« What Would Jim Think? | Main | Beauty and the Beast in 3D: A Review »

New Year's Resolutions

mikeS%27s%20masthead.jpg

No this is not about my New Year's Resolutions...it's about some New Year's Resolutions I'm hoping that perhaps we may see happening in 2012 when we next visit Walt Disney World.

I've been thinking long and hard about what I would like to see and have been doing this for a long time so this time I'm even more focused on what would be a win-win situation.

We must never forget that The Walt Disney Company is a business and that business needs to survive in order for us to continue to get our share of magic whenever we can.

So having said that, please keep in mind that these ideas come with the important note that they would appear to be beneficial for both the Walt Disney World Resort and its guests.

The Disney Dining Plan

We are all creatures of habit and there can be a lot to be said for getting into good habits and being consistent in your everyday life, especially if these habits are positive.

I have always felt that it would behoove Walt Disney World to strive for consistency in several areas which in return would reward the resort in many ways.

Let's start off with the Disney Dining Plan. Over the last four or five years, every time the new year's plan has been announced I found myself noticing changes that I felt would turn guests off from using the DDP. By changes I mean not just the onboarding and offboarding of restaurants but the bigtime inconsistencies from restaurant to restaurant.

I recall visiting one of my favorite restaurants and, when my server found out I was using the DDP, quickly pointed out how the color coding of the menu would direct me to what is covered and not covered by the DDP.

You see, even those restaurants on the DDP are inconsistent with each other. My hope is that someday we return to a very simple Dining Plan that is not just straightforward but also consistent...that's how success is best bread...erh bred.

Annual Pass

Now let's talk about the wonders of the Annual Pass. Annual Passholders are WDW's best customers and those customers get certain perks with the AP's. One perk is that AP holders receive discounts on merchandise...but only in DownTown Disney at places like the World of Disney store.

So that $40 shirt at Mouse Gear in EPCOT is $36 at the World of Disney. Is there any reason why the 10% discount offered at WoD and places in DTD could not be expanded across the board? Aren't there more people in the theme parks than any other place on the resort?

I think what really puzzles me is that one place that I would have thought would have realized a boost in revenue if this 10% discount was applied would be World Showcase. Don;t you think? So why not make a huge New Year's Resolution and open up that 10% across the board.

Note: Since posting this blog I have received several notes from friends saying that recently they have received AP discounts from some resort gift shops, Mouse Gear at EPCOT, and some kiosks in EPCOT. That is good news, and I am happy to stand corrected. I've also heard from some folks that, even though some gift shops and kiosks are giving AP , discounts, not all are giving discounts. This just reinforces the idea of asking wherever you go. Thanks to those of you who have contacted me to update this information. WDW policies are like New England weather...if you don't like it, wait a minute, it's likely to change.

And while we are at it, I think Tables of Wonderland, the discount dining card, should be honored at every sit-down restaurant on the property...it's that consistency thing. Tables of Wonderland discount cards are offered to Walt Disney World Annual Passholders for $75. Showing this card at selected restaurants results in a 20% discount on your check. Wouldn't it be nice to know that EVERY sit-down restaurant on WDW property and the Value and Moderate resorts food courts? My practice is to ask everywhere, because I know there is inconsistency...at least for now.

If it Ain't Broke...

If you have not visited Walt Disney World recently, especially the Magic Kingdom, more specifically, have not driven to the Magic Kingdom, then you are in for a surprise. The Ticket and Transportation Center parking lots have undergone a change...a name change. Some may feel I'm being a little too picky but after several decades of dealing with the names like Donald, Pluto, Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, etc. and becoming quite familiar with what area is associated with whatever name, I found it a bit interesting that the names were changed to this side being heroes and this side being villains.

Would someone explain to me the value in making this change? Anyone? Didn't think so. When I think of consistency of think of the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

I think any WDW resort policies should change but once a year. It can be at any time of the year but all I'm asking is to limit policy changes once a year. It would reduce confusion for the guests, and guess what, also the cast members. I'm all for surprises, good ones that is.

