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P. 771: Onsite employee housing under construction at Dollywood

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No reasonable person should put any stock in Trip Advisor reviews. How about this for improvement?

 

1) Amusement parks are fun.

2) You're going to an amusement park to have fun.

3) You don't have to have everything perfect to have fun.

4) You can choose to have fun.

5) Finding things to complain about takes energy that is much better spent having fun.

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Exactly but a lot of people do. That and Yelp, which I also hate. But that's not the point, the point is the negative reviews cover the same topics. And either Dollywood has no answer to those issues or they simply don't care. I posted about those topics here before the reviews started. And to the naked eye it looks like Dollywood isn't trying

 

The tram issue is like going to a big restaurant with fifty empty tables but still waiting thirty minutes to be seated. Seeing those empty trams is like those empty tables. If they don't have the staff to fill those trams fine but move them! Don't leave the GP wondering why empty trams are sitting at the gate when the line to catch a tram is 45 mins.

 

My how was your visit survey mentioned all that. I even gave Dollywood permission to contact me about the survey.. but no, they didn't contact.. they never do, they simply give the impression they don't care.. they have done this for years. I'm sure they do care but you would never know it. They took the food complaints seriously last year and fixed a lot of those. Food quality is back IMO so hopefully they read these and try

 

I for one am avoiding Dollywood for the next few weeks however [emoji14] other places in the area will be getting my hard earned money haha, no matter how much I love it, until they get this crowd issue figured out I won't be back until spring break is over. I was there during busy days last year and it was much much easier to park, catch trams, and just enjoy other aspects of the park vs the rides.

 

 

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Okay, we found out that you can bring your buddy’s in an hour early on Saturday. In considering berween going Saturday 5/5 or Sunday 5/6, obviously those extra three hours are attractive.

 

That first hour is just for Tennessee Tornado. But is it safe to assume we could hit the other coasters back there without much wait in the first hour or so?

 

Our thought is to just hit up coasters the first and last couple hours of the day and then focus on the train shows, shopping, and food the rest of the day. Anyone have experience with this kind of strategy on Saturdays?

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Okay, we found out that you can bring your buddy’s in an hour early on Saturday. In considering berween going Saturday 5/5 or Sunday 5/6, obviously those extra three hours are attractive.

 

That first hour is just for Tennessee Tornado. But is it safe to assume we could hit the other coasters back there without much wait in the first hour or so?

 

Our thought is to just hit up coasters the first and last couple hours of the day and then focus on the train shows, shopping, and food the rest of the day. Anyone have experience with this kind of strategy on Saturdays?

It takes the park a little while to build up lines for coasters and yeah tornado being opened early means that entire area should be open to at least stand outside the rides.. I'd hit up firechaser (assuming it opens on time, lots of times it doesn't) after tornado

 

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going through the past week or so of Trip Advisor Reviews, they are about 50% negative with the same complaints

 

6.) Long lines for rides - Notice I never complained about this.. it's something I expect from parks and I felt Dollywood did a good job handling this.. it was one of the only perks I saw last Saturday)

in my favorite top three things to do online, probably number 3, is going through Dorneys Trip Advisor reviews and reading the negative ones. I love when people complain about having to wait in long lines, on a saturday, in the middle of june. I just dont understand why people complain about long lines when YOU'RE AT AN AMUSEMENT PARK.

 

2.) Pay employees more? I applied for an IT job and they offered me $8.50/hour.. I laughed! This was a year round full time job. Similar jobs in the area are $15/hr+.. I'd hate to see what they pay their ops. Maybe pay more than Walmart? (This was two years ago so it might be better, idk)(looking at Glassdoor, it doesn't look like pay has improved)

Cedar Fair (at least Dorney) can fall under this as well. In my 4 1/2 years at the park, games operators were making 7.25 an hour until the 2016 season. They finally gave a raise to all the departments because employee turnover was awful. Rides and foods actually had to raise the wages twice in the 2016 season because they were still hurting for employees. As a department supervisor (right under the area manager) i was making 10 an hour, which was, imho, below of what i should of been getting.
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Exactly, now I can't confirm what other roles at Dollywood pay but their IT roles, are under the average for this area anyways.

