How to write a complaint about a theme park
By Robert NilesOver the years, many readers have submitted complaints about theme parks to Theme Park Insider. Whether it's on the discussion forum, the ratings and review pages, or here on the Blog Flume, reader feedback about the parks has helped millions of TPI readers plan better vacations.
Published: July 16, 2009 at 9:00 PM
However, I do sometimes delete complaints, or decide not to approve them when they are submitted as new threads to the forum. I'd like to explain why.
I can the complaints when I feel that they are presented in such a way that will focus TPI readers' anger not on the allegedly offending park, but on the reader who submitted the complaint. I don't want to TPI to become a forum for attacking its readers. Go someplace else if you want that virtual bloodsport. But, from time to time, I feel the need to protect readers from their fellow readers. And that's why I delete or decline to promote certain threads. (It's because I'm trying to protect certain parks or chains, or because I'm hostile to certain types or classes of people - all accusations I've had throw at me over the years.)
So how can you make a complain about something that went wrong at a theme park, without sounding so shrill that readers turn on you instead? Let's talk about that, today, as well.
I'm going to suggest a simple principle I learned in journalism school: show, don't tell.
Start by setting the scene. Show us where you went, and when. Then describe what happened to you that caused you to complain. Don't judge anyone or offer your opinion - just describe the scene and the people within it: What happened? To whom? And when?
Then describe for how you - or the person harmed - reacted. If there was no outward reaction, how did the incident make you (or the other person) feel? How did it affect your day, your vacation, and the days and weeks after? Keep this short and don't assign any blame to anyone else. Just describe.
Finally, if you see an obvious way that the incident could have been prevented, or the aftermath better addressed, suggest that. But don't accuse anyone of any ill will, and especially do not accuse anyone of a crime, including unlawful discrimination or negligence. If that is what happened, your description will make that clear - you do not need to make an accusation explicit.
Oh, and try to do this all in no more than 500 words. The shorter, and the more clear, the better.
The minute folks start throwing around words like "discrimination" and "lawsuit" and other punitive terms, the natural reaction of many readers is to become defensive of the parks that they love so well. And some of those readers then turn against the individual who wrote the complaint. They can accuse their fellow readers of all sorts of dark motives, from trying to get rich off suing a park, or trying to hog publicity and sympathy with trumped-up claims.
That the complaining reader might have a perfectly valid complaint falls beside the point. And I can't stand that. I hate to see people have a bad time at theme parks, and I hate even more to see that unfortunate experience compounded by a bad experience here.
So that's why I am offering this advice today. I want the necessary complaints written here - and those sent directly to the parks themselves - to get positive action. Valid complaints ought to lead to changes that make the parks better experiences for everyone. Not to inattention or further hostility. Thanks for reading.
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