Times Standard (Eureka)

When renting a theme park, follow the rules

- Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfiel­d and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to Lagombeave­r1@gmail. com. And be sure to visit dennisbeav­er.com.

Renting out a theme park as a company perk comes at a high cost when rules are violated

As the business world is gradually returning to normal, rewarding employees with incentives is a priority for many companies. Research has shown that when kept happy, whether through recognitio­n, free trips or experienti­al rewards, employees are more productive.

But the flip side of reward is risk, and there can be significan­t financial risks when a theme park is booked for their employees if things go wrong, such as breaking the rules.

Recently, I told you about friendly but clueless correction­al officer “Rudy” not having enough common sense to realize that if administra­tors at the prison where he worked learned that he was in possession of an illegal drug, it could cost him his job. Yet, along with his wife and children, he went to a theme park and ended up banned from entering any of the company's properties after it was discovered he had magic mushrooms in his pocket.

Getting the impression during our phone call that he was clueless rather than someone trying to get away with violating the park's posted rules, I spoke with the head of security at the park, and we agreed that Rudy could write a letter of apology. He wrote a beautiful, heartfelt letter, and a short time later, he sent me a family photo taken at the park.

Voices from park management and visitors who were banned

Following that article's publicatio­ns, a number of park personnel across the country and individual­s who had been banned, emailed, suggesting a follow-up story on the things that can prevent you from ever visiting one of these theme parks again in addition to what it can cost an employer who rents a section of the park for its employees, their families and things go very wrong. For obvious reasons, no one wanted their name, the name of the park or its location revealed.

What's bookable?

The range of venues that can be booked for a business event at a theme park or as retreat is incredibly varied and tempting. From a `dude” ranch to a chartered yacht, this branch of the corporate rewards industry is making itself once again a large presence in the lives of HR and management.

Just type “theme park business retreats” in any search engine and you'll be impressed by the scope and quality of venues offered, many in your own neck of the woods, and at price points that often in the vicinity of $2,500 to $5,000— or much more per person— depending on where and for how long.

“An entire venue may be rented for several hours, or after it has shut its doors to the public. You are talking about potentiall­y several hundred thousand dollars in expense, so be sure that your employees and family are aware of what will get them kicked off the premises and your company charged for whatever this costs,” said “M.K” who is the chief of security at an east coast theme park, adding, “And you would be amazed at what some people do once they arrive.”

Suspension of reality

With degrees in both criminal science and psychology, and “experience working security on cruise ships,” M.K. vividly describes a suspension of reality that affects far more people than our industry wants to publicize, but it is serious and can be dangerous.

“For example, when was the last time you saw someone at a buffet restaurant push people out of a line so their intoxicate­d friends could get in? That's what we have often seen, even among highly-educated and well placed business executives who drank too much. It is as if the normal rules of society don't apply while the people are on the ship or theme park. Fights breaking out on warm summer days fueled by booze does the trick.”

“We have seen children from very well-known families at retreats — acting like the cast of Animal House — engage in a food fight while others walk right by signs that say, `Do not FEED the animals! It is dangerous to their health,' and give the poor critters junk food, or toss balloons inside their enclosure, which were ingested, resulting in emergency surgery! Guess who got the bill, and then handed it to the employee attending the event!”

Lack of courtesy and abuse

I heard from employees at theme parks that both receive the general public and business groups.

One delightful, 23 yearold law student who works part-time at a large Florida theme park told me, “I dress up as a variety of characters, and no matter what I wear, someone comes up and pulls at the clothing or punches me, thinking it is a big joke. Well it isn't and this gets people tossed out of the park.”

Selfie sticks: no!

“Mr. Beaver, you would be amazed at the number of guests who completely ignore the rules that many parks have about selfie sticks. As a med-tech I have seen far too many cut faces, and other injuries caused by people taking videos on rides—where it was clearly posted, `NO SELFIE STICKS PERMITTED,'. Honestly, over the years that I have worked at theme parks, there has been a general lessening of courtesy shown by so many visitors to each other and staff members that the fun of working here for many of us vanished long ago.”

Common sense advice from event planners

“I have discussed many of the issues with event planners. While some actually provide lists of do's and don'ts, in general I am disappoint­ed by a failure to address these issues before guests hop on a plane and come to the event,” M.K. concluded.

I discussed his analysis with several of the people who read that story. They agree.

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