Last night, Sara and I, with the urge to skate, went to a rink in Philly where I grew up skating. The experience is summed up in the following letter that I wrote to the management, because I'm a good liberal and writing letters is what we do.
I grew up in the Philadelphia area and remember skating at WOW when I was younger. When my wife and I came to town for the Thanksgiving weekend, I was pleased to see that you had reopened and we came out to skate last night. My wife and I are both members of the Westmoreland Roller Derby League and skate several times a week, she as a derby girl and myself as a referee. The idea of being able to skate while on vacation made us both very happy.
I am saddened to say that it was, by far, the worst skating experience that I have ever had. With one disconnected young woman at the check-in counter, it took her 12 minutes to get 2 groups of people in and paid for. She seemed to have no interest in customer service whatsoever, nor did any of the managers who walked past, saw the line out the door and their employee moving at a snails' pace, and did nothing.
After we paid, which seemed unnecessary since no one was taking tickets or looking for bracelets, we wove our way through the massive crowd, put our shoes in a locker and attempted to make our way to the rink. I say attempted because there was a clot of people blocking both the single entrance and the single exit.
Finally reaching the rink, we discovered what could only be described as rolling anarchy. Children and adults alike were skating in whatever direction they chose, backwards as well as straight across, with no regard to order or the safety of other skaters. People who fell on the track were left to their own devices as people fell over them, rolling away and spreading out in a widening pool of bodies.
There were multiple people on the ring without skates, some of whom were parents walking with their inexperienced children, but several of whom were older children and young adults, seemingly out for a stroll, many of whom were eating snacks and dropping things on the rink, making themselves and their meals a hazard to everyone around them.
With all of this taking place, we saw just one staff member on the rink and it was, apparently, not his job to keep people moving or safe. It was, apparently, his job to help beautiful women back to their feet. Repeatedly, he skated past the people wandering the rink without skates, saying nothing about how dangerous that activity was. Repeatedly, he skated past the young man who decided that he liked the song being played by the DJ and thought it would be a good idea to stop skating and dance in the middle of the rink, forcing people to skate around him. Repeatedly, he skated past downed skaters, including small, screaming, crying children, without a thought of helping them up.
After 10 minutes, my anxiety was so high that we were forced to leave. When we went back to the lockers to get our shoes, we were forced to slowly pick our way across a floor littered with discarded skates. Without having a policy of making your patrons trade shoes for skates, there was no incentive for anyone to return their skates, and so left them scattered wherever they fell, once again, creating a hazard for everyone else. Your staff appeared to accustomed to this policy as we saw a young man pushing a shopping cart, collecting skates and returning them to the rental counter.
At that point, we left and drove up to The Palace Skating Rink and enjoyed a well-lit, organized, and safe remainder of the evening.
This experience has so soured me to your establishment that I will never return. I understand that I am one person who lives far away and my lack of attendance will not hurt your bottom line. You clearly are doing something right as the building was packed solid with people who appeared to be enjoying themselves. I have no illusions about how my boycott of Rolling Thunder will cause you to lose sleep.
My complaint is not that your establishment was not fun, although it wasn't. My complaint is that the level of danger involved for skaters and non-skaters alike was so high that my conscience will not allow me to let it go uncommented.
I write this letter merely to relay my experience and to express my utter disappointment. I will be posting this letter here as well as on the website for our derby league.
Rolling Thunder (Please excuse my shoddy cinematography)
The Palace (Please notice the difference)