Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Letting Off Steam

We had a very enjoyable time during our last trip to WDW. The Pin event, the dessert party, the Illuminations cruise, the Spirit of Aloha luau, and the first MNSSHP of the year certainly added a lot of activity to our 10-day vacation there.

Alas, there were a few things that we encountered that could have gone better. Now, don't get me wrong. None of these things are what I consider as major, and it didn't detract one bit from the good time that we had overall. However, since we're talking about Disney theme parks here, the expectation and the standard that we hold them to is rather high. And some of these things that I've encountered (and not just during this last trip) have always puzzled me, and I continue to wonder why they can't figure out how to do them any better.

First of all, let's start with things that are just not working. I have lost track on when it was the last time I saw the Yeti at EE actually working. After spending all that money and effort in building it, the best we can do is have it stuck in one position? Have they constructed something that is so complicated that it just has a horrible reliability in working all the time? That's not good.

Also add to things that are not working is some parts of Thunder Mountain Railroad. I could have sworn that this attraction just had a rehab a while back. Not only was the spurting geyser at the end not working when I was on it, but during the final climb, the walls of the cave was supposed to move and made it look as if they were caving in. Didn't happen when I was on it. Nothing moved.

And now comes a rant on stuff that are not unique from our last trip, but really something that have puzzled me for quite a while.

Why don't they give passholders a more sturdy ticket? I mean, the passholder ticket that we got were utterly flimsy, and looked as if it won't survive repeated usage! Why can't passholders get a plastic ticket similar to the room keycard?

Why is Disney's counter food service at the parks ALWAYS SO SLOW? This is something I have never understood, considering that they've had years and years of experience. I will describe to you what I normally observed at one of these typical counter service, and you (especially if you are a cast member and know more about what goes behind the scenes) can correct me if I get anything wrong. And oh, I'm not counting counter service such as Sunshine Seasons, or those you find at the resorts where you wait for your buzzer to go off to pick up your food. I don't have any issues with those.

The typical counter service at the parks goes like this. You walk up to the cashier, place your order, pay for it, and then you get a receipt. You then walk up to the counter, and wait for your food.

Now, here's what I've observed, and what I think happened. Various parts of your order went to different stations. The cast member doing the drinks got a notice on what drinks were ordered at which counter. That is why I often see that our drinks were "staged" near our counter even before the rest of the food arrived. Now somewhere in the back, there's a printout of our order, and the order was assembled on a tray. Once the tray was complete, it was then passed out to the front, where a cast member read which counter that tray was for. He/she then brought the tray to the proper counter, fill it up with the drinks that have been waiting for the rest of the order, and hand it over to the guest. So far so good?

The problem here comes in when the place is busy and the lines are long. It takes quite a bit of time to fill and order. The food order is being filled by the back of the restaurant. Someone back there has to put it together. Only when it is done, will it come up front and a cast member will have to grab it and deliver it to the right counter. I remember standing in a long line one time, and another guest simply couldn't understand why Disney can't learn from MacDonalds on how to handle such large crowds. Obviously, with MacDonalds, during peak periods, a lot of the popular sandwiches are already made, and the serves simply need to grab when was ordered, put them in bags, and off they go! There's very little waiting, unless it is not a common item. I'm sure with Disney counter service, a lot of these things are already cooked. They only need to be put together. But the fact that someone back of the restaurant has to put the order together, etc. and then pass it up to the front, simply is too slow when they place is jammed with guests.

And it gets worse if things don't go right. We were waiting for our food at Flame Tree BBQ during our last trip. We ordered 2 smoked chickens, and an order of fries. For one of the smoked chicken order, instead of baked beans and cole slaw as the sides, we asked for the baked beans to be substituted with apple slices. It's simple enough, and we've done it before many times. Well, we knew things were not going to go well. First of all, it took unusually longer than normal. The guest behind us got her order first, even though she too had smoked chicken. Then I could see our order coming through the window since by then, I was already paying attention to what is going on due to our long wait. A cast member (male) grabbed the tray, and quickly spun around, causing the fries container on the tray to tip over and dumped at least half of our fries onto the floor!

