Park Spy — Fall 2023


The question: My friends and I are thinking about doing the zip line. This might be a silly question: how do you stop at the end of the zip?

Park Spy fans may recall that we posed this exact question for a Spy mission back in 2016 and, surprisingly, many staffers struggled with it as much this time around as they did back then.

Why is that surprising? The same reason it was seven years ago, when six out of 10 employees scored 5 or less: this is a question that only a zip line neophyte would call to ask, so providing a straightforward answer should be automatic.

Some of the 2016 responses were eerily similar to 2023, too, such as “the guides will teach you” how the braking works (which doesn’t answer the question at all), and telling callers that hands are used to brake (ouch!) but neglecting to say that gloves are provided until the Spy asked.

Some staffers nailed it, of course, with simple, friendly explanations. But nailing the basics should be easy, especially in late August when these calls were made.

Been asked a tricky question this season? Send it to [email protected] for the Spy to pose to other parks. We won’t tell anyone the question came from you. Plus, if we use it, your park will be immune for that issue.



First Contact: Female (sounds chipper).

API: Stated question.

Staff: It’s self-braking, so we give you gloves and a brake pad, and the guides will give you hand signals when you need to start braking. Then you just stop or slow yourself down.

API: OK. So, you just use your hand to slow down or pull the line down?

Staff: Yep, you just need to put pressure on the line. The first two lines are where the guides will teach you how to do everything. So, you do get to practice before you move on to the bigger lines. So, yes, they will teach you how to do everything.

API: Oh, great.

Staff: (with enthusiasm) Yep, our guides are great and will help you learn everything! Are there any other questions?

API: No, I think that was all. Thank you.

Staff: You are welcome. Goodbye.

Score: 8

Comment: She was in a great mood! Her presentation of the information put me in a good mood, too—and made me confident that we could handle the zip line.



First Contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: So, we have a self-braking system, which basically means you have to stop yourself… (long pause). You will ride with your dominant hand stretched above your head and you will have a leather pad over a glove. Then you will take that arm and you will pull down on the cable.

API: OK. And do the guides let us know when we should start braking?

Staff: Uhh… (long pause). Yes, they will give you a signal and tell you when to start braking.

API: OK, great.

Staff: Was that all?

API: Yes, thank you.

Staff: Goodbye.

Score: 5

Comment: She painted a pretty good picture of how to stop, but she was clearly multitasking while on with me, which was annoying.



First Contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: Our braking system is like magnets.

API: OK. How does that work?

Staff: It will slow you down (muffled noises). It will slow you down until you reach the platform.

API: OK. So, we don’t need to do anything?

Staff: Pretty much. It will help you get stopped (voice fades off).

API: Sorry, I didn’t hear the rest of that. Could you repeat it?

Staff: (muffled noises)

API: I am sorry, I can’t hear you.

Staff: (continues talking) …and basically that’s how it works.

API: Could you please say that again? I couldn’t…

Staff: (interrupted) The guides will show you all of that and how it works. Goodbye.

Score: 2

Comment: Maybe make sure the caller can hear what you are saying instead of getting frustrated, not repeating yourself, and hanging up. Was she multitasking? Perhaps. Did she handle this poorly? Yes.



First Contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: Umm, for the first set of zip lines you will do your own hand braking. We do have ground school where you can learn and practice. Then for the last zip line on our course, that is just automatic braking.

API: OK. So, for the last one we don’t need to do anything, but for the others we do?

Staff: Yes.

API: How does hand braking work? Do we need to bring gloves?

Staff: For hand braking, we do provide gloves for that. Then they teach you how to brake and stuff in ground school.


Staff: Yep, anything else?

API: No, that’s all. Thank you.

Staff: Yep, goodbye.

Score: 4

Comment: “…they teach you how” doesn’t answer my question. Good to know we can practice before heading out, but this conversation didn’t tell me much.



First Contact: Female (sounding bored).

API: Stated question.

Staff: Umm, you will hand brake with a glove.

API: OK, and how does that work?

Staff: Yeah, you use your hand to slow down.

API: OK. Do I need to bring my own gloves?

Staff: No, we provide those.

API: Do the guides let us know when to start braking?

Staff: (long pause) Umm, yes, they do.

API: Alrighty.

Staff: Yep, have a good day.

Score: 2

Comment: Well, I feel confident going to this park… not! If someone asks how they stop at the end of a zip line, odds are they don’t know anything about zip lining. Educate callers. Don’t patronize them.



First Contact: Male.

API: Stated question.

Staff: (rude tone) No experience is required. We do everything. (still rude)

API: OK. How does that work?

Staff: (snippy) It is automatic braking, so we do everything.

API: So, we don’t do anything? You slow us down and stop for us?

Staff: Yep.

API: Alright, thank you.

(He hangs up.)

Score: 0

Comment: Wow. Maybe he gets this question a lot or maybe he hates his job or maybe he’s just not a nice person—regardless, somebody take the phone away from him. Don’t be rude when being asked a basic question.



First Contact: Female.

API: Stated question.

Staff: (chipper) So, we have an automatic braking system. When you are going down the zip line it will slowly stop and catch you. Then the guides that bring you out on tour will pull you into each platform. So, basically, there really is not much that you have to do yourself in regard to braking and getting yourself to the platform.

API: OK. That sounds easy!

Staff: Yep. (still chipper) There are some handlebars that you can hold onto that help you keep going forward and straight. There is a bench on each platform that the guides will ask you to step on so they can easily get your gear off the line. But other than that, pretty much everything is automatic.

API: OK, great.

Staff: And, of course, we have ground school so you can get the basics down and meet the guides.

API: Great, thank you for your help!

Staff: Yep, have a good day!

Score: 10

Comment: She knew her information, had a great attitude, and gave me a great explanation on what I should expect. Well done!

Identity Revealed: The Gorge Zipline



Any staff member tasked with answering the phone should be able to nail the basics. Is there a weight limit? What happens if it rains? What if I get scared? How do I stop at the end of the zip? If you interact with guests, the answers to these questions and others should be automatic.

In 2016, we advised readers to “work with your staff to develop a ‘speech’ that they have memorized in response to common questions and can recite during busy days, tired days, off days, whatever days.” That’s still good advice. Quality customer service requires training, just like any other job responsibility.

You can also set your staff up for success by ensuring the answers to these frequently asked questions are readily available to the person picking up the phone. That resource could look like a binder that sits next to the phone or a searchable database on the computer, among other options. 

In many ways, having the answer is the easy part. The hard part—which really isn’t hard—is putting a smile on your face when you answer the phone, regardless of how you’re feeling or what is going on around you, and listening to the caller.

It’s bad for business to take a bad day out on an unsuspecting customer. Train staff on the customer service expectations for your business, and make sure the person answering the phone on a given day is up to the task.


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