Consulting series part V – The Water Theme Park Case

Wave pool of Boulder Beach
Image via Wikipedia

The client in this instance was an India based conglomerate who among other things also ran a water theme park in South India. It was one of the more prestigious ones, attracting strong crowds throughout the year. Their internal audits uncovered a peculiar problem one year, and it gave the upper management sleepless nights for weeks on end.

The problem was a rather embarrassing one. During an annual water consistency audit, some newly instituted chemical tests revealed heightened presence of certain chemicals which were not detected in earlier studies. Upon re-examination, it was confirmed that these chemicals included urea, chloride, potassium and creatinine in substantial quantities. In short, what you would expect to find in good, old fashioned human urine.

The park management was understandably concerned, and launched investigations of their own, all of which came to naught. The water lines for the park were not being contaminated in any way by the municipality sewage lines. Then the washrooms of the park itself were investigated, and all the internal sewage lines checked for their consistency. There appeared to be no leakage anywhere. Sabotage was also considered briefly, but that idea was rejected primarily because the water theme park industry is a virtual duopoly in India and the principle of mutually assured destruction guarantees that any adventurous initiatives will result in bigger problems for the perpetrator.

At the end of their tether, the management turned to a famous consulting firm to conduct a root cause analysis. The consulting firm started off by running through all the steps which the management had taken, and redoing the investigations in order to confirm for themselves. The fact that they were being paid by the hour didn’t hurt, either.

Finally, the firm and the park management came to the conclusion that the problem could not be tied to either plumbing or sabotage.

The matter continued to vex all those involved for some more weeks until the most junior member on the team, a rookie straight out of an MBA school, had a brainwave. He was watching a Nat Geo show on African elephants, where the gregarious rugged anchor, clad in jungle camo and spouting random facts and figures, told him that African elephants often did a peculiar thing when they came to watering holes after travelling through the jungle for hours on end. They peed in the water. Apparently, the temperature difference encountered when moving from the sweltering heat of the jungle into the relative cold of the water triggers a physiological response in the pachyderm’s body, which affects bladder motion. The host went on to add that the elephants then went ahead and drank this water to quench their thirst, but the rookie was too excited to listen. He was on the phone.

Two more weeks of feverish observations and data analysis revealed four insights.

  1. The temperature difference between the hot Indian weather and the water in the park was about 8 degrees Celsius on average, enough to trigger the same sort of bladder response as experienced by the African pachyderms.
  2. The subliminal messages sent out by the pictures of calming blue waves and the hypnotic effect produced by undulating waves of water sent out a two pronged stimulus that broke down social barriers and encouraged certain patrons to achieve nirvana underwater.
  3. Timed water sample studies revealed that the concentration levels of urine in the water was lowest in the morning session and progressively increased afterwards, with peak levels being attained around 4 pm.  Patrons usually took their lunch in the cafeterias situated within the park and then went ahead to enjoy the rides again, choosing the less adventurous ones for the afternoon session. After three hours of the artificial comfort produced by the water, a lot of people found it difficult to maintain control or to take the extra effort to visit washrooms.
  4. The geographical sample data for the individual rides showed that urine levels were the highest in two out of a total of 15 rides. The two infamous rides were the “wave pool” and the “water safari”.  Both essentially required no effort from the patrons, and they did not generate the levels of adrenalin rush the other rides did. This meant that the patrons felt nice, relaxed, and wonderfully warm and cold at the same time, resulting in you know what.

So the firm recommended a subdued three point marketing campaign, urging the patrons to use the washrooms more often.

  1. “Window dress” the bathrooms to make them appear more inviting and fun
  2. Strategically locate mobile bathrooms near the “wave pool” and the “water safari” rides
  3.  Close down both “wave pool” and “water safari rides” for three hours each day from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm for cleaning

The recommendations were gratefully accepted.