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Mike Scopa

Deaf Mouse Ears?

Mike sees if anything on his Walt Disney World wish list has come true

Friday, March 4, 2005
by Mike Scopa, MousePlanet staff writer

A few months back I shared with you a letter that I had been thinking about sending to Al Weiss, President of Walt Disney World.

My thoughts were that like many other guests who frequent the Walt Disney World Resort. I had ideas, suggestions, and issues that I wanted to be heard by the Orlando powers that be.

In this session, I review what was in that letter, talk about your reaction to the suggestions in my letter, and also tell you about the response I received from WDW.

Toll plaza thoughts

One of my pet peeves is the long lines at the toll plazas. My suggestion was to offer toll lanes specifically reserved for resort guests. My thought here was to add another perk for the resort guest and get everyone past those toll plazas and into the parks as quickly as possible.

I also suggested using some sort of Extra Magic Hour signage at the toll plaza to inform everyone driving up that the resort guests would be allowed in early but that the non-resort guests would not be allowed in until regular opening time.

Many of you were in agreement regarding the use of a “resort guest” lane for the toll plaza… even those of you who told me you don't stay on property. Those of you who stayed off-site felt that if the resort guests aren't in your lane then your time in line would also be shortened.

The signage suggestion did not get much reaction. Maybe I was the only one who cared about that idea.

Off-season discounted admission

Practically all of you agreed with this idea.

I had discussed how at certain times of the year a park or two may have scheduled maintenance for some attractions. My thought was that when a certain number of real popular attractions are unavailable to guests, the resort should somehow make up for this shortcoming.

The suggestion was to pass out discount vouchers that guests could use towards their next WDW admission media purchase. This voucher may be handed to the guest upon entering or exiting the park.

This gesture would basically thank those who visit in the off season and also provide an incentive for returning in the future.

There was mixed reaction to this thought. Most of you understood the frustration but weren't sure as to how to handle the matter of attraction downtime.

The online priority seating idea

This idea had no middle ground… some of you loved it while others thought it added more work.

My suggestion was to try an online priority seating reservations system. Guests could make online reservations 24 hours a day.

Some of you really liked this idea, perhaps because you have spent many hours on the phone waiting for a friendly voice to say, “How can help you today?”

A small percentage of you didn't like the other part of my idea. I had also suggested that every priority seating reservation be accompanied by a credit card and fee would be charged if the guest did not show up for their priority seating reservation.

Those who disagreed said that by hanging that fee on the PS they lost flexibility. Some of you recognize that plans made weeks ahead of time tend to change and this fee forces you to stick to your original plans.

This was a very good point.

Designated annual passholder turnstiles

Hoo boy were there strong feelings on this one.

I had suggested that Annual Passholders be given one or two designated turnstiles at the park. The AP holders would most likely be returning guests who would get through the turnstiles faster than the first time guests.

I can tell you that those of you who are longtime AP users absolutely loved the idea.

However you were definitely outnumbered by those who were non-AP holders. In fact some of the responses I received said that AP holders saw themselves as elite WDW guests and expect all kinds of perks.

This suggestion received the most overwhelming response… both ways.

The one-day park-hopper pass idea

I think 99 percent of you that took time to write were in agreement on this one. Everyone loved the idea of being able to purchase a one-day Park Hopper pass.

Interestingly enough, about one month after I had sent my letter to WDW, the Magic Your Way ticket program was announced… and yes… there was a combo to get a one-day park hopper ticket.

There was no advanced notice about this new ticket program so it was pure a coincidence that it was announced about a month after we had discussed the exact idea.

Front-of-the-Line Fast Pass for One Day Guests

This suggestion again focused on the one-day guest, and proposed there be a special front-of-the-line option for this guest.

If there was 99 percent in agreement for the one day park hopper there were about 99 and 44/100 percent disagreements on the front-of-the-line pass idea.

There were some valid arguments against this idea.

Those of you who wrote and disagreed with me felt that the lines were long enough, and that adding an option to make the lines even longer was unacceptable.

I did get one or two responses that did say if they were in WDW for one day and wanted to squeeze in as much attraction time as possible, that they would gladly pay for this option.

Designated smoking in the Magic Kingdom

This suggestion strongly pointed out that the designated smoking area around the rear of Cinderella Castle should be removed because of the number of children that walk by that area. It is not off the beaten path.

