Friday, November 9, 2007

The Grump's Opinion: Proposed Dining Changes for 2008 Part III

I didn't think I'd be writing another post about the 2008 Dining Plan at Walt Disney World until I got to partake of it in 2008. But, I was doing my daily reading of the posts on Lou Mongello's Disney World Trivia forums and found the post entitled provided by a poster who goes by the screen name of ultramm:

Upgraded Disney Dining Experience Process & New Tip Policy at WDW

The poster provided the contents of an e-mail sent to them from The Disney Dining Experience Team.

For those who are not familiar, locals and Annual Passholders can apply for the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card which will allow you to get a 20% discount at an extensive list of restaurants for parties up to 6. The discount applies to alcohol as well. Which is nice for those people who like to sample the various alcoholic libations that are scattered all over EPCOT's World Pavilion (Can I get a here-here for the fabulous Guinness Stout as the Rose & Crown)

I'm not sure how affiliated the Disney Dining Experience team is with the people who control the Disney Dining Plan but the e-mail provided two interesting bits of information.

The first is related to applying for the Disney Dining Experience Card:

You asked and we listened! Effective November 11, 2007, you will no longer have to wait 3 - 6 weeks to receive your permanent membership card(s).

Guest Relations locations at Epcot., MAGIC KINGDOM. Park, DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM. Theme Park, Disney-MGM Studios, DOWNTOWN DISNEY. West Side, and DOWNTOWN DISNEY. Marketplace will now be able to print permanent Disney Dining Experience membership cards for immediate use. This service is designed for existing and new members. Cards produced at the Guest Relations locations will be printed on paper stock similar to the annual pass tickets.
The Disney Dining Experience office will still be available to take applications for current and new members, via the phone, fax or mail for those who do not want to take advantage of the in-park service. Membership cards ordered through the Disney Dining Experience office will be received within 2 - 3 weeks of purchase.
All Guests who have ordered their Disney Dining Experience membership cards prior to November 11, 2007 date will have to pickup their temporary cards at the main entrance Epcot. Guest Relations. Your permanent card will be sent through the mail and arrive in 3-4 weeks from the date of purchase.

For people, like me, that want a Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card but keep forgetting to apply, this is great news. I like the idea of being able to get a Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Card as easily as I can get an Annual Pass.

Since my wife and I are going to MouseFest sans Dining Plan, the extra 20% will come in handy with all those counter-service meals we'll be  [Ed Note:  A commenter (we love them) pointed out to me that the Disney Dining Experience card is good only at Table Service establishments unless the park has no Table Service establishments]

I did notice quite a bit of weird typos in the information that was copied and pasted. I hope it's related to quirks that come from copying and pasting from an HTML e-mail (Disney likes to send HTML formatted e-mails and I'd assume this one came the same way). If that's not the case, then Disney Geek George needs to go to their office with his big red pen and do some editing.

I'm not questioning the validity of the e-mail at this point, because I've seen others post parts of this e-mail on other forums and it's also posted here on AllEarsNet.

Now the second bit of the e-mail is the part that prompted this post.

We would also like to inform you that the Walt Disney World. Resort will be implementing an across property policy change regarding gratuity at all food and beverage locations. Effective January 1, 2008, 18% gratuity will be added to all transactions, regardless of party size. Thank you for your continued support.

The way I read this (and the forum poster), is that in 2008, even though they have removed the gratuity as part of the pre-paid portion of your meal, you are still going to be locked into paying a 18% gratuity.

I know that many, many, many people have argued that the major problem with the current Disney Dining Plan is that the gratuity is included AND guaranteed at 18%. I have also been on record in my previous posts about the Disney Dining Plan in saying that I don't agree.

But, if there were any truth to that belief (and I could be persuaded with the write proof), this is not going to help that. The difference, this time, will be that instead of Disney forking over that 18% to the various waiters and waitresses, it will be the park guests.

If they aren't happy with the service and are feeling like they are having a gun put to their head to pay an extra 18% on service they felt they could get better at their local Applebee's, they will stop partaking in the Disney Dining Plan.

The one thing that isn't clear is who this policy change applies to. Is it just for Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Cardholders? Is it for participants of the Disney Dining Plan? Is it for everyone regardless of payment method?

Since the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Card is usually beloved by those who pay for their meals out-of-pocket, I'm starting to wonder if the new policy is to charge ALL in-park diners the 18% regardless of their participation in the Disney Dining Plan.

According to AllEarsNet, they are getting conflicting information about those questions. Some are saying that it's for Disney Dining Experience card users only, others are saying it's across the board.