 

It might be better now though, especially if they are hurting bfor employees

 

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Rearrange staffing so you have more than five ticket windows open.. I have never waited one hour to get a ticket at any park I have visited.. k

 

Rearranging staff is not necessarily something they can do. People have to be trained to do those jobs and there may not have been anyone else qualified to run certain positions. In the places you saw overstaffing, it may have been a case of new hires being trained which is common in retail & foodservice even outside of theme parks.

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No reasonable person should put any stock in Trip Advisor reviews. How about this for improvement?

 

1) Amusement parks are fun.

2) You're going to an amusement park to have fun.

3) You don't have to have everything perfect to have fun.

4) You can choose to have fun.

5) Finding things to complain about takes energy that is much better spent having fun.

 

Sure, agreed, to an extent. But where do you draw the line? Without guest feedback, bad habits will just get worse and worse. How long can a park let the guest experience deteriorate before it’s no longer fun?

 

If you went to a steakhouse and ordered/paid for a porterhouse, then after waiting an hour the server brought you a dried up chicken leg, would you just eat it with the attitude of, “Hey, I came to a restaurant and got to eat. I could be a starving child in Africa!” I don’t think so.

 

Hopefully management will take all the feedback they’ve been receiving recently and make positive changes.

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in my favorite top three things to do online, probably number 3, is going through Dorneys Trip Advisor reviews and reading the negative ones. I love when people complain about having to wait in long lines, on a saturday, in the middle of june. I just dont understand why people complain about long lines when YOU'RE AT AN AMUSEMENT PARK.

That right there is a good enough reason to put no stock whatsoever in TripAdvisor reviews... because everyone knows Dorney Park never has lines, even on Saturdays in the middle of June.

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in my favorite top three things to do online, probably number 3, is going through Dorneys Trip Advisor reviews and reading the negative ones. I love when people complain about having to wait in long lines, on a saturday, in the middle of june. I just dont understand why people complain about long lines when YOU'RE AT AN AMUSEMENT PARK.

That right there is a good enough reason to put no stock whatsoever in TripAdvisor reviews... because everyone knows Dorney Park never has lines, even on Saturdays in the middle of June.

 

Whoops. I meant to say July, but even if they have to wait like 5-10 minutes, they will complain.

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"I'm about to show my @$$!"....for a funnel cake"

--> I think this is my new favorite quote, lol

 

Unfortunately a some of things you stated that would help may just piss people off more.

 

-- Untrained people at the ticket booths needing help and delaying the lines whereas the trained people lines would move much faster (also: as Bill said, is the $5 online convenience fee worth your time and sanity?)

 

-- Opening up preferred parking to everyone? Oh boy imagine if I paid $x.xx dollars for preferred parking and now everyone else gets to go there free?

 

Should they do those things? I don't know. The pros may outweigh the cons, but I guess the point is people are going to complain no matter what they do as others have started.

 

I'm not giving Dollywood a free pass, I'd be frustrated too, but again you were comparing holidays at other parks (where staffing and everything is running more like a well oiled machine) vs Dollywood in March. Hiccups will happen. You kept mentioning how even Six Flags does things better in certain regards, but opening weekend at Great Adventure wasn't a walk in the park for us. 2/3 of food locations were closed (leading to 1 hour waits for food at the places that were open), rides broke down frequently, etc. I knew going into it things were not going to be perfect and I had a great time. Yes there were frustrations, but if you want a "better" experience one would argue to go later in the season. SHOULD it be that way? No. But it's a seasonal park and unfortunately that's how things work. It may sound easy to fix the problems you mentioned but I'm sure there are plenty of logistics not taken into account.

 

Sorry your day didn't go better.

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I don't think they should open preferred parking vs Splash first.. last year on busy days they opened splash country parking for Dollywood guest. The only reason I mentioned that was due to Dollywood remodeling their parking a few years ago resulting in less spots.. they claimed if the lot would fill up they would use preferred and splash to help with parking.

 

My opening trip to Dollywood was fine aside from my pass not working.. it was my third or fourth trip this year where things started going downhill as the crowds picked up.. Dollywood was having a lot of ride issues that day, mostly special effects weren't working on most rides but the rides were running.

