Escape room enthusiasts are not the target customer for most escape room companies. We are a relatively small group, although we are pretty vocal about what we find annoying. That’s fine. That’s fair. However, there are a few problems that crop up when enthusiasts talk to escape room owners. Owners often try and convince enthusiasts that they are wrong when they offer criticism and any criticism about the room is met with skepticism because owners are used to getting lauded with 5* praise.
The Yelp/TripAdvisor Effect
Yelp and TripAdvisor have some purpose in this world. They can help you find a banh mi joint in Anchorage, Alaska. They can help you identify the three escape rooms in Andorra. However, when it comes to reviewing the quality of escape rooms, these crowd-sourced review sites are next to worthless.
Most people who review escape rooms have NO perspective on escape room quality because most of them have never done an escape room before. Think back to the first time you did an escape room. It was fun! It was exhilarating! It was new! It was worth how many stars? 5-stars, right? Yes, that is how most escape room reviews look, or along these lines:
“It was so much funnn! My friends and I have never done anything like this, like at all! It was kray-zay!!! We got out just in time, I think. I can’t tell you anything about it because that would ruin the surprise, lol. But if you’ve never done an excape room, you have to try it. LOL! So much fun!!! Parking was a pain, and the sushi place next door is da bomb.”
Unfortunately, escape room owners see these reviews and believe that a dozen 5-star reviews are proof that their rooms are great. So, when someone who has done 50 or 100 rooms comes along and offers a friendly suggestion that “your black light may need new batteries,” they are aghast that someone has criticized their Mona Lisa.
A Suggestion is Not Necessarily Criticism
Escape rooms fall somewhere within the service industry. As such, owners and employees should be able to take suggestions and criticism with a grain of NaCl. However, in part because of the Yelp effect, any suggestions are met with skepticism. Or worse, an explanation of why the enthusiast is wrong.
I’m thinking of a particular room, which will remain nameless, except that it rhymes with Labyrinth. I gave their room a good review, saying it was highly recommended. However, I did express that I don’t like public room booking, did not appreciate their employees offering incorrect legal advice, and their in-room attendant was an unwelcome interference.
The employee at the location tried the typical explanation that it is more fun to play with strangers, which he didn’t seem to believe either. Then, the owner challenged me on everything else, saying that in their experience people liked having someone (not in character) sit there in the room watching them to give them hints. I call B.S.
(The owner also offered a comped room so I could revisit one of their other rooms. However, a few weeks later when I contacted him about it, I never heard back!)
How Do Most Every Escape Room Owners Get it Wrong When Telling Enthusiasts Why They Are Wrong?
Escape room owners try and tell enthusiasts why they are wrong about a number of things, including their criticism of the variety of puzzles, types of locks, the difficulty of puzzles, red herrings, group sizes, booking systems, hint systems, lighting, and even the name of the escape room.
Enthusiasts are not the target audience for most escape rooms, but they do bring experience. In many cases, the enthusiasts have seen far more escape rooms than the escape room owner. As an owner, if the experienced enthusiast offers suggestions, try and listen. You may disagree but do not discount their words, especially if you are relying on the praise of hundreds of people who have only experienced one escape room in their life.