The following explains how my husband and I, along with my mother, were treated this past weekend (Sat. October 24, 2015) at the Northwest Renaissance Festival’s Creepy Hallow haunted trail. My husband and I have been going for the last 6 years. It’s on a private property where the family that owns it, along with volunteers, setup a string of scary vignettes along a dark wooded trail. The overall quality of the vignettes hasn’t always been consistent. Some years we even considered maybe not going back. But, we always wanted to support the volunteers putting on the event for Halloween enthusiasts like ourselves, and have returned every year.
It’s quite the trek outside Spokane – almost a 30 minute drive through the dark, ending with your car bottoming out on a massive pothole in their driveway. In the first 4 years we went, there would maybe be 20-40 people ahead of us in line at the most. Last year (2014) was the first time we had to wait almost 2 hours to be able to go through the trail.
This year we showed up at about 8:40pm thinking we would have plenty of time since they close at midnight. For the first time there was actually a line just to purchase a ticket. While standing in line, we had ample time to read their “Rules” that were written on a dry erase board which included “there may be up to a 1 hour plus + wait” and “NO REFUNDS once your ticket has been punched” (they punch your ticket right before you actually walk the trail). We overheard the owner who was selling the tickets (we have spoken with him and his family that work there previously) give a lengthy speech to each party that no doubt was the culprit of the long ticket line.
In the waiting area there were two wood burning barrels with no standing room left around them. They had a food truck for the first time, face painting, and were projecting a scary movie. We stood in the cold for about 30 minutes and then decided to go see our position in the cue. Our ticket numbers were 3843-3845. I saw that the current group being called was numbers 3623-3644. I asked the worker “does that mean there’s literally 200 people in front of us?” She said yes and it was “about a 2 hour wait, but they’ll try to make it faster if they can”. At one point we overheard other customers complaining to the workers about the wait time and hoped that maybe people would decide to just get refunds and open up spots in front of us. We decided it was worth waiting and went back to our car to get some heat.
By 11:45pm we had waited 3 hours since first arriving. We checked the cue and there was still about 80 people ahead of us. Doing some calculation, we figured we would be there well past 1am – possibly even 2am, waiting to get through the trail. My mother still had over an hour drive just to get back home from Spokane. It was frustrating, but we finally gave up and decided to just ask for a refund and cut our loses. It was $15 for the 3 of us to get in. I would have paid triple that to not lose more than 3 hours of our night, but at least we wouldn’t lose money on the deal and could end the misery of waiting.
We went back to the ticket booth and I asked the owner politely for a refund. He stared at me blankly and said “no refunds”. I asked “Once the ticket has been punched, right?” That part of the “Rules” had now been scratched out with dry erase marker. He shook his head. My husband pointed to the rule board and said “it also says it could be up to an hour and a half plus wait – it’s now been 3 hours”. The owner argued that an ‘hour and a half plus’ means more than an hour and a half – it could be an hour and 45 minutes, it could be 2 hours. We pointed out that the website said they would be open until midnight, which it was now past, and we still had over an hour or more wait. He replied that they would make sure to stay until they have gotten everyone through. We explained that being there until well past 1am wasn’t reasonable for us especially since we had long drives home. He had no response for us. We didn’t even get an apology for the unexpected extended wait time.
Surprised at the owner’s unfriendly attitude, I said “My husband and I have been coming here every year for the past 6 years and we have been loyal customers. I don’t appreciate the way you’re treating us.” The owner replied defensively “hey, I’m just a peon, I don’t make any of the decisions here. You’ll have to speak with him” he pointed to one of the men behind him in the booth. I knew he was in fact the owner, but I let it go and we waited for the other man to come out from the booth to speak with us.
My husband respectfully explained the situation to the man. I expected that he would have some compassion for our long and boring night and would just refund our money. After all, we hadn’t taken anything from them as we were in our car most of the time. We didn’t even watch any of the movies that were playing since we couldn’t bare the cold. Without a single notion of an apology, the man said “You need to understand our position, okay? This is our busiest night ever.”
My husband replied that he understood they were busy. He told the man even though we know that nothing could be done about the unexpected 3 hours that was taken from our night, we would just like our money back since we didn’t get to see the haunted trail and we hadn’t taken anything from them. The man proceeded to say things like we would wait more than 3 hours to see one attraction at Scarywood (which we’ve been to several times and has never been the case, even for their million dollar attraction). My husband explained that we come every year, always tell people about them, and have even spoken with the owner and his daughter about participating. “Okay,” the man interrupted and pointed with his whole arm over at the ‘peon’ in the ticket booth, “that’s the owner and I’m his daughter’s husband.” He said it as if he was somehow catching my husband in a lie, even though he was actually pointing out his father-in-law’s lie. My husband had stayed calm during this entire exchange even though the family was completely unapologetic about our horrible experience. My husband attempted one last try and sincerely asked the son-in-law, “Would you and your wife want to take our money for nothing? Is this how you would want loyal customers to be treated?” The son-in-law continued his defense, “We have the barrels, we have the movie, we have face painting, and we have food carts – so you can’t say we don’t have anything.” We finally gave up realizing it was a lost cause.
The point of this story about the Creepy Hallow is that I would like to prevent fellow Spokanites from suffering the same kind of night this Halloween weekend in addition to following years. I used to boast to people about the group’s unique attraction. But, because of the horrible customer service and pettiness from the family run business, I can only try to keep people from going and being mistreated. The worse insult of all is that we had earlier that night gone to the King Family Haunted House in Mead where they provided a truly fun experience for free – or donations if you feel so inclined. The donations were to partly help with their expenses and to also be given to the Make A Wish Foundation. We had donated $15 to the King Family Haunted House. The irony is that in hindsight I wish we had just donated the full $30 we spent that night to the King’s and skipped the Creepy Hallow entirely.