Is this enough compensation? Disney totaled my minivan

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By Christopher Elliott

As Joyce Dunne was checking out of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando recently, a cast member slipped her some bad news. Unfortunately, a Disney parking valet had totaled her Honda minivan.

And how.

When she arrived on the scene of the collision, she found “pieces of the vehicle scattered everywhere.” Her van had been totaled in a collision with another Disney vehicle. Curiously, the driver had been “removed” from the scene, and when Dunne said she wanted to call the police to file a report, she was told she couldn’t because it happened on private property.

A Disney representative assured her the company would take full responsibility for the accident. But Dunne says the Mouse shortchanged her, leaving her car-less and without any recourse.

After filling out a claim form, her insurance company, Allstate, cut her a check for only $6,898.

“That amount does not account for even one half of my minivan’s value,” she told me. The 2003 Honda Odyssey had 120,000 miles on it and was in “very good” condition.

Insurance companies use various formulas to calculate the actual value of a car, which can include its own estimate, the National Appraisal Guides and Edmunds. Drivers almost always end up with far less than they believed their car was worth, but that’s an insurance industry problem — not a Disney problem.

If a Disney employee totaled the minivan, shouldn’t it cover all the cost?

What could Disney control? Well, plenty.

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First, let’s consider Dunne, who describes herself as a loyal Disney guest since 1971, the year the park opened. Wow. That’s a long time. She had stayed at the Grand Floridian for 12 days, an epic vacation length even by European standards. You’d think Disney would have a valuable guest like this tagged in its system somewhere.

Instead, the insurance claims process seemed to take forever. Weeks went by before she heard from anyone in the claims department, she says. A rental van she’d been offered as a courtesy had to be returned before she could find a new car.

“We want Disney to care about guests who have just spent a lot of money at one of their top resorts for a long stay, especially since these guests did nothing wrong,” she told me. “We have been victimized.”

Mouse trap chronicles

OK, that may be a little dramatic. There are three players here: Disney (you can find executive contacts for Disney here), an outside valet company called City Nights Valet Inc., and their insurance companies. I agree with Dunne that the buck stops with Disney. But it can’t control the amount of money that its insurance company pays, and it has a limited amount of control over the valet company. (Here’s our guide to contacting the CEO directly.)

I think Disney might have done a better job with this incident. (Related: These Disney World secrets will upgrade your next vacation.)

First, Dunne was well within her rights to call the police after the accident. She was entitled to an apology and to have her claim processed quickly. Finally, Disney could have explained the process better to her, if not done something to make this loyal guest feel as if her business was appreciated. (Isn’t that the kind of treatment we’ve come to expect from the happiest place on Earth?)

Instead, a written appeal to the general manager of the Grand Floridian had gone unanswered.

My advocacy team and I contacted Disney on her behalf. A representative called Dunne, apologized for the way in which her accident was handled, and offered her a free one-night stay at the Grand Floridian.

“I said, ‘No, thank you,'” says Dunne. “I must pursue this matter further.”

Update (9:30 a.m.): I’ve clarified this post to reflect the fact that Allstate, not Disney, cut Dunne a check.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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