Disney Hit With Harsh Complaints

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) CEO Bob Chapek pleased Wall Street with his plans for the company’s near-term future. Among other things, he told investors he may combine all the streaming services Disney owns. This includes Hulu. Comcast, a partial owner of Hulu, said Chapek’s plan is expensive. It will charge a huge amount for Disney to buy out its ownership. Nevertheless, Chapek’s broader vision created enthusiasm about Disney’s financial future and additional enhancement of its already famous brand. Chapek also commented about the price of the company’s theme parks.

In the shadow of Chapek’s overall plans for Disney have been troubling comments about how the company’s huge theme parks are run. Some of these involve the prices for visitors. Others complain that the parks are dirty and can be unsafe. If any of the problems are or become an ongoing issue, one of the foundations of Disney’s success will need to be addressed immediately.

At his time2play website, critic Ben Treanor did an analysis that shows over 90% of “average households” cannot afford a trip to Disney, or at least not without substantially stressing their personal financials. He looked at information from the Facebook travel group Its Orlando Time, which has 237,000 members. The results were taken from 1,972 self-reported Disney enthusiasts. Treanor commented, “When surveyed, 92.6% of our Disney World enthusiasts said they believe the cost of a Disney vacation is now out of reach for average families.”

The New York Post reported on another problem: “Disney World guests gripe that the Orlando, Fla., resort has become plagued with broken-down rides and dirty facilities — even as the theme park continues to hike prices under CEO Bob Chapek.”

The newspaper went on to describe individual incidents. Some of these came from the website Inside the Magic, which covers Disney parks and cruises and Universal’s theme parks. The article cites individual cases. Maintenance of rides received criticism, as did dirty parts of the parks and rides that did not work correctly.

It is easy to write off all the issues as isolated incidents. However, Disney makes money training people from other companies about customer service. Its Disney Institute describes its offering: “Disney Institute operates under the very principles it teaches, setting the same standards of excellence for ourselves. You will be introduced to another mode of thinking—the distinctly Disney method. This is not business training per usual, but a unique and truly inspiring approach.” The organization offers in-person courses and on-demand and online training.

Disney’s ability to trumpet its own excellence is only solid if its own operations are above reproach. It seems that recently that has become a problem.

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