Park Spy:: Hit the Brakes!


Welcome to Park Spy, in which we call parks anonymously and put customer service to the test with a delicate question. Have any suggestions for us? Send Sarah Ebbott ([email protected]) your questions and, if we use one, you’re immune for one issue!

For this spy mission, we asked a common question that we assumed everyone would have a good answer for. We were wrong.

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 #1: OK

First Contact: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: It’s not a silly question! Different zip lines do different things. You’re going to have on a leather glove with a heavy leather pad on top of that, which we provide. As you come in toward the end of the zip, your guide will signal to you if you need to brake or not. If you need to brake, he will have you put your hand on the cable and pull down to slow yourself down. Now gravity is already pulling you down—the heavier you are the faster you go. That’s why we have a minimum weight of 80 pounds and a maximum of 220 for women and 250 for men.

API: Ok.

Staff: Have you already made a reservation?

API: I am not sure, one of my friends suggested this and I was a little nervous about how to stop, so thought I would call and ask.

Staff: Not a problem, just wanted to make sure you had a reservation. One thing you can do is visit our Facebook page XXXX and view the video pinned at the top, it’s all about the zip line and shows people zipping and braking.

API: I’ll check it out! Thank you.

Staff: Thank you, see you soon!

Score: 8.5
Comment: Enthusiastic, friendly, and informative. Minus points because, while that video was awesome, it wasn’t quite where she said it was and it took me a minute to find.


Park #2: NS

First Contact: Male

API: Stated question


Staff: How do you wha?

API: How do you stop?

Staff: We stop you.

API: Ok… How (interrupted)

Staff: Just book ahead one day.

API: O (interrupted) K

Staff: Just book ahead one day when you get into the area.

API: Thanks.

Staff: Goodbye.

Score: 1
Comment: If that’s how you treat your customers in response to a simple question, I am not going. It’s difficult to get only one point, but this guy earned it.


Park #3: HI

First Contact: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: We have a mechanical braking system.

API: OK, how does that work? Do I need to do anything?

Staff: It’s automatic. Is there anything else I can help you with?

API: Nope, I think that’s it.

Staff: Ok, bye.

Score: 2
Comment: That’s great, you have an automatic braking system. What should be automatic is a better response.


Park #4: MI

First Contact: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: Haha! That’s not a silly question, people ask that all that time. So, we actually have a braking system and a guide down at the end. The braking system slows you down and then he or she completely stops you. The only thing we ask of you is that you tuck your feet up so you avoid twisting an ankle or spraining a knee or something like that. So, it’s all on us. There isn’t anything that you guys really need to do. Do you have any other questions?

API: Nope, I think that’s it. Thanks.

Staff: Have a good one.

Score: 7
Comment: Friendly and to the point.


Park #5: NY

First Contact: Male

API: Stated question

Staff: We have a braking system where our tour guides will man it. You’ll slide in, they’ll have it far enough out that, um, as you get closer they’ll slow it down. They have gloves to protect their hands, so they’ll slow it down. Mmmm’k?

API: So, I don’t have to do anything?

Staff: Nope, you just hold onto the trolley and enjoy the ride. Mmmm’k?

API: That sounds great.

Staff: Ok, mmm, bye.

Score: 5
Comments: Points awarded for answering the question, but next time try not to make your guest feel like you have better things to do, mmmm’k?

Park #6: WI

First Contact: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: For our zip line, it’s a challenge by choice course, so you will be braking yourself. We give you gloves with a leather pad on them and you just apply friction to the line so that way you can control how fast you’re going.

API: How do I know when to do that so I am coming in at the right speed?

Staff: When we get harnessed up, we do something called ground school, which includes a mini version of the zip line. The guides will teach you the braking signal and they are trained to show you when and how to zip, brake, et cetera. They will give you a brake signal and will teach you where to place your hands and how to apply an even amount of pressure. Then you get to do the mini version before you head out onto the zip course to make sure you feel comfortable.

API: That sounds great.

Staff: When are you thinking about coming?

API: I’m not sure of the specific date yet, but probably in about two weeks.

Staff: Ok, great. As soon as you know what date you would like to come just give us a call back and we’ll take care of it for you!

API: Thanks!

Score: 9
Comments: Vague start but finished strong with an explanation of what I will learn in ground school. I feel better knowing they won’t just throw me out there assuming I know what I’m doing. Informative, friendly, and offered a next step on how to book a tour. Minus one point for not mentioning the website.

Identity Revealed: Wildman Ranch


Park #7: FL

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose Operator.

Answering Phone: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: Umm, you use your hands to brake. So, it’s a self-braking system. Your guides will teach you how to do it before you enter the course.

API: Is that something I need to bring gloves for?

Staff: Nope, we provide the gloves for you. Is there another question I can answer for you?

API: I think that’s it!

Staff: Great, well if you have any other questions, feel free to give us a call back.

Score: 4
Comment: Always, always include the word “gloves” in any sentence that includes “use your hands to brake.” Don’t just assume I know you provide them.


Park #8: NV

First Contact: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: You are responsible for braking yourself. There is a handle that you pull down on to slow yourself before coming into the brake boxes on the landing platform.

API: How do I know when to initiate the brake?

Staff: The guides will teach you how the system works during their safety speech prior to getting on the zip. There are color coded flags to help you know when to activate the brake.

API: So, I just pull down on the handle?

Staff: Yep, it’s part of the mechanics of the trolley. I won’t go too in-depth into it, but the harder you pull the slower you go.

API: Sounds pretty straightforward.

Staff: Yep, anything else I can help you with?

API: I think that’s it. Thanks!

Score: 7
Comment: Clear and concise. Although, sometimes it’s ok to go in-depth.


Park #9: SC

First Contact: Female (crazy background noise)

API: Stated question

Staff: (interrupted) How many in your group?

API: I am not booking yet. I am just trying to figure out how you stop at the end of the zip.

Staff: Basically, we have brakes set into our lines. It’ll brake you once you pass a certain point.

(silence…aside from the background noise)

API: OK, so…

Staff: (interrupted) So, you don’t have to do anything yourself.

(silence…still background noise)

API: Ok, sounds good. What…

Staff: (interrupted) No problem, bye.

Score: 3
Comment: 1. Let the caller finish the question before interrupting, 2. Let the caller finish the question before interrupting, 3. Let the caller finish the question before interrupting!


Park #10: NH

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose staff.

Answering Phone: Female

API: Stated question

Staff: There is a guide at the bottom and he kinda, like, throws out this wood block thing to slow you down and then he or she grabs you to take you off the zip line.

API: So, do I have to do anything to slow myself down?

Staff: Nope, the guides take care of everything. Unless they yell at you to, what they call, run it out, which is like running up the, like, little ramp. They do all the work for you, they put you on the zip line and they take you off. Alright?

API: Alright, thank you.

Staff: Alright, buh bye.

Score: 4
Comment: Kinda? If I’m going as fast as their website says I might, then I want something more than just kinda.


Debrief: Just like you train your guides for high rope rescue and how to conduct ground school, your staff answering the phone should have intimate knowledge of the safety systems on course. Muscle memory applies to the brain too! 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. Let each person give it their own personality so it doesn’t sound like rote recitation, but have them practice with their supervisor and with each other until it’s ready to go at a moments notice.




About Author

Sarah Borodaeff is the former research editor for Adventure Park Insider magazine and current freelance contributor. A professional ski bum and former zip guide, Sarah enjoys any excuse to talk about outdoor adventures.

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