Since people generally enjoy being amused, it makes sense that amusement parks are incredibly popular. They are places to escape reality for a little while, where you can eat food that’s bad for you, go on rides that feel dangerous, and interact with some classic cartoon characters. But there are some hidden truths that make these playgrounds less fun. We talked to a few people who have worked in these parks to get the inside scoop. After recovering from their frightening flashbacks, here are some of the golden nuggets they provided.
Fistfights Occur Regularly
Parks are generally closed in locations with harsh winters. The icy wind in your face would take the thrill out of the “thrill ride.” So summer is when parks do most of their business. Tensions can run high in hot weather with long lines. Former park employee Anthony tells us you can be certain a fight is eventually going to break out.
“Apparently, one patron told another one, “I’ll be there soon; save me a spot.” So when he shows up in the middle of the line, everyone started yelling at them. Soon the yelling became screaming. Then the screaming turned into fighting. The guy who “cut” in line ended up with broken teeth and a broken nose.”
Nick used to work at Worlds of Fun near Kansas City, MO. He tells a similar tale. “I was working the guessing game booth. This very drunk guy walks straight to the front of the line and slurs, ‘Hey! How much is it to play?'” I say. “It costs five bucks. But all these people get to go ahead of you.’ Drunk Guy keeps going. ‘I’m playing RIGHT NOW!’ The man who was up next with his daughter, says, ‘Sir, it’s our turn.’ Drunk Guy says some explicit words. Dad punches Drunk Guy so hard he’s unconscious. Both of them were thrown out. But I gave Dad a prize for his daughter. The guy earned that punch in the face.”
Eat Absolutely Nothing
Anthony advises corn dog lovers to cover your eyes or scroll down at this point.
“We had a rodent problem. So we threw out food that was OBVIOUSLY in contact with them. But the food that only ‘might’ have contacted the rodents was kept.” So patrons “might’ have indulged in mouse-flavored corn dogs.
Anthony’s employer had to be withheld due to liability concerns. We can only tell you that you know the place well. But it’s not Disneyland, even though mouse-flavored food would be a natural match.
“You know how these companies are. Money is EVERYTHING. Our fryers kept oil for months, and they were rarely changed out. Food would get dropped on the ground but still used. Food is an easy target for cuts. And you won’t catch me eating in that park.”
Employees are Underpaid
Back in the late 80s, one pro basketball player called his $500,000 salary “modern-day slave wages.” He would change his tune if he saw how little some amusement park employees receive.
Anthony explains. “We participated in a foreign exchange program. We deliberately sought out very poor countries to find students for the ‘work-study’ program.” Quotation marks are present because the only thing foreign exchange workers actually studied was the art of corporate greed and worker exploitation.
“They are paid the standard minimum wage. But 70% of it goes back to the park to cover food and housing. Each room held 4-5 students at once.” Since they were herded like cattle into one-fourth of a room, it was clearly a money grab.
“Also, there was a big language barrier. They are there for six months, so eventually, they start speaking English fairly well. Then they would tell us how horrible their conditions were. They felt like prisoners.”
Anthony continues. “They weren’t given a free ride. They usually have to take out loans or get sponsorship. That costs about $3,000. Since they lose 70% of their paycheck, most workers don’t make enough to pay back the cost of what it took to fly here.”
The Park Owns You If You Reside On-Site
Employees can have some annoying habits – getting sick, being late, or wanting to leave and have an outside life. So theme parks created the genius idea of having on-site dormitories where workers can live. Employees get the convenience of no commute, and the parks get to control every second of the employees’ lives.
Heather once worked at Cedar Point in Ohio. Here’s how she described it. “The park wants to know exactly where you are every second. So they may arrange for you to live close to the park. If they want to change your schedule, they change it. Since they know you’re less than two miles away, you can’t really say no. It all can, and will, be used against you by housing or your supervision if necessary, to get you to apply for a certain position, or to come in early or stay late, or to add some more days to your contract.”
They probably also know who you have dated or slept with, and have cameras hidden in every room. And if you don’t comply, they might make you work while battling infectious diseases. Heather, a former employee, elaborates.
“I came down with pink eye. My boss said I could go to first aid AFTER I finished my shift. But I wasn’t legally allowed at the control panels. I walked around all morning with a bottle of hand sanitizer, unable to take places at rides or help unbuckle seat belts because I couldn’t see and didn’t want to spread germs. At my clinic appointment, the doctor said, ‘That’s pink eye, alright. It looks like you’ve had it for days. What job do you do?’ Upon hearing that I was in contact with children 10 hours a day, he told me the only worse thing I could have said was that I worked with food. He sent me home for two days with antibiotics, effective immediately.”