Travel columnist on MSNBC discusses his SFA outing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 10:41 AM
Mamoosh's avatar You're going to get a job at Disney, Erick? Wow, they really are scrapping the bottom of the barrel! ;)
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 10:43 AM

How can Disney manage to get good performance from their employees when Six Flags can't do the same?

And, as far as I am aware, they DO NOT use financial incentives to do so. They do not pay more than their competition, and do not provide a bonus structure.

So, how do they do it?


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 10:47 AM
That's what I'm wondering. I doubt it's "magic".
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 11:48 AM

Brian Noble said:
depotrat: you are not winning the hearts and minds of the people. It is time to throw in the towel.

Brian - think that journalistic approach would be condoned at U of M? I guess "journalistic ethics" has become a mutually exclusive term, especially if the target is an easy one like SFA. I have a feeling many editors would agree with me. And with that I will throw in the towel, because the folks here have felt I was defending SF rather than attacking shaky journalism and responded in kind.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 11:58 AM
A lot of the difference between a Disney employee and a Six Flags, Cedar Fair or other seasonal employee is the training.

Here is the training I got when I started at Disney:

3 days of Disney University. These were 3 solid days of company history, philosophy, pixie-dust brainwashing, etc. We did classroom work, we did on property visits, we took tests, etc.

After those 3 days I had at least 2-3 days more on the job training at my attraction. (A long spiel necessitated a little extra time.)

Here is the training I got at Cedar Point:

30 minute video and another half hour of welcome to the Point. Another video and a tour of my work location. A days worth of on the job training...if that.

Now, for one thing a seasonal work location is pressed to get their people in the field where Disney doesn't have that type of time constraint. And, to be fair, I believe Cedar Point training has been upgraded since my days there...though I expect it falls far short of 5 days worth.

At Disney they literally beat you over the head with the mouse until you have cheese coming out of your nose.

I will agree with others. The silver platter generation that wants everything handed to them instead of earning it themselves is wreaking havoc on the service industry. McDonald's once had a program whereby if the cashier didn't say, "thank you, have a nice day" your meal was free. Can you imagine that today? McDs would go bankrupt.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:07 PM
I doubt that most McDonald's employees even know how to say "thank you, have a nice day."

Interesting insight about Disney vs. Cedar Fair training. I suppose it makes sense to pour a lot more money into training when you're a seasonal aprk and expect that some employees are going to be with you for years and years without interruption. Does anyone know what Six Flags training is like? Maybe it doesn't have to get as intense as Disney training but a happy medium could be found?

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 1:26 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Rob Ascough said:
I know that when I go to Best Buy, the sales receipt always gives me a phone number to call to comment on what my visit was like. Maybe that's something that could be used if there is a low-cost but effective way to give customers the incentive to call.

You halfway onto how it works...well, at least with hotels. I always fall back on the hotels because that's the one thing I know and because it's one of the most service oriented industries out there.

The problem with the voluntary survey is that there's no guarantee as to who or how many fill it out. It's too random.

The best you can do is reward as a team. (for example, if the TV department gets 90% positive comments, then they all get a reward or something like that)

But to pick and choose based on things that can not be measured tangibly is asking for trouble. The service industry has to be one of the most difficult industries to actually fire an employee for this very reason. How do you prove someone isn't being friendly enough? Do they come in on time? Does the work needed to be done get done? Then maybe the boss just has something against that employee?

You'd be appalled at the number of lawsuits that happen. (just another added pressure/hazard that entitles the higher-ups to more benefits)


As far as happy employees go, that responsibility falls to the employer. Give decent wages, improve working conditions (a good employee eatery, clean bathrooms and other things that keep them from feeling like second-class citizens are good starts) and emphasize bonuses for exceptional performance- those all seem like good ideas to me.

I'd say that's pretty much common sense and it's also probably the case in most places. If it's not, then who's fault is it for accepting (or staying) at a job like that? I don't blame these crappy companies for doing that, I blame the employees for letting them get away with it.


I wonder if some exec is reading this right now and will bust into their boss' office with some "great ideas" in the near future?

Maybe when we give them a great idea, they will. ;)


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 1:31 PM
janfrederick's avatar

Mamoosh said:
You're going to get a job at Disney, Erick? Wow, they really are scrapping the bottom of the barrel!

Believe me, if I could make ends meet and work for a park, I'd be all over it. Actually, I considered applying for a tech writer position after the manager gave a talk at our local society chapter, but I don't want to move to or commute to Orange County or Burbank.

Perhaps I could telecommute most of the week. ;) *** Edited 7/31/2007 5:32:02 PM UTC by janfrederick***


"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 1:39 PM
That's the main reason why I support performance bonuses on a group level. It is very difficult to say whether or not someone is being "friendly enough"- that's why rewarding a group for overall performance is a faily low-risk approach to trying to fix the problem of lousy employees.

