Disney Have & Have Nots

So I'm just back from my 3rd trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) in Florida and of course I have a few comments about the new My Disney Experience technology that they have been rolling out through the Summer of 2013.  Some background: I'm a hospitality business owner who was traveling with 7 other adults and 3 children.  I work for a large corporation which competes with Disney on consumer entertainment spending.  I also married into a Disney crazy family that is heavily invested in the franchise in the form of Disney Vacation Club (DVC) memberships.  I like Disney, but I'm not a raving fan.  It's certainly a good thing to do with the kids, they get a lot out of it and Disney works very hard to make the place magical where you really can step away from your regular working life and that's good.  My comments, some of which are negative, are really made with the intent of preserving the investment my family has made in Disney.  I want Disney to do well now and improve in the future so that it continues to be "magical" for my family and particularly my children.

 

The My Disney Experience is a Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that Walt Disney World has embraced to handle, among other things, room keys, park admission, Fast Passes, Retail Sales, and Dining.  Guests get a card with a chip in it or Magic Wristbands with a chip in them to wave in front of small pads with mouse ears to checkout,  It's very similar to swiping a credit card except you just wave the band or card over the Mouse Eared Round disc.

 

Once the NFC technology is fully up, Disney will know pretty much where you are on their property at all times.  It will be good for things like wait times, FastPasses, dining, room keys and possibly even enhanced content at attractions.  I can see things like the automated "Be Our Guest" QSR getting to the point where you order your food on your Smartphone, walk in, and the technology freakishly finds you and gets your food to the table somehow.  I think it's a good thing but there will be privacy concerns, personally as long as I am getting some benefit for giving up my privacy,  such as good wait time recon, I'm ok with it.

 

My main gripe with this slow roll out of My Disney Experience is that it creates have/have nots of people who can book fast passes from their rooms and those who cannot.  Allow me to explain:  A few weeks before my Disney arrival, I learned of the My Disney Experience rollout.  I contacted Disney using our most senior Disney Vacation Club member in our group and asked to participate in the test.  We were told that they were only allowing those guests staying in certain resorts at certain times into the test.  I was really interested in the FastPass+ which allows you to make FastPass selections from your computer or Smartphone before even getting to the parks, then you just use your card or band at the parks to access the FastPass+.  But unfortunately I couldn't participate in the early rollout.

 

Once we got to Disney I started noticing all of these people with Magic Bands prancing into the FastPass lines, other guests were mapping out all of their FastPasses with a single stop at Guest Services.  It started to irritate me and I complained.  Disney, by only allowing certain guests into the NFC rollout has created a two tiered system of park guests.  Those that can easily get Fast Passes by hitting their laptops in the morning from their rooms and the rest of us that had to do the old school FastPasses and show up at the attractions during FastPass distribution times.  Those of us in the second group have "lesser" tickets because we didn't have the same access to attractions as other people.

 

The whole system strikes me as something that would have Walt Disney turning over in his grave.  When I complained, they told me that the DVC resorts were the last to come online.  Why not have them go FIRST?  The DVC members are your biggest fans, probably forgiving of a few glitches, likely repeat visitors who already know the parks and could focus on the new technology.  Even better, identify how many testers are needed, invite people to join the test, once the number is met, stop allowing people into the test.

 

Unfortunately, I waited until the last day before I complained.  Disney did compensate me by giving me a way to bypass the FastPass system without having to pickup FastPasses in advance for two attractions for my entire party on that last day.  So on that last day, I had the same access that those on FastPass+ had.  But they really should have rolled it out differently.