Ever since the San Francisco Botanical Garden started charging admission to visitors who are not residents of San Francisco, there has been a dramatic drop in the overall number of visitors. It’s obvious that SF residents are staying away, even though they still get in free. Why?
Taking a leaf from Stephanie Weaver of Experienceology, Beth and I decided to look at the Botanical Garden entrance experience to see if it had somehow been made inherently unwelcoming. Are potential visitors being subtly prompted to turn around and go away?
When it was free, you could just walk in through a wide-open, welcoming gate. Now the gate is closed, and the first thing that greets you at the main entrance is a kiosk.
There is often a line, because even those who don’t pay have to stop and show San Francisco ID. When you get to the head of the line, the booth is dark, and the person inside is semi-invisible.
Welcome to Passport Control! May I see your papers?
Next to the booth there is only a narrow space through which to enter the garden. To the right of that is a fence.
Note the ugly construction cones (this is a garden?) and the sign forbidding you to do you pretty much everything.
How do you say “keep out” in Spanish, Chinese, and Russian? Of course, nothing says “afterthought” like paper and Scotch tape.
Hey, you kids, get off my lawn! Okay, I guess we will.
A clear, warm, windless day on a holiday weekend in San Francisco, not a cloud in the sky – and hardly a visitor in the Garden. Back when it was free, this lawn would have been dense with visitors, tranquilly enjoying the sun.
These stone benches, located in an especially warm corner of the garden, would have been crowded with people, many of them elderly.
Today, hardly a soul.
It’s pretty clear that in setting up an admission process for all visitors, whether or not they actually have to pay a fee, the San Francisco Botanical Society has managed to discourage people in general from visiting their now exclusive-seeming garden.
They couldn’t have done it better if they had planned it that way.