I'm going to have to sit back and wait to see if we get any additional information from more "reliable" and/or "official" Disney Sources.

Maybe Lou Mongello, Mike Scopa, Mike Newell, Matt Hochberg, or Len Testa can shed some light on this subject. In the case of the WDW Today boys, you answer these kind of questions almost every day on your podcast and various blogs and forums, and Lou does it weekly on his very informative WDW Radio Show podcast.

Now, if this is an across-the-board change, it could be part of a much grander plan on part of The Mouse.

I have talked to a few people about the crowded situations at the various restaurants and how that most likely plans a major role in the declining quality of service. It has been said that if you could get less people to go to the restaurants, then you would probably see an increase in service quality and maybe a return to the more diverse menus.

Forcing people to pay 18% gratuity for what they feel is sub-par service, might, just might thin out the hordes in the restaurants a bit and, in turn, increase quality of service. It could spell a return to counter-service meal for dinner crowd.

If this is just for Disney Dining Experience (DDE) cardholders, then the impact will most likely be smaller than the other scenario. It just means that your 20% discount is going to be negated by the mandatory 18% gratuity.

Only time will tell. I just found this very, very interesting.

If it is a global change, I don't want to even get into the financial implications on this. My brain hurts and I don't want to do the math....haha

ADDED:  11/10/2007

John Frost at The Disney Blog has posted that this automatic 18% is for users of the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card only.  I would like to hear it from one more reliable source to be absolutely assured, but hearing it on John's blog makes me feel a little better.  Even with a mandatory 18% you'll still be saving about 2%.  So, it would be like not tipping and paying face value.

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Anonymous said...

Two quick comments:
You state: "Since my wife and I are going to MouseFest sans Dining Plan, the extra 20% will come in handy with all those counter-service meals we'll be" The DDE card is good at Table Service restaurants and lounges primarily. It is only good at counter service locations where there is no table service restaurant - Port Orleans: French Quarter, the value resort food courts, and Animal Kingdom (though that will probably change next year with Y&Y opening and Tusker House becoming table service).

Second, Lou Mongello's out to sea at the moment, on his Disney Cruise, so it may be a few days before he can help shed some light on things.

Unknown said...

Thanks Anonymous for the correction. It tells you how deeply I've researched the DDE Card. I didn't go farther than 20% and alcohol is included.

I have updated my post to reflect this new information.

Unknown said...

Here, here!

Anonymous said...

I got a letter earlier from DDE clarifying that it is just for DDE members. The stated purpose is to bring it in line with other dining plans (by which I assume they mean DDP). Which is a crock of you-know-what. DDE and DDP are two completely different programs. One is pre-paid and one is cash on the barrel. One encourages guests to order the most expensive entree to maximize the value. The other is used mostly by locals who enjoy dining at the Disney property. (Locals who I hope will push back and ask to have the gratuity left off their check.)

I'd like to make a second point. That a gratuity is just that a gratuity. It's optional. If it's not optional then it's a service charge, should be labeled as such, and should be charged evenly across the board to all customers. \

Since it's a gratuity, if the 18% is on the check presented to you, you can (and should) request to have it removed and tip according to your own feelings about the service. I especially recommend this to DDP guests who order high priced meals in order to make the cost of the DDP seem worth it. It's not the guest's fault that Disney and the Cast Member union negotiated to not include tips in the DDP. If anything, the real cost to the guest is $40 a day. So the total tip for that whole day should be $8 a person. Why not just drop that off at Guest Relations at the beginning of the day and let them sort it out.

I know that's a bit of a rant. But it's Disney who created this mess of a dining program, not me.

Unknown said...

Thanks John!

I hope you don't think I was questioning the validity of your sources.

I just have found that it's nice to hear more than one prominent Disney Community Member to say the same thing before I take it as fact.

So, I'm happy that you gave your source here on Grumpy's Hollow :) Now people will know without a doubt where your info came from and it's straight from the horse's mouth and cannot be argued with

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that big of a deal. I have the DDE and always leave 20% as a tip anyways. To me the 20% discount pays for the tip.

Unknown said...


I agree, it's no longer a big deal. But, at first blush, it appeared that this might be a global policy change.

If that had been the case, then it would've been a big deal.

I too am typically in the 20% camp. So a mandatory 18% means that my waiter will get 2% less. I tend to follow the same policy that my customers did to me. If I added the tip, they didn't add more.

Plus, I tip on the pre-discounted amount.

I worked in one place, where I got a free meal for working there but I still got waited on. I always left a tip equal to the amount of the meal if I had to pay for it.

The wait staff loved waiting on me because most of the other employees left nothing even though they had to be waited on like any other customer.