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Attention, theme park managers: Your customers are NOT the enemy

Written by
Published: September 13, 2006 at 12:26 PM

Just wanted to share with Theme Park Insider readers this e-mail I got today. I'll leave the sender anonymous. (I added the hyperlink, for reference.)

As one of the founding investors in the Hard Rock Park I have to laugh at the "know it all" contributors to your page. What makes them "experts" and have they ever invested in anything?

And my response:

Well, they *are* your potential future customers.

I would think that would merit them some respect, even if they were totally wrong about your plans for this park. After all, everyone I've met on this site is looking for a good time and good value from a theme park visit... and to be treated well by the people to whom they are giving their hard-earned money.

Which makes them "experts" in my book.

Thanks for writing,
Robert

And I'll add this: Theme Park Insider readers were perhaps the first to document Six Flags' financial problems, way back in 2002, a full six months before the story hit the mainstream financial press. So our readers, many of whom have worked at or for parks, are pretty smart about the business side of this industry.

Which brings me to my rant...

Let me make this as clear as I can to the industry executives who monitor this website, from Disney to Universal to Busch to Cedar Fair to Hard Rock:

We, online readers, are not your enemy. We are your customers, the people who put the money in your paycheck. We read and post on this site and other sites not because we hate theme parks, but because we love them. We talk about business issues and labor deals just as football fans talk online about salary caps, draft strategy and free agency. Sometimes we are correct. Sometimes we're full of it. But we're always thrilled to talking about something we love.

If people on this site disagree with or do not understand a management team's strategy or public announcements, they are gonna post about it. Just as people post about the great times and good things they've seen at parks, too.

Here's your choice: Join us, engage with us, share information with us. Or whine and moan because we're not sticking to your "script." But put yourself in our shoes for a moment as you read this. If someone is using this site to help make a decision about a theme park vacation (and thousands of people do, every single day of the year), which park do you think looks better on the site?

One that shares information, engages with its visitors and, by doing so, generates interest and excitement in the park?

Or, one that disparages the site and its visitors, thus signalling that, to that park, customers are more annoyances than valued guests?

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on September 13, 2006 at 1:24 PM
Good for you Robert! I am suprised that this site has so much weight in the theme park world.

Who knew that they would really care about what we had to say!


Congrats Robert for giving a scare to the theme park community!

From Adrienne McDonald on September 13, 2006 at 2:22 PM
Right on Robert! Great response there. Couldn't have said it better myself. ;) This is why I DO enjoy coming to this site over others is that the posters here are so great, helpful & so nice! I'm glad we have this site to post on. Thank you!
From Erik Yates on September 13, 2006 at 2:58 PM
Way to show your set Robert! I have to wonder though, what comments in particular was he talking about? As far as investing, I do believe a few of these posters have invested in a thing or two, I cant see some of them swinging a chainsaw or using a shovel, so I think those readers are not only welcome to their opinions, but might be some of the guys, little people in this guys eyes though they be, that he wants to listen to.
Do a lot of us know what we're talking about? Not always, but we do how to do things like....boycott....and post silly things on the internet that might make people not want to go to a particular park. Not the place to making enemies.
From Chris P. on September 13, 2006 at 3:32 PM
Well I was interested in Hard Rock Park, but the person that e-mailed Robert really sounds like an ass. If thats the way they will talk about their customers, Hard Rock Park won't be seeing much of me when it opens.
From Gareth H on September 13, 2006 at 4:04 PM
Thats parks off my list then...

Has the guy/girl never been to IOA and seen the big banner across the entrance to the Number One themepark in the world? Shows this site's got some whack in the biz if that huge park, bigger than Hard Rock will ever be, is proud of their achievements here!

Wacko!!!

From Daniel Binder on September 13, 2006 at 4:20 PM
Love the response! Not much else to add, except that to me, the number one return value that determines if someone is likely to return to a theme park are first impressions. If the first impression/visit is bad, the person is very unlikely to return to that park, whereas if that park knocks their socks off the first time, they've won this customer for life, probably.