As I was writing this suggestion I thought to myself that the smokers would hate it, while the non-smokers would embrace it.

I was right.

I understand how both sides feel.

I still think that a designated smoking area should not be near the castle where there will always be children about.

The formal response

I did send my letter, and yes, I did get a response. I have to admit that I never expected to hear anything, and almost passed over the message in my inbox.

Here it is word for word:

Your communication addressed to Mr. Weiss was forwarded to the Legal Department of Walt Disney World Co. to answer as it is our responsibility to respond to unsolicited submissions of creative materials, ideas or suggestions.

We are always pleased to hear from our guests and appreciate the fact that you took the time to write to us. As to your specific ideas though, I must explain that our company's long-established policy does not allow us to accept for review or consideration any ideas, suggestions, or creative materials not specifically solicited by us or our subsidiaries. I trust you will understand that it is our intention to avoid misunderstandings when projects or products are created internally which might be similar to submissions made to us from outside the company.

We realize the disappointment you must be experiencing in reading this reply, and that there are many well-intended individuals, who, like yourself, would simply like to have us consider your creative thoughts. However, if we make any exceptions to this policy, eventually, we will have no policy at all. Therefore, as required, we will not retain any copies of your communication.

Please be assured of our thanks for your interest in writing to us.

Very truly yours,

Sharon A. Mecca
Paralegal

They did not have to answer my letter, but I am thankful that they did because it answered many questions for me. Let's take a closer look at this message to get a better understanding of what it all means.

“Your communication addressed to Mr. Weiss was forwarded to the Legal Department of Walt Disney World Co. to answer as it is our responsibility to respond to unsolicited submissions of creative materials, ideas or suggestions.”

This tells me that there is a solid screening process in place to intercept and read every letter addressed to WDW's current President, Al Weiss. On the one hand you could say, “Hey… that message was for Al not some hotshot paralegal.”

But on the other hand this tells you that every letter IS READ or at least it seems so. My guess is that the letters are read to identify which ones contain complaints, compliments, threats, and suggestions. There may be additional categories but these are probably the ones that have the largest cubby holes.

You notice that those letters described as having “unsolicited submissions of creative materials, ideas or suggestions” come to a full stop at the Legal Dept. and do not pass go, collect $200 or continue onto Weiss' office, R&D or any department that involves the creative process.

Imagine a letter filled with some very creative suggestions made it to the “right” pair of eyes. Let's say the ideas were used for the resort. I'm sure there are some enterprising individuals out there who would see this as a financial opportunity to say, “Hey… Mickey stole my idea… he should pay up.”

In fact the response pretty much spells this out when it says…

“We are always pleased to hear from our guests and appreciate the fact that you took the time to write to us. As to your specific ideas though, I must explain that our company's long-established policy does not allow us to accept for review or consideration any ideas, suggestions, or creative materials not specifically solicited by us or our subsidiaries. I trust you will understand that it is our intention to avoid misunderstandings when projects or products are created internally which might be similar to submissions made to us from outside the company.”

Sharon is basically saying that if they let these letters get through there would always be the possibility of someone claiming Disney had “stolen” an idea from them.

I sort of chuckled at this next sentence.

“We realize the disappointment you must be experiencing in reading this reply, and that there are many well-intended individuals, who, like yourself, would simply like to have us consider your creative thoughts.”

Me disappointed? Not really. It's nice to know that all letters are read and that those with either praise or complaints will receive attention. Sharon was very clear in explaining Disney's policy and added…

“However, if we make any exceptions to this policy, eventually, we will have no policy at all. Therefore, as required, we will not retain any copies of your communication.”

Again, understandable and it makes sense to rid letters that make creative suggestions. There should be no trace of them.

So don't get the idea that suggestion that come from me or you fall on deaf mouse ears. The policy that the Disney Company has adopted is to protect them from those who would seize an opportunity to take them to court over an idea, a suggestion, or a creative thought.

So does this mean you should not write to WDW? Certainly not. I think whenever you have a special experience it's important to let them know what it was and why it meant so much to you.

Positive communication spawns positive reaction and reinforces their other policy that calls for going the extra mile to make a guest's experience as magical as possible.

So if you have a complaint let them know about it.

If its praise for a cast member or some event that was special to you also let them know what happened that resulted in helping you…

…remember the magic!

Next time

Character meets and greets. What is the proper protocol for interacting with the characters? We'll talk about it next time.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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