Knott's Berry Farm has been run into the ground - Dangerous - please read

Knott's Berry Farm: Our recent experience for the 2009 Halloween Haunt at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. PLEASE READ THIS before visiting. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!!!!

From Michael Hoffman
Posted October 21, 2009 at 12:25 PM
I'm a long time reader here and big time roller coaster enthusiast. This, however, is my first post.

Any help contacting a legitimate Cedar Fair Management/Customer Relations employee would be much appreciated (not working directly for Knott's Berry Farm - explained later).

A long story short.

I work in the film industry. And, luck have it, every year it seems I find myself in So Cal for 2-3 months.

However; my recent trip to Knott's Berry Farm was very unnerving

My history with Knott's Berry Farm is a shaky one. The first time I visited the park was in 2001. My ex-girlfriend and I had gone to the Anaheim area (we're from Florida were HUGE Disney junkies) to visit the newly opened California Adventure - and decided to see "the original theme park". However; at the time I was pretty heavy - and, ironically - felt like I was slipping from my harness on the Perilous Plunge. I was horrified on the ride - and told the ride operator. It was 5 days later - when my ex and I were shopping at the Knott's area (ironically) - when the 260+ pound woman fell to her death from the same ride. We were in the Snoopy store across the walkway from the Chicken Dinner restaurant when it happened.

I'm a HUGE roller coaster junkie - and didn't visit the park again until years later. I was nervous when I went back - but wanted to go on the "Kingdom of the Dinosaurs" again. I was sad to see it was shut. But - Ghostrider - my favorite ride in the park - was there. Unfortunately it also was closed. Turned out, after I got home and looked it up, the "maintenance" being performed was because a child, while waiting in line, was hit in the head with a flying piece from the ride. This had happened few days before I visited.

Bad luck again.

Fast forward a few years.

Last summer I was working in Santa Monica for 2 months - and decided to give Knott's another shot. I had a GREAT time - but noticed that the back seat of Ghostrider was almost unbearably bumpy. I mean - BUMPY. But the visit was fun. I discovered the "Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant" was delicious - and a steal considering a lot of the prices in SoCal.

My girlfriend visited me out there a month later - and I took her to Knott's. She loved it. The history of the park really interested us (reading the place mats in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant) and she loved the Calico Mine Train.

So far - up to this date - I'd had a mixed history with the park. 4 visits - 2 accidents (one fatal) within every other one.

Okay. Fast forward to last week.

My girlfriend was celebrating her 30th Birthday. We booked a trip to Vegas for a week - but decided to break it up with a trip to a haunted amusement attraction in California (we're HUGE horror junkies).

We decided on Knott's (since they were the first to do the haunted park).

Big mistake. We should have done Magic Mountain.

First of all - we could put up with the clientele (being fully frisked by metal detector to get in was a real treat). We could even put up with the "actors" in the haunted houses who, at every other corner, were taking photos, talking with friends, or on their cellphones (no exaggeration).

However - what happened when attempting to go on our first coaster was inexcusable and downright scary.

2 1/2 hours into the event; we decided to get on the Accelerator. However; there was a trash can in front of the ride. When we asked the nearest park attendant what had happened - he literally said "didn't you see the news"? "No" I replied. "I'm from Florida and not local". He then told us that the chain had snapped - and sent a rider's leg into the line que.

Well, my girlfriend freaked out (understandably) - knowing the Perilous Plunge story (I had told before her first visit the year before) - and wouldn't ride ANYTHING else.

After 20 minutes of trying to accommodate her nerves - we were left to wonder - IF this had happened - WHY did the kid that worked there tell us? Couldn't he just have said "closed for refurbishing" or "maintenance" etc.?

Well, it ruined our night. We decided to walk to the front of the park for some sort of compensation.

Big mistake.

It took almost 20 minutes to trek to the Customer Relations office (where they do the annual passes) - then spoke with Sonya; who was as helpful as she was trained to be. She told us our problem was a "ride" problem - and we were forced to wait for the "rides manager". While waiting for 20 mins (or more) - another woman entered the office whom worked for Knott's. She then told us that the story was "made up" by the park employee. There was no incident on the Accelerator. My girlfriend then asked - "Well, if that was a Halloween prank, it wasn't funny. What was the point in telling us?"

