Chessington’s Customer couldn’t-Care-less

Last week, I blogged about a less than great day out I’d had at Chessington World Of Adventures. I was disappointed, because my previous experience at the theme park had been amazingly positive; and I was concerned that far from getting better (as you would hope companies would strive to do), their standards had actually dropped. At the time I wrote it – bless my innocent cotton socks – I imagined that Chessington would care about my experiences, and appreciate some constructive criticism. I therefore tweeted the blog link to their Twitter account, and also linked to it on their Facebook page.

After I got no response at all (though they were responding to other people), I re-tweeted – this time moving from my original “Feel free to respond” ending (which I had used in order to show that I was not just bitching but would welcome discussion of my points) to the slightly more peremptory “Please respond.” And at that point, to do them justice, they did, saying:

Chessington Resort @CWOA

@penelopefriday Hello, please send your feedback to so that the team can respond directly. Thank you!

Being an obedient soul, I duly followed instructions, and emailed my blog post not as a link but in the text of the email, to make it as easy as possible for them. With the promise of them “responding directly”, after several hours without any response (not even “Thanks: we’re looking into it and will get back to you”), I got a bit worried that the email had not been received. Given this – and given the fact that one of my first concerns originally had been their failure to respond to communications – I tweeted them again, pointing out the irony.

Penelope Friday @penelopefriday

@CWOA Or… not respond directly. Ironically, my 1st point was that you don’t confirm whether or not you’ve received emails. Guess what…

They responded with:

Chessington Resort @CWOA

@penelopefriday Hello, if you’ve emailed the team you should have received an automated response. The team will contact you asap. Thank you

I found this response so profoundly unhelpful, given that I had already said that I had received no such response, that we had the following exchange:

Penelope Friday @penelopefriday

@CWOA No automated response and I copied and pasted the email address you gave Did you give an incorrect one?”

Penelope Friday @penelopefriday

@CWOA When I contacted in advance of going, I also got no response but it was clear when we arrived that my form had been received.”

Penelope Friday @penelopefriday

@CWOA I “should have” received a great number of things from Chessington, and didn’t. Par for the course, it seems.”

After a short pause, I got the following:

Chessington Resort @CWOA

@penelopefriday Hello, this is the correct email address and we can confirm your emails have been received. Thank you
Please note the lack of any apology for inaccurately saying that they had sent an automated response – or, indeed, at this point for anything.

Penelope Friday @penelopefriday

@CWOA And do tell me about the ‘automated response’ you sent…?

A rather big pause, then something, which very politically did not actually respond to what I said:

Chessington Resort @CWOA

@penelopefridayPlease rest assured the team will review your email as soon as they can. We’re sorry for any disappointment caused.


Well, I was very grateful for the vague apology – though if you know precisely what they’re apologising for, you’re more psychic than I am. The bad day? The lack of response to start with to my shared blog post? Their… lying is a very emotive word, so let’s not use it. Everyone can get something wrong… incorrect claim that they had sent an automated response? The fact that they still hadn’t responded?

I waited for two further days to have any response to my email (I had gathered that the ‘directness’ was not to do with speed but more to do with ‘let’s keep this quiet between you and us and we can ignore you privately instead’). I should point out now that the majority of those two days was during weekend time – but although you could argue that they couldn’t be expected to be answering over the weekend, I would like to point out in turn that they were still happily interacting with other Twitter users over those days, so at least one person on the social media team was in.

When I got nothing by Sunday evening, I wrote to the Press Office – both that of Chessington, and that of the Merlin Annual Pass, who – as I understand it – own Chessington informing them that I intended to write an article for the Huffington Post (watch this space) and asking them if they would like to comment. Funnily enough, for the first time I got that ‘automated response’ they claim to send to all users. Some users are more equal than others?

To be fair, they have not replied in person to that email either. Merlin did, with the hilarious response of:

It is great to hear that you wish to write an article regarding Chessington World of Adventures Resort for the Huffington Post. However, unfortunately as a member of the Merlin Annual Pass team, I am unable to provide further information regarding the Resort.

I am wondering whether they actually read my email or whether the idea that all publicity is good publicity has been thoroughly drummed into their heads…!

I would like to note that Chessington’s Twitter is now responding to new complainants and apologising for the delayed response – perhaps if I get no other satisfaction from them on my own behalf, I can feel that I have at least had a positive effect on other people’s experiences!

I think my disappointment all the way through this long and ongoing situation can be boiled down to one main point – I thought Chessington were better than this. I thought they would make more effort to help everyone enjoy their day; and when that didn’t happen, I thought that they would be sad to hear this, and want to make things better. Instead, what I have uncovered is not the problem of “one bad day” but an ongoing issue within the company. So far, I can only conclude that they legitimately do not care about their “guests” – certainly not about their disabled ones.

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