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.