So then he went back to the window and asked for a new order of fries. But the fun part was that he walked away from the tray! Rather than wait for the to be brought over, he went away, did something else, or even went to deliver other trays/orders to the guest. A couple of cast members were starting to sweep the spilled fries off the floor, but our tray was sitting there for at least half a minute when another cast member, seeing a tray there waiting to be delivered to a guest, grabbed it, looked at where it should go, and promptly brought it over to us. I immediately pointed out to this cast member that half of my fries spilled onto the floor, which was what they were sweeping right behind her! At the same time, looking at the tray, I also noticed that they did NOT give us apple slices instead. We still got 2 chickens, both with baked beans and cole slaw. I pointed that out to her. So she took it back to the window, and asked for a new order of fries and also for the apple slices. This was where things got even more annoying.

It turned out that the whole tray has to go BACK in, even though all it needed was an order of fries and a packet of apple slices. So off went our tray back through the window where it came from. After a couple of minutes, the tray came out, and cast member brought it over. Of course, you can guess that the debacle did not end there. One order of the chicken came back with ONLY apple slices, no cole slaw. At that point, I'm sure I said "Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" loud enough that people around us would have heard it. We again pointed to our receipt, and the receipt that was on the tray, that we would like cole slaw AND apple slices for one of the chicken order. The cast member of course realized the mistake, and of course, brought the entire tray back to the window, and yes, off the whole thing went back in! By now, this is no longer a Disney establishment, because this type of comedy of errors typically occurs at any of your typical neighborhood incompetent joint.

Our tray finally was delivered, with the correct items. However, since each time the tray came to us they were delivered by different cast members, none of them knew how long we had been waiting, and what has transpired. Consequently, there were no apologies for the long wait and for all the mistakes since the last cast member had no idea what happened. We walked away from there shaking our heads with disbelief. Of course, by the time we sat down and ate, the chickens were barely warm! But I sure as heck was not going to go back and ask for a new piece. I could be stuck there till next week!

The point here is not to highlight this silly sequence of mistakes. Rather, it is to point out that when things don't go quite right, the system in place simply can't handle it properly. The inefficiency of not being able to replace or correct quickly small parts of the order can easily cause a simple mistake to snowball! And the fact that the cast member simply didn't stay with the incorrect order meant that no one was following through and making sure things were corrected the next time around, rather than having to keep bringing it back.

This is where I am puzzled that Disney hasn't come up with a better system. I am sure these cast members were simply following the system that they have been told to follow. I can't believe that this is the best Disney can come up with for this type of counter service. It is just slow and inefficient during the peak times when it matters the most!

And speaking of slow and inefficient, has anyone ever tried getting the dole whip float, or any order for that matter, at the counter/window in Adventureland? Think about this for a minute: it is hot and humid, and people would love nothing better than to spend money on a dole whip float, a root beer float, etc. The Dole pineapple counter service is one of the most annoyingly slow service anywhere in WDW. Period! And don't blame the cast members for its slowness either, because once again, whoever came up with the servicing system needs to be forced to stand in line and order his/her own float from here! Here's how it works. There usually is only ONE cast member at each cash register. He/she takes your order, and then, get this, goes ahead and fill that order. This means that he/she has to go and make the float, get the soft-served ice cream, etc.. etc.. while the rest of us wait. Heaven forbid, the guest is ordering a list of stuff ("I need 4 dole whip floats, 2 vanilla soft-served ice cream, 4 bottles of water, and a diet coke please"). You might as well camp out in that line as if you're waiting for the next iPhone. I mean, seriously?!

When we were there, a lot of people were in line because the weather was hot and humid, and yet, no extra cast members were assigned to expedite the order. They somehow can't comprehend having one cast member at the cashier taking the order, while another scramble to fill that order. This happens at this counter service almost ALL THE TIME! I always think twice before I actually want to order a dole whip float. There were many a times when I wanted one, but simply walked away because I can tell the wait is going to be unnecessarily long! Again, this is one of those puzzlingly bad system that I would expect some place else other than Disney to practice. Yet, here it is in the Mouse's House.

But other than those, we had a great time!



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