What's fair compensation for theme park guests who are evacuated from rides?
Last week, many newspapers and TV stations reported a story about a disabled man who won $8,000 from Disney in a court case after he'd been stuck on It's a Small World for three hours. (We had it in the Blog Flume Filter last week
.) But the story was wrong: The man was kept on the ride for just 30 minutes. And the ride's music was turned off just a few minutes into the ordeal. The
payment seemed to have been based more on Disney's apparent inability to evacuate a guest with disabilities in a timely manner, in comparison with other guest evacuations, than any "pain and suffering" in having to listen to the Small World theme song for an extended period -- which is the mental image that helped the original, incorrect version go viral in the first place.
But the whole episode raises the question: What is appropriate compensation for a theme park visitor who has to be evacuated from a ride?
What's fair compensation when the theme park gremlins come looking for you?
Let's start with a basic assumption: This isn't the lottery. Theme parks shouldn't be obligated to hand over fat payments to visitors who get stuck on rides. You paid for a day in the park. If something goes wrong, and you're kept from enjoying part of your day in the park because you're stuck on a ride that's not operating properly, the park should do something to compensate you for that lost time. That's all.
So what should that compensation be?
Whenever you are evacuated from a ride, I think that you should get a pass to return to the front of the line for a re-ride later in the day, or be offered an immediate re-ride if the attraction returns to normal operation while you're still there. You've already waited for your ride and didn't get it, so there's no good reason why should be forced to wait again to experience the attraction.
When I worked at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and had to evacuate people from Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I also offered those visitors a bit of a "backstage" tour as we walked out of the ride. I'd ask if anyone wanted to hear more about the ride as we walked through the backstage areas, and while most did, a few guests would want to get out of there as quickly as possible so I'd honor that and just keep moving quietly. But I thought it simple courtesy to make myself available to answer questions.
If an evacuation delay of an hour or more caused you to miss a meal or show reservation, it's also reasonable for you to ask that the park's guest relations staff help you to make alternate arrangements. (If an evac took more like 15 minutes, and you still missed your ressie, well, you shouldn't have cut it that close. Don't complain.) If you're stuck for close to a couple hours, or more, it might be reasonable to ask for a free one-day ticket to the park, to replace the day that you didn't get to fully enjoy because of the mishap.
All this assumes that you weren't hurt or had any of your property damaged while on the ride. If either of those did happen, though, you should be entitled to immediate help, such as first aid provided at the park's expense, or the repair, replacement or payment for damaged clothes or other property. (The only case of damaged property I ever saw was from hydraulic fluid from a leaking animatronic.) If your injury is the fault of the park, you should be entitled to full medical care for your injuries, at the park's expense. And if what happened was your fault, well, you shouldn't be asking the park to pay a dime.
Remember that not everyone gets off a ride at the same time during an evacuation. Most rides have designated evacuation points and, based upon the ride's design, you might not be taken off your vehicle at the evacuation point nearest you when the ride stops. Someone has to be the last person off a ride, so don't get extra upset if that person happens to be you. Just ask nicely for the compensation you believe you deserve, given the time you were stuck on the ride.
That said, parks aren't allowed under federal law to say that all able-bodied persons get off the ride first, and then we'll worry about the persons with disabilities later. If a ride's evacuation plan doesn't accommodate persons with disabilities in a reasonable manner (or otherwise discriminates against any other certain class of people), that's a fair case for complaint -- to the park itself, or to appropriate state or federal agencies. If you're wondering how to file a complain with a government agency, or even which agency to complain to, look up a phone number or email address for your local elected state Legislature or U.S. House representative and ask for "constituent services." That'll get you put in touch with someone in the rep's office who can help steer you in the appropriate direction.
If you felt unsafe during the evacuation or your wait for assistance, or if you were stuck on the ride for many hours, then it's fair to ask for compensation beyond a free return pass and admission to the park. If local or state authorities aren't already investigating the incident, use that constituent services phone number to ask for one.
The overwhelming majority of the time -- ninety-nine-point-lots-of-nines-percent -- park personnel come through with fair compensation and take care of the people who've been inconvenienced or hurt in their parks. They want happy customers and will make the reasonable effort to help you feel happy at the end of the day. Only when visitors and park managers disagree over what is "reasonable" will cases end up with lawyers, in court.
In those cases, it's up to a jury to decide whether the visitor's request was reasonable or not. Which is why I think it's so important for you to show up next time you're called for jury duty. If we're going to get reasonable decisions from the courts, we need reasonable people on those juries. Don't leave that duty to someone else when you're called to do your part.
Have you ever been offered compensation from a theme park for an evacuation or some other mishap? Have you ever asked for that? Please share your story, in the comments.
I do think that if a ride breaks down when you are in line you should get a front of the line pass as well. It is very frustrating to get a fast pass for a ride only to have it break down or you have been waiting in line for a half hour and the ride breaks down.
