Understand: except for one experience, my wife and I loved our recent visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
But that One Experience was so irritating, I jumped at the chance to complain about it when an emailed visitor satisfaction survey arrived in my inbox today.
I've done some Googling to see if anyone else who took a Safari Tour to see animals in the quasi-wild from the back of an open-sided truck had ever experienced the weird event we, and the other people on our Caravan Tour, did.
Didn't find anything.
So it may well be that our bureaucratic bummer was a rare event. Heck, maybe this is the only time Safari Park visitors spent 45 minutes of their 2-hour tour stuck for no good reason between two gates that linked several field enclosures.
All I can say is that one time was too many. Thus I feel completely justified in making the complaint that I did, and in sharing it below.
Now, I readily admit that I'm (1) a citizen activist who regularly gives the folks who run things at our Salem, Oregon City Hall an earful when I consider that they've screwed something up, and (2) someone who dislikes bureaucracies and rules that don't make sense.
I probably was the most-bothered person by what happened on our Caravan Safari tour.
However, judging from the comments of other people on our truck both during and after the Stuck Between Two Gates fiasco, I certainly wasn't the only one who felt this episode was handled badly.
After registering my complaint this morning, I did get a voicemail message on my cell phone from someone in the Customer Service department that was encouraging. Interestingly, it appears that this someone was one of the supervisors I roundly complained about in the complaint below.
He said that he'd like me to call back so he can discuss our bad experience and describe how they'll take steps to prevent something like this from happening again.
Yet I still feel like I need to publicize this bit of bureaucratic bungling, if nothing else than to have it serve as an example of how not to make an easily-solved problem into an exasperating experience for customers.
I didn't take a photo during the Stuck Between Two Gates 45 minutes. Here's a photo of a happier moment in the truck prior to that happening. As I say in my complaint, our guide (in blue shirt, leaning against rear railing) was great. It was her supervisors who messed up.
This was what I said in the Customer Satisfaction survey about our Safari Tour.
Our 2-hour tour actually was more like 75 minutes, because for about 45 minutes we were stuck in between two gates, absurdly waiting for Park supervisors to deal with a non-existent problem.
Which was, our truck was 3/4 though a gate when the metal gate closed and hit the side of the truck. The driver and other guy in the cab got out, inspected the truck and found no damage. Obviously none of us on the tour experienced any problem.
But we sat motionless in-between the two gates. When our guide asked the guys in the cab with the walkie-talkies what was going on, they said "We reported the incident. They [supervisors, I assume] want us to sit here until they get back to us."
Then we sat some more.
We'd been told that our 1:30 safari tour would be back in plenty of time to see the 3:30 Cheetah run. I began to worry that this wouldn't happen. Our guide asked several more times what was going on. Answer: nothing. At one point she told the guys in the cab, "We're going to get complaints." I said, "For sure." Which has come to pass.
It took about 40 minutes or so for the two supervisor types to show up in their pickup truck. They slowly got out of their truck, opened the gate, and looked at the truck with the two guys who had been talking with them.
"There's no damage to the truck," one supervisor guy said. I muttered to myself, "That's what you were repeatedly told."
"Anybody hurt? (or words to that effect, maybe it was "bothered) Obviously not. I think i said something like, "The only thing we're bothered about is sitting here for 45 minutes."
It was a ridiculous display of bureaucratic incompetence.
The three Safari Park staff with us on the tour knew there was no damage to the truck, and no harm to us visitors. The harm came from the supervisors not trusting the staff, and forcing those of us who had paid $111 each (if I recall correctly) to spend 45 minutes of a 2-hour tour sitting in a truck that was stuck for no reason in-between two gates, which prevented us from experiencing about 40% of our tour.
My wife and I live in Oregon. Other people on the tour were from Georgia and Michigan.
Several of the Georgia children were very interested in the animals and asked some excellent questions. I felt bad for them. This probably was their one and only chance to experience the Safari Park tour, but clueless Park supervisors made them unnecessarily sit between two gates for 45 minutes of a 2-hour tour.
I have nothing bad to say about our guides or the driver. The problem lay with the supervisors and the nonsensical Safari Park policy that required us to sit between the gates for 45 minutes so two supervisors could confirm for themselves the obvious: that there was no damage to the truck and the only harm to us paying customers was not being able to experience the tour that we had paid a bunch of money for.
I plan to post this complaint on Yelp and will be sharing it on my blog. We enjoyed the rest of our one-day visit to the Safari Park, but I haven't been shy about telling our friends about the ridiculous "stuck between the gates" episode. I'll continue to use it as an example of how incompetent bureaucracies operate.
Yes, I realize that we live in a litigious society, and it may well be that the Safari Park's attorneys have required this absurd over-reaction to an inconsequential incident. But that doesn't assuage the irritation I and others felt at not being able to experience the full 2-hour tour that we had paid for.
If the truck had broken down, or there was some other good reason for missing 45 minutes of the tour, I would have felt much differently. However, this was just a case of Supervisors Acting Badly, since they took 45 minutes to deal with a non-problem that could have been handled in a minute or so.
As in, the guys in the cab call in and say, "Hey, Joe, a gate closed and hit the side of our truck. There's no damage and nobody on the tour was harmed in the slightest. Our guests and us want to keep on with the tour. Are we good to go?"
A "Yes" was all that was needed. Instead, it took 45 minutes to get the "good to go." Absurd.
The abbreviated tour was the 1:30 outing on March 7. Again, our guide was great. She did her best to keep us entertained and informed during the lengthy wait between the gates. She deserves a promotion. The two supervisors deserve some retraining in customer service.