So you just want to shop, not take the entire tour of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. You’ve seen lots of cute stuff in the gift shop on previous visits and have come back to buy a few things. Certainly you can pop in and out of the store with no problem.
Don’t count on it. Fort Fisher as well as the other aquariums in the state face a challenge when people stop in just for the store. That’s because the gift shop is not separate; it’s integrated into the entire aquarium experience. And that presents a problem.
“There’s no real way to allow people to go into the gift shop and that’s the only place they stay,” said Donna Moffitt, director of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “There’s nothing that keeps gift shop buyers from going in to the main aquarium and never paying admission.”
Until two months ago, Fort Fisher would get an aquarium worker to escort those who just stopped in to shop. But since then the lobby has been under construction, making it necessary to have all hands on deck up front because there is only one door and no buttons for handicapped visitors to press to open it. So there’s not much time for escorting shoppers right now, and the aquarium hasn’t been able to accommodate those who don’t want to pay the admission price except for a few on a case-by-case basis and aquarium members, who are always allowed in the gift shop free and without an escort, Moffitt said.
After construction wraps up next week, the aquarium plans to reassess how it can “accommodate shoppers without denying ourselves the admission fee that we’re owed,” Moffitt said. It was happening frequently, she added.
“We were clearly losing income from people who claimed they wanted to just go to the gift shop and then we’d see them out on the aquarium floor,” Moffitt said. “It’s been a challenge, but we’re trying to deal with it as best as we can. We want people to come and shop there if that’s what they’re coming for.”
Date posted: July 1, 2009
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