Screams Park Exposed (10/22/03) this year's visit to the previous perennial favorite gone sour. The detailed experience.

The Extreme Scream (pictured)

Well this year’s visit to Screams “The World’s Largest Halloween Theme Park” (at least my 4th or 5th time to attend) gave me a chance to meet some of the management and learn about their (dis)regard for their park’s attendees.

It started out the same as in years past. It requires an hour’s drive to Waxahachie but it is worth it because you can make an entire night of it. We were in a group of four and arrived shortly before 10pm. Operating hours on Friday nights are 7pm to 1:30am. With three and a half hours to see four haunted houses and other attractions, we were a little concerned about the time, but it would depend on the crowd size.

After no wait to buy tickets and breezing right into our first haunted house without even one group ahead of us, we relax, figuring that we’ve picked a good night to attend and it shouldn’t be any problem to see it all. We wander around a bit, get some food and drinks, visit the museum (a bunch of posters and a handful of props, it’s neat though, something different). I’m very excited as judging from the first house, they seem to have ratcheted up the quality and scares a bit from last year.

The Black Hole has no line whatsoever, but the Maze and 3-D Terror Visions (an aside on Terror Visions: It may be time for an update. The glasses + “3D-like” wall paintings of evil clowns and circus acts is getting a bit repetitious) lines seem to be moving brutally slow. Right outside these lines is a kiosk selling “fast passes,” for an additional $15, which allow you to skip the lines and go straight in to any attraction, a la Disney World (conspiracy theories anyone?).

So, after waiting in those lines, it’s getting towards 1 am and the “All new for 2003 Extreme Scream” haunted house awaits. After a quick trip to the bathroom, we make our way over to the line to discover it’s been roped off. Closed. There are still people in line and the castle is tauntingly blasting flames into the sky, they just aren’t allowing any more people to get in line and a staffer is “guarding” the rear.

Obviously disappointed after making the trip, paying close to $20 admission and then not getting to see the main attraction, I attempted to make my case with this man. After fighting through his ignoring posture and finally getting his attention, I explained the scenario and asked why they cut off lines with no notice. He gives the obvious “If I let you in, I’ve got to let everyone else in” argument, and turns his back.

Well, I still need an explanation as to why you can’t go through an attraction DURING OPERATING HOURS. I’m persistent in trying to get this guy to address the issue and am approached by a large man whose apparent intention is to run us off. Now this guy, ironically named Coy, turns out to be the general manager of the park, and has all kinds of attitude for me. From his “Hey, what’s the problem here,” approach, he had us pegged as troublemakers and would not listen to my argument at all. I was trying to explain to him that because they closed the line early, we did not get to go through the biggest attraction and did not feel as if we were getting our money’s worth. He basically said that it was too bad, that’s the way it is and they can’t leave the line open until 1:30 or else they will have to wait until everyone gets through before they can close. I explained that is fine, if that’s how they want to operate. However, if they are going to close portions of the park early, they need to make sure that people are aware of it so they can plan accordingly and not be caught off guard and end up disappointed as we were.

Now realize that I was not shouting at him, I was not drunk and disorderly, I was simply voicing my constructive criticism and making what I believe to be a useful suggestion that would make the park much more customer friendly and leave less people feeling gypped. What was his offer to remedy my dissatisfaction? “You can leave the line or I can have an officer escort you.” Wow. This is when I asked for his name and who was in charge and found out that he was the general manager. He even whipped out his business card so I could have a souvenir.

I leave the line and we head towards the exit. Meanwhile I’m looking around for someone else (someone hopefully a little more level headed) to voice my concern to. I’m approached by a wandering vendor and still fuming from my Coy encounter, unload on him a bit. This fellow however is very sympathetic, voices understanding of my concern, and gives me the name of the owner. I apologize for my initial brashness and thank him for the help.

Well, ok, so not everyone here are jerks, I’m feeling a little better about things and like I might be able to get some kind of resolution. A group of employees is standing around at the gate and I approach a lady who is not talking to anyone. I tell her that the main haunted house is closed (it’s still not 1:30 yet), that we didn’t get to go through it and ask for a partial refund. Apparently unaware that they had closed it, she says “oh really?” and directs me to speak with Greg, a man standing on the other side of the doorway

I walk over to him and tell him the same thing. His expression was no different than if I had asked him for his first born. He states that he cannot offer a refund, that their practice is to watch the lines towards the end of the night and if there’s an hour wait, they close them an hour before the rest of the park, and that applies to any or all of the attractions. I explain that that is problematic as many people may end up in the same situation as we did and that they need to notify people that attractions could be closing well before the park itself.

He asks what time we got there. I answer “around 10 o’ clock.” He says “well then you should have had enough time to see everything.” I tell him that he’s missing the point. Sure we had enough time, but we have to know in advance if we have less time than the advertised hours so we can plan accordingly. He asks what I expect him to do about it, walk around and tell everyone in the park? I tell him that he is being unreasonable, and he states that he thinks I’m being unreasonable. I offer (reasonable) suggestions including signs, telling people as they buy their tickets or as they enter. He responds that this is how they do it, and this is a quote: “What do you want me to do about it?” I reply that he can let us go through or give us a partial refund. Apparently that was too much to ask.

I gave up. What do I want him to do about it? How about a little respect? Showing some courtesy to your customers? Addressing their concerns instead of blowing them off as preposterous (whether they are or not) or treating them as troublemakers?

Isn’t it interesting how a strolling vendor, who has to be one of the low men on the totem pole, is the only one that offered any of this while two managers (including the GM) apparently view the attendees as something of a burden. Here’s my question: if you’re not up for the late hours, or could care less if people enjoy themselves or are satisfied with their visit, why even be in the business?

So there you have it. If you plan on a trip to Screams, consider yourself warned. Since they won’t tell you I will. There, that wasn’t so hard.

- Shrub