This post was written by our Sales Director, Mike Masone and was originally shared on LinkedIn. We thought it was a great read. Let us know what you think and please feel free to share as well.
My family and I decided to use what could be the last of the nice fall weather and try to go apple picking this weekend. We weren’t sure where to go so we headed to the closest orchard the internet could find us-XYZ Farm, which was only about 30 minutes away.
At minute 27 we had a problem. Heavy traffic on small country roads is un-expected, un-planned traffic with a 5,3 & 3 year old is dangerous. So when things slowed down we threw the 67′ Spiderman DVDs on for the kids while my wife and I quietly debated our next move with limited information.
Luckily we were able to flag down a young couple on foot who informed us that we had wound up smack dab in the middle of the Season End Harvest Festival from XYZ Farm. They also informed us that the traffic was bad, for about a mile. We did the calculus that all parents are forced to do when plans go awry and determined (after spying the tops of a couple of bounce houses) that we should give it a shot…sunk costs and all. After all, we had made apple-delivery promises to family and the kids had now caught wind of the bounce (poor OpSec by me) and were now practicing their bounce moves against their seat belts.
After another 20 minutes in traffic and a quick run through the Mad Max – inspired parking field we found ourselves stridently converging on the festival area with the hundreds of other families who had procrastinated to our level.
As we walked in, every person we heard speak in passing echoed the same sentiment; “this is terrible, the lines are so long we can’t even spend money, let’s go.” Undeterred and of course better, smarter, and more patient than every other human there we pressed on.
The five of us arrived and decided to execute our standard divide and conquer plan. I stood in the long line with one child to buy tickets while my wife walked with the other two to find the best lines in which to stand to spend the tickets and maybe a candied apple or 4 to soothe the impatient children, and me, who can be quite childlike in those situations. She returned after 10 minutes to the exact spot she had left us and informed me that not only had none of the other lines moved, but that the candy apple line was long to the point of insanity.
Surveying the situation the only things we saw moving rapidly were the arms, hair, feet, eyes, and aging processes of the young, once-a-year cashiers and ticket takers who looked as though they had been pressed into service straight off of the school bus. They were trying, but they were not equipped to deal with the literally thousands of people bursting the place at the seams.
We decided to give up. Some quick math revealed that we would spend 45 minutes of the next hour standing in lines and only be able to spend about $10 on rides and maybe never even get fed. Relieved at our agreement, we took a walk to the sufficiently numerous though foul portapotties and then strolled by some pens to say hi to the chickens, goats, and other assorted farm creatures who were more shocked by the situation than the cashiers. We then got in our car, drove 10 miles down the road and spent $30 on fall ‘stuff’,another $20 on ice cream, and 30 perfect minutes sitting on a picnic table together.
I do my best to not let work-Mike over-analyze family-Mike’s time and experiences, especially as they are happening, because it makes both Mikes a bit crazy. 36 hours post-incident my mind continues to be boggled. The fact that the organizers didn’t take the small and simple steps necessary to help people spend money and have fun while keeping their employees and friends sane is disappointing. Things like :
- Punched wristbands instead of taken tickets
- Separate lines for cash or credit purchases
- POS systems
- Splitting cashiers up to keep the perception of line size minimal
- Premium or all-ride passes
- Food vending to the lines
- Clear simple signage
- Maybe, possibly, under the right conditions, if it is good idea, Kiosks
These things are simple, cheap, and almost always ‘worth it’.
It is true that not every venue wants to run with the efficiency & voraciousness of a LiveNation event and many businesses and individuals value tradition over efficiency; but failure of this venue to embrace simple, proven, techniques resulted in their 1000s of attendees not spending their $10-50 per/cap and forever eliminating XYZ farm list of possible fall traditions for years to come.
On the plus side, we have a new favorite Ice Cream place!