Other than being busy because of spring break for school students and families, April 2 was going to be like any other day at Northwest Trek.
But then the computer and phone systems at the wildlife park unexpectedly crashed in the middle of the day, meaning customers temporarily couldn’t use credit cards and debit cards to pay their admission fees.
Fifty-eight customers who faced that inconvenience were let into the park free, rather than make them wait for the system to come back up. They could have enjoyed a day at the park and walked away without paying. None did. Instead, they paid for the experience as they were leaving.
It was, to the wildlife park’s staff, an “awesome” display of honesty.
The staff, with fingers crossed in hope for honesty, decided that patrons who didn’t have checks or cash could enter anyway and pay later.
“We told people the truth, that our system was down and we didn’t want to affect their experience,” said Jeannie Cla, Trek’s membership coordinator. “We told them we would appreciate it if they would stop and pay on their way out.
“We were doing the best we could with our computer challenges, and people responded in the best possible way.”
Of the 58 people who were given a potentially free pass, all 58 did right by the honor system.
In one instance, a senior citizen who brought five children to the Eaonville-area attraction went an additional extra mile to pay up. After discovering the ticket were windows closed and the cash registers were silent as her group left at closing time, “she came into the office and hunted up someone who could take her payment,” Clay said.
“Our customers are awesome,” Clay added. “One-hundred percent came back and paid.
“It was a tough day, but the lesson, as far as restoring faith in people’s honesty and good humor, was just awesome.”