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Brian Bennett

WDW Trip Planning Guide Reader Feedback

by Brian Bennett

10/25/01

-In this special edition of "Notes From the World" I'm going to share some of the feedback that I've received from the piece that was recently published on the cutbacks at WDW.

Take note, this is NOT the most pleasant Notes From the World piece that I've ever done.  There is a lot of strong criticism of Walt Disney World here, so if you're planning a trip of your own, read on... but if you're just trying to enjoy some Disney Magic, I'd suggest you read my old "My Favorite Things at Walt Disney World" piece instead.  ;)

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Q.

Werner writes: I do think that Disney should have noted the staggered Epcot hours instead of simply saying "Epcot, 10am-9pm. We've seldom used early entry ourselves, but I know that for some guests (early risers), early entry is the major reason for staying on-site. At a time when on-site hotel bookings are down, it seems like a poor business decision to discourage -- rather than to encourage -- on-site hotel bookings. If the lack of early entry causes WDW to have 100 fewer occupied rooms per night at an average of $200 per room, that's $20,000 -- which would pay for a lot of part- timers to operate a handful attractions at one early entry park per day.

A.

I heartily agree. I don't think anyone at WDW is really thinking through the long-term implications of what they're doing, though. If they were, they'd realize that the changes are only going to cause lasting harm to their reputation for great customer service. :(

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Q.

Another MousePlanet reader writes: Not only are employees being asked to take a cut in Orlando, but also in Southern California. This is very upsetting to me when I read in the paper at the same time that Michael Eisner can turn around and give himself a bonus of over 87 million dollars, while he is asking his valued employees to live on less. Walt I am sure is disgusted with this act! Where are the family values of the company? I guess they don't exist any longer... Maybe the public is finally catching on to how greedy Mr. Eisner has become and are spending their money at better Amusement Parks!

A.

Strong words. :)

I have to take exception to your point about folks "spending their money at better Amusement Parks."  I really don't think you can find a better park than the Disney parks.  I just wish Disney wasn't so hell-bent on operating them in such a mediocre fashion.

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Q.

Stephen writes: Hi Brian.  Just thought I would let you read my email to Guest Services regarding my now canceled WDW trip. I'm peeved. Can you tell? Thanks as always!

Hi.

When word first hit the Internet yesterday morning, I thought, "No. This isn't true. They would never do that." But, then last night, when I got home. I called and found out that, yes, it was true. Disney is suspending Early Entry and E-Ride nights. Which leaves me with the question. What about my November trip to WDW that I had scheduled for the past 6 months? I have visited 'the World' 14 times now. But, I have never stayed on site. But, now, I have a nice job with a nice salary, so I figured, what the heck, I'll spring for the extra dough and stay on site. But, why? Why should I stay on site, now? What's the benefit? A Character Caravan? No. That has no interest to me. I want in the parks. I want my perks for staying with you guys. I deserve it. So, I made my first phone call of the day and canceled my reservations at the resort, thinking that I could very easily stay somewhere off site for 30 bucks or less, since I would be spending most of my day in the parks themselves...

...that was until I heard the other news: the abbreviated operating hours. I was planning a 5 day 'world' wind trip to visit all the parks and all attractions. I was planning on purchasing an annual pass so I could visit next summer, as well. I was planning on getting to the parks when they opened, with Early Entry of course, and staying till the closed, or after with the E-Ride nights. But, not now. Let me ask something. What's the point in visiting a world-class theme park if they are only open from 9-6. (do you guys realize that you are closing the Magic Kingdom before it even gets dark? I guess that's a way on cutting electrical costs!) What's the point in visiting Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival if its only open from 12 to 7? What about the Animal Kingdom? Why would I visit when the animals are already taking naps at 9 am when the park opens?

So, yesterday, my second phone call was to Southwest Airlines and requested a credit toward my flight to Orlando. My Disney, trip, that I had planned for the past 6 months, is gone. You guys killed it. Now, I know what you're going to say. We are experiencing an economic downturn. We've been attacked by terrorists. We're at war. You know what? It's really easy to blame the events of September 11. And, I'm sure that has a great deal with your need to cut costs. But, face it, you guys were cutting costs waaay before September 11. You should have been spending money instead of curbing costs. I'm not really sure why I had planned a trip to WDW. It sure as heck wasn't because you guys had 3 new parades. Parades don't drive people to a theme park. Attractions do. And, I'm talking about exciting attractions. Not carnival stuff like the new Aladdin ride. But, the cost cuts continue. Not only are you guys not building any new attractions, you're closing them. Have you looked at Tomorrowland lately? You now have 4 attractions closed. With no replacements in sight. I don't think you've built anything at all new in the Magic Kingdom since Splash Mountain. Mission Space at Epcot will be cool. But you had to bulldoze Horizons to build it.

