Coaster Kingdom


If you are anything like me, you would have been screaming at the television a year-or-two back when a stereotypical family visited Alton Towers in the summer holidays, arrived mid-morning and complained when they only got a couple of rides in immediately declaring it Britain’s Worst Day Out.

But it’s easy to forget the plight of Joe Public. As an enthusiast, we have a rough idea of what rides are the busiest, how best to avoid queues, when to visit and – more to the point – when not to visit.  

Nemesis Inferno Fastrack

Fastrack - a great way to save time at a park... if you know about it

We’re also well aware of incentives like Fastrack and Single Rider Queues and how to use them, both valuable ways to avoid the great unwashed, yet while the same schemes are available to Johnny and Sally Come-lately, it is easy to either not understand how to use them to your advantage, or miss the fact they even exist while being bewildered by other information prior to your visit.

Therefore, it is in the best interests of a theme park to make sure everybody’s visit is a pleasure that shouldn’t need to be organised with military precision.

Part of the battle plan for visitors is research. No wars were won fought blind, so it is important that from the moment a visitor expresses an interest, they do everything in their power to make their ride as smooth as possible – at least getting to the park, anyway.

If you’re an enthusiast, you need to be told how to suck eggs, so it’s easy to forget that someone – somewhere – will probably be tearing their hair out as they try and find a piece of information that to us is plainly obvious.

I think if a park wants your custom, you should be able to phone up with a question – however silly – and have it answered.

I also think that if a park wants your custom, their website should be up to the job of answering your question, and if not, at least give you a way to get that information by calling up or e-mailing.

And lest we forget those who don’t have online access. Well, I guess we could seeing as they can’t read this article and they’d be none the wiser, but of course, parks must consider those still living in the 20th century. If you can’t phone up and ask for a leaflet, you might as well just give up from the outset.

So, as Easter approaches, I decide on Friday 18 March that me and my fictional family want to go to a theme park. But where to go? Our parks are as varied as our green and pleasant land, so it’s probably best to get a pile of leaflets and have a good-old discussion with my imaginary family.


A park should be able to answer questions, like if a ride is expected to be open for example. 

Let’s start from the bottom up. Thorpe Park. Being supremely efficient, yours truly decided to kill two birds with one stone by calling the Thorpe Park ‘call centre’ (their words, not mine) to find out about the delayed Slammer and also to request a leaflet. Before it could ring, a robot answered listing a series of options, none of which mentioned Slammer (or the fact it was delayed) and none of which gave me the option to request a leaflet.

Considering the website referred to this number as a call centre, I am somewhat surprised that it is impossible to speak to a human. You’re given park information in great depth by a recording of an animated young man which is all very well if you want information on the given topics, but useless if your line of enquiry veers beyond these frequently asked questions, then the internet is the only way to get this information. And you still can’t get a leaflet via the website.  

Unsurprisingly, calling Oakwood was less like calling the talking clock, and more about providing the targeted customer service I expect. Answered by a human within a few rings, I could quickly ask questions about whether my fictional child could ride Hydro and request a park leaflet.

And what’s more, if listening to robots is your prerogative, then Oakwood also provide a recorded information line and even the option to pre-book your flights on the park’s Sky Coaster, Vertigo.

Next stop, Blackpool. With nearly 7 million visitors a year, this is one of the biggest tourist attractions in this kingdom. Of course, the larger the company, the more ‘advanced’ (read: ‘obstructive’) their phone system, so it was a pleasant surprise to actually get through to a human, in this case called Victoria.

Pleasure Beach Blackpool

Is the size of a park indicative of the service you're likely to receive?

My request for a leaflet was even more efficient than Oakwood’s enviable efforts thanks to the wonders of postcode lookup, and after giving my name, postcode and house number, I was assured a leaflet with information on the park, wristbands and shows was winging its way southwards.

Drayton’s “recorded information line” is far more helpful than most, going through a list of six or seven options before reassuring the disillusioned that they can press 7 to speak to reception.

A call transfer later, and a helpful operator is writing my name and address on an envelope bound for East Sussex with a park leaflet enclosed for my perusal. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine
Issue 05: Apr 2005

Issue 05
Going for Gold
Coaster Kingdom tests parks' customer service