 

Here's the thing, Dollywood cross trains everywhere, that's why you see lightening rod ops running shops (or other ride ops running shops).. During late summer you will see Dollywood employees working Splash Country and vice versa.. they might be cross training the wrong areas but the systems they use are the same in most areas.

 

When I applied they where using pronto pos for pretty much all transactions and pos systems by micros.. it wouldn't be hard to cross train as the systems would be the same and transactions would be very similar. policies would really be the only training involved

 

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Okay, we found out that you can bring your buddy’s in an hour early on Saturday. In considering berween going Saturday 5/5 or Sunday 5/6, obviously those extra three hours are attractive.

 

That first hour is just for Tennessee Tornado. But is it safe to assume we could hit the other coasters back there without much wait in the first hour or so?

 

Our thought is to just hit up coasters the first and last couple hours of the day and then focus on the train shows, shopping, and food the rest of the day. Anyone have experience with this kind of strategy on Saturdays?

Yep, we did that on a Saturday in May last year, and it was awesome. Minimal waits early in the morning, so that we didn't even use the TImeSaver then, just waited 5 minutes in the regular lines and saved TimeSaver for later in the afternoon. Even if you don't have TimeSaver, you should be good with that strategy.

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No reasonable person should put any stock in Trip Advisor reviews. How about this for improvement?

 

1) Amusement parks are fun.

2) You're going to an amusement park to have fun.

3) You don't have to have everything perfect to have fun.

4) You can choose to have fun.

5) Finding things to complain about takes energy that is much better spent having fun.

 

Sure, agreed, to an extent. But where do you draw the line? Without guest feedback, bad habits will just get worse and worse. How long can a park let the guest experience deteriorate before it’s no longer fun?

 

If you went to a steakhouse and ordered/paid for a porterhouse, then after waiting an hour the server brought you a dried up chicken leg, would you just eat it with the attitude of, “Hey, I came to a restaurant and got to eat. I could be a starving child in Africa!” I don’t think so.

 

Hopefully management will take all the feedback they’ve been receiving recently and make positive changes.

Ever been to the grand opening of a restaurant? Servers often are unfamiliar with the menu, there are many inefficiencies, orders can be made incorrectly, etc. These often lead to waits for tables. Seasonal parks experience this sort of thing every year, since they're dealing with largely all new staff.

 

I do think the issues with Dollywood ticketing are legit. I also experienced issues getting my tickets and misinformation and lack of communication between the DreamMore ticket desk and the park's main ticket desk. Otherwise, everything else in that rant was just complaining.

 

I disagree with your statement that a business won't know what to do without customer feedback. I dislike greatly this culture that says everyone's opinion is equally valid. Horsesh*t. Expert opinions are very valuable; the opinions of the ill-informed are not. If someone doesn't know what they're talking about, their opinion is worthless. Now, customer engagement with a business can be quite important, depending on your business model. For this reason, a lot of Internet retailers try to solicit comments, not to base their business decisions on but rather so customers will feel more connected and ultimately buy more stuff. What they're writing doesn't matter; what matters is that they're writing. Cynical? Hell yes. Welcome to the world of e-commerce.

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Actually the bottom part of your statement isn't completely true.. I work for a retailer that was probably one of the most successful in malls last year.. it's a very young retailer and we ignore most opinions aside from those of our guest.. we are doing 20 - 30% comp every year.. our stores are growing, we are profitable, we are donating millions a year but the majority of the feedback we take to heart is from our guest..

 

We feel our guest experience is why we are so successful when other mall retailers are just the norm and struggling.. we aren't cheap either, our clothes are expensive, our decor is expensive. Our stores are built around and for our guest and not the experts.

 

I'm not trying to argue that online reviews are good, I see plenty that are bad and are just folks complaining but I did want to clear up that companies don't take advice from then because we take a lot of advice from them and it's working for us, at least our leaders feel like it is.. all I know is something is working for my company while other brick and mortar retail is struggling.. we do have a huge online presence but a very small ecomm presence.

