Paralyzed marine denied free entrance to Michigan's Adventure

Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 10:52 AM | Contributed by Dave C

Quadriplegic former Marine Joshua Hoffman waited in a van at Michigan's Adventure, hoping to see fiancee Heather Lovell in the park for an hour or two. Her father, Rockford resident Joel Lovell, explained to park staff that Hoffman is paralyzed and cannot talk. He assumed Hoffman would be admitted free. But Lovell was told he would have to pay admission for Hoffman and the nurse tending to his medical needs. No exceptions. Camille Jourden-Mark, general manager of Michigan's Adventure, said park policy does not allow any non-participants in free.

Read more from The Grand Rapids Press.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 11:14 AM

How is this news worthy ? If you go to the park, you pay...period.

As sad as his particular situation is, the park is right. My parents pay every time they take my kids to a park. They ride nothing, and my father is a veteran.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 11:29 AM

There are lots of people who go to parks every year and don't ride anything. That does not entitle them to free admission. The father in this story seems to think it does.

As for his veteran status, I tend to think that things would have gone a lot better if they had contacted the park in advance. Doesn't it sound a bit stupid to just show up at the gate and start making demands?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 11:47 AM

He could still watch shows and enjoy the sights. The park lets Vets in for free on one day, so they are clearly doing what they can to "support our troops." Is his family upset because they wouldn't let a Vet in for free, of because they didn't let a paraplegic in for free.

With all due respect, how much of an ass do you have to be to not call the park ahead of time to see if you can get in for free? You can't just show up and demand free tickets for you and your nurse.

I agree with one of the comments under the story..."This is not news".

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 12:09 PM

My favorite quote from the comments:

"You folks wanna be outraged? Where's the outcry against the continuedabandonment of benefits, resources, and long-term care for service menand women like young Hoffman?"

This, this is where our priorities should be, not getting all pissy because an amusement park won't somebody in for free.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 12:27 PM

IIRC, at Canada's Wonderland there was some Canadian law that enabled you to enter the park for either free or a much reduced admissions (like $3) if you weren't riding anything.

You had this hand-stamp if you *were* riding, and the ride hosts would check for the stamp...do you remember this, Moosh??

Some people on CWMania (CW fansite) were claiming that every year this was something CBS then Cedar Fair were trying to get rid of doing, yet every year there it was still continuing.

But still...as far as this guy, why couldn't his fiance come out to see him?? Also, the politicizing of his state is a little slimy if you ask me...the terms of his condition should not be mixed in with why CF would deny this guy a free admit IMO.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 12:58 PM

Unfortunately a lot of people like to use one set of circumstances to acquire another set. I think Camille was right on though, that you need to have lines drawn. There are something like 25 million living military veterans in the US now, and while you certainly want to honor their service, you can't let them all in free. I don't know how many disabled people there are with various conditions, but that's another huge segment of the population, with the elderly alone constituting a giant number.

I agree, that I suspect calling in advance would have had the desired result. Instead they've made a scene that looks like bad PR for the park, through no fault of their own.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 1:54 PM

I'm personally surprised that the GM of the park ended up getting involved. I do agree with what everyone here has said (especially in contrast from the comments on the article!), but I do think that from a guest service standpoint they could have made a one time exception, or at least a discounted ticket. I don't feel that the park was wrong with anything they did, especially since they do allow military personnel in for free on Memorial Day; I think that's perfectly acceptable.

The bottom line is: there are so many different types of people that deserve recognition: military, police, firefighters, nurses, doctors, state/federal employees, educators, and so many more. Parks need to take a sensitive, yet bold approach at how to recognize each of these individuals. At the same time, these individuals need to understand that an amusement park is a business, and just like any other business, they stay in business by collecting money from those that are consuming their product. Amusement parks cannot provide free admission to park guests simply because they deserve recognition. However, parks do need to make these individuals aware of the fact that they are thinking of them.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 1:57 PM

Later on in the article, "On Tuesday, Jourden-Mark (GM) offered complementary passes for Hoffman and a guest to Michigan's Adventure in response to the issue."

