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MousePlanet Mailbag for April 1, 2004

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers.

Feedback for David Koenig

Mail still keeps coming in regarding the recent corporate activities at the Walt Disney Company. Susan Main writes:

I can only hope that Eisner steps down and does the right thing for the company, but after years of only thinking of himself and his bonuses and cutting benefits from Cast Members (of which I used to be one of) and not putting the money that he took from this company back into it as research and development, I am saddened to think he will go on anyway with his lackeys in power on the Board.

The only way things are going to change is if the Board members change and we get people in their who want to actually do what is best for Walt's legacy, which would ultimately be good for the shareholders. I cringe at the thought of Comcast or anyone else taking Disney over—it will lose all it's charm and devotion to the man who built the dream. I just LOVE Disney and all it stands for and this whole thing almost has me sick to my stomach. I just hope he has a change of mind to step down and the right person is chosen to succeed him! Just my thoughts! a rabid Disney fan!

Susan – You are absolutely right—although at this point I don't see Eisner as doing anything for the good of the company. His job—like so many other bonus-centric executives at the House of Mouse—is doing what's best for him.

I too am afraid what the Disney Company were acquired by Comcast or another faceless, monolithic conglomerate. Any stockholders who willingly tender their shares to Comcast after pillorying Disney for its lack of corporate governance should be ashamed. DIS owners who feel it's difficult to affect change now will find themselves completely powerless under the limitations of Comcast's bylaws.

Bradley Bethel writes:

I'd like to know exactly where is this fight with Disney going? Is it Roy that's winning, Eisner, or a draw? What's likely to happen next? If Eisner does leave (hopefully), has anybody started thinking about what happens after his departure? Who's most likely to succeed him? (Hopefully not Bob Iger) How will this new leader “bring back the magic?”

I wasn't surprised that Eisner got so many negative votes against him a couple weeks ago at the shareholders' convention. He should've been out right away, along with Mitchell and a couple other board members.

I just hope things work out. The fact that Roy's crusade has even gotten this far shows that it's time for change at Disney.

Bradley – Good to hear from you.

We all would like the answers to your question, unfortunately no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

Here's what you can count on:

Assuming no unforeseen health problems dissuade them, Roy and Eisner will both keep up the fight. In this, Eisner has always been in the position of power, but Roy has slowly, dramatically been eating away at that. Although Roy's screaming sound urgent, he's actually prepared for a protracted battle. I expect the showdown to be at next year's shareholders meeting.

Eisner's choice as successor is Iger, but Eisner may not get to be the one who picks. If the financials look good and Eisner can hold on through the end of his contract (2006), expect Iger. If Eisner is replaced before the end of this year, expect the board to choose. If Eisner makes it to next year's meeting with weak financials, expect a blood bath; the board will have to replace Eisner and Mitchell and replace them with someone shareholder- (and Roy-) approved.

Of course, if Disney is acquired, the new owner is in charge.

In any of these scenarios, there's no guarantee that the magic returns, but I think the chances are better with a new leader approved by someone who understands such things (Roy) than with an old leader who no longer understands it or an outsider who takes the job by force.

Bill Jonke writes:

This may seem really petty to some people, but Mr. Eisner made some big mistakes, mostly during the last half of the two decades:

1. Walt Disney himself warned against “resting on our laurels.” Mr. Eisner, along with Paul Pressler did just that. They used the so-called Disney charisma mistakenly to their advantage, thinking that the "brand” would bring great tidings, such as the popularity of Disney's California Adventure beyond their wildest dreams, all the while cutting costs in the content, concept and infrastructure. Westcot would definitely have been a better way to go! Depending on your “brand” to make everything rosy with the city of Anaheim and not compromising much at all with the city, but saving more than a buck or two in the company owned infrastructure, and charging a really high price to see this theme park to "end all theme parks,” in my opinion constitutes resting on one's laurels. Look where it got them!

2. Walt Disney never wanted a carnival atmosphere at Disneyland. What do we have at California Adventure? The Pike!

3. Mr. Eisner himself said something to the effect of "we were always better leaner,” referring to the 4,000 or so layoffs he initiated even before 9/11, and a whole slew more to come after that, a lot of these people holding up the creative sector. What have they got now? Not much, I'm afraid...