I think anything over an hour should be a free 1 day pass, under that not really anything except maybe a free burger or butterbeer if at Universal. In 2007 I was stuck on spiderman for maybe 20 minutes if that and didnt get or want anything, it was just one of those things that happend. Unless youre stuck on a ride for an hour or more should you really get anything substantial, less than that, something like I stated above.
i have never been evacuated, but back in 1990 we got free complimentary tickets as most of the rides at universal were not working. (i still have them somewhere unused too)
Also, if you stay at universal, a front of the line pass wouldn't matter.
I agree with all of your comments regarding what is fair. However, these days, it's all about what you can get for what you don't deserve because of "the economy". I'm sick of hearing that statement. People feel more and more entitled to things like excessive compensation when something unfortunate happens. It sucks that a ride breaks down, especially while you were on it but I also know it happens from time to time.
When "The Forbidden Journey" first opened at USIOA, it was VERY glitchy for a while. The first time my son and I rode it, the ride got stuck partway through and we were suspended in midair for a short while, then when they finally got it going, the film was all screwed up and pretty much ruined the ride for us. I thought the LEAST they could have done was let us stay on and go around again - but NOOOO ... they made us get off and get BACK in line! I was really pissed.
My niece and I were evacuated from Revenge of the Mummy in Universal Orlando twice in one day and both times in the same spot.
The longest I was ever on a breakdown was about 15 minutes on Forbidden Journey adjacent to the Dragon's mist spray. Actually enjoyed it immensely, especially my girlfriend's screaming most of the time. I would have probably paid extra for that whole bit. LOL
The man didn't win a judgement from a court for $8000. The man threatened a suit, and Disney settled with him for $8000.
I was stuck on Splash Mountain with my daughter and had to be evacuated after the decision was made to shut it down after over 45 minutes waiting in our logs. Cast members walked by twice without speaking to anyone and clearly were unsure what to do. A man with a younger child that had to go to the bathroom tried asking a passing cast member if he could get out but was ignored. After a half hour he disregarded the overhead speaker instructions and got out of the log with his child seeking an exit.
At Cedar Point, a few years ago, my husband and grandson and I waited nearly 1 hour and a half to get onto the "Maverick" for the final ride of the day. The wait was so long because the ride had been interrupted. Eventually, we were told that it would be shut down for the day and all the people that were stuck on the ride and all the people waiting in line still were given the option to walk over with a guide to "the Dragster" (which had an average wait time of 2 hrs) and be taken right to the front of the line to compensate. That was awesome.
My most memorable ride evac was from Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea. At this point in time I had only lived in Japan for about 6 months and was no where near fluent in the language. My vehicle stopped on the descent into the mushroom forest. Pre-recorded announcements (thankfully bilingual) were made to inform us they would be evacuating and wait for a cast member. When the cast members arrived to release our lap bars and walk us up the cat walks, they only spoke Japanese, so I just played follow the leader and did whatever everyone else in my vehicle did so that I could figure out where to go/what to do.
I understand and agree with most of the observations you made and Disney is top notch at handling guest's issues (usually resulting in a Magical Moment for the guest). My thought on the issue would be if someone had an "accident" due to incontinence, illness, hypoglycemic attack / diabetic shock / panic attack during a 30 minute or more delay on a ride. For the people experiencing these life threatening / embarrassing situations in an enclosed and isolated location could very easily be worth a substantial compensation.
There shouldn't be any compensation if guests were evacuated quickly and without incidence. That didn't happen here. The disabled guest was forced to wait much longer than other guests. They need to improve their evacuation procedures to ensure guests were not made to wait. This happens all the time. Rides like roller coasters are especially bad in evacuating their guests. Some wait times are several hours.
1 day free pass, valid for 1 year from the date of the incident.
As in insider, I was a rides mechanic, we had to evacuate rides quite often but the safety of the guests was number one. Sometimes it may seem like a long wait but it's because of safety concerns. We always tried to get the ride going first. If we couldn't then the decision to evacuate the ride as safely as possible would be made. People have to remember that getting people off the ride in tough spots is not easy. As for being compensated for it, I think guests sometimes expect too much. As much as we try to make rides as foolproof as can be, they are machines and machines break. As long as the crew gets you off safely and as quickly as possible you should be glad they have a plan to do so. We would always tell the guests what was happening and that we would get them off as soon as we can. Most understood and were very cooperative. I can only remember two or three times when a guest got upset and unruly.
I got in a bus accident on a Disney bus going from the hotel to Downtown Disney in 2009. We sat and waited at the scene while the bus driver talked to dispatch and talked to the driver of the car he rear ended. After a good half hour, he drove the bus to a parking lot and waited there for a replacement bus that came over 1/2 hour later. The driver took all of our names and numbers, which also took a while. We never heard a peep and never received as much as a phone call for missing dinner reservations and having to sit there almost 2 hours.
