Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Today we're going to talk about customer service.

Normally I relegate any and all travel-related posts to my travel blog (for obvious reasons), but I've decided that for once this is worth posting here. Because it's not really exclusively about travel, but rather about the experiences I had as a Disney cast member (and on past Disney trips) versus today's Disney cast members and the experiences I've been having on more recent vacations to "The Most Magical Place on Earth".

So today I'm going to use the words that I'm sure any current Disney cast member hates to hear. They're similar to those words that you scoffed at when you were a child and your parents would compare how difficult things were when they were young and how easy you had it. They are, "You see, when I was a Disney cast member, we actually had to give a crap." About our job, about the "Disney Way", about the guests, about customer service. And honestly, I doubt that even 10% of the cast members who I've encountered on my past few Disney trips care about any of the above.

With my fellow usual "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party" cast members (I'm the one at the top left)
I left Disney in the summer of 2006. Sometimes I regret it; most of the time I don't. More than often I simply miss working a job where I felt as if I was making a difference. I like my current job just fine, but I highly doubt I'm making anyone's day when I call them to remind them that they owe my company money, or when I have to write up a time clock policy for employees who haven't had to use a time clock for years.

The thing is, it appears that the difficult yet rewarding job that I fell in love with isn't the job most of Disney's current cast members are experiencing. I can see it simply from the way I'm treated as a guest - it is no longer about pleasing people, but rather it's about the bottom line.

Let's get one thing straight - I was not necessarily the biggest cheerleader of Disney's "the guest is always right" adage. Countless times i watched fellow cast members essentially get abused - either by a guest or by his or her managers - because of Disney's almost insane concern for not pissing anyone off...no matter how little right that person had to the free food, merchandise, line cuts, etc. that they received.

"Queen of the Closers" - the getup my cast members made for me when I was a manager. Because they loved me. :)
When I finally worked my way off the front lines and became a manager, I think I did a pretty good job of both pleasing the guests and doing my best to help my cast members feel better about what was essentially a really crappy job. Seriously - dumping tubs of turkey leg grease, frying chicken tenders, busing tables...none of that was glorious. Especially when you consider the long hours and low pay involved. But at that time there were still places in Disney where the cast members were appreciated; I'm not quite sure that's the case anymore. And we were also still allowed to fill special food orders for guests, still required to know the answers to almost any question that could be thrown at us and if we didn't know, do our best to find out.

I don't ask for much when I travel. Really, I don't. I expect decent food when I'm paying good money for it. I expect my hotel room to be clean, that's it. I make my trips/vacations fun, even when things go wrong once in a while. I by no means had a bad time this past weekend - in fact, I even ended up with an awful sinus infection halfway through my trip, but I drank some Emergen-C, took some ibuprofen, and maybe kind of even downed some tequila in hopes of numbing my throat ;)

Well, this was a margarita rather than straight tequila. That came later but the picture I have is crappy and SO not going on my blog ;)
The point is, I enjoyed my time in Orlando even though things didn't go quite the way I planned. But that doesn't change the fact that every time I return to Disney I notice more things that the company has let fall by the wayside. For instance, in 2009 it was mostly the food - the more popular the dining plan becomes, the less quality the food has, be it at the sit down restaurants or the quick serve restaurants.

Though I've had crappy experiences with Disney cast members before, they were always few and far between and this weekend it was like one thing after another.

First it was the housekeeper copping an attitude with us because we were still in the room at 10:30 in the morning on Saturday. Then it was the incorrect information from the concierge desk about annual passes, which led to us waiting in a ridiculous line at guest services at MGM. Toward the end of the day at Magic Kingdom, I walked into a store to ask where I could get hard ice cream...the cast member wasn't busy at all, yet when he couldn't answer my question he basically shrugged and just suggested that I walk to the front of the park and see for myself if the bakery was serving ice cream while the usual ice cream parlor is closed for refurb.

Seriously - I had to go all the way back to our hotel to get regular (as in, not soft serve) ice cream.
To me, though - probably because I worked at Disney restaurants from 2002 to 2006 - the fact that when one of my friends asked for a sandwich with just turkey rather than turkey and ham and they refused was the worst. It sounds silly, maybe, but just before she asked someone else who wasn't even with us tried to order the same sandwich without cheese - due to lactose intolerance - and the answer was no to that, as well. The excuse is that the sandwiches are "pre-made", but it was basically the same sandwich we used to make at one of the restaurants I worked at and though they were pre-made, they weren't frozen or anything and therefore of course it was possible to remove certain ingredients before running them through the oven. Why is that all of a sudden an impossibility?

And though they apparently "can't" fill special orders (which is hilarious because even Burger King will give it to you "your way"), it appears that they think nothing of throwing random free food at you if you have to wait more than a couple of minutes. No lie, I got free cake because I had to wait for my sandwich to cook? And my friend waited in a bit of a line to get a bottled soda and got a free churro? yet they can't take the ham off a sandwich for her?

I hate that it sounds as if I'm doing some hard-core complaining here, but the thing is I was proud to work for Disney back in the day and I'm just not sure if I'd feel the same way now. They built a name for themselves, after all, and it's not cheap to vacation there...so it almost hurts me, in a way, that they seem to simply not care anymore :( Because let's face it...they seemed to be one of the last companies that did care. Pin It


  1. Officially jealous. This would be my dream job. I think it's so cool that you got this experience!

  2. I remember the Closing Queen. Though I would hope so considering I was one of your minions