Posted by: Knightbird | May 19, 2011

I Thought Disney Was Better Than This

I have visited Disney Theme parks numerous times in the past, but this last week was the first time I have stayed at a Disney Resort. I am not impressed. A few years ago, the Alaska Tribal Health System brought Fred Lee, author of “If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently,” to speak in Anchorage and Fairbanks. I bought the book, read it and was impressed. I thought very highly of the book, and integrated some of the thinking into how we manage at Chugachmiut. If you Google “Disney management books” you will find numerous titles about customer service. As a result, I expected so much more than I go.

My visit was supposed to start on May 16 and end on the 18th. Because of travel traffic, I had to travel 2 days early and thought I could call and see if I could book a room 2 days earlier. I worked my way through the telephone decision tree and was answered by a woman who could not find my information in the computer and forwarded my call to a man. Of course there was the obligatory wait. He could not find my information and I spent a lot more time waiting. After 8 minutes of waiting, I decided to call another hotel for the added 2 days of my trip. It turned out to be a good choice. I stayed at a Springhill Suites with a nice room, free breakfast and wonderful service.

On Monday, I arrived at the Boardwalk Inn in Orlando, Florida. I checked in. I noted that they collected 3 days payment after I arrived at my room. I was also told that they allocated a certain amount to my account for resort charging using my room card. I called and advised them that I was only staying 2 days, and was assured that they would change my departure date to the appropriate date. Then I went to dinner with my group.

After a wonderful dinner, I presented my room card to the waitress. She came back and advised me that I couldn’t charge anything to my room on that card. I was surprised, but gave her my credit card instead. I was disturbed by this action on Disney’s part, but decided to let it go.

The following day, I checked my rental car out with the valet who asked if I wanted to pay cash or charge the fee to my room. I asked him to charge it to my room, and he came back with the same message as the waitress from the night before. I walked to the front desk and asked what the problem was. The Desk Clerk checked my file and corrected the problem. I went back to the Valet Parking Attendant and the charge was added without any further problem.

When I went to check out, my receipt noted that I was billed for 3 days room charges, and the conference organizer charged for 1 day. In other words, we were collectively billed 4 days for a 2 day stay. I asked the Frond Desk Clerk why? She went to a “Conference Coordinator” who gave her a story that, to me, was not credible. I was apparently booked to arrive on Saturday. My earlier call to see if I could arrive 2 days earlier was not reflected on my reservation so this was evidently a lie. I have an email from the conference organizer stating the days my room was booked, May 16-18. But I was told that I had to take this issue up with the conference organizer because the charges had to be billed to someone.

I went to the conference organizer to discuss this issue. I was told that they have had lots of problems with Disney during this conference, and were seriously considering stopping their long standing relationship with Disney for future conferences, to which I gave support. They told me that Disney had implemented a new customer booking software package and that it was causing difficulty with their conference. They promised to look into it.

The long and the short of my visit is that I paid 2/3rds more than I expected to, and did not receive the much ballyhooed Disney service. It’s not likely that I will return in the future. If this conference organizer does go back, I will simply book at a nearby, non Disney hotel, and take my dining business to other establishments nearby.

I really did think Disney was better than this. Mr. Iger, you need to take a serious look at the degrading Disney culture change taking place under your watch.


  1. I stayed at an Orlando Disney hotel last year for a resort and was not impressed with the service either, even compared to a typical business traveler hotel.

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