Anyway, I don't think what you're doing is right. For all that the Disney company has done right in the past, this is overshadowing it all. And, especially during this 100 Years of Magic Celebration. I made one more phone call yesterday... to the mail order number. I ordered the 100 Years of Magic CD. I had planned on buying this CD when I was down there. I don't know why I still want it, but I do. Its expensive, for a CD, and I'm sure it has music that I've already heard. But, now I don't have any reservations about purchasing it. You guys have saved me lots of money. So, now instead of the $2000 I had budged for my trip, all I spent was $20. How's *that* for cost cutting?

A.

Stephen,

I so wish that you didn't feel the need to change your plans. However, if enough people do exactly that, perhaps WDW will reconsider their actions.

Remember, Caveat Emptor.

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Q.

Fellow MousePlaneteer Mike Scopa added: I understand the reasoning behind the changes but I'm wondering how many guests will be influenced into not going down because of the cutbacks.

You hit the nail right on the head.

I myself purposely visit during the Summer months because everything is at peak. They may be cutting their nose off to spite their face.

It would be wise for them to publicly state these changes are temporary.

A.

...and I think that Mike hit the nail on the head with this one.

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Q.

Kathy writes: Hi Brian.  Just read the information regarding new park hours, attractions that are now closed, and other miscellaneous changes.  What is the reason for the Carousel of Progress closing?

We are going to WDW on October 31, 2001 (attending Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party) for 4 nights, a 4 night Disney cruise, and 2 post-cruise nights.  The resort that we are staying at is Port Orleans Riverside.

Any suggestions on some perks that we might be able to get for all this inconvenience?

We will be staying in two rooms, one for myself and my 9-year-old son and one for my daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters. My son and I are flying from New York and will meet my daughter and her family there (now residents of Florida). The trip has been a year in the making and we choose this time of year because it is a quiet time, less congested.

It just seems unfair that so many things have been cut back.  We didn't get any real bargains on the rates and now to cut back on things just doesn't seem fair.

We almost cancelled the trip, living in New York we are very close to all of the recent events, but with much thought I decided that we need to be together as a family and enjoy each other and be thankful for what we have.  So, we decided to go forward with the vacation.  When I called Disney to make inquiries about attendance and ship upgrades, they tell me that everything is full, no cancellations and all that stuff.

If that's so, why all the cut backs at our expense?

We try to make this a yearly trip so that we can spend time with my daughter.  We did the same trip last year at Thanksgiving time and everything was nice.

Any suggestions you might have would be great.  I feel like we paid good money and feel that had been promised so WDW should do something.  Any way that we might be able to get some of the benefits of the resort magic plan (flex features)?  We are booked with the cruise and just took the room and length-of-stay passes.  My daughter is a seasonal pass holder and they just took the room, no package.

Thanks so much for your suggestions and any assistance that you can provide me.

As I mentioned, we are from New York and understand fully what September 11th has done to this country.  I almost cancelled this trip, but felt that our family needed to be together -- and what better place to go? 

A.

Kathy,

The Carousel of Progress was closed due to the high cost of maintaining the attraction. Frankly, I don't blame WDW for the decision... if something had been brought in to replace it in the park lineup (but that hasn't happened).

Regarding your thoughts and questions about "Any suggestions on some perks that we might be able to get for all this inconvenience," you'd really have to take that up with guest relations at WDW. I can't speak for the company, and really have no motivation to report this information other than my desire that WDW reconsider the changes and restore everything that they did that negatively impacts customer satisfaction.

You may want to contact WDW directly with your concerns. Perhaps, if they hear from enough of us, they'll reconsider some of these decisions.

Also, regarding any statements that you've been told about reservation levels being normal and so on, I'm not in a position to deny that the cast member is telling the truth. The Disney Cruiseline may very well be running a fairly normal schedule. However, if you don't personally believe that to be the case, you could always threaten to cancel your reservation. But of course, then you'd have to be willing to follow-through with the cancellation if you're not satisfied with whatever answers you're given.

Don't forget... Caveat Emptor.

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Q.

Rick writes: Brian, I hate to sound like a broken record, but thanks again for your recent MousePlanet article. I like your fair and balanced approach that presents the facts (the good and the bad) along with a minimum of emotional opinion (unlike some other parts of the site).

