Replacing Dorney Park tickets not always an easy ride

Treat tickets like cash because they may be irreplaceable.

Dorney Park

Dorney Park's new roller coaster Stinger. (Emily Robson / THE MORNING CALL / April 24, 2012)

Joanne Pauley takes her grandkids to Dorney Park every summer to reward them for getting good grades in school.

They haven't made it through the turnstiles yet this summer because Pauley's tickets went for their own spin. And replacing them, she found, has been a wilder ride than she had anticipated.

Pauley, of Maxatawny Township, put the six tickets in her pocket, then put her jeans in the wash. The tickets were torn to pieces, rendering some illegible, including some digits on the bar codes.

Several weeks later, she's finally on track to have the tickets replaced. She wasn't thrilled with the process. While I understand her frustration, I also understand why Dorney Park and other entertainment venues proceed cautiously with requests like hers. They must make sure they're not taken for a ride.

Dorney Park tries to work with people who lose or damage tickets but might not be able to replace them in every circumstance, spokeswoman Carrie Basta told me.

"Until you use them, you want to treat those tickets like cash," she said.

Pauley had purchased the tickets, for a total of $150, through the parents club at Kutztown Elementary School.

She said she called Dorney Park after the accident in late May to ask what she could do. She said the park's customer relations office told her that unless the bar code on the tickets would scan, she wouldn't be able to use them and she couldn't get replacements.

Not satisfied, Pauley said she mailed a letter to Dorney Park with photocopies of the ticket pieces. She also emailed the Watchdog.

"The parents club has the records that I purchased these tickets and wouldn't you think they would have a record at Dorney Park what tickets were printed for the Kutztown School District and replace these tickets for me," she told me in her June 1 email.

It's not that simple, Basta told me June 7.

She said if people bought tickets directly from Dorney Park and have a receipt, an order number or used a credit card, that's usually enough for the park to identify their ticket numbers, verify they haven't been used and issue new ones.

The process gets more complicated for tickets bought through a group like Kutztown Elementary, which bought 125 tickets. If the group doesn't track which members are given which tickets, "unfortunately there's no way for us to know," Basta said.

The Kutztown Elementary parents club didn't record that, but school Principal Tracy Blunt told me it intends to start doing that in case a problem like this happens again.

Basta told me that to replace lost or damaged group tickets, the park needs the bar code numbers or the sequence numbers showing which of the 125 group tickets Pauley had.

I relayed that information to Pauley several days later and she said the person she had spoken with at Dorney had not told her she also could look for the sequence numbers. That's a much shorter number and she was able to find the sequence number intact on pieces of five of the six tickets.

I called Basta back on June 11 to ask what Pauley should do next. She told me Dorney also had been able to identify five of the six tickets from their sequence numbers based on the copies of the mangled tickets Pauley had sent to the park.

Pauley said a Dorney representative called her Thursday and said the park would replace all of the tickets.

"They said they'd give us six tickets instead of the five, which is very nice of them," she said.

When you buy advance tickets to an amusement park, concert, ballgame or other venue, keep them in a safe place. Because accidents can happen, you also should keep receipts until you use the tickets. Paying with a credit card will leave a record that might help.

I checked with a few other parks to see how they handle situations like this. Camel Beach and Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari and Hurricane Harbor said their policies are similar to Dorney's. They need enough information to track the tickets and verify they haven't been used before they will issue replacements.

At Hersheypark, if you lose your tickets or damage them to the point where the bar code is illegible, there's no way to get replacement tickets under any circumstances, even if you paid by credit card.

"It is the ticket holder's responsibility to maintain control of the ticket once it leaves our hands," Hersheypark spokeswoman Kathy Burrows told me in an email.

"If a guest accidentally washes the ticket and we are able to piece together the bar code number, we will manually enter the number and allow guest entry as long as the ticket is valid," Burrows said. "If we are unable to piece the ticket together, we will not allow entry."

One way to avoid the potential for mishaps is to buy your tickets online and choose to print your tickets at home if you're given that option, as Dorney Park does. If you lose the printouts, just print them again.

The Watchdog is published Thursdays and Sundays. Contact me by email at watchdog@mcall.com, by phone at 610-841-2364 (ADOG), by fax at 610-820-6693, or by mail at The Morning Call, 101 N. Sixth St., Allentown, PA, 18101. Follow me on Twitter at mcwatchdog and on Facebook at Morning Call Watchdog.

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