Disney, We Need to Talk about Your Tech
There’s an open secret in the Disney community that all fans attempt to overlook. During the pandemic, park officials made some changes to My Disney Experience and other technologies.
The reality is that most of the changes have made park visits harder, not easier.
Disney, we need to talk about your tech.
The 7 A.M. Struggle Gets Worse
Less than a year ago, I wrote about the 7 a.m. struggle.
That’s the timeframe when Disney expects barely awake vacationers to make all their plans for the day.
Currently, Disney doesn’t allow guests to buy Disney Genie+ until the park arrival date.
While this window technically opens at midnight, most guests don’t purchase until they work up on the morning of their park visit.
So, they must open My Disney Experience and buy Disney Genie+ if they want to use it for the day.
Until this year, Disney had allowed guests to pay in advance, but that option is no longer available for reasons passing understanding.
On top of that inconvenience, guests must book their first Disney Genie+ and/or Lightning Lane reservations when the day starts.
Disney, in its infinite wisdom, also opens that booking window at 7 a.m.
Ergo, guests may need to buy as many as three distinct park amenities in a matter of minutes first thing in the morning.
The Madness of Disney’s Current System
Let’s say that you’re visiting EPCOT, the most extreme example at the moment. When your phone signals that it’s 6:55 a.m., you need to get started.
First, you must purchase Disney Genie+. Once you have it, you’ll start trying to book Disney Genie+ reservations at 7 a.m.
Odds are good that you’ll select one of the most popular options, Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
So, you’ll fight the crowds to find a reservation window that’s not several hours later.
Simultaneously, you must try to enter the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the most popular ride at EPCOT.
Similarly, you may want to purchase a Lightning Lane reservation as well. If you stall on either of these things, you risk getting shut out.
Thankfully, that’s unlikely to happen. But you may not get a virtual queue/Lightning Lane until midway through the day, which could mess up your lunch plans or conflict with your Disney Genie+ booking.
Remember that you have no control over any of this. Before the pandemic, the FastPass+ system allowed guests to select reservation windows.
Somehow, Disney technology has gotten worse, not better. For this reason, everything vital happens within a tight ten-minute window.
Since all the experienced Disney guests know this, Wi-Fi demands expand exponentially around 7 a.m. You may struggle to get a connection.
If that happens, other guests beat you to the punch with early reservations.
At 7:10 a.m., you may already know that you’re not riding Ratatouille until 3 p.m. You might not have even had any coffee yet, and your plans are already ruined. It’s madness.
You’re paying for a park visit that Disney technology has made demonstrably worse since 2020.
The Other Problems
I’m happy to report that Disney recently fixed one lingering issue. Until last week, guests couldn’t modify an existing Lightning Lane/Disney Genie+ reservation.
That flaw was absolutely maddening. I mean, I worked in the tourism industry in the 90s. We could already modify reservations then!
How in the world did Disney bring new tech to life in 2021 that lacked the ability to update reservations?! That’d be like requiring users to book through AOL.
Even after that change, several flaws remain inherent in Disney’s current system.
During a recent visit, we did what we always had. We added proof of our membership discount (Disney Vacation Club/annual pass stuff) to our smartphone wallets.
Taking this approach means that you can always show that you qualify for discounts. But that requirement comes with two flaws.
First, why doesn’t Disney already know whether I’m a DVC or annual passholder? Oh, wait, the company does.
For whatever reason, Disney hasn’t integrated that information into its theme park database.
As such, if I don’t go out of my way to tell the cast member that I have it, I won’t receive the discount.
I strongly suspect Disney does this to add even more to a guest’s bill. During a recent vacation, I probably overpaid by $200+ because I kept forgetting.
That’s the crux here. People are tired and cranky. So, we’re likely to forget to ask for our discounts. We SHOULD get those, though. Disney promises them.
However, the tech puts the onus on the customer, not the company, which is just terrible.
Second, cast member training has declined during the pandemic. Disney lost a wealth of experience during the layoffs/Great Resignation.
Many Disney workers don’t know who qualifies for which deals. So, it’s doubly problematic that the system doesn’t automate those discounts.
Even More Problems
Then, we have the annoying issues that don’t even make sense. During a recent trip, my wife added PhotoPass to her account rather than mine.
Throughout our visit, I’d tap my MagicBand to ensure that we got our ride photos.
Since our accounts were connected and she’s, like, my wife, the system should have identified that the people in our hotel room owned PhotoPass.
Instead, I couldn’t access my pictures. Disney would strongly suggest that I purchase PhotoPass to access my library.
Similarly, when I wasn’t the one ordering Disney Genie+, I’d get suggestions to purchase the service EVEN AS I HELD Disney Genie+ reservations.
In other words, the system is stupid in a way that encourages repurchases to earn Disney more money. And I’ll say what we’re all thinking.
I’m paying enough for a Disney vacation as is. Don’t ask me to pay for the same thing twice. It’s just gonna make me mad.
Frankly, all of Disney’s current park tech reeks of Bob Chapek. It’s sales-focused and frequently apathetic to the customer experience.
When Iger announced his return, many of us espoused the same idea. To understand how much Disney has slid in quality since the pandemic, you must visit the parks.
I encourage Iger and his team to ask a few random non-Disney people to try to spend a day at the parks. They’ll quickly hear about all the aggravations involved.
I’m kind of in awe of how much Disney tech has trended the wrong way in just two years.
I could write any number of anecdotes about recent issues with the system.
During a November visit, Disney spit the bit on my reservations for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, DINOSAUR, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Honestly, I’m probably forgetting some as well. At the moment, Disney tech is unreliable, which is inexcusable.
Disney, if you’re gonna ask guests to pay more for visits, the least you can do is make sure the tech works!
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Feature Photo: Disney