At least Disney tries to compensate for something. If this happened at Six Flags! Good Luck. I was not even on the ride when an accident happen on the coaster. The young teenagers working at the time said it will be a 20 min wait. Find no problem. Then it became a 30 min wait. Again, no problem being this was a new ride. Then after waiting for about 45 min. they said the ride was closing for the day. At this time the park was closed and people complained that they could have ridden another ride during that waiting time. I was returning back to the park the next day so to me it was no big deal. However, they offered us to pick between two other coasters that are popular and usually have a long wait. So the staff says the folks are aware of the breakdown and will let us ride one last time.
Sadly, as hard as I try, in 18 years of visiting Disney Parks (DLP,WDW,DLR) for many days every year, I have never experienced a break down. The closest I came was, after waiting for 5 minutes for RnRC at DHS; it went down. I received a FastPass valid for the next week at any time. On another note...
They should be compensated nothing.
Well said!!!! I agree. I was stuck on the Mummy right below the ceiling of flames for 10 min. I didn't get upset because these things happen. I did get a little nervous because our faces were getting hot (fire was off but heat still there)but I knew we were in capable hands.
The judgement is a joke and says a lot about what his wrong with the world today.
Mark Cat in the hat does not have CM.. CM are from Disney so it makes sense they would not help you. Or were you in 2 parks at the same time?
Things happen. You're paying to get into the park, not to ride specific rides, the last time I went I was disappointed that a couple of rides I've not had the chance to ride since I was a kid had broken down. Gutted actually but that's life, I'll ride them again one day.
I was stuck on Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom for over 30 minutes several months ago. It was funny when all the lights came on; all the "plants and greenery" looked like Disney used all their old Christmas trees and stapled them to the wall. They were not happy people were videotaping the ride with the lights on. We got a fast pass, but the ride never opened. That same night I got evacuated off Everest at the main lift hill....Not a good night. Three weeks later on a cold January night we were stuck on Rip, Ride, Rock-it at the 2nd to last break run. (pretty high up as we could see the fireworks going off at Disney. It was freezing cold and they offered us front of the line pass good for a two week period. We were stranded up there for at least 30 minutes and they had to bring a battery pack type device and unlock each seat one by one. Not fun, but, it didn’t ruin my night. (Season passes make things not so bad)
One time I was stuck on Nemo Subs for over an hour. When they got me off they gave a return pass for the ride which was beneficial since the ride has recently opened and wait times were around 3 hours. I was visiting by myself but I noticed the ticket was good for 5 or 6 riders. When I went back to re-ride later that evening, I picked out a family of four that was far back in the line and got them to the front with me.
Been evacuated twice.Once from splash mt at magic kingdom and once at tower of terror at hollywood studios.Both times we didn 't have to ask. We were automatically given front of line passes and also fast passes to whatever attraction we wanted.We actually thought it was pretty exciting and cool.
Four of us got stuck on Rip Ride Rockit on the furthest out break run for about 30-40 minutes. Since we were the furthest out, we were the last to be evacuated. The staff finally made it out to us with waters for everyone and a medic to check on us. We all got express passes to come back and go to the front. It was about 90 degrees that day, super hot, but the breeze helped. The worst part was listening to the same song over and over. All in all, I think they handled it fine and I expected no more than the water and express pass. No one was hurt and the time to evacuate us seemed reasonable.
I am almost completely in agreement with what Robert Niles has said and largely in agreement with what others have said. Last July I got stuck on Maverick for almost 45 minutes and the compensation given by Cedar Point - one ride each on Maverick, Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster without having to wait in line - struck me as equitable at the time. However, upon reconsideration, I think that a Fast Lane pass for the remainder of the day would have been more equitable. 98.17649.12 referred to baking in the hot sun. This is precisely the condition under which I was stuck on Maverick due to a rollback, and as a result I became nauseated and suffered a severe sunburn. So I may have been undercompensated. The maddening thing is that if someone had simply released the restraints, I could have walked off the ride. But no, ride op said that she couldn't let anyone off without the permission of a supervisor. I understand that there are rules to be followed, but forcing riders to sit there in the blazing heat, made even hotter by the harnesses, did not strike me as entirely reasonable or justifiable.
One morning I was evacuated from an indoor roller coaster/dark ride attraction twice. I just enjoyed the experience. I was treated to a behind the scenes tour as I was safely escorted through the building and didn't wait more than 5-10 minutes each time. This was a three train operation and when I went back to ride again later in the day I was remembered as being evacuated twice and the ride op joked that she wasn't sure if she should let me on. It was all in good fun and we did make the complete circuit the third time. Now, if I had sat in the hot sun 300 feet in the air for 4 hours, well I might have felt the need to ask for something.
Most of the times I've been stuck, it was only for a few minutes so I didn't really expect anything.
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