Timing is Everything

Now let's turn to a word that makes grown guests wince: refurbishments. Now I am the first to recognize when an attraction needs a fresh coat of paint or needs to be updated and I congratulate the resort for trying their best to make sure their guests are entertained to the highest level.

My concern is when the scheduling of refurbishments results in a number of attractions being down at the same time. I recall a visit to Orlando a few summers ago in which Spaceship Earth, Haunted Mansion, and a few other popular attractions, were down for the entire summer. This results in longer queues for those attractions doing business as usual.

It was later on that year that guests continued to complain about the delay in reopening Spaceship Earth. This resulted in a premature "soft opening schedule" in late December/early january in which guests could ride through the attraction and observe some of the changes that were taken place. Unfortunately, the imagineers were not thrilled with this, as you can well understand. Imagine an artist not wanting you to see a piece of art that was only half finished, or a songwriter not wanting you to hear a song until all the kinks were worked out.

What is my point? Well, for a resolution that I think many people would agree to, how about limiting the number of attractions being refurbished at the same time so that guests are not impacted as much.

Keeping those attractions down to a small number may actually hasten the refurbishment along.

Another thought would be to limit refurbishments to only those less busy times of the year. During that summer visit I thought of those guests who may be making their ONLY trip to Walt Disney World and unfortunately did not get to see Haunted Mansion, Spaceship Earth, or other attractions that were offline due to refurbishments.

For the resort this could mean reducing the number of people needed every year to perform these refurbishments...instead of requiring x number of people to do everything in 2012, the need would be x-x. The drawback could, and I am not sure about this, could reduce the number of refurbishments per year. Would you prefer more attractions down longer each year and more refurbishments or more access to attractions and fewer refurbishments per year?

Okay those are me New Year's Resolutions for Walt Disney World for 2012. I'm sure more will surface as the year evolves but these sweeping ideas I feel truly help both the guests and the resort in terms of economics and keeping everyone happy.

Happy New Year!

The previous post in this blog was What Would Jim Think?.

The next post in this blog is Beauty and the Beast in 3D: A Review.

Comments (14)

Jack Spence:

In regards to the Magic Kingdom parking lot name change…

Disney has changed HOW they park the cars. In the past, they would completely fill up the west side of the lot (Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy, and Donald) before beginning to fill up the east side of the lot (The Dwarfs). Things have changed. Now they fill both sides evenly. Now when you arrive in the morning, you don’t know what side you might be directed to.

In the past, they only had one tram route to take you back to your car. So if you were parked on the east side, you would have to endure driving through the entire west side before looping around to the east side.

Now Disney has two tram routes for returning to your car – one for each side. This is a BIG improvement in my opinion.

As for the name change…

People were going to get confused – especially those who only visit every three to five years. They wouldn’t be able to remember if “Donald” was on the east or west side of the lot. I guess they could have renamed the sections “Dwarf” and “Classic Characters” but personally, I think “Heroes” and “Villains” makes more sense and is easier to remember.

* * * *

Thanks Jack. I think the way they fill the lots now makes more sense and wondered what took so long to do it this way. Perhaps this new method requires more cast members in the morning to handle the rush hour?

I think that labeling each side was important, and that the renaming of the lots may not impact the infrequent visitors as much as the locals and frequent visitors.

Personally, I don;t remember the names...I use my cell phone camera to take a photo of the row number!

Mike

Nancy:

Hi Mike,
This is my first time commenting on any blog.

I totally agree with you on all of the above. I would like to take this Dining Plan thing a bit further.
I have been a visitor to Walt Disney World since 1985 and have been there around 43 times(pretty good for being from Jersey)
I feel the dining plan has pretty much ruined the food at WDW. I have seen the selections, the quality and the quantity of the food go from excellent/good to not much better than cafeteria food at really high prices. I always pay cash for all my meals at WDW and am usually disappointed. I don't understand for example how Disney can't find a way to make decent take-out Chinese food (Epcot) or how to make a not burned to the crisp pizza (Via Napoli-Epcot). I don't mind paying good money for good food, but this has not been the case lately. If they are going to charge around $50 (with tax/tip) for the Cape May Clam Bake, they should have lobster included (they used to offer that) and mashed potatoes that don't taste like a bucket of salt was dumped in it.
I really wish they would focus on preparing good food, decent portions and fair price instead of this darn Dining Plan. Somebody is making alot of money on this plan and it ain't me.
Thanks,
Nancy

* * *

Nancy,

I've heard similar comments from many people, especially as recently as a week or so ago while down there for Marathon Weekend.