All in all, if any change is going to come, if Mr. Eisner doesn't think the jig is up, he at best had better change his strategy, though I'm really not honestly banking on that.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact David here.
Feedback for Mark Goldhaber

David isn't the only one getting feedback about the Walt Disney Company. Mark still gets a lot of feedback as well. Mark Lockhart writes:

Nice work on your article today—I wasn't in Philly but I listened to about 60 percent of the shareholders meeting via the Web (thankfully I heard the early part including Roy and Stanley's remarks). I'm not a Disney shareholder although I view myself as a stakeholder. I've been a Walt fan since I was in the 4th grade, my wife is a lifelong Mickey fan, we got married at WDW, members of DVC, house looks like Disney Midwest, etc.—so as you can see, I do have a stake in the company, albeit informal.

I firmly believe that through their actions last week, Eisner and the Board simply proved what Roy and Stanley have been saying for the last several months.

They just don't get it—a 43 percent withhold or no-confidence vote is unmatched in American business and as you mentioned even Senator Mitchell's 24 percent is higher than the vote that forced Steve Case out—and the Board's meager attempt at "good management” did nothing more than solidly the case against them. There is no doubt in my mind that Eisner has created his own kingdom and his minions are blindly loyal, not that blind loyalty is not admirable but in this case I believe the Board needs to at least peek at reality. The shareholders have spoken very clearly and the Board has turned a deaf ear to them. A side effect of that is that the Board has clearly lost credibility with the shareholders and Wall Street and folks like me who were hoping for some glimmer of integrity from the Board. We got zilch.

My recommendation? Eisner and Mitchell need to resign now. Their actions last week clearly demonstrate their arrogance and their loss of touch with reality. Their egos got in the way—they didn't want to appear weak in front of the shareholders by caving into what they described as Roy and Stanley's campaign of misinformation. The rest of the Board should move immediately to remove them if they do not resign. Otherwise, it looks like King Michael is in for the long haul and it will simply be a long excruciating trip to hell until his contract is up.

No, I'm not going to boycott Disney—in fact, we have plans for a family vacation in early June. I'll be the one wearing the Save Disney t-shirt.

Keep up the good work!

Hi Mark – I agree that it appears to be a travesty that George Mitchell and Michael Eisner remain at the top of the Mouse House. However, my concern is that, if they immediately push them out the door without a replacement ready in the wings, Comcast will seize the opportunity to swoop in and try to take the company over before there's anybody in place to stop them. And I'm not convinced that Bob Iger is the guy for the job, especially after his performance in Philadelphia.

My preference would be that they either announce that they are actively working on a succession plan, and that they actually implement it by early fall, or they just do it without announcing it. I would like to see a new chairman and a new CEO in place within six months, but I don't want to company to have nobody in the big office in the interim. Of course, we're just going to have to wait and see on that.

Dave writes:

Nice article. I think you have something about the planned ouster of Eisner, before the resignations. The changing of the positions is only a move that is part of the new SEC rules, stating publicly owned companies must have a separate chairman and CEO. This move satisfied the SEC, and gave the impression of listening to the no confidence vote. I believe that Disney will just concentrate on the 50th in Anaheim and then not renew with Eisner in 06. I also believe that the bid by Comcast was a staged event to give some punch to the no confidence vote. There are to many FCC conflicts to make it a reality. Thanks again for keeping us informed.

Hi Dave – I've wondered about whether the Comcast bid was a staged event, too. At different points, it seemed as if it might have been staged by either side. If staged by the Save Disney side, it would seem to undermine confidence in Eisner and increase the withhold vote. If staged by Eisner, it could be argued that getting rid of him would make the company more vulnerable to a buyout. So it works in favor of both sides. Save Disney did get their huge anti-Eisner vote, but Eisner is still there. I think that it might be good to keep him in place (with more check and balances on his decisions) until a suitable substitute is found. We'll see how it turns out.

Vincent writes:

Great insight on that article.

My observation has always been as a guest, as I am not a cast member or a shareholder.

While there are always two sides to every story, the effects of the last ten years of Eisner are puzzling. While I was thrilled that the Walt Disney Company was expanding and broadening its brand recognition, I was less than thrilled at the output recent products. And what is really confusing is that along the way, there have been some very nice products tossed in the heap. The Grand Californian and The Animal Kingdom Lodge. Beautiful hotels. DCA (Do I really need to elaborate?). The tacky carnival rides at Animal Kingdom. Aladdin's Carpets, what were they thinking? And the West Coast version of The Tower of Terror. What should have been in that ride is what was supposed to be scary, not what was left out of it.

