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Re: NPS "customer service"

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avatar NPS "customer service"
April 27, 2014 10:24PM
Well - I was visiting Muir Woods National Monument today with my kid. We've already got an annual pass, which is $20 and admits everyone traveling in the same vehicle (hard to tell though since it's walk-in only entrance) or the holder and up to three guests. Well today I saw a large group. They had two seniors and asked if there was a discount (none except if they got an lifetime pass if they were US citizens or permanent residents). So they just say OK - and paid $70 for 10. The annual pass is $20. I'm guessing they came in two vehicles.

I asked the guy handling my entrance why they don't just recommend to people that they get an annual pass. He said it wasn't their responsibility. If the visitor knew about the annual pass they'd handle it, but apparently they don't volunteer that. I also found another volunteer working inside and asked him about this. He said he occasionally works the entrance, but that perhaps they have a standards manual for what to do an what to say. Apparently he didn't work there often enough to go through it. He did say that he thought the annual pass was a great deal, especially since it costs less than three individual admissions and pays for itself with just three people.

I've used for-profit businesses where employees were free to tell people how they might save money. I remember flying an airline where the family in front of me had two bags slightly overweight (limit was 50 lbs and each bag was about 2 lbs over). The agent suggested maybe taking a few lbs out of one and transferring to the other so they only had to pay for one overweight bag (the final limit is 80 lbs where they refuse to accept a bag), but the family declined. Their primary language wasn't English though, so I'm not sure they quite got the point. However, they tried and suggested it to help them out. I didn't get that sense. I even got a sense that there was hostility at the entrance station that it might cost them revenue.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 07:50AM
It is the job of the entrance station personnel to access the needs of the visitor and to help them understand the various passes. The national monuments must be run differently than the national parks. As for the Golden Age Passes; if any of the visitors were married they would have only needed one pass for the couple. The gate attendant needs some training.
Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 08:29AM
One senior in each car with a valid "America The Beautiful" pass would have allowed them free entrance. (or 8 people if it were a walk-in facility) If asked, the attendant should have indeed explained the options.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/2014 08:33AM by troutwild.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 10:08AM
Quote
troutwild
One senior in each car with a valid "America The Beautiful" pass would have allowed them free entrance. (or 8 people if it were a walk-in facility) If asked, the attendant should have indeed explained the options.

I would note that the visitors seemed to be Chinese, and as far as I could tell the two seniors in their group barely understood English. I'm not sure if they were US citizens/permanent residents eligible for the senior pass. They would have to have ID to get that particular pass though, and I'm not sure they would have carried any. Still - not speaking English well is no bar to having a green card or even being a citizen. I remember being behind a woman at Customs at SFO who was Chinese, but where the agent let her go ahead and then stopped her. He then asked if anyone could speak Chinese to ask her if she understood what she was filling out; he was probably thinking some of what she filled out seemed odd because it didn't answer the questions. She carried a US passport and I think filled out the English language version of the form.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 10:00AM
Quote
Dave
It is the job of the entrance station personnel to access the needs of the visitor and to help them understand the various passes. The national monuments must be run differently than the national parks. As for the Golden Age Passes; if any of the visitors were married they would have only needed one pass for the couple. The gate attendant needs some training.

I actually got my mom her first Golden Age Pass (before she lost it and I helped fork over another $10). I took a long trip with my parents, and for one trip that pass (along with one I got for my father) got us into 9 national parks, one national monument, and a Forest Service fee area. Muir Woods is mostly staffed at the entrance with Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy volunteers and has been for some time. The one I talked with for a while didn't seem to recall if there was anything in a service standards manual, especially since the entrance window wasn't his prime responsibility. The other thing was that they tried to explain the senior pass to the group, but they didn't quite seem to get what the point was.

The Golden Age (or current America the Beautiful senior pass) is actually good for the occupants of one vehicle (if traveling with the senior) or perhaps some number of walk-in visitors spelled out on the back of the pass. I don't think married really matters. There's only one signature line (unlike annual passes with two lines), and I don't think it can be shared.

Muir Woods is somewhat different. The annual pass has remained at $20 for a while, even while the per-person entrance fee has been $3/$5/$7. At this point the math easily supports getting an annual pass for at least three visitors.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 11:14AM
Quote
y_p_w
I actually got my mom her first Golden Age Pass (before she lost it and I helped fork over another $10). I took a long trip with my parents, and for one trip that pass (along with one I got for my father) got us into 9 national parks, one national monument, and a Forest Service fee area. Muir Woods is mostly staffed at the entrance with Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy volunteers and has been for some time. The one I talked with for a while didn't seem to recall if there was anything in a service standards manual, especially since the entrance window wasn't his prime responsibility. The other thing was that they tried to explain the senior pass to the group, but they didn't quite seem to get what the point was.

Often there can be communications problems. Volunteers try, but cannot be held to the same standards as park staff. There is a manual, I forget the name, and they should have a copy of it in the main office. Anyone taking entrance fees should read it. The volunteer should have spent a bit more time explaining. It's not that difficult. I've done it hundreds of times.