Like most coasters, though, the initial exhiliration slowly fades a little bit each time you ride/attend the coaster/park. Who better to provide feedback than those customers that actually frequent a theme park website and post their opinions, trip reports, and so forth? Only by having an open mind and listening to the loyal customers' feedback can a park continue to evolve in a postive way that keeps everybody coming back.

Again, kudos on a great article.

From robert olson on September 13, 2006 at 4:27 PM
I know for a FACT that there are higher-ups from the major theme park players that stop by here periodically to see what people are saying.

The smart ones will listen to the 'vibe' and take it seriously. The dumb ones will blow this site off.

Some of the other 'investors' in Hard Rock should tell this guy to shut up before he shoots THEM in the foot, too.

robert olson

From Derek Potter on September 13, 2006 at 7:20 PM
Hey I've long maintained that a park should be built in Myrtle Beach, and I'm happy for the town and the soon to be richer moneymen. I don't think that my viewpoint was that far off at all. Sometimes my predictions are wrong, but hey what can I say. I do understand that people on these websites can be a bit brash, and sometimes downright ignorant about the whole thing. Sometimes people don't know what they are talking about, and some people are just downright haters, so I understand that a higher up would take exception to a comment every once in a while. One would think that investors, managers, and heads of the industry would make it a point every once in a while to create some kind of blog, or perhaps post every now and then and make some kind of contact with the fans. Do they have to explain their every move and disclose secrets? absolutely not, but making some kind of connection with the people who pay good money for their product isn't a bad idea. I for one would love to have a representative from the Hard Rock Park post a blog about progress and such and interact with people on this site and others...instead we get a big mouth investor who clearly has no interest in what the public...ie their customers think. Some of us may be off in our analysis, just like sportswriters and stock analysts. The difference is that we the customer are the ones that make the turnstiles go, the ones who bring our hard earned money. I certainly hope that the rest who are building Hard Rock have a little more appreciation for their customers than this person did, because if they don't, it will come back to haunt them.

All that being said, I am still excited about this project and can't wait to see the finished product. I happen to really like Myrtle Beach, and I'm happy to see a big attraction on it's way.

From rafael guzman on September 13, 2006 at 9:53 PM
dang, what kind of idiot would post that, as an investor, you loose some rights. rightsthat we have cause we are the paying customers. me personally, i had no intention to go to this themepark. why mister invester,cause hardrock sucks. i dont like the over price food, the hotel in vegas, and why would i go to who knows where for a starter up park. ive got all the themeparks i want in so cal.

anyways, i am a business owner, i own a sales company. and there is always customers who think they know morethan me. i just shut up and let them think what ever they want, cause they still buy my product thinking that they were right. we can all think that hard rock sucks, butthere would still be thousands of people going there, but who know now, now that he thinks that wek now nothing. like he said, your customers are not your enemy.

From Anthony Murphy on September 13, 2006 at 11:05 PM
Maybe I am just not giving us enough credit, but do we have that much sway in the theme park industry? Yes, we are vocal about our views, but should theme parks really care?

I am pretty sure if we said that Disney or Univeral Stinks, they could care less. I could be wrong, but I just find it funny that the Hard Rock people would take all of us so seriously.


Long live this site!

From William Gorgensen on September 14, 2006 at 4:29 AM
I'm a full time professional design consultant in the international entertainment and leisure market and have been for over 30 years, including almost 15 years as an Imagineer. The most valuable design experience I gained was was the time I spent with a Disney Show Quality Standards team at one of the parks. Here is where you see firsthand how concepts and designs actually work or don’t work "with the guest". This is exactly why I read this website and others like it. Feasibility studies and In-park surveys are some ways to find out how your potential market is going to react to your product, but the best method is to observe, and, better still, listen what they say outside of controlled studies with formulated questions and limited responses. This website is one of those places.
From Noel G on September 14, 2006 at 6:16 AM
Robert, well done and congrats on your comments and others alike.

