“I thought Disney didn’t make mistakes”

By | June 16th, 2009

When it comes to customer service, Disney is often held to high — some would say unreasonably high — standards. As someone who lives in Orlando, I’ve seen it firsthand. People come here expecting everything about their theme park experience to be absolutely perfect.

When it isn’t, I hear about it.

Take Qiana Pratt, for example.

My husband and I are planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando this September. With our resort and ticket package we also purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan that allows three meals and two snacks per day. With this dining plan, we can also go to dinner shows [using] two point meals per person.

We needed a reservation for the “Spirit of Aloha” dinner show — Disney recommends you make reservations and they allow you to do so up to 90 days in advance of arrival.

So I called the reservation number, got the date, time and seating I wanted — they asked for my credit card info to use as a guarantee in the event we didn’t show, but reassured me I would not be charged for the ticket price of $113 because I had the dining plan to cover it. They even gave me a dining confirmation number to assure me I’d have a “magical” experience.

I went ahead with it in good faith. After all, Disney sets the highest standard of excellence. I thought Disney didn’t make mistakes.

Three days later I check my account and there it was: a charge of $113. I called immediately to have the issue resolved. The cast member acknowledged the error on their part but told me there was no way to refund my money without a cancellation. She said I could cancel the reservation, but then it would not be guaranteed I could re-book for the same date, time and seating category because it may be unavailable.

I don’t understand this because if I cancel my two seats, then those two seats should be re-opened to reserve. I was told they’d work on it but I still have not been refunded. I just want them to refund my money and use my dining plan to pay for the meal. If I had planned on spending money to eat, I would not have purchased the dining plan! Any help or advice you could provide would be appreciated.

I recommended Pratt send a brief, polite note to Disney’s customer service department rather than call again. Fortunately, she still had plenty of time before her Disney getaway.

A few days later the results were in.

Sharia from guest services called me back, and offered me a great solution:

They are unable to refund the money because of how their system is set-up, I’d have to cancel and book for another day and time. So they credited the $113 toward my remaining balance for the resort package and allowed me to keep my dining reservation at their cost. I don’t have to use my “key to the world” card to pay for the show. I keep my dining credits, I have a lower balance (just a measly $800 to go) and I get a free dinner show.

I still believe in magical lands and princesses and little people with wings… Disney really does make dreams come true.

OK, before this degenerates into an ad for Disney, let me add a few thoughts.

Like any other travel company, Disney does make mistakes. It’s how the company recovers from the mistakes that sets it apart from the rest. In getting a resolution from Disney, I didn’t need to contact anyone at a higher level. Pratt didn’t have to threaten to sue. The grievance process worked the first time.

The trick is to do business with a company that cares enough about service that it will do everything in its power to make a customer happy. In travel, there are only a handful of organizations with those reputations besides Disney. Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons come to mind, but there are others.

One other thing to keep in mind: When something goes wrong, give the grievance process a little time. Guests often expect an immediate resolution, but that’s not always realistic.

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