Quote

The Golden Age (or current America the Beautiful senior pass) is actually good for the occupants of one vehicle (if traveling with the senior) or perhaps some number of walk-in visitors spelled out on the back of the pass. I don't think married really matters. There's only one signature line (unlike annual passes with two lines), and I don't think it can be shared.
It is issued to one person and cannot be shared. When at the gate I always looked in the car to see if there was someone there that could qualify. If I see grey hair, I ask. :-) That's my job. Even if the senior is never going to visit another park, it's, according to me, the best practice to sell them a senior pass. It's also different for walk through gates vs drive through ones like Yosemite. I believe the senior pass would get everyone in if they came in the same car. If this group came to me, and I knew they came in two cars, I'd sell them two senior passes. I would have figured out some way NOT to charge them $70.

Quote

Muir Woods is somewhat different. The annual pass has remained at $20 for a while, even while the per-person entrance fee has been $3/$5/$7. At this point the math easily supports getting an annual pass for at least three visitors.
I'd be selling a lot of annual passes.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 12:01PM
Quote
Dave
Often there can be communications problems. Volunteers try, but cannot be held to the same standards as park staff. There is a manual, I forget the name, and they should have a copy of it in the main office. Anyone taking entrance fees should read it. The volunteer should have spent a bit more time explaining. It's not that difficult. I've done it hundreds of times.

It [senior pass] is issued to one person and cannot be shared. When at the gate I always looked in the car to see if there was someone there that could qualify. If I see grey hair, I ask. :-) That's my job. Even if the senior is never going to visit another park, it's, according to me, the best practice to sell them a senior pass. It's also different for walk through gates vs drive through ones like Yosemite. I believe the senior pass would get everyone in if they came in the same car. If this group came to me, and I knew they came in two cars, I'd sell them two senior passes. I would have figured out some way NOT to charge them $70.

I'd be selling a lot of annual passes.

Yeah - I understand that dealing with people whose first language isn't English can be an issue. I saw them coming in, and I was thinking of telling them to ask for an annual pass (or two) to save them some money immediately and maybe use on a return visit.

As for the senior pass, I remember there were some interesting ways to use it. At Zion NP during the summer it's almost exclusively walk-in visitation with the shuttle buses. I came with my parents one day but was planning on returning the next morning to go up Angels Landing by myself. I asked what could be done, since the walk-up fee was $10 (half the $20 per vehicle fee). It was a uniformed ranger at the entrance station, and the ranger filled out a temporary 7-day permit with my name allowing me to return since I had accompanied my mother with the senior pass.

As for the volunteer at the entrance station checking my annual pass - it was interesting. He said something about "Well - it's not like we have a neon sign telling people they should get annual passes". The other volunteer I met inside seemed to be more of the opinion that they can often back up the line when they try to explain to people who just don't get that it saves them money right away.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 03:32PM
Quote
y_p_w
Yeah - I understand that dealing with people whose first language isn't English can be an issue. I saw them coming in, and I was thinking of telling them to ask for an annual pass (or two) to save them some money immediately and maybe use on a return visit.

As for the senior pass, I remember there were some interesting ways to use it. At Zion NP during the summer it's almost exclusively walk-in visitation with the shuttle buses. I came with my parents one day but was planning on returning the next morning to go up Angels Landing by myself. I asked what could be done, since the walk-up fee was $10 (half the $20 per vehicle fee). It was a uniformed ranger at the entrance station, and the ranger filled out a temporary 7-day permit with my name allowing me to return since I had accompanied my mother with the senior pass.
That was the right way to do that.

Quote

As for the volunteer at the entrance station checking my annual pass - it was interesting. He said something about "Well - it's not like we have a neon sign telling people they should get annual passes". The other volunteer I met inside seemed to be more of the opinion that they can often back up the line when they try to explain to people who just don't get that it saves them money right away.

Those volunteers need some serious training. They shouldn't need a neon sign to do their job for them. A couple of times the person did not understand the pass but I sold it to them anyway. I handed them the pass and said it was good for the rest of their life - then it sank in. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing in spite of what others do.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 10:18PM
There must be some sort of disconnect regarding the "Olde Dude" Pass usage at some National Monuments. I took a 3 week trip through over a dozen parks one year, and the only time we had problems with the pass was at a National Monument (I had to break out the manual that shows the pass is good for Nat'l Monuments, too)



The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
avatar Re: NPS "customer service"
April 28, 2014 11:18PM
Quote
Bee
There must be some sort of disconnect regarding the "Olde Dude" Pass usage at some National Monuments. I took a 3 week trip through over a dozen parks one year, and the only time we had problems with the pass was at a National Monument (I had to break out the manual that shows the pass is good for Nat'l Monuments, too)

I only have experience with using those passes at two NMs - both NPS. One took them with no issue (and even had 50% off a cave tour for my mom). The other one issued her pass, and issued another one when she lost her previous one and I just forked over another $10. I think part of the reason for the pass is to encourage people to visit with older friends and relatives when the older adults might not otherwise visit if they had to come alone.

Supposedly any fee area that accepts them is also supposed to have them on hand along with training of how to deal with them. Now I have had a couple of the full interagency passes, and only got the recent one for Muir Woods because it was $20 and we had four adults. I remember at Mt St Helens (Forest Service) there was a ranger complaining to a volunteer at the entrance to the Johnston Observatory that a lot of the NPS sites didn't even get anyone to sign the various passes. We actually got ours at Crater Lake, and weren't asked to sign it until we got to Olympic NP. And the pen they gave us wasn't terribly permanent and it wiped off when I got it wet at a waterfall.
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