 

Do we base every business decision off those reviews.. heck no, well we may idk that's way above my pay grade but I do know they listen to everything comment and use those to better our business and how we treat our guest

 

But when the same complaints are popping up in reviews, aside from ride lines if the park is running all rides at full capacity, the park should look at those and see how they can improve.. if tram waits are long the park should look and see why if that comment keeps popping up. Cold food? I saw that in two reviews (my food was great) but that's something the park should research.. if they commented and asked where the cold food was at, maybe they have a training issue in a single restaurant that can be corrected. it's not always complaining in reviews.. it's a good way to see how your business looks to normal everyday people. Experts are great and all but they are being paid by the companies and aren't paying the companies to be there like guest are.

 

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I went back to read the original post. If the parking lot is full at any park, you know what? It's gonna be busy. If you go to a busy day at Magic Kingdom, you'll find that Walt's magic doesn't make it so that there aren't waits for food. In fact, if you just show up without having booked your dining literally months in advance, you can forget about eating at a full service restaurant that isn't in the Morocco Pavillion. And let me know how magical it is when the monorails go down for the millionth time and you're packed into a boat to take you to the park from the TTC. So please, spare me the "This isn't like Disney." You're right, just not in the way you think.

 

I get it - they could have had more staffing. Everyone could have more staffing no matter what. Some items like the ticket sales were also things you could personally alleviate. Don't want to wait an hour to buy a ticket from a person? You have a phone, right? And unless you are 100 years old and have one of those crappy things with the giant numbers because you're blind, it has functionality, right? I did that to save an hour of time at SFOT getting a QBot while in line to buy a QBot last month. The transaction took a literal minute at most and I was getting the device in mere seconds after that. Nothing stopped you from doing that. But like, "Oh no, there was a 20 minute wait for food!" I mean, bro, really?

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Actually I go to Disney World every year for New Year's Eve and they handle the crowds very very well and lines move very quickly for food. That's probably their busiest day. We even book fill service restaurants while in the park that night.. just gotta keep checking the app is all..I stay on site so no idea about the TTC.. never experienced that. I thought Dollywoods food lines were fine during my visits. Yeah, I couldn't eat aunt grannies without an hour wait but most food lines moved quickly for me when I was there. Funnel cakes at Dollywood are always slow but that's because they are made to order and can kill you with sugar but it would be a great way to die. Yeah I will admit Dollywood was out of food at a lot of places..

 

Dollywood parking lot really doesn't hold that much though, that's why previous seasons it wasn't uncommon for them to open the splash country lot for Dollywood guest. Heck, that was the whole reason they up the crossing lights up. They are for the trams

 

I have a season pass so I wasn't in the long lines.. that was posted by ASE who I'm sure also has a season pass. Us on this site aren't the common folks that visit these parks.. it seems like a lot of people still like doing the transactions in person vs online. Maybe it's because folks don't plan on visiting Dollywood and are in the area for vacation. Maybe they just pass the billboards and say hey let's stop. Maybe we are all Country Hicks and don't own internet

 

Another thing to keep in mind though, Dollywood doesn't have a season pass processing center anymore.. I'm sure that builds up the line. if you buy your season pass online, you have to wait in the ticket line to process them. They might, very rarely though, have a processing only window or two but I haven't seen that yet this year. I saw it a few times last year on busy days and that was it.

 

You can enter once without it being processed and then process it before you leave but I know a lot of people are afraid of losing their paper ticket. (I'm sure they can look it up though)

 

 

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Ok, about the whole “waiting in the ticket line” topic. Here’s why certain people HAVE to.

 

Dollywood partners with area businesses to offer employees of these businesses a “VIP Pass” which gives you about 10 visits a year for $10 each. With the pass, you can use those “visits” to get friends, family, etc in for $10. It’s a great way to let locals experience the park each year to give them incentive to share Dollywood with visitors. Think “front desk clerks”, “waiters”, etc that have interactions with guests.

 

Every year prior to this one, there was a separate Guest Services window that locals would go to in order to redeem those passes...it HAS to be done in person at the entrance ticket booth. In years past, that line was waaaaaaay shorter than the normal ticket line and it kept things flowing smoothly for everyone.

 

This year, they have done away with that separate line and now locals are mixed in with regular admissions and the process for validating and paying for those tickets is fairly longer than just paying normal admission so it is slowing the entire line down for everyone.

 

Again, locals using the VIP Pass (THOUSANDS) HAVE to wait in that line, therefore that line is longer and also taking longer at the ticket windows. They’ve created a new bottleneck that is affecting everyone that could be so easily resolved with either the separate Guest Sevices line like they’ve had since creation, an off-site ticket office, online validation and purchasing, etc.

