional music, and garden railroading (running big model trains outdoors), ANY of which you could draw on to provide more sit-down or walk-around entertainment suitable for aging boomers. I'd be glad to advise you on incorporating any of those areas (especially garden railways - see my website www.familygardentrains.com) into your list of features.
In the meantime, I'm not highly motivated to spend $40 to spend a third of the day standing in line and another third of the day sitting around waiting for other people to get off of rides because there's nothing for me to do in the meantime. If I could get into the park for $13, ride four rides, see one decent show, and go home, I'd be happy. e-mail me if you want to follow up on anything.
Hope this helps - Paul
Now, what does this have to do with ANY topic I've addressed on any of my web sites? Probably very little, but since I see a lot of folks about my age at most club meetings, it got me thinking about so-called "family entertainment," and the declining entertainment value that some places like this park offer for anyone not in their target demographic. I've been going to that park since literally before it opened, but at this point, I'm not sure I'd be excited to go if someone gave me free tickets. I'd like to think that it's not just my getting older, it's also that the park has changed. For one thing, in search of a young demographic, this park has significantly downscaled the non-ride entertainment in favor of adding higher or faster or scarier or whateverier rides. They used to have several shows, as well as roving musicians, so that every trip to the park was a little different, and there were many chances to be entertained while you were waiting for other people to get off rides you didn't want to stand in line for. Now they have one show remotely of interest to adults (and that's not worth seeing twice). The major non-ride "entertainment" seems to be watching washed-out video screens when you're standing in line waiting for the next ride. Right now I can think of a dozen places I'd rather spend the day with my kids (and maybe one day my grandkids), and that wasn't always true. I just can't help thinking that when people who used to bring their families regularly start staying away in droves, they should pay some attention. The boomer demographic is still huge, and we generally have more discretionary income than the "target market" these people seem to be going for. We just exercise more discretion about how we spend it.
|I can't help wondering . . . how long any company can continue to disregard expressed customer concerns and pretend they don't know why sales are off.
New content, April 4. I will add that, to be certain someone saw this reply, I copied it into an e-mail and sent it to an e-mail address on the survey page that had a label something like "Please e-mail us if you have any questions." Then I got an e-mail in reply saying that the e-mail address I had sent my e-mail to was an "unattended" e-mail box and would not receive e-mails. The same e-mail said that the address IT was sent from was also an "unattended" e-mail box and no e-mails sent there would be read. The e-mail DID give a URL for a page I was supposed to use to "contact them." When I tried that URL, I pasted and copied my e-mail into it, along with a little introduction about how they shouldn't post useless e-mail addresses as contact points. But when I hit "submit" I got a Java run-time error that was all hex addresses. So I went back and found the generic "contact us" web page. Same thing: I copied my message into the box, hit submit, and got a Java run-time error. So I thought maybe there's something goofy in my message that is causing it to freak out. So I typed a new, shorter message. Same results. So then I tracked down the URL that users are supposed to use for any messages complaining about web problems. I typed a short message into that page, hit "submit" and got the same java run-time error. OBVIOUSLY these people are desperate to receive my input.
I think I saw last week that the corporation that owns this park is looking to sell it to someone else. I realize that losing the $200-800 a year we used to spend there (depending on how many times we went and whether or not we bought season tickets) isn't the only reason they're dissatisfied with the park's profitability. But I can't help wondering how many other, similar pleas from one-time customers have gone into some electronic dumpster, and how long any company can continue to disregard expressed customer concerns and pretend they don't know why sales are off.
New content, April 13. Several days after the last addition, I received an unsigned e-mail from someone on the park's payroll. It said that the unknown responder would be certain to send my comments to "the right people." The unknown responder also added that he or she was also over 50 and had exactly the same concerns about the park that I had expressed. Still, none of "the right people" have gotten back with me yet. We'll see. . .
Back to our previously-posted blog - So are there any "lessons" for my garden railroad in this "diatribe"? Well, about one-tenth of the people who come to see it are railroaders, and about one-tenth are gardeners, so what's in it for everyone else? Cutesey is not an option for me - my railroad and the communities it serves have to represent a real time and place for me to enjoy it fully. But how can I create interest that would get people back again? Thoughtful landscape design and plantings, attractive sightlines, accessories that are well-chosen and arranged and not just cluttered together. . . . what else? One thing theme parks do well is divide their territory up so that various parts can take on different "flavors." How can I arrange things so that my own little "Frontier Village" isn't visible from my "Metropolis"?
I once wrote an article that uses examples of the Disney theme parks to describe how to use consistency and carefully-chosen details to make a railroad's little "vignettes" more effective. Today I realized that, just as that "other" theme park's inability to perceive the needs of visitors has cost them my continuing business, I should pay better attention to the likes, dislikes, and especially to any expressed needs of my visitors. Except for public restrooms - there I draw the line.
Please let me know if anything in this blog "touched a nerve," and I'll post appropriate follow-ups as they come in.
Have a great summer, all -
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