Monday, August 30, 2010

Disneyland - Dole Whipped?

My wife and I went with two of our friends to the Park this past weekend. After getting one of our friends his annual passport photograph at the Plaza Pavillion, we turned the corner toward Adventureland to satisfy his request for a Dole whip and a Tiki Room show.

We entered the lanai---which was fairly full---and stood in a line about two or three people deep at the pineapple bar. The show doors opened and my friend waited with his wife in line to order his Dole whip float. As they reached the counter, the show doors were closing and the Disney "employee" at the juice bar abruptly told him that he would not be served, since he was not seeing the Tiki Room show. He objected, noting that he completely intended to see the show and that he had been waiting in line since prior to the show doors opening. There was a woman with three children behind him in line, waiting her turn as well. The Disney "employee" raised his voice and said that neither my friend nor the woman and children behind him would be served their Dole whips because they were not seeing the show.

My friend's wife, a mom herself who had long dealt with snippy teenagers like the young, male "employee," implored him to "bring it down a notch" and listen to what they were saying. The customers WERE going to see the show when they got in line. The lady with the children had JUST SEEN the show and had been advised by the attraction host that she and her kids could come back to the juice bar afterward (since the doors opened before they could order the first time they were in line). The employee just got snippier and was quickly joined by a young female employee, who said they were not going to serve the guests.

My friend said, well maybe we need to speak with a manager. The female employee said, "I'll give you a number to my manager right now!" (but did not, of course). As the voices rose, my wife called me over---as I had no idea this was happening, since I was standing over by Pele (how appropriate---she being the goddess of fire and volcanoes with a violent temper and all). As I approached this bizarrely unfolding scene, I could not believe my eyes or ears. I have never in over 35 years seen Disney employees (these two certainly were not acting in a manner worthy of being called "Cast Members") behave so rudely and in such a directly confrontational manner with Guests.

At this point, both my friends are upset (and amazed) and the lady behind them is clearly upset (almost to tears), while her children are looking on in confusion. Fortunately, the Tiki Room attraction host came over from the turnstile position and intervened. He told the Dole Whip fanatic employees that he had advised the lady and her children that they could get in line after the last show. He also pointed out that my friends had entered the lanai prior to the show start time and had been in line since then.

Everyone was rudely shoved their drinks and whips, with eyeballs rolling and much huffing and puffing. I thought that we had somehow stumbled into France! My friends were treated like ugly Americans by rude waiters at a Parisian cafe. I have not provided all the details, but let me tell you, I was pretty shocked by the whole scene.

These two employees picked the wrong group of guests to unload upon. Probably not a good a idea to do this in the presence of a former cast member like yours truly. Or to his friends, for that matter.

We immediately took our friends---and their costly Dole whip float (that's right, the order consisted of a single item!)---back out through the Tiki turnstile, made a quick right down Main Street and were very soon marching up the steps of City Hall.

I have never been involved in a formal guest complaint in all my years as a guest and Cast Member. I introduced my friends to the young lady at City Hall and advised her of the situation. I mentioned that I had worked for the Park dating back to 1984 and had a recent stint a year ago and was utterly dismayed by what I had witnessed. My friends described what had happened, what was said, and how badly they were made to feel, but also how badly they felt for the nice lady and her children behind them. I pointed out that we had literally just entered the Park, just purchased my friend's first annual passport and that this was the first attraction we had visited that day. A classic example of the type of "first impression" Disney wants to avoid at all costs!! "It was like an example of what NOT to do from a Disney University training film!" I mentioned. The Guest Relations cast member was apologetic and offered our friends attraction readmission passes as a way of, hopefully, helping to make up for the incident.

A fairly detailed report was prepared and would be passed along to management for further handling, they were advised.

Usually we are pretty light-hearted and "gung-ho" for the Park (and its Cast Members) around here, but this was such a remarkable example of "bad show," that I could not help but share it with all four (4) of our readers.

Word to the wise---step carefully to the bar for a Dole whip when approaching from the Tiki Room lanai side! Hopefully the two "employees" we encountered there will have learned an important lesson after management pulls them aside over this little "incident." To be a Cast Member requires a bit more diplomacy and people skills, to say the least.



Okie said...

Wow. That is amazing.

Granted, I haven't gone to the parks as often as you or other SoCal residents have, but in the numerous times I've gone, I've never encountered a Cast Member who was anything but helpful. Even when our, requests...were above and beyond, we were often overjoyed to find the Cast Member not only strive to meet our request but to also go beyond even what we were asking.

