By now, you’ve seen pictures and video of a log sinking at Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World. While we don’t know what caused the log to sink, we are glad to see everyone was ok in the incident. The bigger issue is how the Cast Member who arrived on the scene first told them to stay in the log despite the fact that it was taking on water.
It’s baffling, astounding, and even unbelievable how this situation was handled. As the log began to sink and the guests were knee deep (and growing) in water, they decided to wiggle out of their lapbars and jump out as the situation escalated.
Under normal circumstances, freeing yourself from a restraint on any attraction is a bad idea. It can lead to serious injury or even death. Having your ride vehicle slowly sink into the trough while being pinned down isn’t normal. From my understanding, the water trough in that section of Splash Mountain isn’t deep enough to drown someone.
How does the average rider know that? Unlike a standard swimming pool, there are no markers along the sides of Splash Mountain letting you know the depth at any given point. When Skyelar Ingersoll and her friends started to become submerged (who were in this Splash Mountain log) they managed to wiggle out from the lap bars and jump out to safety.
Keep in mind, this was Skyelar’s first trip to Walt Disney World. She has never been on Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom, yet she knew when the log started to sink, it was time to jump ship.
However, when the Cast Member arrived on the scene, she didn’t see Skyelar’s boat sinking as the bigger issue. Instead, she chastised the group for not remaining seated as the log slowly sank to the floor. “At this time we ask that you not get out,” exclaimed the Cast Member who were standing along side the riders who were all watching the log slowly sink down and become submerged.
I spoke with Skyelar earlier today and asked about her experience. “I would’ve appreciated the Cast Member asking us if we were okay before lecturing us about staying in the boat. We understood that they have safety protocols they have to follow, but lecturing us about staying in a submerged boat… wasn’t cool.”
It just doesn’t seem fathomable. Someone who works at Splash Mountain clearly knows that logs sinking isn’t an everyday occurrence. Sure, seeing guests in an area they aren’t supposed to be in is unexpected. After seeing the log sinking and realizing that this is the reason they decided to jump ship, this should have triggered something in that employee’s brain.
Incredibly, the first thing out of the cast member’s mouth wasn’t “are you ok?”. As a matter of fact, according to Skyelar, at no point did the Cast Member even ask that very basic question. Forget the dynamic of theme park employee (who enforces the rules) and guest (who must obey them) for a moment. This is an issue of basic human decency.
Unfortunately, this is an issue that we have seen over and over again in theme parks: a lack of empathy. There are some incredible employees in the theme park industry. Sadly, far too many that lack the understanding to speak to thousands of people in a calm, firm and courteous way.
Surely I can’t be the only guest who has experienced this. You’re watching a parade and hear an employee yelling “Stay behind the line for your own safety! BEHIND! THE LINE!”. Sure, those words are indeed to make sure no one gets hurt. However the tone is, “stay back you filthy animals! I can’t keep telling you the same thing!”
Working in a theme park and being able to talk to guests is a skill. It’s not for everyone. You may have to repeat the same line over and over again all day. “Stay behind the line”, “Watch your step”, “Please remain seated”. These are all important safety spiels. However, even if you have to repeat them every five minutes (or more often) guests aren’t disobeying or ignoring them to annoy you.
Yes, this may come as a shock to many disgruntled theme park employees. All guests are not stupid. Nor do they do things to intentionally annoy you. Do some intentionally break the rules and jeopardize the safety of themselves and others? You bet.
Every situation is different. Do you still need to repeat the safety message? Of course. Should you take a second and think about not only what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it? Believe it or not, that is actually more important than the message itself. Even if you’re repeated it hundreds of times a day.
Before a theme park employee tells guests to do something, consider the following: Is this the first time this guest needs to be reminded of a safety guideline? Is it the second or third? Is it a young child? Does your tone sound more annoyed than assertive? Is it possible that this situation might be outside of the norm and needs additional consideration before barking orders?
What happened yesterday on Splash Mountain isn’t a tragedy because a log got submerged. It’s yet another theme park employee using their authority to try and bully a customer without proper justification. Sure, safety is paramount to the theme park experience. However, safety without empathy is what is lacking in far too many theme park workers.
If empathy doesn’t come naturally to a front line employee, can theme parks start to teach it? Is it necessary to the guest experience? I say it absolutely is, no matter if you’re a ride operator or the Vice President of a theme park. Hopefully, this situation (and this article) can be used as a starting point for a conversation to move forward and learn from this situation. Your thoughts?
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