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Visitor Services

Visitor Services

Guest Service at the Zoo is paramount! The Visitor Services team takes care of admissions, rides, gift shops, many guest amenities and plays an invaluable role in the success of the Zoo and every guest’s experience. During the Zoo’s peak season (spring-fall), this team consists of around 200 members from high school and college students to retirees. These professionals work in all weather conditions and bring a great deal of experience and enthusiasm to the Zoo and its guests every day. Next time you ride the tram, rent a stroller, feed the lorikeets, visit the barnyard, buy a ticket or peruse the gift shop say hi to one of our Visitor Services crew. Below, meet Gary Gappa and Michelle Pennza, two of the wonderful Visitor Services Crew.

 

Michelle Pennza 

 

Name: Michelle Pennza
Title: Visitor Services Trainer
Tenure at the OKC Zoo: 5 seasons
 Residence: Oklahoma City 

 

 

1. Why is your job important to you?

There aren't many places like the Zoo.  You encounter so many different people from all walks of life.  Every job is equally as important in the park.  I train the new Visitor Services team members on the registers, as well as help train in many aspects of the gift shops including appearance for a safe, friendly and inviting atmosphere, and customer service because our guests are who define us.

2. What do you like most about your job?

Every day is different.  Each bring a new challenge and learning experience.  Keeping up with all of the staff! Making sure the man who didn't get to ride the tram leaves with a smile and so does the employee who dealt with him. :)

My favorite activity is definitely making gift baskets for various occasions. 

3.What is your favorite Zoo memory from when you were young and a current favorite memory?

When I was young we hardly had enough money to ride the Sky Safari. But I remember the day my mom said we were headed there first!

One night of every June we stay late to do merchandise inventory and being in a sleepy state with your co-workers can really unite a team and make some lasting memories!

4. How long have you worked at the Zoo and in what capacity?

This is my fifth season. I started working in Visitor Services and quickly began training as a supervisor.  I work in the warehouse, the office placing orders, create gift shop displays and gift baskets and train cashiers in all capacities.

 

Gary Gappa

 

 

Name: Gary Gappa
Title: Visitor Services Supervisor
Tenure at the OKC Zoo: 7 years
 Residence: Oklahoma City 

 

 

1. Why is your job important to you?

The Oklahoma City Zoo is the most amazing place I have ever worked.  I don't consider my position here a "job".  I consider it a gratifying, learning experience and am rewarded each day. It's important to me to be able to greet each guest and ensure they have the most amazing, happy experience during their visit.  Keeping a smile on my face and saying hello is contagious and does wonders to not only make visitors happy, but also my co-workers.

2. What do you like most about your job?

The most exciting thing about my job is working with our guests. We have people come from almost every state in the U.S., but it’s especially exciting when I meet people from other parts of the world. Exchange students from Spain, England and India have been especially interesting to meet. Being able to tell these wonderful visitors not only about how fantastic our zoo is, but to tell them about how wonderful it is to live in the U.S. is extremely rewarding. One of the most challenging parts of my job is during the early spring when we interview new applicants for seasonal positions like the gift shop, admissions and rides. I feel it is one of my most important responsibilities. Trying to find the right person for the right job is challenging but very rewarding. 

3.What is your favorite Zoo memory from when you were young and a current favorite memory?

I can remember my first visit to the zoo way back in about 1950.  As many people have said, the Monkey Ship, where the World Plaza is now, was a big "WOW". I could lean on the big log fence and never get tired of watching the monkeys scamper about. The miniature train with its engine chugging along was also an experience I can never forget.

My current, absolute favorite memory is being on the "Elephant Birth Watch" team. The anticipation of the birth of the Zoo’s first baby elephant: Awesome! The day after Malee was born it was so exciting to watch her learn how to stand up and walk. This is a memory I'll take with me forever.

4. How long have you worked at the Zoo and in what capacity?

I came to the Zoo in 2004 and have worked in just about all areas of Visitor Services.  I started out on the kiddie train and have worked the carousel, Simulator ride and the Rock Wall. I was promoted to Visitor Services Supervisor and moved to my current position in the gift shops.

5. What was your career before the Zoo?

I was drafted into the U.S .Army: 1961 to 1963. After my military service,  I returned to the Federal Aviation Administration where I had worked prior to the Army and  retired in 1991.  I did not work for about 11 years and decided it was to time to get back into the workforce. I was extremely fortunate to be hired by this amazing place called the Oklahoma City Zoo.



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The Zoo is a fully accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Association of Museums (AAM) as both a living museum and a botanical garden. AZA accredited facilities are dedicated to providing excellent care for their plants and animals, a great experience for guests and a better future for all living things.

A New Breath of Fresh Air: As of Nov. 1, 2007, state law prohibits smoking inside zoological parks. Please help us abide by this law by refraining from smoking within the Zoo. Thank you for maintaining a smoke-free environment for all living things!