 

Trust me, if there was ANY way to avoid that line, locals would GLADLY do so.

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Also like I said they did away with the season pass processing center a few years ago. A few times last year they had windows just for processing season passes but I have yet to notice them this year (doesn't mean they haven't had them on days I wasn't there). I know the day I processed my wife's we had to wait in the regular ticket line. Hers was purchased online. Also last Saturday they were pointing people to the regular ticket line to process.

 

You can process in park at the upgrade center but it's line is just as long

 

So basically, even if you buy online, if it's a season pass you still wait. My wife's sister gets those local VIP tickets as well and I do remember her last year having her own line.

 

Overall I am sure Dollywood will get things worked out but playing Disney music isn't going to give Disney a run for their money until they figure out the crowds and how to manage them. I'm sure they can do it! Heck Dollywood is larger than the magic Kingdom anyways they just don't have the infrastructure to support those large crowds and the mountains are in the way [emoji14]

 

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I work for a retailer that was probably one of the most successful in malls last year.. it's a very young retailer and we ignore most opinions aside from those of our guest.. we are doing 20 - 30% comp every year.. our stores are growing, we are profitable, we are donating millions a year but the majority of the feedback we take to heart is from our guest..

 

We feel our guest experience is why we are so successful when other mall retailers are just the norm and struggling.. we aren't cheap either, our clothes are expensive, our decor is expensive. Our stores are built around and for our guest and not the experts.

 

I'm not trying to argue that online reviews are good, I see plenty that are bad and are just folks complaining but I did want to clear up that companies don't take advice from then because we take a lot of advice from them and it's working for us, at least our leaders feel like it is.. all I know is something is working for my company while other brick and mortar retail is struggling.. we do have a huge online presence but a very small ecomm presence.

 

Do we base every business decision off those reviews.. heck no, well we may idk that's way above my pay grade but I do know they listen to everything comment and use those to better our business and how we treat our guest

Is your name Curt? 'Cause that's a lot of schilling.

 

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Also like I said they did away with the season pass processing center a few years ago. A few times last year they had windows just for processing season passes but I have yet to notice them this year (doesn't mean they haven't had them on days I wasn't there). I know the day I processed my wife's we had to wait in the regular ticket line. Hers was purchased online. Also last Saturday they were pointing people to the regular ticket line to process.

 

You can process in park at the upgrade center but it's line is just as long

 

So basically, even if you buy online, if it's a season pass you still wait. My wife's sister gets those local VIP tickets as well and I do remember her last year having her own line.

 

Overall I am sure Dollywood will get things worked out but playing Disney music isn't going to give Disney a run for their money until they figure out the crowds and how to manage them. I'm sure they can do it! Heck Dollywood is larger than the magic Kingdom anyways they just don't have the infrastructure to support those large crowds and the mountains are in the way [emoji14]

 

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On Thursday, the season pass upgrade desks within the park were closed. So everyone was directed to the front entrance booths to purchase or upgrade to a season pass, which again takes longer to process than just buying tickets, so it slowed the main line down as well.

 

And yes, when “Remember Me” started blaring on the speakers, everyone had an odd look on their faces. haha

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BTW, is Dollywood now paying news stations in major cities to do stories on them? Just noticed this one in Atlanta, which threw in Dolly’s shows and Splash Country as well at the end. I got about halfway through the article and thought, “good grief this sound like PR” and sure enough there it was at the bottom. Sure, I’ve seen paid ads and commercials before, but never entire news segments. https://www.wsbtv.com/entertainment/things-2-do/trip-to-dollywood-includes-thrilling-rides-great-shows-amazing-food/724238775

 

For the record, they’ve never paid me a penny or given me anything free...so I can remain unbiased. haha

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They had a song from Moana (one of Dwayne Johnson's songs) when I was there and yes Coco's remember me.. they also had a song that was very similar to a song from Indiana Jones. Not sure if it was a real Indiana Jones song or not but I'm sure that's what they were going for. my wife was making fun of it.. Kids loved it.. My wife thought she heard frozen as well but I didn't.. I heard Moana and Coco very loud and clear though

 

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