Friends and family who've gone at different times always tell about their joyful experiences. Three members of my family did internships at Walt Disney World and all of them talk about times when they had to deal with upset Guests and try to smooth things over as best they could. They talked about how sometimes Cast Members would get frustrated/steamed but they always "held it together" until they were backstage or even back at their apartments after shift.

I guess everybody has a bad day sometimes and I'm sure there are occasionally surly cast members...but to have two such employees in the same place at the same time seems so strange.

Hopefully this isn't a sign of changes underway...I've noticed (and had discussions with family/friends) that the "rising generation" seems sometimes less considerate and more unreasonable than other generations. We always acknowledge that each generation seems to think this way about those coming behind them, but some of the things we're seeing (huge sense of entitlement, lack of work ethic, lack of understanding about how the world works) seem even starker than in recent years.

All I can say is that I hope it blows over and these employees either figure out how to properly present the Disney experience or they go work at a non-Disney juice shop in the city where employees are expected to be rude and unreasonable.

Crazy story.

Anne said...

oh! I bet there's more then 4 of ur reading your blog. I'm sure theres a bunch of lurkers out there. I was just a lurker before your last post.

Anyway, I can not imagine how those employees got so grumpy? Surely they know not to raise their voices at a guest. I'm glad you got every thing sorted out in the end. Did you get to see the show later that day? I sure hope so, I love that show!

Well, I hope you encounter more pleasant experiences at Disneyland in the years to come.

Chris said...

Reader #6 checking in, skipper. :)

Matthew Scheuerman said...

Being a "lurker", I can't say what guest number I am to your blog, but I imagine it's at least #35?

The generation of kids/adults behind me (I recently turned 30), is certainly less considerate, lazy, and apathetic, but the reasons for this are too numerous to name here.

Kids have almost no incentive to have good work ethic when wealthy parents provide everything, business owners won't give them jobs because they can hire harder working immigrants at a fraction of the cost, and because they're not given any promise of "moving up" like previous generations.

Gone are the days of Walt Disney seeing a hard-working trashboy replacing bullets (yep, I know what they're called), and moving him/her over to the production dept. Gone are also the days of "he took me under his wing and taught me the ropes". So the next time you're busy thinking about how hard things are right now, remember what news organizations are calling the hordes of graduating teens. They're calling them: The jobless generation. Take a little time out of your day to offer someone a chance for some training, and if they don't take you up on it, they're a loser anyway.

*steps off soapbox*

Yellows said...

That's just bad, bad Show any way you look at it. Totally unacceptable. Never, NEVER argue with a guest. Some folks would be cleaning out their lockers if I was an Adventureland lead right now.

JG said...

I want to say "unbelievable", but unfortunately, I can't.

The rot is everywhere, even Disneyland.

Thanks for the post, from reader #4 (at least that's what it says on that membership card you sent me).


ZEKE said...

I hate to say this, but we were there earlier this year and the exact same thing happened. We ended up passing on getting anything at the Juice Bar because the line was long and the employees were rude. It was shocking.

r.e. purr said...

This must have been a very difficult entry for you to make, being the big Mouse Nerd that you are. It took some real fortitude to write that. I'm certain that it does not please some of the powers that be to see something like this in such a popular web site. You know that they have someone tracking all the DIsney related blogs.
Good work, Mike.

Jonathan said...

Wow . . . just WOW!

As a former Adv/Front Food Supervisor, I echo Yellows' comment above. I would have suspended that Cast Member and gladly escorted them out the employee gate.

Of course the reality is (at least during my tenure), we had to follow union guidelines on discipline. No doubt this Cast Member's Supervisor is now aware of this situation and taking appropriate action.

Jon Woods

Mike said...


Thanks for your comments. What is perhaps most ridiculous is the fact that, during the past year I have seen what I felt to be a tremendous improvement in the overall look and feel of the Park. These two employees were definitely exceptions to the rule as far as Cast Members go. Too bad for them I knew exactly where to go and what to do in response to their supremely rude treatment of Disneyland guests. I stopped short of marching backstage and upstairs to the area offices (much as the thought appealed to me) to haul down an area supervisor to the juice bar myself! A letter, written as only yours truly can, will soon be on its way to City Hall as a follow up to this episode. Thankfully, incidents like this are truly rare occurrences at the Park.