And the overall morale has been going down the toilet. I actually heard a cast member in the men's room at DCA use the “F” word. I about fell over.

My thinking is this, again I'm not a business guru. What built the Disney name is a tradition of high quality, unique and creative entertainment experiences. Whether it be films, television shows or theme parks. As a child, I begged my parents to take me to see the latest Disney feature at the movie house. Not only as a means of fun, but as a way to get my Disney fix when I was unable to get to Disney World. I remember seeing “The Little Mermaid” while in college, and thinking when that movie was over, I need to get back to WDW.

My point is that when we wanted magic, we could find it. If not at WDW, then at the movies. And those movies fed my desire to get back to WDW each time. There was a familiarity, an honesty. Now there are baseball teams, half baked carnival rides, networks which do not contribute to the Disney brand, and an array of poorly performing businesses whose purpose is to bleed profits from the theme parks to balance the ledger. I say, stop it. Put the money back where it belongs, and get rid of these nonsense branches which have nothing to do with The Walt Disney Company.

Hi Vincent – I think that what you've been seeing over the last ten years is the concentration on spending money on things that bring a direct return to the bottom line. Unless the impact can be quantified (and you can be sure that the theme parks folks are pushing that “incremental attendance” figure for Mission: Space), money is not spend in large quantities.

How do you show immediate returns? Build hotels and shops. If you build a nice hotel, it directly drives revenue that is not attributable to any other source. If you build a store, it will directly produce revenue by virtue of sales. Why do you think that every new ride constructed has a gift shop a the exit? Can you image if there was a shop at the exit of EVERY Fantasyland ride? Not a pretty sight. That's why more money was reportedly spent per square foot on the shops at DCA than on the attractions themselves. When Frank Wells was alive, he could tell Michael “We can't do that. We're Disney.” With Frank gone, Michael had nobody to serve as his conscience, and he seems to have gone out of his way to keep that the status quo. And now it seems to have bitten him in the butt. Interesting times, indeed.

A reader writes:

Reportedly in the L.A. Times, Diane Disney Miller has urged that Eisner leave soon, that someone be groomed to replace him within 6 months. Here's a wild one—to replace the Eisner/Wells duo that worked well before, how about a John Lasseter/Stephen Burke combo (or similar if they won't leave their present jobs)?

Since you didn't include your name or a return email address, I'm just going to respond to this through the mailbag.

That sounds like an intriguing possibility, as does Jobs/Lasseter and many of the other combinations that have been put out there. We'll just have to wait and see how this plays out.

Thanks for writing! (But next time, include your name and email address so that I can respond directly, too.)

Erik writes:

What is most fearful with Eisner is that he subscribes to both cost cutting and cost analysis. I had seen this first hand while working for the parks in the early '90s. Any business school would suggest one or the other. Never both. This was done while Wells was there. Wells was always the “heavy” in the company. He was never to be referred to as “Frank.” He insisted on being called “Mr. Wells” anything less could result in an immediate termination.

When I spent time touring Walt Disney Imagineering, The general word was Michael always loved everything they put before him. However he would tell them when it came time to put the “concept” into motion, he would always cut the budget by 2/3rds. He felt that if they could create something wonderful on a full budget, 2/3rds a budget would be slightly better than what the competition was offering at the time.

I would have to say that Eisner has and will always be concerned with the bottom line. I'm sure you would have trouble disagreeing with that position.

I am very interested to see if he can “turn the company around” in one year. My bet is that he won't. However, the real question being, will the stock holders ultimately hold him accountable for his actions and dismiss him entirely from the company or will they turn a blind eye?

I believe they will do the latter, as he has a very sweet deal and some major stock options. The bottom line it, it will cost the company more to buy him out than to keep him there.

Time will tell.

ON a more positive note, please keep up the good work. I do enjoy all the insider information. I appreciate keeping up on a place that is very dear to me in my heart. I am glad that you continue to keep us all informed.

I would love to see more pictures of things going on. Pictures tell as much as the words that you write. And since I'm now in Hawaii, my visits aren't as regular as they used to be when I lived in California. It's sort of my Eye Candy to see what the park is doing. Good and bad.

