Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pointed criticism

On this occasion, I'm grateful for the Old Sacramento Underground Tours.

They're great — full of little stories, well told, all adding up to one unlikely story of how a city at the center of the Gold Rush overcame one really bad decision through the force of its collective stubbornness.

I'm not just saying so because I manage the Underground Tour program, or because I've been a guide since it began six years ago. Or maybe I am; I'm part of the program because I love it. The tour began with a well crafted guidebook, inspiring guides to spin the facts into the little-known tale of Sacramento's beginning, each from their own perspectives.

Guides have brought their own passion for research, which has helped the tour unveil new facts as they arise. It evolves and gets better. Last year, 20,000 people went on the Underground Tour, and the program is expanding to a newly revamped walking tour about Sacramento's Gold Rush role, and an after-hours tour with adult content.

We're pretty good at what we do. There, I said it.

So I had to laugh when I read this online review about the tour:
"It was horrible I'd rather stab a fork in my eyes than do that again."
This was from the tour program's facebook™® page. Guides more talented than I have made the program better in other realms, including marketing and raising our profile on social media.

I check in to the page, whenever I remember how. facebook®© also alerts me to new activity on the tour program's page.

The only thing I could think to do with this review is send it out to the guides, mostly for a laugh. Otherwise, I don't know what to make of it. The reviewer doesn't elucidate, doesn't say why one fork in both eyes (if I read it accurately) would be better than taking a tour again; doesn't say which tour, or which guide; otherwise we could adapt to this positive feedback.

It could have been any guide, any tour, which is why we sent out to guides.

We can't, and don't, please everybody. Nor can anyone. Sometimes a visitor lets on that he or she thought the Underground comprised caverns, with stalactites and stalagmites; sometimes a visitor will complain online that the Underground is just basements, and I have to confess they're right; but that's where the guides' gift of storytelling kicks in, to explain that they're not just basements, but the spaces where the entire city used to be.
(We still suffer from an identity crisis in our corner of Old Sacramento; our museum is surrounded on two sides by the much larger and wonderful California State Railroad Museum, and many people walk past the great big signs and banners and actual entrance for the railroad museum, into our museum, and still ask if this is the railroad museum.

(Recently a man bought admission to the history museum and asked if we still have Indian stuff. Yes, on the third floor, I answered, referring to the display about this region's native cultures. Forty minutes later the man returned to the front desk. "I thought you said there was engine stuff," he said, and I realized I had misheard his question. I also realized why he pulled such a strange face when he imagined gargantuan steam-powered train engines somehow on the third floor.

(But I digress.)
I'd wager most visitors like the tours. I'll also say the tour program is always eager to make the tours better by force of story or new display innovations.

But I'm not sure that online review always help. This is just me talking, but I'm not a fan of online reviews. Too many reviewers are poorly informed about subjects I know about, which makes me distrust others' reviews for things I don't know about. I'm not going to follow their advice.

Opinions about movies, music and entertainments such as tours are sooooo subjective. One person's viewpoint usually does not overlay another's world view; your preference is probably irrelevant to mine. You likely will not like what I like.

Some online reviewers just want to cause damage, for whatever reason, not just for the Underground Tour but just about anything. Pick anything being reviewed through social media, and you're bound to find reviews posted for no other reason than sabotage and spite.

We're happy to hear what people think would make the tour better; I'm not so deluded to think we've created the perfect tour. We can be better, and we work toward that.

I hope you can the tour and let us know what you think. I'll hide the forks.

Peaceful Thanksgiving.

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