Katherine Gould recently enjoyed a thrilling ride on Magic Mountain’s fast-zooming, forward-and-backward-rotating, face-down-plunging X2 roller coaster.
Then she underwent a frustrating experience trying to recover from Magic Mountain’s lost-and-found department the smartphone that had gone flying from her pocket at some point during all that zooming, rotating and plunging.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d get my phone back,” Gould, 45, told me. “But I did expect at least an attempt at customer service.”
Unresponsive — or nonexistent — customer service has to be the most common gripe I receive from people. For many companies, it seems, treating customers with courtesy and respect is little more than an afterthought.
You’d think a theme park, which is pretty much in the customer-service business, would know how to do it right. But running an accessible and friendly lost-and-found department appears to be low on Magic Mountain’s list of priorities.
Glendale resident Gould said she visited the park with her 14-year-old daughter and a couple of her daughter’s friends.
Gould had no problem with the X2’s in-your-face twists and turns. “It scared the bejesus out of me, but it was awesome,” she said.
Her problem was that she’d slipped her Droid Razr phone into one of the pockets of her cargo pants, and it made its getaway at some point when Gould was having her bejesus expunged.
She noticed after exiting the ride that her device was gone, so she went to a park worker at the X2 entrance.
“He said this happened all the time,” Gould recalled. “He said they sweep the area every day after the park closes and pick up all the phones and pairs of glasses that went flying.”
Gould was directed to the Valencia park’s lost-and-found office, which is near the main entrance. As it happened, the man in front of her in line was also reporting a phone making a break for freedom on the X2.
A worker took Gould’s report and gave her a number to call the next day. Gould called as instructed. The phone rang unanswered.
She called Magic Mountain’s guest-services line and was transferred to lost and found. Once again, no one picked up the phone.
Gould called guest services again to complain. A worker said Gould would be placed on the park’s list of people who couldn’t get through to lost and found.
“They have a list!” Gould said. “Apparently there are a lot of lost souls like me.”
She tried emailing lost and found. She kept calling for three days.
“No one ever picked up the phone,” Gould said. “No one ever called me back or returned my email.”
She finally gave up and bought a new phone.
I asked Sue Carpenter, a spokeswoman for Magic Mountain’s parent company, Six Flags, what she had to say about Gould’s not-so-awesome adventure in Customer Service Land.
“Reaching our lost-and-found department on an operating day is challenging,” she acknowledged. “If one of our team members is helping a park guest, they cannot answer the phone, and the person calling gets put into a voice mail system.”
That never happened with Gould. She said that not one of her numerous calls to the park resulted in the opportunity to leave a voice mail.
Carpenter also laid blame for lost items squarely on Magic Mountain visitors. “Unfortunately, park guests do not follow multiple signs and instructions about loose articles,” she said.
Be that as it may, the park could certainly do a better job helping those who are trying to recover errant items.
Gould said she subsequently learned that Magic Mountain sells lost and unclaimed phones to businesses that refurbish them and sell them on eBay. That’s where she bought her new phone.
“It’s also a Droid Razr,” Gould said. “For all I know, I just bought my own phone back.”
Speaking of questionable customer service: Ann Dallavalle, 56, received a message from Yahoo in her Yahoo Mail inbox the other day. Nothing surprising about that. What was surprising was what the online giant had to say.
“As part of our continuing effort to provide you with a wonderful Yahoo Mail experience, we want to make sure the mail you send gets to the friends, family or other contacts you are trying to reach,” the company said.
“In support of this commitment, we have removed Yahoo email addresses from your address book that are no longer valid. All other information remains part of your address book.”
“We all know our email isn’t as private as we’d like it to be,” Duarte resident Dallavalle told me. “But I guess I was under the delusion that my address book was private.”
It’s nice that Yahoo wants people to have up-to-date online address books. But it’s pretty creepy that they feel entitled to rummage around in your digital Rolodex. Shouldn’t Yahoo at least notify you or, better yet, ask your permission first?
Kate Wesson, a Yahoo spokeswoman, declined to give a direct answer to that question. She said only that the raids on people’s address books were part of a larger effort to recycle unused email addresses.
“As part of this recycling process, if an inactive account is listed within a Yahoo address book, it is automatically removed when the account is recycled,” she said.
The company clearly wants people to know that they may have the benefits of a Web-based email account and an online address book, but both belong to Yahoo, not the user.
Privacy? You have only as much as Yahoo wants to give you.
David Lazarus’ column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. he also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.