Mahalo nui loa no ko loko maika`i
(thank you very much for your good work)

Aloha Erik – What's interesting is that I read a story a couple of months ago (I forget where now) where a stock analyst said that his price target for Disney was something like three dollars a share higher if Eisner would resign. My concern at this point is less the cost of getting rid of Eisner and more the cost to the Disney reputation of whatever his actions might be for the next two-and-a-half years. Oh, and the shareholders can't dismiss him entirely from the company. He serves at the pleasure of the board, and only the board can dismiss him.

On the park updates side, I put photos in the weekly WDW Update when I can get them, usually submitted by Brian Bennett, as I'm up here in New York. There are more often photos in the Disneyland Update, as we have more folks living in the area. AVP does a wonderful job and deserves a great deal of credit on that.

Erik writes back:

Aloha Mark,

Well I guess since Eisner has stacked the board with “family” members, he'll continue on the board as long as he wishes to stay there. Which will be till death do us part.

I remembered hearing that he went through a triple bypass surgery a few years ago. My grandmother had one. Doctors say that those only add about 10 years or so to a persons life.

As far as the Disney Reputation, I don't think that enters into Eisner's scheme of things. Disney had the Worlds Largest PR department. I guess he figures that he'll just have them work overtime to spin what ever happens anyway.

I guess New York is as far away from a Disney Park as Hawaii is.

My hope has always been Disney would open a park here like Disney Seas. That way the Cruise ships would have somewhere to go out of LA. That will probably never happen.

Aloha, Erik – With the lawsuit against the board from the Ovitz disaster still working its way through the courts, and other lawsuits against the board for not conscientiously performing their duties, it may scare them into doing something. Also, remember that if the SEC proposal goes through, next year there may be a full slate of alternate directors running against them, and the big funds will be lobbying the smaller funds to join them in voting against the incumbents.

Eisner's quadruple bypass was performed in July 1994, the summer following Frank Wells' death. There's no word on Michael's current health, so I will not make any assumptions here.

I agree that Michael appears to believe that there's no problem big enough that it can't be solved with some well-applied, well-targeted publicity and spin. In the past, he's been able to get away with this, but it's becoming harder and harder for him to pull the wool over people's eyes as the spotlight on Disney gets brighter and brighter.

On one hand, I think it would be cool to sea a Disney attraction in Hawai'i, but on the other hand, when my wife go out there in 2007 for our 20th wedding anniversary, I'd rather it be a complete vacation without feeling the need to write about the attraction. I agree that it won't happen, though. Disney is concentrating on large resort centers, and would not want to spread tiny attractions all over the place, as it's not really efficient.

Dean Paul writes:

Regarding your March 17 article,I appreciated your comments and observations, especially about the Comcast timed bid and your thoughts on how Michael Eisner may have instigated it. But I always had a suspicion that Roy Disney inst

Hi Dean – Many of us had a suspicion about the Save Disney team and Comcast, as well. However, if you read my column on the rally and press conference the day before the shareholder meeting, you'll see that I noted, “One new piece of information, quelling some Internet rumors, came when Gold specifically stated that they had had no contact with Comcast and had not discussed the bid with them.”

I would think that, if they were to say that and it turned out that they did indeed have discussions, there might be SEC interest, as well. However, since they have definitively stated that they haven't had any discussions with Comcast, and Michael has said nothing on the subject other than the fact that he knew that the offer was coming before it was coming (and, with the board, prepared a response before the offer was actually made), I would tend to lean more in that direction.

Ye Cats writes:

Hi Mark, Although your current report is speculative, I was wondering if Mr. Eisner did almost the exact same thing. It certainly is not hard to make a phone call and deal to shake things up, especially when Mr. Eisner has to feeling the water beginning to boil around him. He could've so easily have orchestrated this entire plot. I am wondering how many others also thought of this particular plot as well. Well time will tell and in the end, Roy is still the thorn in his side that he won't be able to get rid of so easily.

Wanted you to know that I am glad you wrote what you were thinking and loved it.

Hi ye cats – I'm sure that others thought of it, though I'm the only one that I know of that actually put it “in print,” as it were. We'll just have to wait and see how the next chapter in this story plays out.

Janes Joyce writes:

Just read your latest article on What's Next. Very interesting reading—both this article and others that appear on this web site. I just heard about another “black mark” against Michael Eisner—enjoy your trip to Walt Disney World. Regards, Janes

Hi Janes – Thanks for the kind words about the stories at MousePlanet. We're quite proud of our stable of writers.

