Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Graveside Chat: Theme Park Haunt Bag Ban Policies

With news of even more Cedar Fair parks banning bags over the past week, I felt the need to weigh in more deeply on this matter. Mostly because they're going overboard and not actually addressing the issue at hand.

Safety is important for haunts on every level, it's a topic that's come up recently with the shooting outside of a Pennsylvania haunt, and another incident where a patron was cut by an actor. There have also been some physical fights at other parks. 

None of these situations would've benefited from a ban on bags, at all.

I'm going to be picking on Cedar Fair a lot for this (sorry, not sorry!) but that's only because of their policy specifically and to highlight the issues with it and it's overreach at some parks. In their statements they say that all bags for their Halloween Haunt events at some parks are banned. These parks are Dorney Park, Valley Fair, and Carowinds.

The policies from these parks includes a ban on the following; ALL bags including but not limited to-backpacks, purses, diaper bags, fanny packs, clutches, etc, save for small bags for medical necessities only and that they would be checking those to make sure of such.

Policies of this kind are always trying to limit people bringing in weapons, alcohol, drugs, food, or any number of other things they don't want in the park to help maintain overall safety. That's a great goal, and safety is important, but being too general always causes more inconvenience than not. It also signifies that security isn't doing their job if they are getting in via the checks, patdowns, and other measures. I would understand no backpacks or large bags, but these types of wide bans often go too far for a couple of reasons.

Bags that are allowed are being checked, as stated, in order to help catch anything and on compliance of the "medical necessities only" within them. However, if they're already going to be searching the bags they are allowing for medical necessities, why can't they just search them all? Is checking small purses or fanny packs going to add that much more time to things here, or do they not have faith in security doing their job?

The other issue is a rather large loophole with these sorts of policies, they never mention that they'll be searching cargo shorts/pants pockets, or even jackets. Why is that a big deal? Cargo pants/shorts have pockets that are like bags of holding on steroids (especially for men) and you can fit damn near anything in them that would normally not get caught in the metal detectors and won't be checked because, not bags. If a patdown doesn't happen, who knows what they've got in there! Ban cargo shorts! 

See how stupid that sounds? It does, because it is.

Ultimately the only thing that banning bags does is inconvenience those who actually need to or rely on carrying them in the first place.

Who are those people? Well, women for starters. And while, no, not all of us need to carry a lot of things with us nor do, sometimes it's hard not to due to the fact that a lot of our clothing just doesn't have pockets that can hold anything. Hell, back pockets in our jeans can't even securely hold our phones. It's 2021 and we still haven't fixed that yet, so purses are necessary items for us very often and a small purse isn't like we're toting around an entire closet with us or anything.

Not being able to bring one into the park can be a headache. Since we then have to figure out the answer to the question of, "Where do we put our keys, phone, wallet, tampons, hand sanitizer (everyone should be carrying this, pandemic or not), spare mask?" and other little things that we may need for an event that lasts 5-7 hours and you can't go out to your car and come back in. That's right, most of these of events do not allow reentry. So you can't just run to your car for such and come back in. 

There are ways around those things, and I've used them. Such as, getting a running belt, sock wallets, hiking pants, cargo pants, bill folds, etc but if one is going to ride rides, it becomes a little more tricky especially if the more obvious answers aren't available readily and some of them are costly. Clothing can also limit the usage of such so it's not an entirely practical solution for everyone.

Personally, I don't know anyone that is just going to be putting their phone, glasses, wallet, or spare tampons just loose in the bag boxes at rides either. Yes, lockers exist, but those cost extra a lot of the time and aren't always easily used or are limited, so not everyone can get one. Also, it's 2021, who puts their phone in a locker for an hour long wait for a ride or maze? No one.

While that may just seem like a minor inconvenience to many, and mostly men don't think it's a big deal (not surprised) that doesn't even address the real elephant in the room. What about disabled folks and people with chronic health issues, do we just say "You shouldn't come to this event" completely?

In the case of these Cedar Fair parks, they state that you can bring a bag that is 6.5"x4.5" for medical necessities, which they'll be checking for compliance. That's not a very big bag. For reference, my phone is nearly that size in it's case (6.5"x3.6"). Imagine trying to cram a pill case, EpiPen and an inhaler or whatever else one needs into that small of a space. Not every disabled or chronically ill person will need all of this, but it's still a limitation that can disproportionally impact them.

Ultimately, instead of causing issues that disadvantage so many people, why not just create a couple of extra lines for those with bags and give a good thorough search to make sure that nothing is getting through? The idea of having to wait in a longer line while one's friends get in faster is going to likely be a bigger deterrent than anything and the issue will be mostly self correcting from that. Trust me, people hate waiting in line.

Until next time...

Sweet Screams and Pleasant Nightmares!

UPDATED to reflect that only certain Halloween Haunt events have this policy and not all Cedar Fair parks. 

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