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Walt Disney World General
Topic: Jeff Heimbuch: A Great Big Broken Tomorrow

Sun 12/30/2012 5:37a
MiceChat Columnist Jeff Heimbuch has written a brand new article on the current decline at Walt Disney World. I absoluely agree with Jeff and feel its time Disney Fans speak up.
Sun 12/30/2012 8:14a
I agree with his assessment also. I think part of the problem is the way the parks reporting systems work. At one time there was a direct communication between attractions and maitainence. That is not the case any longer. Attractions can call in immediate problems that cause attractions to be closed during the day so that they can be reopened, but ongoing things like the things pictured go through several steps to get repaired. Because of that turnaround is slow.
Dr Hans Reinhardt
Sun 12/30/2012 10:56a
This is really sad and makes me rethink my plans to visit WDW in 2013. I haven't been in a long time and I certainly don't need to waste a ton of money on visiting a Disney resort so far away that's falling apart.
Sun 12/30/2012 11:11a
Those things do look pretty sad. And it isn't as if Disney charges deep discounted rates.

Attractions that operate on a daily basis are going to have a lot of wear and tear eventually and will need major upgrades, but some of these issues are "spit and polish" issues that are about routine maintenance and upkeep. It's those scrapes and chipped paint things that make a difference between your local regional park and a world-class destination.

Some families only get to a place like WDW once if they're lucky. It can take a working family years of saving up for something like that, and they deserve, as much as possible, to see the park's "A" game on display.
Sun 12/30/2012 11:17a
Here in the Bay Area, our BART system has fabric, padded seats. I think it was last year that someone took bacterial samples from those seats, and as you can imagine, turned up all kinds of hideous findings. As a result, they're in the process of removing the old seats and installing updated, easier-to-clean versions.

I'm not a germ-o-phobe but those seats in Carousel of Progress, and the stained carpet, looked far worse shape than those on BART.
Sun 12/30/2012 11:47a
<<I think part of the problem is the way the parks reporting systems work.>>

That is definitely part of the problem - however the main problem especially for MK is the lack of time for maintenance crews to complete work. The park has such long operating hours when EMH is included that it makes it very difficult for running repairs to be carried out. Ops just won't have attractions closed.

I'm pretty shocked by those CoP photos - I hope guests are complaining to City Hall. That is wholly unacceptable.
Sun 12/30/2012 2:04p
<<I hope guests are complaining to City Hall>>

I seriously doubt anyone is complaining at City Hall - except maybe the major fans like us. For normal guests, I'd imagine it's still about the whole day experience - and I doubt they notice these things too much.

Maybe back in the day when folks actually had to pay for each attraction. If I was paying to experience Splash Mountain and those tarps were overhead, I might complain. But when all rides are included in the cost, I'm sure most people just chalk it up to a "one-time thing" and ignore it.

It's a shame really. Disney has sunk so low that they no longer care about the quality of their rides, but I guess as long as people are still paying to get in, they figure, why bother?
Sun 12/30/2012 2:14p
<<< the main problem especially for MK is the lack of time for maintenance crews to complete work. The park has such long operating hours when EMH is included that it makes it very difficult for running repairs to be carried out >>>

That may be an explanation for some of the issues, but consider the CoP situation: EMH hours aren't every day at the MK. The cleanliness of the seats and carpet can be addressed with shampooing / steam cleaning. It doesn't take a month-long rehab to do that: a crew of one could do it in the available hours overnight, perhaps taking a month to get to all of the seats. Or, they could take one of the theaters out of service at a time for a few days, allowing a crew of a few to do thorough cleaning and painting at night that takes time to dry. I doubt that the daily ridership of CoP is so high such that taking one of the theaters out of service would have much of an impact.

The multi-theater design of CoP may be somewhat unique in that it allows for maintenance that might take a few days (at night) to go on without shutting down the attraction, so what I suggest is not an answer for the MK in general. But the fact that it would be relatively easy to do in that case, and is not done, points to what I think is a big part of the larger issue: There is relentless pressure to contain costs, and there is a notion that maintenance should be deferred / ignored until it bleeds, so to speak.

The notion seems to be that unless people are actively complaining about it on exit surveys, reduced maintenance is acceptable, and that there is a large opportunity to harvest cost reductions (which in turn "Increase Shareholder Value") by retreating from previous standards. This message more or less has been spoken from the very top levels of management in the company. Put another way, if guests aren't screaming about it because it's "ruining their visit," guest's don't care about it at all, or so the thinking goes.

The problem is that it's very easy for this to go way past the point of reasonableness, and what guests actively complain about specifically on an exit survey may not completely reflect what goes into their judgement of their experience. There's lots of things that go on in a Disney park that are so subtle and in many cases subconscious that most guests aren't even aware they are happening, yet in their absence, the experience would not be the same.

You certainly wouldn't make guest surveys as a primary input into attraction and land design. Most guests have no idea what it takes to design a good attraction, even one they themselves really like. But they know it when they see it, even if before or even after the fact they can't really describe what all of the individual elements are. I think there are certain parts of maintenance and upkeep that are the same.

It used to be that first-time visitors were shocked at how clean the whole place was, especially considering the number of people that are there every day. For that first-time visitor with a young family, that's a big motivator to come back next year instead of choosing other options. And, the perception of being clean isn't just a lack of trash on the ground - it includes things like unscuffed paint and unstained carpets. If you reduce the standard from "as clean and well maintained as can be" to "just below the threshold of being noticeably filthy," I think it has an impact on guest perception, and one that may not show up on an exit survey.
Sun 12/30/2012 2:45p
That is the reason we haven't returned in many a year. We used to go every two years. The last time we were there, the seats in the monorail were torn and dirty and the sound system was inaudible. It was like that for the 2 weeks we were there.
Most rest rooms were dirty and out of supplies.
I can go on and on but this post would be very long.
Sun 12/30/2012 3:07p
<<That is definitely part of the problem - however the main problem especially for MK is the lack of time for maintenance crews to complete work. >>

While that may be a problem, I don't agree that it's the main problem.

The main problem is that WDW has cut maintenance staffing and budgets to the bone. Short third shift time wouldn't be as much as an issue if bare bones maintenance staffs didn't have to pick one ride to fix every night

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