I've heard about the olive trees, as well. It was reported in MousePlanet's Disneyland Update on Monday. The trees around the hub at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom have been replaced with much shorter foliage to enable better viewing of “Wishes.” I'm pretty sure that the trees were replaced with shorter trees there once before. I'm not as sure about the Disneyland trees.

I know that they were supposedly removed to enable better viewing of the projections on the castle for Disneyland's 50th birthday celebration, but I'm not as certain of the history there. I understand that they were the original trees planted 49 years ago. I'll leave it to our Disneyland-based reporters to analyze those replantings. The hub will reopen soon, and there will be people-watching again, but perhaps with less shade.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. This will be a different (but still enjoyable) trip to Walt Disney World, as it's going to be the first time doing a guys-only long weekend trip.

Robert Stallard writes:

I have enjoyed the site for a long time now and it's a great help to my upcoming trip in May/June.

I live in Germany and am a DVC Member.

My question is, is it worth all that money $299 to visit the Member Homecomings in May? OK the parks are open longer (but you can have that cheaper). Are there so many special events to make it to?

I've tried to find the answer to my question everywhere. I hope you can help.

Hi Robert – Thanks for the kind words about the site.

The answer to your question is probably different for each person. The way that I break it down financially is this way. For the $299 per adult ($279 per child), you get a few differerent things. Probably largest in cash value is the equivalent of a targeted two-day Park Hopper Plus—two day park hopper privileges, plus one admission to Pleasure Island or Disney Quest. This is probably worth about $110 or so per person. You get an 3.5-hour after-hours party at the Magic Kingdom, including a meal and a private showing of SpectroMagic.

The three-hour E-Ride night goes for $12, I believe. I'm not sure of the value of the meal or the private parade. Let's call the whole package $30-$45, depending on the meal. You get a 3.5-hour private party at Epcot, including dessert and a DJ party in Future World East, including Test Track and Mission: Space. Since this is not something that is generally offered to the public, let's call this $50. Finally, you get special access to the grand opening ceremony at the Saratoga Springs resort, plus a free lunch. Let's call the lunch worth $25. That gives a total value of $215-$230.

Of course, if you already have park admission for your entire stay (either with an Ultimate Park Hopper or Annual Passport), then the value drops by $110. So dollar-wise, you're not going to come out ahead. So whether or not it's worth the $299/$279 per person is completely dependent on how much you value the opportunity for unique events, and how invested you are in DVC events in particular.

Personally, if I were to be down there at the time of the event, I might go just for the experience, and to write about it, but I would more likely save the money and spend it on souvenirs or a couple of nice dinners, and attend the grand opening ceremony without the VIP access. Just my two cents, your mileage may vary.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mark here.
Feedback for Shoshana Lewin

A number of people wrote very long and empassioned feedback to Shana regarding Tony, a waiter, who had some tips for diners (link). Dan writes:

I had a few issues with Tony's story. I don't know if you ever care to address them, but it bothered me to the point that I felt I should write in. (And that almost never happens)

Let me preface everything by saying that I understand waiting tables is a tough job. It's not something that I am cut out for, and I greatly respect anybody that can and does do it. Having said that, however:

“Make a reservation—An angry party gets knocked to the bottom of a server's priority list when finally sat. Simply because, we see you're upset about the wait, we figure you're not going to tip well at all. Can you blame us? I always spend more time at my tables that are in a good mood and are excited about the experience.”

While I agree that a reservation is always a good idea, it really seems downright obnoxious that someone gets knocked down to the bottom of the list. I go out to eat a lot, and I have to say that I never let my mood affect the tip. If I'm in a bad mood, I certainly don't take it out on the server. And it's not right for the server to give me shoddy service because I'm in a bad mood.

"When we bring out those hot plates of food, clear a space, don't stare at us. That third arm will never sprout out to do it. I repeat, hot plates."

While it is most definitely common courtesy to just clear a spot, would it kill the server to ask for help? A simple “My hands are full, could you clear a spot please?” Sometimes it's tough to know exactly what the server is going to do. On more than one occasion, I've created a problem by trying to take a plate, or move something when the server wasn't ready.

"When the server comes out and asks how things are, be honest right then, not later. Finding problems with your menu item and getting a new one needs to be done immediately, not after you've eaten most of it. That's just a cry for free food in most cases, which puts our guard up immediately.”

Not always. Sometimes people think they can just suck it up and eat whatever it is without a problem, but they realize too late that they can't finish it. Or, perhaps someone finds something wrong halfway through the meal.