Now by handing out free passes so much for the no exceptions under any circumstances. I guess they family just needed to complain to the media to get free passes

I wonder what else his family thinks he is entitled too?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:10 PM

I liked this line

"You want to be appreciative of it, but it took a lot of people complaining to them to realize what kind of mistake they had made," Lovell said. "We weren't looking for a free trip. It's just a problem with the policy."

If they weren't looking for a free trip, then why didn't they just pay.

My BS meter just went of the chart.

Last edited by DaveStroem, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:11 PM
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:21 PM

Not sure what Busch exactly does to "honor our nation's heroes" in terms of admission. They certainly make a huge deal out of it with omnipresent signage (at least in Orlando and Tampa). Have to wonder if policies like Busch's make it hard for other parks to NOT follow suit. Regardless of the after-the-fact gesture, or how you feel about the way the family went about the process, it certainly created some bad PR for the park...

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:28 PM

Hmm... ... IIRC didn't Dollywood have a policy a few years back allowing physically disabled guests free admission? And once again IIRC Dollywood had to disband that due to ADA/ACLU issues, something to do with that being special treatment for guests with disabilities. I just don't understand what the family expects. Its a private property that is gated, and everyone who wishes to gain entry is charged a fee to do so. Does this mean that at any concert, movie, or sporting event that he should not be charged for the price of a ticket? And not to make this sound ignorant, but does that mean that "little people" should not be charged an adult admission due to their size? If they don't meet the height requirement for rides, should they have to pay to ride them?

Can of worms... nothing less. I think that the park was just and fair, and they are not required to even have the Memorial Day program, but do so as a courtesy. From a major corporation that is a lot, so they should be grateful for even having that!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:38 PM

Quite frankly I don't understand the animosity towards these people.

Sure, they made a bad assumption, but for the park to not budge? Even I, the most heartless of the heartless, can see the trouble brewing a mile away.

Mistakes were made on both sides and what seals that opinion for me is the after-the-fact gesture from the park. If they ended up giving in anyway, then the whole thing could have been avoided in the first place.

Use the excuse of 'picking and choosing' all you want, but how many quadriplegic, mute verterans really show up at the park looking for freebies? It's really not much of an exception - and trying to draw the line to other exceptions (elderly, little people, etc) doesn't cut it.

There's no reason they couldn't have taken him inside the gate, paged his family, explained the circumstances and let him in for a little bit with the understanding that this isn't how it works and leave the family aware in the future.

It's a really ugly PR situation that should (and could) have been avoided entirely by a skilled customer service staff. I place every bit as much blame on the park's handling of the situation as I do the family's expectations.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:38 PM
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:43 PM

"He went to Iraq for all of us and took a bullet in the neck. He sacrificed everything for his country," Joel Lovell said.

And on that, it's too bad no one in earshot offered to pony up and pay for the guys admission.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:53 PM

rollergator said:
Not sure what Busch exactly does to "honor our nation's heroes" in terms of admission. They certainly make a huge deal out of it with omnipresent signage (at least in Orlando and Tampa). Have to wonder if policies like Busch's make it hard for other parks to NOT follow suit. Regardless of the after-the-fact gesture, or how you feel about the way the family went about the process, it certainly created some bad PR for the park...

I forget Busch's EXACTLY policy on that, but as someone who worked at one of their parks, you provided some sort of proof of current enrollment (such as ID or photocopy of ID) and you'll get a free admission. A nice program and I handed quite a few out to nice families. They all understood what it was for (thank god!) and didn't try to push it (I remember one young family coming in and getting it, knowing the policy w/ print outs from the website making sure everything was kosher. I wish everyone who came to the park was that prepared.)