I have a question about one of the cutbacks you mentioned. You said that Mannequins at Pleasure Island will not be reopened as planned. The latest information I have is that the reopening date of October 19th (which was never realistic to begin with) has been slipped to December 1st. Is that what you mean by "won't reopen as planned" or have you heard something that leads you to believe that Mannequins won't open again at ALL?

Your bottom line that people go to Disney parks for the service and that cutbacks that hurt service are short-sighted is right on the mark. Yes, I'm sure they save a lot of direct labor costs by not offering Magic Mornings, but have they really considered how much that benefit means, especially to their repeat guests? Things like that, charging for valet parking, etc., make it harder and harder for people to justify paying the premium prices to stay on property. Oh, well. You and I see eye-to-eye on this issue, and either we're wrong, i.e. the profits will keep rolling in, or we're right and management will have a slew of excuses why, none of which addresses their poor decisions.

A.

Thanks for your note, Rick.

Regarding Mannequins, I have no knowledge that the December delayed-opening will be delayed any further. Perhaps the delay wasn't even due to the recent cutbacks, but due to some technical issues related to the rehab. That's why I didn't expand on the comment on my page... I didn't want to be inflammatory on something that may be completely unrelated.

As far as your other comments... I agree that we're in agreement. :) I think the cuts will simply erode the strong customer loyalty that the company has enjoyed over the years... I've seen it happen at General Motors (where I used to work) and Disney is going down the same path. Vacations are a big investment and planning for a trip is a series of emotional decisions (at least to some extent). Besides, the turn-around from dissing your loyal customer base can take years and years and years.

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Q.

John shared this note that he sent to WDW guest relations...

To the Walt Disney World Resort Management and Staff:

I am writing to express my immense displeasure at the recent announcement you would be cutting hours and shutting down rides in light of the current economic situation your company faces. 

I am sure I am in agreement with many of your guests that we understand the need to reduce costs. However, the recent cutbacks you have made SERIOUSLY IMPEDE ON THE SATISFACTION OF YOUR GUESTS.

I had the pleasure of visiting Walt Disney World from September 19 to 24. My traveling partner and I were shocked at the low level of attendance... but also absolutely DELIGHTED at the level of service we received, the fact that all rides and attractions were operating, and that park hours were almost normal. We absolutely had the best time of our lives there.

Now, however, we will immediately reconsider our plans to revisit the Resort in December or January. Clearly, Walt Disney World does NOT care about the satisfaction of its guests. We pay thousands of dollars at your Resort, plus thousands more (sometimes) to fly to visit you. To reduce the hours, shut down attractions and basically tell us you can't meet our expectations is an enormous disappointment. By taking this action, you may very well have sealed the short-term fate of the Resort -- people will NOT VISIT if they cannot get their money's worth!

I implore you to reconsider your decisions. You may think attractions like "Carousel of Progress," "The Living Seas" and others are worth closing down early or altogether; many guests would argue with that thinking (me among them)! You may believe you are doing "the right thing" for The Walt Disney Company, but in fact you are doing exactly the WRONG thing. You are preventing guests from enjoying your Resort thoroughly -- which means they will, like me, not return, or perhaps not visit at all in the first place. Put yourself in the shoes of guests who have traveled across the country or around the globe only to find attractions closed, parks shut down early, and restaurants not operating. The message you are sending both for Disney AND for the country overall is a horrible one.

You have already shut down many attractions that were apparently "too expensive" to operate or not meeting your goals. Please, please, PLEASE stop these actions. Operate Walt Disney World normally, even if it costs you money in the short-run. Long term, the decision will be one you will NOT regret!

In the meantime, however, I do regret that I will cancel plans to visit your Resort until I can be assured I will have the level of service, entertainment and magic that I used to always expect from The Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney World. 

A.

John,

I'd be curious to hear what response you get.

I'm still waiting for them to call me back regarding my snail mail letter that I sent them several weeks ago.

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Q.

Joe shared this note that he sent to WDW guest relations...

Hello, I am in the midst of planning a vacation to Disney World for the fall of 2002. I am very disheartened by the recent announcements of cutbacks taking place at the park. I have listened to many wonderful recounts of peoples visits to Disney World and was counting on having a wonderful trip with my family. This will be our first trip to Disney World.