"If you're one of those chronic beverage inhalers, request a glass of water alongside the soft drink of choice. That way you're not dehydrating and wearing out your server.”

I don't recall if Tony works at Disneyland or Disney World, but c'mon. It's hot. When it's that hot, people need their beverages refilled because they'll drink a lot. It is, quite frankly, the server's job to bring another beverage if that's what's needed.

“Those table visits are an opportunity to scan and decide what you need to enjoy your meal. A side of dressing, more napkins, etc. Do it all at once as best as you can tell. Sending the server back and forth five times only makes us irritated with you. After all, servers have other tables that need to be taken care of as well."

People don't make a list when the food comes of things that they'll need. They forget, or don't realize they need something until later in the meal. I don't think anybody would deliberately run anybody ragged.

"Wherever you learned your tipping styles, throw them away now. This is true for all restaurants in the country, no matter the ticket total:

  • “20 percent or more is for great service;
  • 15 percent is for average service;
  • 10 percent or less is for poor service;
  • Buffet lunch or cafeteria: $1 to $2 per guest;
  • Dinner buffet: $2 to $3 per guest.
  • Most servers only get paid $2.13 per hour. You do the math.”

This is how I learned to tip, but the server needs to understand that they have to earn that tip. If I get shoddy service, and a poor attitude, they will not automatically get the tip, and all too frequently, that's the attitude that is taken.

“If you have one of those names that everyone butchers when called aloud, pick a new one when putting your name down for a table. Anderson is my favorite.”

Perhaps using a first name, but I will most certainly NOT change my name. I also will not get mad or upset when someone butchers my name.

A reader writes:

I think Tony is in the wrong business if he thinks that guests should follow these rules. Since I've been a cast member, waiter and regular old guest, I think I can make an opinion. How can someone who seems so angry, provide great guest service that Disney as well as its guests expects.

He said: Make a reservation—An angry party gets knocked to the bottom of a server's priority list when finally sat. Simply because, we see you're upset about the wait, we figure you're not going to tip well at all. Can you blame us? I always spend more time at my tables that are in a good mood and are excited about the experience.

I say: Well isn't that special? I though all guests should be treated the same. With good service, you might be able to change the angry into “Glad we came here.”

He said: On the way to your table, know if you need a booster or a high chair. If in doubt, get one. It takes us awhile to get these things to your table. Do you really want to stand around the table carrying/holding your children while everyone looks at you wondering why you won't sit down?

I say: At Disney, reservations usually asks when guests say two adults and two children. Don't sit us at a table that doesn't have it there already. And “no” it is not my job to get a booster, it is the restaurant's. Remember, guest service!

He said: Sit where your greeter puts you—We know you have views that you prefer. Request them at reservation, or suck it up. There's a pattern to seating. If the guests mess it up, the rhythm can and often will throw off the server. Especially if this new table is nowhere near the assigned workstation. Bad service is likely to occur if the server has a section in one area and then needs to walk out of their way to you. Remember, just because you like a particular booth or table doesn't mean there's a server assigned to that section. I'd rather have good service with a so-so view, it's not like I can't move around the restaurant looking at everything.

I say: Well not always true. Why is a table with a great view vacant only to be filled right after we sit down. That makes no sense. Reservations should be taken in order and the best tables filled first. Wouldn't you agree?

He said: Unless there's a sign posted„never, ever seat yourself. A) You have no menus, and B.) Once again your prey to the possibility that there isn't a server assigned to that table. Meaning, no one will notice you before you get irritated.

I say: Agreed. Now this would be stupid. especially if you don't see a sign that says “seat yourself.” But hopefully if you do see someone at a table that has no assigned wait staff, you would let the hostess know.

He said: Get used to the idea that not all restaurants have birthday-singing policies. Find out during that ever-so-important reservation.

I say: What can I say, people usually go out to celebrate, but hopefully when a guest makes a reservation and lets reservations know that it is a birthday, the reservationist would tell the guest that there is no singing in this particular restaurant since it is out of the norm.

He said: If you have a food allergy, let the server know before you order.

I say: Sometimes guests forget because it is second nature, but yes, i agree that it is the guest's responsibility.

He said: When we bring out those hot plates of food, clear a space, don't stare at us. That third arm will never sprout out to do it. I repeat, hot plates.

I say: Absolutely not! You should come to the table and clear or have a bus person clear the table before the hot food comes out. It is not my job to do the clearing.Again, if i clear, more tip for me. Pretty soon you'll have me going into the kitchen to get my own food.

