When the park begins its season, there are a few returning associates who know how to do their jobs, but haven’t performed them since late the previous Fall. A large portion of the staff is made up of huge numbers of brand new, "green," employees who have never worked in a theme park and possibly never worked any job, anywhere before! The park even allows a limited number of fifteen-year-olds to work in the park. It is likely that it is the very first job they’ve ever held.
If you're just joining Kings Island Park Hacks, welcome! This is both a book and a community of Park Hackers. Park Hacks are suggestions and tips... or hacks, to help families discover better ways to experience the park. Small behavior changes like choosing a different day or recognizing when there needs to be a shift in plans, can help turn a bad day at the park into one of the best!
When you visit a seasonal theme park many times during the season and over different years, you begin to notice patterns. There is a cycle in the development of the staff that that changes your experience throughout the season. I don’t mean to insult the park employees. For many, these are the first jobs they’ve ever held. A lot of them are very young and quite green when it comes to any kind of customer service. There are others who have a lot of experience or are quite sharp from the start. This section describes the trend of how the overall average level of employee experience starts low and then improves with experience.
Opening Day to Late Spring
There is a lot to learn and the staff are given many rules to govern both themselves and you the visitors. They also have safety concerns because people can get killed on these rides. It is rare, but unfortunately it does occasionally happen. If these new associates are handling money and food prep without previous experience, they also tend to be very, VERY slow and careful. (This is a good thing.)
It also takes time for the staff to build up to full capacity. Colleges and high schools let out at different times. Recruiting and training continues on through this time right up to Memorial Day. Many headaches are also caused because they simply don’t have enough people to operate all the stations or to restock supplies.
During this soft opening period, the crowds are lighter. This helps get the new employees used to their new responsibilities and their speed and accuracy gradually increases.
So from season’s opening in late April, to Memorial Day you can expect:
- Very slow lines everywhere for food and ride loading, often with multiple bottle-necks for each wait.
- Food that is prepared with a ridiculous attention to detail. This then may result in hot or cold food being served closer to room temperature than you’d like.
- Checkout lines that are slow as the cashiers work out bugs in the point of sale system that appears extremely complex and requires an exorbitant number of screen taps to ring up a meal and drink.
- Lines filled with irate customers who are tired and hungry because they waited 45 to 120 minutes for overpriced pizza.
- Ride operators with a Barney Fife-like, by-the-book, behavior who will check and recheck the height of your child or the age of teenagers who are escorting the small children. There are rules and they must be followed!
With a Little Patience, It is Worth It!
Considering this part of the season, the quality of service isn’t uniform, but it improves steadily. You may have a great experience on any of these days. There are a few days on the calendar when you are most likely to have a fantastic visit. The weekdays just before Memorial Day weekend have the staff up to speed, fairly well trained and the crowds are still light.
Memorial Day weekend is a different story. I don't go on Memorial Day weekend.
Photo credit: Barney Fife public domain.