As you know, a vacation at Disney World is not the most inexpensive vacation to be had. Most of my friends and family who have gone to Disney World say that paying a bit more for a vacation at Disney World is well worth it because of the magical atmosphere there. I hope that these cutbacks are not going to have a negative effect on this. I will be keeping my eye on the various Disney World web sites looking for feedback. So far, what I've read is not good. It is not too late to plan a vacation somewhere else. 

A.

Joe,

I'm glad you contacted WDW directly with your concerns. Perhaps, if they hear from enough of us, they'll reconsider some of these decisions. 

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Q.

Judith writes: Brian, after reading your article today on WDW cutbacks I have a question. Is WDW still planning on holding Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party? We have tickets for December. Thanks for your great articles. 

A.

Judith,

As far as I know, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is still on. The Party is a separate ticketed event that, I'm sure, meets financial requirements (i.e. the money coming in is greater than the cost of running the event by whatever percentage that Disney uses as a threshold.) 

Q.

A WDW Cast Member Responded, Brian, I did read (your piece on the cutbacks). actually it was the first that I had heard about the character caravan (but I'm not really in an area that would get this info first-hand anyway).

There are some (other cuts) that I have heard being bounced around-but nothing concrete and nothing that I would dare repeat.

Your take on the situation was pretty good as well.

I really do not have anything else to add other than the higher ups are really doing this to ultimately save peoples' jobs. I honestly believe them. They are feeling this pinch too.

It's a tough balance between the guests, the cast, and the share holders-- you have to give everyone what they need and want, but how do you do it w/o having one of them suffer? I don't know and I wouldn't even begin to be able to start.

You give the guests everything that they need- and in theory- they will spend more $$. but to to this you have to work the cast-- but if you over work them, then they will not treat the guests well. You don't work them enough-- and they will not treat the guests well or they will take out their frustrations on other cast members-- and then they will not treat the guests well. There are 1000's of scenarios that could play out with the guests, cast, and shareholders... and they have to find the one that will work best for everyone (or that they feel will work best for everyone-- that is a whole different story too).

They are in a tough position right now. I do not envy them at all.

Below is a statement made by one of the Exec VP's in response to the article in the Sentinel yesterday.

"OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN!" . . . This was one of the songs that put Britney Spears on the map as a famous recording artist. I think the Orlando Sentinel could adopt this song as its theme song. Over and over again, they just can’t seem to get the facts straight or the whole story accurate and balanced when they write something about us.

On Monday they put on the front page of the Business section that we had "eliminated Surprise Mornings in the Park" . . . but failed to report that we had added the Character Caravan that comes to each resort several times a week so that our Characters can visit our Guests where they are staying. Our research shows that this is more important to the majority of our Resort Guests than Surprise Mornings. The first reviews of the new Character Caravan by our Guests is very positive, and we will continue to make it better and better every day.

Well, this morning they OOPS’d AGAIN (on the front page no less). The headline says, "Disney Asks Workers To Cut Hours To Save Money." The article says that thousands of salaried workers at the Walt Disney World® Resort were asked to cut their workweek to 32 hours as the Company stepped up cost-cutting efforts. The article goes on to say that the move will mean 20 percent less in their paychecks for 7,400 workers at Disney’s parks, hotels, and administrative offices.

Another paragraph in the article says that the Company’s higher-paid employees join the ranks of the attraction’s 40,000 hourly workers, who have seen their work schedules sharply reduced since the September 11 terrorism attacks.

They go on to say that our Company laid off 1000 workers earlier this year. The reality is that the vast majority of that worldwide reduction was accomplished through a voluntary program that gave Cast Members the opportunity to make choices that were best for them and to receive a generous separation package.

Now let’s talk about the hours . . . The TRUTH is that some hours have been reduced for some front-line Cast Members, and salaried Cast Members will forego a merit increase this year. We have developed several plans where salaried Cast Members and Office and Technical Cast Members can volunteer to work a reduced workweek and take the corresponding reduced salary "If They Would Like To." We have a lot of Cast Members who are interested in this kind of arrangement for many personal reasons. This program is in the final stages of being developed, it is a completely voluntary program, it is temporary, and no one has or will be forced to do it.

The TRUTH is that we have adjusted park hours and some show schedules to match demand--just like we always have for the last 30 years. These were prudent decisions. I am sure that any responsible company is working on matching their cost structure to the demand for their products. Nowhere in this article did it comment about the things we have added this year, such as four new parades, the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream attraction, the Playhouse Disney shows, and the Sorcerer Mickey Hat Icon.

We have a strategy to "MAINTAIN JOBS" and not to lay off large numbers of Cast Members who would find it very difficult to find a job in Central Florida right now.