He said: When the server comes out and asks how things are, be honest right then, not later. Finding problems with your menu item and getting a new one needs to be done immediately, not after you've eaten most of it. That's just a cry for free food in most cases, which puts our guard up immediately.

I say: Very true, but sometimes the wait staff doesn't come over right away or they come over even before I take a bite. If a guest eats most of a meal, then sorry, it's their own fault.

He said: If you're one of those chronic beverage inhalers, request a glass of water alongside the soft drink of choice. That way you're not dehydrating and wearing out your server.

I say: Hey, you're a “wait”er. You're supposed to wait on me. I guess next time I'll ask for three Cokes up front, but then you would charge me for three. So then I guess you'll just have to keep coming back. And restaurants used to provide water without asking, so maybe you should just serve water or ask the table if water is requested.

He said: Never whistle, snap your fingers, or shake the ice glass at the server. It's demeaning and only encourages us to take our time. A subtle signal will suffice. Remember, if you get bad service, the tip you leave is all that is needed to make the impact.)

I say: This is just plain ole' rude on the guest's part.

He said: Those table visits are an opportunity to scan and decide what you need to enjoy your meal. A side of dressing, more napkins, etc. Do it all at once as best as you can tell. Sending the server back and forth five times only makes us irritated with you. After all, servers have other tables that need to be taken care of as well.

I say: Well how would I know if I'll need more napkins until I need one. Why should you be irritated since you are paid by the hour. One trip or 10 to a table, you're still paid the same. I guess you are greedy and want quicker turnover to get more tips instead of trying to provide good guest service. I may not want more water now, but when you return with my second napkin, I may. Maybe I started choking while you were getting the napkin and I drank all my water.

He said: Know what 'automatic gratuity' is and how many guests are required to enforce it.

I say: Usually automatic gratuities are lower than most would give. the check should also reflect a phrase that shows there is an automatic tip already on the bill. i usually kick in more, especially when there is good service.

He said: Wherever you learned your tipping styles, throw them away now. This is true for all restaurants in the country, no matter the ticket total:

  • * 20 percent or more is for great service;
  • * 15 percent is for average service;
  • * 10 percent or less is for poor service;
  • * Buffet lunch or cafeteria: $1 to $2 per guest;
  • * Dinner buffet: $2 to $3 per guest.

Most servers only get paid $2.13 per hour. You do the math.

I said: Remember that tipping is “optional” and not required. You chose your $2.13 an hour job so don't tell me what I should tip. What you provided are the suggested tipping policies. Pretty soon you'll want mandatory tipping per item like a tax. It could be called Tony's Tipping Tax.

He said: If you have one of those names that everyone butchers when called aloud, pick a new one when putting your name down for a table. Anderson is my favorite.

I say: Why can I not use my given name. My name is hard to pronounce. Nobody knows me at the restaurant so my wife and I know that we are up when they try to pronounce our last name. Usually hostesses will ask if it was correct. I would correct them and they would apologize (if they mean it or not). If it was correct, then it gives us some conversation while we are walking and getting seated at our table.

Tony, it seems that you are in the wrong business. I've been a waiter and I've been a cast member. Not only am I paying to get into the park just for the privilege to eat at your establishment, but you want me to get my own booster seat, clear space that you didn't do to serve my food, know in advance if I will need anything during my meal and eat fast so you can get another tip that you have already determined what percentage is the country's norm. Do you look at the bills and say “Oh, this bill will buy that new shirt I wanted” and when you don't get that amount, you get bitter?

My gosh, grow up and get out of a customer-based business. Then you won't have to deal with us. You'll be one of us!

Matt Kinnon writes:

A nice and touching article with some very heartwarming stories.

I must take exception to “Tony's Story” and his 14 tips for a nice dining experience. Its more like his 14 tips to allow him to do as little work as possible. I'm actually surprised you put his “story” in your article. It lent nothing to the overall theme of the other stories and sounded more like personal gripes and complains about his job.

His idea of the perfect guest is to only speak when spoken to, not ask for anything more then what's absolutely necessary, know exactly how the tipping system works (although sounds like he doesn't get many) and never, ever have the server make more then one trip to the table after the meal is served. I was getting a little angry reading his tips and then realized how ridiculous most were and just started laughing.