I then took out my Iphone a did an internet search - found there was, in fact, an accident on the Accelerator - but the kid's leg was not ripped off. He was just severly injured. I showed this to the park employee - who wouldn't look at my phone - stating "I don't have my glasses on". She then rudely left the office.

We waited for 10 minutes more. Finally, I approached Sonya again - and asked if anyone was coming. She said she'd try "rides" again. I then said to please call customer service and explained the Perilous Plunge story I had. We offered this - Our tickets were a package with the room (at the Knott's "Resort" Hotel). We were willing to leave the hotel room - go back to Vegas - and just wanted our tickets pro-rated for the aggravation. She said they wouldn't do it. She finally agreed to call another department of the park.

Fast forward 5 more minutes. In walks Joey - head of some sort of operations for Cedar Fair. He literally strong arms us - with a group of 4 members of the security team (mind you I was never loud or belligerent) - all large in stature - and he begins to explain "no refunds" and "no partial refunds". I stated - "Look. This is a 6 hour event." (it was last Thursday - the operating hours are shorter) "This has been almost an hour occurrence".

He then wanted me to walk to the back of the park and pick out the employee - in person - who told me about the Accelerator accident. I asked - "Will you compensate me anything for this - or just fire the employee?" - He said "We offer no refunds. This is a non-refundable event". Okay. So they wanted us to walk to the back of the park - pick out an employee - get him fired - then receive NOTHING.

First of all; that seems unsafe for us. Secondly; It's a waste of ANOTHER 30 - 40 minutes. Joey then continued to intimidate us with his group of thugs (or security personnel). I asked for a Knott's corporate number for Cedar Fair - he said it wouldn't matter. He ran the entire company (literally - no joke). Any calls I made would just be looped to him. After security seemed to inch nearer and nearer toward us - just itching to have us arrested for a made up charge - we decided to just leave the park. Sonya seemed sincerely discouraged at how the whole event was handled.

At 11:10 PM we entered the Resort Hotel - and spoke with Lisa and Andy at the front desk. They also said no refunds - but were much, much friendlier and seemed to feel for us.

When I was doing an internet search in my room later - looking for a Cedar Fair number - I accidentally stumbled on lots of Knott's Berry Farm articles. One mentioned how a woman broke her back riding Ghostrider. Another was from a park employee written this past July - stating that the park was poorly maintained; and that they pay off the health and ride inspectors (last time I eat at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant). I would have thought the article was written by an angry ex employee - but too many instances could be found and verified on internet searches. Almost ALL of them.

This whole event really depressed us. Not only has Berry Farm apparently been run into the ground - but on how dangerous this place is. From the clientele - to the park itself. It seems as if they are catering to the lowest common denominator - and cutting back on safety regimens to maintain maximum profit. Great for the share holders I'm sure - but for us?

As someone who has visited multiple Cedar Fair parks in the past - Knott's Camp Snoopy; Cedar Point; Valleyfair; King's Dominon (when Paramount still owned it - but were thinking of going back) and Geauga Lake (for the 2004 Halloween Event - we were some of the ONLY customers there); I can assure you we'll never be back.

If anyone can find a real corporate number for Cedar Fair employees (as the one I was given just seemed to loop around for investors) that would be much appreciated.

And please; if you have a family and are thinking of a park - avoid Knott's Berry Farm. Or, if this article isn't enough - just do some internet searches first. If the clientele in the park isn't enough to turn you away; or the condition of the rides; the company employees will. They seem to look at the bottom line as opposed to your safety.

I understand accidents happen at every park - but this one seems prone to them. And they don't seem to care. In fact, the woman that broke her back on Ghostrider was apparently counter sued by Cedar Fair - they had stated that she entered the park with a broken back(!) and then got on the ride so they would pay for her medical bills(!!!!). That was only a few weeks after the same ride had suffered an incident in which a child whom was riding in the 2nd to last row - was thrown INTO the back row of seats - mid ride. Now, that's scary.

Thanks for reading.