I had one story like this. A family once came up to the park who were not the standard visitors demographic for the park. The family wanted to see inside the park first before they wanted to pay. Once they were told no, they sat outside for a bit and talked, then asked if they could pay a reduced fee for the father who didn't want to ride anything. Again no. Eventually the mom and kids entered, with the father figure staying outside. He eventually entered several hours later once the discount PM tickets came into effect. With parks becoming more complex and diverse in entertainment and experience it's hard to justify letting people in for free like this, but I know some parks, possibly including Disney, not 100% sure, do have a rather ingenious system for this. What they do is offer a "shopping" pass, where you enter the park to shop for an hour, and to do so you hand over your credit card info. If you come back within an hour, no charges are made. If you stay inside, your card is chared for a full day's admission.

Once you start letting in paralyzed people into the park for free you start to get people pushing the boundaries too much.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 3:41 PM

Lord Gonchar said:There's no reason they couldn't have taken him inside the gate, paged his family, explained the circumstances and let him in for a little bit with the understanding that this isn't how it works and leave the family aware in the future.

Better PR people would have done exactly that, LONG before it ever got to the point where the GM is apologizing (and awkwardly relenting in a way that points out there ARE, in fact, exceptions).

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 3:44 PM

I don't think that park has "PR people." Let's not forget that this is a fairly small park with a fairly small number of full-time employees. It's an instance where it makes sense for the GM to be hands-on, because there aren't a lot of hands to begin with.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:03 PM

I have no sympathy for those who don't plan their trip. They should have been aware of the park policies in advance of vistiting and to assume that he'd be admitted for free is outrageous. I would be willing to bet that a majority of Americans, who are now unheard from in the media, would feel this way.

It's obvious that there is one side of this story that is not being told correctly. I also find it hard to believe as suggested that he was stranded in the parking lot and that his family wasn't aware of this.

The two of you (rollergator and Lord Gonchar) are suggesting the park get into some dangerous territory with liberal policies that are difficult to enforce and define. If you start making judgement calls and grant free admission to one and not to another then you'll end up with articles like this one in the paper every week.

The problem here is with the guests. They're the ones who made the bad assumption that they'd be admitted for free. Cedar Fair needs to stand their ground firmly here. This is just another example of the abusive media reporting and beating down of American businesses. If you're a business owner in America you're suddenly treated like a criminal and that's not right.

This whole story is part of a larger virus called self-entitlement that has swept this nation and is causing serious problems. Everyone can make an argument as to why they should get in for free, but the reality needs to set in that ALL should be required to pay.

Personally, I think the GM is making a huge mistake by offering free admission after the fact.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:07 PM

egieszl said:
The two of you (rollergator and Lord Gonchar) are suggesting the park get into some dangerous territory with liberal policies that are difficult to enforce and define. If you start making judgement calls and grant free admission to one and not to another then you'll end up with articles like this one in the paper every week.


I say just the opposite. You let them in (as I suggested in my post) and this never hits the paper...end of everything. No one is any wiser and it establishes a precedent for the future.

This whole story is part of a larger virus called self-entitlement that has swept this nation and is causing serious problems. Everyone can make an argument as to why they should get in for free, but the reality needs to set in that ALL should be required to pay.

I think that goes back to what Gator was saying. Enough places offer deals, special, benefits - whatever - to handicapped people, veterans or in this case disabled veterans.

I don't think their assumptions were entirely unreasonable or greedy or selfish in anyway based on experience.

Personally, I think the GM is making a huge mistake by offering free admission after the fact.

Agreed.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:13 PM
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:09 PM

^^LOL Eric, I've always been a "dangerous liberal". Now with Gonch, OTOH, well.... ;)

My thinking is that if you were going to get back to offering the guy a free admission ANYWAY....then do it in such a way as to prevent the bad press. Trust me when I say that *virtually everyone* in the area knows about him being denied in the first place, and that information about the offer to let him come back free isn't NEARLY as widely known. Very few people read the back-page retractions, but everyone sees the front-page headlines... ;)

edit: Gonch screwin' with my arrows AGAIN. I think I'm going to ask for free ^arrows^ on my next trip to >Kennywood>. :)

Last edited by rollergator, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:11 PM
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