Original Article on The F-Word Blog
|Questions have been raised on how theme parks deal with customers too large for their rides (Photo: Ewen Boey).|
Imagine the humiliation of being told to your face that you are too fat for an amusement park ride.
That was exactly what happened to Filipino Christian Abellaneda, 30, at the Battlestar Galactica ride at Universal Studios Singapore two weeks ago.
Strangely enough, he was allowed onto the ride earlier that same morning when a Universal Studios staff member succeeded in securing his seat using “forceful” pushes, said the 1.76-m tall, 125-kg man, The New Paper reported.
“I stepped out very embarrassed and humiliated,” said the business development consultant, who has been working in Singapore for four years.
“Rejection is a big issue to horizontally-challenged people like me, especially in front of a big crowd,” he added.
This incident has raised questions on how theme parks deal with customers who may be too large for their rides.
Visiting Universal Studios with a cousin and friend, Mr Abellaneda claimed the theme park’s staff had allowed him to ride on both the red Human track and the blue Cylon track at 10.30am that day.
“At first, the ‘loader’ found it hard to lock my bracket and said I couldn’t proceed with the ride. But after a few ‘forceful’ pushes, he managed to lock it.”
However, when he returned for another round after lunch, Mr Abellaneda was attended to by a different “loader”, who could not secure the seat, resulting in Mr Abellaneda’s rejection from the ride.
Mr Abellaneda said, “I noticed this ‘loader’ wasn’t pushing the bracket as forcefully.”
He also highlighted that he felt particularly insulted after a staff member told him he may have “expanded” after lunch.
His friend, Mr Zul Barudin, 28, who witnessed the incident, said: “Christian looked really disappointed after he was told to leave.
“The staff should have told him earlier about the restrictions, even before he bought the ticket.”
The Universal Studios website lists some restrictions, like a rule prohibiting guests under 1.25 m from riding, as well as stating that “weight restrictions may apply”.
A sign outside the ride’s entrance states: “The ride vehicle and restraints may not accommodate guests with certain body dimensions.”
In addition, there is also a sample seat with restraints at the entrance for riders to determine if they fit.
It is understood that similar systems and practices are used by other theme parks to inform guests about size and weight constraints on rides.
A Universal Studios spokesman told The New Paper in an email, “The safety of our guests is our most important priority. Some attractions do have ridership restrictions based on height and/or body dimension.
“Where such restrictions exist, they are communicated through signages located at the front of the attraction, as well as through the rider’s guide available at our guest services counters and on the Universal Studios website.
“Our ride teams make decisions based on both guests’ safety and comfort.”
He pointed out that the amusement park had only received one such complaint from the two million guests to the park since it opened in March last year.
The same paper reported that the Universal Studios ride system is computerised and the staff are alerted if a weight imbalance is detected.
In the event of such an occurrence, riders may be reshuffled to even out the weight.
The Universal Studios spokesman said: “As for the guest who raised the concern over operating procedures, we are reviewing such procedures and will make revisions as appropriate.”
The theme park eventually offered Mr Abellaneda three limited day passes, which he accepted.
“The main issue here is that my safety and that of other passengers was compromised.
“But I’m glad that at least they are reviewing their procedures,” said Mr Abellaneda.
Retail and tourism experts told TNP that Universal Studios handled the situation correctly.
Dr Andy Nazarechuk, dean of the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus in Singapore, stressed that the restrictions are in place for the safety of guests.
“Safety is of the utmost importance, so these restrictions have to be enforced.”
Mr Andrew Lee, a marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, agreed that Universal Studios handled the situation well, and praised them for offering free tickets.
However, he suggested that screening be done much earlier in the queue, well before guests embark on the ride.
“This will ensure that guests would not be turned away after waiting… which will definitely lead to customer dissatisfaction.”
Mr Robert Niles, editor of theme and amusement park website Theme Park Insider, said most parks usually post their restrictions on park maps or at the entrance of rides.
The height specifications are specifically listed, but other dimensions of restrictions are a little more hazy.
“To overcome that, it’s become standard practice in the industry now for parks to place a sample seat at the queue entrance, so people can try out the seat before they queue,” said Mr Niles, a former attractions host at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, USA.
Said Mr Phil Taylor, managing director of Team Leisure, a leisure consulting business based in Dubai, “Each person visiting a theme park has also to take some responsibility for his own actions and his own safety.”