As the feedback good or bad should be used as an active voice from those that do visit and who want information about a park visit, whilst on holidays or a local resident, for which most of the parks would not survive without the local support of return visitor base.

As I know first hand having worked at Dreamworld for a short period xmas 2004 / 2005 this site does get visited and have active members that form part of the management team that do work within Dreamworld itself.

Once again fair comment there should be more of it.

cheers

Noel

From John Stavely on September 14, 2006 at 6:37 AM
Disdain for the customer/guest is the beginning of the end for any business.
From Kevin Sowinski on September 14, 2006 at 7:36 AM
For me, this and other theme park websites are most useful for practical information about theme parks. For example, which rides have the longest lines at a particular park, pictures of new constructions at parks, stats about rides, etc.

However, all other information that has no credible newspaper or magazine links or photographic evidence, I take with a grain of salt. If there is one thing that I've learned from surfing the net, it is that there are many people in the world with too much time on their hands, wild imaginations, and opinions on everything.

I think that it is good for industry people to monitor sites like this in order to get feedback on good and bad policies, ideas, and rides at their own and competing theme parks. Information from sites like this can even be manipulated by smart industry people to create or fuel buzz about new rides and parks, since anyone can create an account and post on this site. Also, if there is misinformation circulating about their park or rides, it can be an indicator that the company should issue a press release or conduct an interview with a credible magazine or newspaper to put speculation to rest.

Either way, these websites are not going away any time soon, so maybe the industry should create its own website to rant about theme park websites and get their ultimate revenge!

From Mark Hollamon on September 14, 2006 at 7:42 AM
Major league baseball turned its back on the fans a few years ago when they begged both sides to come together and they didn't for quite a while. More recently, the NHL did the same thing. What did they learn? They learned that the paying customer found something else to do with their entertainment time and money. Both leagues admit it was a terrible mistake.

Everybody and every company has areas of opportunity. To ignore them is nothing more than a blueprint for failure.

In my profession, just about EVERY process improvement comes from the customer or front line employee and NOT upper mgmt or investors.

A wise man once wrote "I have never learned a thing while I was talking". Maybe the Hard Rock investor should do some listening.

From Adrian Walker on September 14, 2006 at 9:46 AM
Aw come on Robert, we knew this was going to happen, some idiot disagrees with commen sense and goes on the rampage. Nevermind, just one person (who you have made anonymous, shielding him from the firm kicking he would recieve from the many insiders on this site. I for one am feeling like serving up some final justice!)

Besides, if we all agreed on stuff, thier would be world peace, we can't have that now can we?! (note the sarcasm)

Long live TPI!!! Here's to many years of staying as THE number one website about theme parks!

Chocs away!!! A.W

From Christopher Reilley on September 14, 2006 at 12:46 PM
Excellent work Robert.You and everybody who reads and particapates on this site are a well rounded and knowledgeable group,Who know what is going on in the parks and represent Theme parks customer base.This person must have trained in the Dan Snyder school of theme park management and customer service school and if thats the way he thinks of this site and its people whats he doing visiting it and reading the posts.Investing money in a theme park does not make you an expert in the industry .
From Sandy Nguyen on September 15, 2006 at 8:53 AM
Customers' opinions definitely should hold value to these businessmen, but I will have to agree that customers are hardly likely to be experts in managing or running theme parks. There are some people who think they know everything just because they experienced a park just once and the Hard Rock guy was probably laughing at those kinds of people.
From ce R on September 15, 2006 at 4:09 PM
Investor- To lay out capital with a view to profit,The act to produce interest or profit.This doesnt make this person an Expert or prove that HE/She has a clue on how to manage or operate a theme park.Their predictions for guest attendence,how much they make ect are all projections on paper for a park not due to open till 2008.I find it laughable that this know it all investor who choose's to insult people who have a better understanding and Knowledge base of theme parks then He or She ever will not to mention possible future guests.Please Know it all investor stick your foot in your mouth even more .

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