The Danger of VIP Reporting: Haunted Hayride Edition

Above: Notice that nothing on the sign points to Customer Service.

The danger of receiving VIP treatment from events being reviewed is that it can blind us to the experience of actual customers. In a sense, we're not reviewing the event as most people experience it; we're reviewing the VIP version, with front-of-the-line access and other benefits that skew perception. We had a reminder of that last night when a relatively trivial incident put us shoulder to shoulder with some very unhappy customers.

We lost our hat on the tractor of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. That's our fault for being careless, and it would not be worth recounting if not for what we saw while trying to retrieve it. The helpful attendant at the exit explained that the missing hat would be brought to the Security booth if it were found. This sent us on a wild goose chase: Security palmed us off on someone who directed us to the ticket booth, where someone else sent us to a Customer Service booth, which neither we nor anyone who worked on site could find.

Along the way, we encountered paying customers who were receiving similar treatment. Some wanted to complain about long lines, difficult parking, and overall poor organization; one poor fellow had lost his wallet.  In a development that was nearly meta, everyone ended up complaining about the lack Customer Service to do anything about the complaints.

This is an unacceptable way to treat people who paid anywhere from $35 to $109 to enjoy themselves. We all know shit happens, but a popular, long-running attraction should have a system in place to deal with it. Last night, there was not even a person or place where an unfortunate customer could leave a phone number in case his missing wallet turned up (which, considering the nature of the haunted hayride, cannot be an unprecedented occurrence).

This is completely different from when Ten Thirty One Productions ran L.A. Haunted Hayride. Back then, owner Melissa Carbone was on site; when something went wrong, she was there to fix it (see here for an example). Unfortunately, new owners Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group do not run so tight a ship.

Update: Among the responses to this post, two are worth mentioning. They do not contradict our essential point (no customer service), but they do question our pinpointing the blame on new ownership. On Hollywood Gothique's Facebook page, one commenter recalls similar problems at L.A. Haunted Hayride when it was still owned by Ten Thirty-One Productions. Another comment, on the Haunter's Hangout Facebook page, notes that Melissa Carbone was on site during the Hayride's opening night. This is little consolation to opening-night customers who could not retrieve lost items or even register a complaint about overcrowding and poor organization.

 

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.