For as long as I can remember there has always been an issue with the Asian cuisine offered in World Showcase, and more recently in Magic Kingdom with the Noodle Station.

The uniqueness that once set WDW restaurants apart has definitely taken a hit over the years. I have found that my list of favorite restaurants has been shrinking over the years and now there are only a handful when at one time they were an armful.

thanks for the note.

Mike

Heather Melito-Dezan:

Hi Mike...just a note...I was able to use my annual passholder discount at my resort gift shops, MouseGears, kiosks and shops at all the parks (though not every single kiosk takes them). This was this past marathon weekend as well as in August 2011. I ask wherever I am making a purchase.

* * * *

Thanks Heather. I stopped asking. Shame on me. Nice to know that discounts are available...too bad it's not across the board.

Mike

Anonymous:

Hi Mike,
Just wanted to let you know that the AP discount IS accepted at a ton of stores across Disney property. I just ask at almost every store I purchase items at and I've yet to be told no. So much like the Tables in Wonderland, it doesn't hurt to ask. I know most recently (Jan. 2012) I received the AP 10% discount at BVG at the Contemporary, at the gift shop in Test Track, Emporium and the Chapeau, Creature Comforts in AK and a few more over the years I can't remember. Anyway, just wanted to pass along the info!

* * *

That is good to hear. This reinforces the notion that even though it may not be a published policy, it's good to ask. I'm not much of a shopper so I don't visit many of these sops and thus don;t even ask.

Thanks for the note.

Mike

Amen to the Tables in Wonderland comment - it's really frustrating to hand my card to a cast member at the end of my meal, only to be told that they don't accept it.

Also, with regards to the discounts, I found it particularly confusing last year because a lot of in-park shops and kiosks were offering the same 10% merchandise discount for annual passes that is normally reserved for the World of Disney, but you had to ask for it (or sometimes the CM would inquire if we were passholders). I think it's great that they're doing more to offer perks to AP holders - they just need to be more consistent about it so that I don't have to feel like a beggar by asking and being turned down seemingly at random!

* * * *

Good point Scott.

The good news is that I am hearing that more and more places are giving AP discounts...the bad news is that there is still some inconsistencies.

It would make sense to offer a discount and make a sale than not offer a discount and not make a sale, doesn't it?

Mike

Kayla:

Why is it that you only get merchandise discounts in downtown disney? I get 20% off of any merchandise at any location and even some quick service counter restaurants. I have a premium annual pass, but even with a regular one I used to get 10%. Also, when you say Tables in Wonderland doesn't give discounts at every sit down location, do you mean counter restaurants that offer seating? Where is it not accepted when there is a waiter or waitress present? Maybe with the new year they did remove some restaurants from offering this discount. I hope not, it saves a lot of money! Love your post though, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the refurbishment schedule.

* * * *

Hi Kayla,

I'm hearing now that in recent months there have been more and more places offering AP discounts. The problem still remains that there are inconsistencies across the resort.

It reinforces that it's important to ask.

Mike

Kirsten :

Hello Mike,

I have a few theories on the things you mentioned. First of all in terms of the 10% discount for annual pass,I cannot speak for the world showcase pavilions, as I don't know if they work on the same system, but I know that an item of merchandise should be priced the same across property, and that the 10% discount applies in every store. The difference there may be that cast members in different stores may be more or less likely to ask you if you are an annual passholder so that they can give you the discount. Technically it is up to the passholder to let the merchandise cast member know and not the other way around, so unless you present them with your annual pass and id, and whatever payment method you use is in your name,they don't have to give you the discount. They really hate it when guests have them ring up alot of merchandise and then get angry when they present an annual pass that is there friend's or relative's and still expect to get a discount. So it is important to always let them know you are an annual passholder so you get the 10% discount. You can double check with guest relations on the world showcase shops and the participant shops or all shops but I am pretty sure they will tell you the same thing. You must ask in order to recieve.

