We don't live in the area, so going to Knoebel's would be a unique experience for us. We were away at a family wedding in State College, PA, about a 2 hour drive to Knoebel's. For months, we decided we would go to Knoebel's on that Sunday, stay at a hotel in the area, and then drive about 4 hours to home the next morning. Note that Knoebel's is NOT on my way home from State College, it was an out-of-the-way excursion made only for that purpose.
Hurricane Irene was set to strike the New Jersey coast (where we live) on Sunday morning. It was raining on and off in the Knoebels area, but it was set to stop around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
With the uncertainty of the hurricane, we knew better than to tell the kids we had planned to go to Knoebel's. That morning, I went to the Knoebel's website. Before you could even enter the website, a white page with bold red lettering stated that the park was open normal hours that day. It said the same thing on their Facebook feed. In other words, they went far out of their way to get the word out that they were open normal hours that day.
So there I was, informed by the park itself that they would be open their normal hours, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. So we went. We arrived at 3 p.m. to learn that they closed the park right at that time. They closed at 3 p.m. even though they stated on their own website and on their Facebook feed that they would be open until 8 p.m. that day.
I was very angry, but I kept my cool and asked to speak to a manager. I was directed to an office deep in the park, and I walked there with my 11 year old son; my wife and very upset 8 year old daughter stayed at the entrance.
I spoke with two Guest Relations employees who very tepidly apologized. They said the decision to close at 3 p.m. was made at Noon. I told them I left my hotel in State College around 1 p.m., and that at that time their website and Facebook status stated they were open "normal hours" that day. One of them tried to offer me free park tickets for a future visit but I politely turned him down. I explained that I was not complaining in order to receive any compensation, but rather I wanted them to understand the basic decency of letting the public know that they are closing early. I tried to explain that if they use the Internet to tell us they're open, then they need to be good upstanding people and tell us they're closed, too! I don't want other people to fall victim to the same incompetence that drew me there, driving 2 hours out of my way.
I was asked why I did not call to ask if they were open. I responded that if they had said nothing on the Internet then of course I would have called. But because they seemed competent at using their website and social media to specifically tell people they were open normal hours that day, I assumed they would respect their customers to also tell them not to bother coming once the decision was made to close early.
And again, I'll point out that I was told the decision for a 3 p.m. closing was made at 12 p.m., so it's not like they closed due to an emergency beyond their control. I was told they closed because there wasn't enough business to justify remaining opening. And by the way, it wasn't raining when we got there, it had stopped just as the weather forecast had predicted.
I don't necessarily blame them for closing early. However, I DO blame them for not notifying the public via Facebook and their website. My kids didn't have to be heartbroken and disappointed after a 2 hour drive.
I also must point out a decent gesture made by the two Guest Relations employees. I asked for general driving directions back home to Atlantic City, NJ, since I now would not be needing to stay at a hotel that night (I had directions to home from the hotel but not from Knoebel's). They led me back to their office and printed out Mapquest directions for me. That was definitely a nice touch.