This would have been the easy way to cut costs. We did not do that as many companies did. This did entail reducing some hours for some Cast Members and foregoing merit increases for salaried Cast Members. This did mean tightening up our expenses, and this did mean taking a balanced look at everything we do. So far we have been very successful!

This could have been the story; but instead the story was a story full of mistakes and written in a way to be negative without the facts and without reporting the real story.

I wish each one of you could have been in the planning meetings the last few weeks to see the sensitivity that was taken by the Steering Committee to make balanced decisions that were thoughtful about our Guest Experience, Cast Excellence, and responsibility to achieve the right business results. This is extremely tricky and difficult work, and I think that we have accomplished our goal for all three of these important objectives. Those three objectives must be totally connected. It would have been nice if we had not had to make any changes; but that is not reality in these times we are in. Trust me when I tell you that we did a great job for our Guests, for YOU, and for our Company.

I received several voice mails this morning asking me why we did not tell the salaried Cast that they were getting a 20 percent reduction in salary before it was reported in the Orlando Sentinel. The reason is that the story in the Orlando Sentinel is not true.

I have told you before not to believe everything that you read in the newspaper, hear on the radio, or see on the Internet because it is so often reported without all of the facts; and frequently it is reported in a way to misrepresent the facts.

NOW YOU KNOW THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY. Hang in there, everyone. We will get through this together. When you want the truth, turn to The Main Street Diary. . . . Lee

A.

Thanks for the response! I appreciate it very, very much.

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Q.

In a post on the newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks, Glenn made these comments (Note, he did not email this to me, I found it on the newsgroup and asked -- and received -- his permission to post it here.):

In light of all the cutbacks we've seen so far, and with no indication that Disney is finished with the scissors, I offer the following predictions as to what cost-cutting measures may be implemented next:

  1. Snow White will only have 6 dwarfs instead of 7. Sleepy and Sneezy will merge to form a new dwarf, Sleazy.
  2. Since Disney can no longer afford a huge cathedral, The Hunchback of Notre Dame will become the Hunchback of Haines City Presbyterian. 
  3. Goofy's name will be changed to Slightly Unusual.
  4. Spaceship Earth will be changed to A Really Nice Airplane.
  5. "Pirate" of the Caribbean
  6. Small Rumbling Hill Railroad
  7. Timekeeper will be replaced by The Beancounter
  8. Rock & Roller Coaster starring the Group That Sang "Macarena."
  9. Rhode Island Smith Epic Stunt Attempt
  10. "Beauty and the Beast" will be replaced by "Sort of Cute and the Guy With the Beard". Lumiere will be replaced by a large cigarette lighter, and Cogsworth with a cheap watch.
  11. At the Magic Kingdom: Swiss Family Outhouse, Haunted Apartment, Hall of Candidates, It's a Small Attraction, Aladdin's Magic Throwrugs, Mad Warm Water Party, Carousel of Recession
  12. At Epcot: Two Dragons Restaurant, El Sewer del Tiempo, Pancreas Command, Honey I Shrunk the Entertainment.
  13. At Disney/MGM: Sounds Expensive, Short Trip of the Really Little Mermaid, Tower of Uneasiness, The Lousy Movie Ride, Studios Pothole Tram Tour
  14. At the Animal Kingdom: The Shrub of Life, It's Tough to be a Multi-Million Dollar Company, Conserve-Our-Money Station
  15. Resorts: Fishing Boat & Sand Bar Club, All-Star Magazines, Bored-Walk
  16. Trains will be removed from the Monorails, but guests will be permitted to walk the tracks

Note: Please do not interpret this bizarre attempt at humor as an indication that I do not like WDW or that I am upset with the company. I love the place, and do not grudge them for making adjustments they feel necessary. I'm just a guy wondering, like a lot of people, what the future holds for our favorite destination (which I still plan to visit this December). This is nothing more than one crazy person's imagination going a little bonkers, that's all. God bless America and WDW!

Y'all have fun, now! 

A.

Ditto.

May WDW un-do the damage and return to the splendor that made it the greatest vacation destination in the world (the real world, I mean)!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback for the WDW Trip Planning Guide!  Feed free to send more questions or comments to brian@mouseplanet.com!

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Brian's Archive - Contents

I've always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added the feedback form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased dramatically!  I do my best to answer each and every question personally, but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.  The question that one person asks might very well be the question that someone else is wondering about.  Thus this page!

So...I'll post reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!

 

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