Also in terms of the trams, I believe they changed the names to go along with the efficiency change. The trams now run to only one side, either heroes or villians, so it is important to remember which side you parked on. Before the tram went to all sections, and so carrying over the names of the lots with the new system may have been problematic, because the character names didn't fall into two distinct categories. Now with the new names they do fall into two distinct categories to aid with remembering which tram to get on. I don't know why they decided to go with all newer characters though.

* * * *

Hi Kirsten,

Great note.

I think one thing that I have noticed on a recent trip, and that is that there may be places that offer an AP or ToW discount but two things need to happen in order for guests to receive the discounts. First you have to ask and secondly, the cast member behind the counter has to be aware of the policy.

This is another inconsistency that is troublesome. Also, at a recent location in a resort I asked to use my ToW card and had to wait for the manager to approve the discount. Why?

If there was a consistent policy across the entire resort then there would be no need to ask, nor a need for a manger to approve the discount.

On the parking at the TTC, please check Jack Spence's note. Yes the parking method is more efficient. Regarding the names, like I said, I go by row numbers.

Thank you so much for the note.

Mike

Chris:

Great article - but did want to point out - your annual pass discount is good just about everywhere at WDW as long as it is a Disney-owned store. So basically, that leaves out some places in World Showcase. But for the most part, your discount is granted wherever Disney can give it to you. Also, I heard the dividing of the MK parking lot is for efficiency issues. Trams can get back to the tram loading area quicker and more efficiently with a shorter route. So, while the names changed, the procedure has been plussed.

* * * *

Hi Chris, yes I am hearing that the AP discount is being offered in more place, but at the same time it does not sound like it's as consistent as it should be. I have heard from some people that they get it everywhere they go while others say that in World Showcase they receive an AP discount only is some places.

And yes, the parking at TTC now is done differently, and perhaps the labeling and name changes were part of this overhaul.

Thanks for the note.

Mike

Keith Barnes:

The premium annual pass discount of 20% is honored at every merchandise location.

* * * *

Hi Keith,

Thanks for the note. I'm receiving mixed messages on this since I posted my blog...and that was the idea...to hear from folks like you.

Your note is encouraging and I hope to hear from more folks.

I have heard that not all merchandise locations are offering the discount but it sounds like more and more are realizing the importance of not turning away guests and possibly a sale.

Thanks for the note.

Mike

Adam August:

I believe you're right on with your feelings on the Disney Dining Plan. The dining plan and its attendant confusion seems to occupy the majority of questions and comments on Disney forums and Facebook, illustrating the problem. And don't even mention "free" dining. (Some folks will pay anything to get "free" dining.) Simplify, simplify, simplify.

* * * *

Adam,

Consistency and simplicity is all that I ask.

Mike

Eric:

Hey Mike,

Our family has had annual passes for three years now and I think for the past two years Disney has continued to extend the Annual Pass merchandise discount. It's 10% for a regular pass and 20% for a premium pass. It's good at all Disney owned merchandise stores on property. I have never noticed any inconsistencies with these discounts (with the exception of the non-Disney stores at World Showcase in EPCOT).

I thought that the discount may have ended at the end of 2011. But we were there for the 2012 Marathon Weekend and we got our 20% off at every merchandise location we shopped at (EPCOT, MK, and DHS).

Interestingly enough, when we upgraded our tickets to annual passes this year and asked about the AP merch discount she said that only specific stores would honor a discount and it was best to go to the store at DTD to make sure to get a discount. I nodded my head and then made sure I asked for a discount at every store we shopped at and I got it.

So, until further notice...go out and get those discounts!

Eric

* * * *

Thanks Eric. I'm hearing from a lot of folks that the discount is more widely accepted.