From Nick Markham
Posted October 21, 2009 at 3:06 PM
^ Okay, first off, you ahev got to take this into consideration.

You are complaining about a ride being broken down and an employee giving incorrect information. This happens at every park. IF you researched everything before visiting the park, you would have noticed Xcelerator closes a lot.

Next I want to know why you would waste your time finding the desk to complain when you could have either a, riden some rides, or b, gone through some of the haunted attractions.

I am sorry, but it is hard for me to believe a park that I spent a week at with no problems could be such a hassle when it is not really that big of a deal at all.

Plus, I thought you said you were a heavy reader of this site. If you were, you would have noticed this news way before you left to KBF.

From Rob P
Posted October 22, 2009 at 1:47 AM
If your story is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then you need to fire off a letter to the CEO.
I don't know what Health & Safety bodies you have in the US but I would suggest writing to them too. Any investigation would then be unbiased and thorough.
If, as seems more likely, it's simply a matter of staff at Knotts being given complete autonomy in the running of the Park when they are grossly underqualified then that is a problem that needs to be addressed.
I have to say that I have visited Knotts several times over the past 13 years and have never encountered such problems and have been blissfully unaware of anyone else who has. That's not to say that what you say is false. Although I have to agree that one of the reasons I am a member of TPI is that this kind of incident is usually reported here immediately and discussed fully by our fellow members.
But please keep us all informed about how your official complaint is handled.

From Phil Beska
Posted October 22, 2009 at 9:38 AM
Everybody has different views and experiences when going to a theme park. Sometimes an initial experience can leave a lasting impression that tends to taint any future visit. The anxiety of malfunctioning rides and or rider injuries at Knott's is clearly the culprit in this case. That, coupled with what seems to just be bad timing in visiting this park as it relates to said incidents, seems to have you on edge before you even enter the park. I think it's totally understandable, and don't blame you for being sensitive to this, giving your explained history.

With all that being said, the major issue at hand here, is the unprofessional level of customer service you seemed to have experienced. Whatever the parks policy's are in regards to refunds, I have no idea. However, I'm sure intimidation tactics most likely aren't a part of the customer relations handbook. Clearly you guys were getting the run around in the beginning, and when they saw you were not about to give up so easily, they switched to intimidation. So sad, for a place that prides itself on trying to ensure their customers have the best experience possible. If they were extremely accommodating and understanding, perhaps you would have been inspired to write a glowing review of KBF and how they handled your situation.

I would suggest writing a well put together letter, one that does not use the strong arm mentality you experienced, but expresses your dissatisfaction and overall disappointment in your experience with KBF for the day that you were there as a customer. Be eloquent and choose your words wisely. State your case and include any information pertinent such as dates, times and the names of people you interacted with. As in any business, customer feedback is crucial if you wish to remain in business and offer a quality product to your customers. Hopefully, Cedar Point will take note of your letter and take the appropriate steps towards rectifying the situation for you, as well as reviewing the management team and the level of professionalism they conduct themselves with at KBF. If this had been some form of undercover customer service review conducted by Cedar Fair themselves, I'm sure there would have been much explaining to do from all personnel involved. Good luck if you seek to pursue this any further, and I'm sorry you had such a bad experience.

From Rob P
Posted October 23, 2009 at 1:58 AM
I don't suppose that someone from Knott's would like to make a comment about this incident or their customer service policies here on TPI ?

From rick stevens
Posted October 23, 2009 at 10:06 AM
I have attended the Haunt for years, and have seen both good and bad customer service. I talked with one couple that complained that they were harassed by attendees since he was very tall and they assumed he was part of the Haunt. The customer service was not very accommodating. On the other hand, I have seen many instances where CM's were of great help. I think it boils down to the luck of the draw. You can encounter bad customer service at all of the parks, but the good tends to outweigh the bad. We tend to lash out at the bad and not reward the good. I know we had a "Favorite CM" article, but maybe we should have a permanent place to be able to pour out our praise of the helpful CM.

From Rob P
Posted October 23, 2009 at 10:56 AM
Whilst I applaud Rick's idea to reward good CMs with some well earned praise aren't we missing the point that good service ought to be the norm rather than the exception ?

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.