Roller Coaster Customer Service

By Sara Naor

There are a ton of reasons to hate amusement parks. The long lines, the heat, the exorbitant price for food … But as much as you may hate being put in that situation, we ride operators hate dealing with customers who come to the park surprised that this is the experience.

During high school I worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain. During that time I made some amazing friends, had some remarkable experiences and some truly terrible, terrible customers.

I understand your plight though, I really do. It is hot; you are tired and cranky and just want that satisfaction of the thrilling ride promised to you. So when something goes wrong your short fuse is even more likely to go off.

I was working Goliath (the giant Mega coaster with the drop that was more than 250 feet). and it was one of the first times my manager had decided to trust me to hold down the fort while he went to a meeting.

At Six Flags parks there are these super fantastic VIP passes. They cost $300 a pop and you need at least a group of four to be eligible. This price entitles you to free food and games all day, an escort around the park to be your own personal slave and unlimited front of the line “cutting” privileges. It is this last part that causes the most problems for us ride operators.

It was one of those perfect storm days when everything hit the fan. The line for the ride was a whopping two hours long, it was well over 100 degrees and three of the top roller coasters had shut down for maintenance.  People in line were getting restless and it was my duty, as the main ride operator (the one in charge of pushing the button and greeting the guests) to keep the mood friendly and lively.

There is only so much you can do to cheer up guests though. And after waiting two and a half hours for the front row, if someone cuts in front of you, as a customer you are going to be pissed (no matter how much more they paid for their ticket).

Now it isn’t like we just let their seat be occupied. We attempted to explain to the very grumpy middle-aged man why his seat was being taken, and assured him he would be on the very next train.

Little did we know we had gold member riders (another specialty ticket for a specialty price) who were entitled to their second ride in any seat they desired — even the front row — coming in on the next train.

Imagine this poor man’s surprise when I had to have my unload seat checker tell him again that he would have to wait for this train to come back.

The girl explaining the situation to him was a new hire; This was probably her second week at my ride but she was very sympathetic and understanding and assured the man the wait wouldn’t be more than two minutes. He, of course, did not respond as calmly.

He gave this poor girl such language and anger that I was sure she would burst into tears right on the spot. The moment he started talking I knew we had a 10-65 situation on our hands (irate guest) as well as a 10-35 situation [JT1] (stranded guests) because I could not move the second train to let the guests off.

This man was standing outside of the gate, trying to verbally abuse both my ride operators and the people taking up his seat in hopes of ensuring he would be able to ride. He refused to move until he spoke to my manager (who was in a meeting) and my supervisor (who was in another meeting).

It is important to note that the guests who were in the seats he wanted had already volunteered to vacate and wait for the next car but this was not good enough for the man.

I was forced to call security because he would not move back from the gate and was holding up the train, and because he was using inappropriate language quite loudly (an act that can get you thrown out of the park). But security, as always, takes a few minutes and we couldn’t just let this man keep screaming.

I was unable to move from my panel station nor could I talk to him through my microphone so we had to have the guests exit the ride, let him cross to the other side of the station, and talk to me at the panel. I was unable to console this man and he was ready to camp out for the long haul.

After spending a few more minutes cursing at me, calling me incompetent and threatening my job, security finally showed up along with my supervisors who had just finished their meeting. They led the man away, who didn’t struggle when presented with a badge.

Though I understand he was grumpy, his actions and the way he handled himself were completely inappropriate and he made himself and my team look like fools. The one positive thing that came from it was that both my manager and supervisor said I handled the situation perfectly and they were confident I could be left in charge more often.

The moral of the story is, next time you want to snap and take out your frustrations on an operator they are just as frustrated as you are  — and you’ll get no benefit of a ride at the end of the day. Try to treat people with respect and don’t make an ass out of yourself!

[JT1]Is this referring to how many minutes he’s been waiting?