Mike

Mike,
The reason for the inconsistency everyone has observed (or not, although it IS there), has to do with what Disney calls "Third Party Vendors". There are many of these throughout the World, with the highest concentration being of couse in Downtown Disney and World Showcase. But they can turn up where you least expect them, and they are not always easy to distinguish from Disney-operated locations. They are themed by Disney and the cast members are costumed by Disney same as any place (although the cast members there are not actually employed by Disney). And to further confuse things, the same location can even change back and forth between being Disney-operated and Third Party-operated. This is because these outside companies contract with Disney to be able to provide food and merchandise to the Disney guests and sometimes they do not renew their contracts, causing Disney to take over the location, but in the future they might turn it over to a different outside company. And here's the problem with consistency: in order to get it for you, Disney would have to force these Third Party Vendors to offer the same discounts that they provide, which they do not currently do. This means that, while Disney DOES consistently provide a discount at all of their operating locations, only some of the Third Party Vendors choose to do so, and their discount might even vary from the one that Disney offers to the same group. So when taken in total, there is a large, but not complete, degree of consistency in the discounts you can receive at food and merchandise locations throughout the World. I personally think it is good that Disney does not impose mandatory discounting on its business partners. I have no problem with inquiring before I go to a restaurant, or shop in a store, as to what discount I might receive there. I do it consistently;)
Hope this clears things up.
Regards,
Britta

* * * *

Thanks Britta,

I wonder if there was a long line of folks waiting to bring their merchandise shops onto Disney property if they would be more than glad to comply with the discounts.

It sure is confusing.

Thank you for the note.

Mike

Peg F:

Hi Mike-

I have to agree with Nancy regarding the quality of the food since the advent of the dining plan, while my husband and I have yet to have a bad meal at Disney I do find the quality is not as good as it once was nor is the selection as good. Additionally, I would like to see Disney give you a choice between an appetizer or dessert instead of just dessert as we are not really dessert eaters.
We travel in Sept so I'm not keen on seeing Disney schedule the bulk of their refurbishments during non peak seasons but I do understand why you and others would rather see them done during that time.
Another BIG resolution I would like to see Disney make would be to resolve to not raise prices for a couple years. In the 10 or so years my husband and I have been going to WDW prices have more than doubled making it impossible for us to visit our favorite vacation destination every year.

* * * * * * * *

Hi Peg,

I think that the folks at Disney are always trying to hit that middle ground where things work for them and their guests....sort of looking for that win-win situation. Sometimes it works and sometimes it takes time to tweak it so it works.

The price issue has made an impact. I think many of those who travel to WDW now do not go as often as before, do not stay as long as before, and do not stay where they used to stay before.

Also, I think many of the restaurants are not enjoying the business they had in the past.

Mike

Joni:

I would like to see an improvment on the Fast Pass. Not really that fast anymore.
If you don't get in at opening time you may not get a pass till that evening.
Not sure how to remedy it but.....

And I also agree with everyone about the quality of the food. It is a shame, so many famous Chefs, resorces, etc for them to use. (and the prices sure don't come down) So hard to understand why the quality has to suffer. I feel bad for those not on the plan and those on their first vist. You go there and pay good money for something special sometimes for a once in a lifetime trip and if you choose a table service meal or signature rest. you should be able to have a GREAT meal not ok, too many quick service places and rest. in Orlando for that. I hate that the economy, the new management or greed is taking the magic out. Quick service and kiosk for those on a budget. But if you are paying by either dining plan or cash for a 50.00 meal you should get a really good meal.

* * * *

Hi Joni,

Sometimes I feel the FastPASS should be called AAR for (Advanced Attraction Reservation) because it's not fast at all.

Food quality is always an issue and high prices should equate to high quality.

That's why these days everyone needs to make intelligent decisions on how to spend their money.

Mike

Post a comment

(All comments must be approved before they appear on the entry.)


Return to Blog Central

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 17, 2012 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was What Would Jim Think?.

The next post in this blog is Beauty and the Beast in 3D: A Review.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.