Apparently, we have at least nine (9) readers today. This is truly exceptional!

Stop by any time! Here at the Jungle is "101, we'll keep pumping out vignettes, melodramas, remembrances of things past, and various and sundry other items, for as long as new material keeps surfacing in this feeble mind of mine.


Chanfan said...

Sorry to hear about the bad experience, but glad to hear that it's an aberration.

Heading back to the land after being away for 9 years - my last experiences visiting were under the old management. I've heard things have improved in general.

Great blog, good stories!

Wayne said...

Just made the trek from Tennessee to good ol' 1313 Harbor Blvd. myself and thankfully, you're right, Mike--these folks were an exception. I was delighted to find the Park in wonderful condition and staffed by some mighty nice folks. Heck, DCA even felt better than it ever has to me. Best of all, got to see Murphy before she tuckered out!

Anonymous said...

I think I qualify as one of those 4 readers. One mention, and well done, on the rudeness of the CMs and look at the response from all the lurkers. Courtesy matters. And for the price folks pay for admission, they deserve it. I, as a former CM starting in 1969, come to the park these days (albeit rarely) with critical glasses on ( they are bifocals..I hit 60 in a couple weeks). I compare the courtesy today from that of years ago. Granted, there are simply more guests squeezed into the park for more hours each day than I ever experienced. Reviewing my slides taken years ago shocked me as to how uncrowded the park once was. I can attest that unending crowds mixed with the heat of the day can create some uncomfortable situations. Yet, back then, Disney only took the cream of the crop as employees. There was so much desire to work for Disney. The bad apples got weeded out quickly and were replaced by fresh faces. I was also lucky enough to work at the U of D under Van France. I continue to use the personal skills and habits that he fostered in my business each day. In fact I used the term "bad show" just last week. Good on you MIke for continuing to carry the torch for us.

Alissa said...

that's so odd. I've never had that problem before.
the other night a fellow cast member and myself purchased dole whips from that side and were clearly not intending to see the show, and while we did have to wait a bit longer to be served (I told him it'd be just as fast to wait in the regular but he just can't let me be right) they didn't make a fuss about it.

Anonymous said...

How sad that this happened at all, little alone at Disney. We can only hope time was spent in retraining those two at the very least and that it worked this time.

Reader #53?

RSA Online said...

Gosh, don't they have employee training or anything? I can't believe people are that rude.

Anonymous said...

Just to throw in my two cents on what else could have been done....

If I was in that situation and you had the ear of a sympathetic Attractions host, I would have asked him to call for HIS supervisor.

Once you shared your story with the Attractions supervisor, he would have called for either the Foods Manager or the Foods Duty Manager.

Now that you have a Foods manager there, he/she would have been so embarrassed by the situation that they would probably have pulled to the two rude Cast Members backstage and replaced them with different ones from the PI.

Also, marching up the stairs backstage wouldn't have helped. Tiki Juice Bar is owned by the Plaza Complex on Main Street. :)

Sorry to hear about the experience. It clearly is inexcusable. I do believe that in this current economic climate, I'm seeing a better prepared Cast Member coming on board. It will take a long time for DLR to recover from what was acceptable to hire from 2000 to 2007. Emmer started to clean house in 2005. Hopefully, other leaders will continue to manage out any other below par Cast Members.

Anonymous said...

Calling the Attractions manager wouldn't have helped anything. The Juice Bar is in no way under any influence of Attractions.

From past experience, the Juice Bar can be the most stressful thing about working the Tiki Room (from an attractions standpoint)

The Bar works on the honor system. If you are seeing the show, you are fine to be served from the inside line. If you are not, please patiently wait in the line outside of the lanai. Far too often people abuse the honor system, thinking they are too clever by being served on the lanai side (which is always considerably shorter) and then leaving. This creates a backup for people who actually want to see the show, and either have to A) jump out of line when the show starts to grab a seat, B) be let in late which is always very distracting, or C) skip the show all together to wait in line.

The situation you encountered is because of a recent crackdown on the abuse of the system. Juice Bar cast members have become strict on the rule, sometimes to the point of upsetting the guests, or false accusations. I've had to deal with a number of guests who have encountered this situation.

It's a sad, unfortunate consequence because of the lack of respect the honor system has these days.

The cast members handled it poorly, but I can understand (but certainly not approve of) their actions