Tales from the Theme Park #12

January 28th, 2016 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park


The Worst Return Ever

When you work drawing caricatures at a theme park or in a retail setting you will occasionally get returns. Unavoidable. Ultimately the customer is the client, and it’s your job to do a piece of art that makes them happy so they pay for it. That is not such an easy task considering the art you are creating is meant to make fun of the very party you expect to pay for it. Returns happen, and since the theme park you work at is all about kissing their “guests” hindquarters far past the point of all rationality or fairness, you have to make that return with a smile… or at least without throwing the money into their face.

Occasionally the returns are justified. Nobody hits a home run with every drawing, and sometimes you might just do a lousy one. Most returns are more about the returner, though. Some people can’t handle even the most tame of exaggerations, let alone the wild ones. It’s hard to believe, but a customer can watch an artist do multiple drawings, seeing example after example of what they do to their subjects, and yet they somehow they are still shocked to see how their drawing looks… like somehow caricature is not supposed to work on them. Still, working in a retail environment the old adage “the customer is always right” applies, and is strictly enforced by the theme park management.

Sometimes the theme park takes that adage just a little too far.

A few years ago, very early on in the season, I get a call from one of my theme park’s retail managers to inform me they processed a return at Guest Services. That is not unusual, many customers are cowards and won’t go back to the artist to return a drawing because they uncomfortable with the confrontation (in fact, they often say they “didn’t want to embarrass the artist”, as if the artist will be less embarrassed when the MANAGEMENT OF THE THEME PARK gets involved). I just sighed and said okay, send me the drawing and the report from customer service.

A few days later I get the drawing and the report. I was surprised to see it was one of my drawings… not because I don’t sometimes get returns like everybody else, but because I had not as yet drawn a day at the park that summer. I looked at the year next to my signature. It was dated the previous year. This was a drawing from almost a year ago, that a customer brought back with them on their first visit back to the park in the new season. According to the accompanying report, they had hung it up all year and after a while decided it just wasn’t what they expected it to be, so they brought it back.

And the park refunded their money. Almost a full year later.

I called up Guest Services and asked for the person who had processed this return. He told me they seemed genuinely upset, and so he just did the refund. I asked him what he would do if a guest came in with a T-shirt they had bought the previous year, had worn a bunch of times but then decided it “just wasn’t what they expected” and came back a year later asking for a refund. Would he give it to them? He admitted no, he would not, because they had worn it and it was now “used”. I asked him at what point was a piece of original art that was taken home and hung up on a wall considered “used”? Would two years worth of looking at it be long enough? Or is is okay to go home, scan it, print out a copy or use it as their profile pic on Twitter and then bring it back for a full refund anytime? No answer to that one.I’m still in disbelief over that years later. Not only that someone would have the gall to bring back something purchased that long ago and expect to get their money back, but that the theme park would actually give it to them.


  1. John O'Connell says:

    Amen. You’re preaching to the choir here. I had that recently, asking artists about an unhappy return only to realize it was mine. People spend a lot of time convincing themselves and others they look differently than they do. Still painful and a waste of time. Occasionally I’ll hold my ground and say I need to be paid for my time. Mostly its kiss the bahookey time and suck it up

  2. Jacob Duncan says:

    I was running an airbrush booth at Worlds of Fun and a guy went to guest relations to complain that his order was late and wanted to talk to me, but didn’t want to walk back to the t-shirt stand. Meanwhile I’m busy with other stuff and pissed off anyway so I made him wait 20 minutes, and by then he was really mad. The merchandise manager called me, he said ‘It’s not my job to deal with this guy.” So I go to the front gate to talk to the customer. He said, “What if we had to catch a plane and our order was late?” By this time I was so mad I almost strangled him. Instead I gave the filthy bastard his money back and let him keep the shirts, along with a silent murderous gaze. This is why I cannot be around people


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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