Tony, if you read this please understand a couple of things. Are there rude and stupid guests in restaurants? Yes. Guess what? Its not just limited to restaurants...there are idiots everywhere. Occasionally someone is going to forget to ask for a booster seat on the way to his or her table or want a refill on their coke. Its life, deal with it. As for low wages, do what the rest of us did, finish school and get a real job.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Shoshana here.
Feedback for Mailbag

Stanton Wong writes:

Hey there,

I just wanted to suggest that you give Rob from New Zealand some additional more accurate information: Visiting in October will have the Haunted Mansion Overlay, but Christmas doesn't officially start 'til the weekend before Thanksgiving. Although Small World Overlay should be up by the beginning of November, and some christmas decorations will be up, the Parade and fireworks will not be happening 'til november.

Weekdays during the first 2 weeks of December will be extremely light, with complete holiday activity in full force, but the weekends will be extremely busy, more than even summer. So much so, that they have blacked out cast members from signing in during every weekend in December. Also, the Tuesday-thurs on the first week of december usually is Cast Member private parties. The bad news is that the parks will be closing at 6pm. The good news it the will still have fireworks, so you wont have to wait 'til 8 to see them.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact the Mailbag here.
Feedback for Lani Teshima

Alan Douglas from Wellington, New Zealand writes:

Being a huge Disney fan I have always enjoyed visiting your site.

I read the excellent advice that you gave a fellow Kiwi (New Zealander), Rob Sykes, who asked a number of questions regarding planning a trip to Disneyland.

I thought I might just pass on some information that is often overlooked when travelling to Los Angeles from the South Pacific, particularly from Australia and New Zealand.

Flights tend to arrive in LA early in the mornings and by the time you clear customs and get out to Anaheim it is often well before midday. Hotels, especially if they are full, may not have your room available at this time. And believe me, all you want to after more than 12 hours of travelling is to get into your room and have a shower and get changed… Disney can wait! (Sorry Mickey)

Morale of the story… If you are arriving early morning, let the hotel know so that they can arrange a room to be available.

Hi Alan – Thanks for your suggestion, Alan!

And even if hotels don't have rooms ready for early check-in, should not prevent one from checking in anyway. You can check in early and leave your luggage at the hotel's bell desk so you can still go and enjoy the park. One thing that might be good is to use the restroom facilities at the hotel to freshen up—brush your teeth, wash your face, maybe even change clothes. You might not have a hotel room, but you'll feel much better that way.

…Actually, if you want to save a bit of money and not pay for park admission for your first day, there are lots to do outside the parks, too. Stretch your legs, buy your admission tickets for the next day, walk around Downtown Disney, get some souvenir shopping under your belt, visit the on-property hotels, sit in the Grand Californian Hotel lobby, even catch a movie at the AMC theaters in Downtown Disney. Have a nice dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, and you'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your first day in the park the next day.

Gloria Gillilea writes:

How does the free parking work that comes with a 5-day pass? If my sister travels in my car and she has a pass, do we flash that at the parking lots and get in free?(The rest of us would only have a 2 day pass)

What about the trams from the Resort parking lots? Do they check for room keys before boarding, or can we ride that to the parks if we walk across the street to the Disney parking lots? Are there big fences that keep people from walking into the lots? We have looked at maps and see that we are directly across from the downtown disney parking lot & trams.

Hi Gloria – By five-day pass, I assume you mean the ones you can currently purchase from the AAA auto club. According to my AAA travel agent, the back of the five-day pass has printing on it that says that the holder of the pass gets free parking. That means that all you have to do is hand the pass to the parking lot cast member when you enter. They will look for that “free parking” notation on the back of the card, and that's it!

Your sister doesn't even have to be the one driving. As long as there is a person in the car who holds the free parking pass, that's all that's needed.

Don't worry about showing your hotel room key to use the trams. The two main routes (Mickey & Friends parking structure, and the Lion King tram route) are used extensively by all park guests, regardless of whether they are staying at a hotel or not. For example, you might decide to go to the Paradise Pier Hotel for lunch, and use the Lion King tram to get there.

Yes, there are in fact a lot of tall fences and hedges all around the parking lots, but I think they were constructed that way to keep pedestrians from walking into the path of an oncoming tram. The walls are not there to keep you from walking to a tram stop and getting on a tram.

You mention that you are staying near the Downtown Disney parking lot. If you don't mind my asking, which hotel are you staying at? I can help give you an idea of where you are in relation to the park entrances.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lani here.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

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