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This Just Sums It Up

Over the weekend I had an arena owner ask (as relayed to me indirectly through a teenage employee) that I not do my blogging there because they didn’t know where those pictures would end up. SMH. No direct contact with me or asking what I’m about, but I respected their wishes and did not take photos.

I thought long and hard about how to handle this one. I actually had some nice things to say…and then I decided that this Seinfeld character just sums it up the best.

Ok, so here’s what happened. On my recent trip I visited two arenas that are affiliated, both with the same name and apparently the same owners. However, I will not call them out by name (in part because there are other centers in this area using the same name, but different owners), so this will be another nameless cautionary tale.

I walked into the first center and purchased a game. I was added to their game list and I had a nice exchange with the general manager. I told him I write a blog about laser tag and would like to take a couple of pictures following my game. He was delightful and (as is usually the case) quite happy to have me do so.

Although I had to wait about 20 minutes to ultimately end up in a 1v1 game with a staff member, I didn’t mind. I was already engaged in the unique things I was taking note of in and around the arena. For example, there was a Runner stargate at the entrance, but the score monitor clearly indicated the gear being played inside was Zone. I liked that there was a hybrid nature to this arena where they incorporated a combination of classic Runner arena elements with newer styling and really cool airbrushed art. This is the kind of distinctive arena that I really appreciate because it isn’t a cookie cutter design at all. That’s what my photos would  have served to illustrate. I was even intrigued when I noticed some airbrushed phaser art painted above the briefing bench featuring the image of a CyberBlast phaser. I speculated that they had probably added this gear to the other arena (I was right). Based on that early experience I would have had a lovely story with some rather cool and unique pics from my experience to share. But then, later on…

I went to their other local arena. At first everything was fine. I bought a game (paying a premium for facility entrance too) and I was added to the list. At this moment I was once again the only person signed up, so I asked if we might be able to do a 1v1 again so I would not lose time because I still had two more stops ahead of me and they did not have a current game taking place. I don’t always mention it, but at this point I explained the reason I was here (my blog) and that I had a bit of a tight schedule to keep. I shared this to let her know I was just looking to play the one game and another 1v1 would be fine, hoping that would get things moving a bit quicker. The young girl behind the counter was very enthusiastic about the blog and asked if I wanted to talk to a manager. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that I would be happy to explain it if they wanted. No manager ever spoke to me. Another girl came up to me while I was still at the counter and confirmed that the way they handle games is to wait until one person signs up, then give it 20 minutes from that point to see if others might join (hence my 20 minute wait for a 1v1 earlier). Sigh, (wishing the 20 minutes BEFORE I arrived mattered), but ok, I understand and could wait it out. About a half an hour later (during which I had spent standing near the redemption counter waiting for them to call the game) I was taken in to play a game with a few kids.

We sat for a lengthy briefing session, at which time a third girl came into the briefing room and asked if I was the person with the blog. She then told me that the owners would rather I not do my blogging here because they didn’t know where the pictures would end up. SMH.

Although I respect that arena owners have the prerogative to restrict activity in their own building, this took me aback, especially considering I was made so welcome by the manager at their other location. I see their reaction as an uninformed wet blanket. I traveled into the Atlanta area for the sole purpose of documenting laser tag experiences. With or without photo permissions, you cannot limit my free speech, but this did affect my impression of the place long before I had written a single word.

Had a manager come to talk with me during that half hour when I was waiting near the counter I’m sure this would have been an easy thing to address. I carry business cards that validate my legitimacy and nearly 500 other arenas can’t be wrong, but instead I got this “shut it down” message relayed to me by a teenager from people who never afforded me a chance to explain further about what I do or why I do it. I asked if the owners were there. No. I asked if they had a card so I might contact them. “We’re not allowed to give out their number.” This was going nowhere. I started to volunteer my card, then changed my mind. If nobody had wanted to talk with me about this (bearing in mind I am a paid customer) during the entire time I had been standing there and waiting by the counter then I would simply oblige and not take any photos in the arena. It’s really not necessary for me to “prove” I played a game here. However, I had now been at this place for quite a while now (and in fairness, I was hangry), but decided to just play out the game anyway so I could count the stop and then deliver my message about my experience via the very blog in question.

I played. I didn’t particularly enjoy this game, but that was only because I was still stewing (and hungry, but no longer interested in spending money at their concession stand). I noticed little things about the place that I might possibly overlook if I’d had a better overall experience. And the whole time my mind wandered to how I was going to proceed with addressing my experience while unfortunately not sharing any of the photos from my previous stop at their other location earlier in the day either.

Well, I decided I can respect their wishes about not showing photos, but the choice to share my experience is mine alone. This is the reason that I did NOT even bother going to the third location (another center with the same name) that I had planned to patronize later that night. Instead I proceeded to go and play laser tag at two other arenas (one was at a competitor in the very same town) and I will just move on from the sour vibe that this interaction left me with because life is too short and there are plenty of places that DO appreciate it when I show up and give them free, positive exposure.

So that’s why I’m glad to have this video on hand that just sums up my feelings about the whole thing. “No review for you”…even though I guess they just got one anyway, I’ll hold my tongue from saying anything more. So there you go. Bonus if you are a Seinfeld fan too! :)

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