Let's look at hotels. Suppose the front desk staff is notorious for dealing with guest complaints in a very unprofessional manner, and this problem has been brought to the attention of the manager. It's not easy to single out the bad eggs from the good, so you make it clear that if the front desk staff starts getting higher marks (and you, knowing about hotels, probably know of a way to monitor that sort of thing), they will all get bonuses. That might resonate with some people and not others, but I think that if a few bad eggs were keeping the good eggs from reaching the goal, eventually the front desk staff would take care of itself. Kinda like what happens in professional sports when a player isn't pulling his weight like the rest of the team.

You'd think that it would be common sense to treat employees right, but it's obvious a lot of people lack common sense. Going back to my retail years, management wasn't very good to the employees. The bad workers got away with murder and the good employees had to pick up the slack. As people did leave or get fired, there was even more slack to pick up. The bosses didn't care to hear about anyone's problems- they were happy to let things play out on their own. The store was run poorly so the visible employees had to deal with the majority of the angry customers that needed to vent. The reason we stayed with the company was because the pay was decent (time and a half for Sundays, holidays and overtime was still the norm for most employees) and we got a lot of paid vacation time for part-timers. We were unhappy, but not unhappy enough to leave. That's the best way I can put it!

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:04 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Rob Ascough said:
Let's look at hotels. Suppose the front desk staff is notorious for dealing with guest complaints in a very unprofessional manner, and this problem has been brought to the attention of the manager. It's not easy to single out the bad eggs from the good, so you make it clear that if the front desk staff starts getting higher marks (and you, knowing about hotels, probably know of a way to monitor that sort of thing), they will all get bonuses.

You're totally on the right track. This is exactly how it works.


That might resonate with some people and not others, but I think that if a few bad eggs were keeping the good eggs from reaching the goal, eventually the front desk staff would take care of itself. Kinda like what happens in professional sports when a player isn't pulling his weight like the rest of the team.

You'd think it would work that way, huh? Sometimes it does, often it doesn't. In a case like SFA where apparently it's means nothing to anyone - the bad outweighs the good and that one kid pushing to do well is the one who gets ostracized and eventually walks. It's a downward spiral.

Again, it seems like it goes back to 'find better employees' but I'm not sure how that's possible. Bottom rung worker at an amusement park isn't exactly a sought-after job.

Raise the pay?

I don't necessarily think that works. It's not like if the pay goes from $7 to $12 that suddenly all of these great, qualified workers come from nowhere.

All you end up doing is paying those same uncaring kids more money for lousy performance. No one working a crap job wants to work a crap job, they usually have to and a crap job is a crap job regardless of whether you get $7 an hour or $12.

Then even if you did that and it miraculously worked, you now have the issue the pay of higher up employees. More than likely everyone up the chain has to see the same increases to keep things in check. So when you raise salaries acorss the board, that money has to come from somewhere. Suddenly, it really is $80 to get into the park.

I dunno why paying minimum wage for minimum skills always seemed to work in the past, but suddenly doesn't anymore. That leads me back to the idea that the problem is with the current workforce. I think there's a whole lot of people overvaluing themselves and expecting more than is realistic.

Then again, maybe it's just the grumpy old man coming out, but how can we expect these kids to have realistic expectations in the "My Super Sweet 16" day and age?


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:19 PM
When I took economics in college, my professor explained the "Anti-Shirking" approach to employee pay. I'm not sure if that's the technical term, but it goes like this:

You pay people more than what they're worth. Chances are you'll attract the best employees because you're paying more than the competition is for comparable jobs. Most employees will work better at higher wages, and if they don't, people will be beating down your door because of your hiring rates and you'll eventually end up with a better crop of employees. The theory behind it all is that employees are going to respect their high-paying job because they don't want to lose it and work elsewhere doing the same thing for less money.

I guess the "group" thing depends upon the ratio of good employees to bad employees. You'd think that the good ones would come down on the bad ones, but if there are more bad ones than good ones, the bad ones are likely to rally against the ones pushing them to work harder. I didn't think of that. Of course, when you toss bonuses into the equation, that might make all the difference. Maybe people don't want to work better for nothing, but wave a few Benjamins in their faces and they might perk up.

Perhaps upper-tier employees could be offered similar (but more significant) bonuses? If a department manager has departments that do better, he/she gets a bonus, and if the manager has department managers that post good results, he/she in turn gets a bonus as well. It starts from the bottom and works its way up... or does is start at the top and work its way down?

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:32 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

You pay people more than what they're worth. Chances are you'll attract the best employees because you're paying more than the competition is for comparable jobs. Most employees will work better at higher wages, and if they don't, people will be beating down your door because of your hiring rates and you'll eventually end up with a better crop of employees. The theory behind it all is that employees are going to respect their high-paying job because they don't want to lose it and work elsewhere doing the same thing for less money.

You know, on paper it makes perfect sense. My experience (second-hand, I'd just like to keep pointing out) is that it just doesn't play out that way.

I think the problem is that we're talking unskilled, entry-level work. On that level an amusement park isn't just competing with other parks for employees -they're competing with gas stations, fast food restaurants, movie theatres, the few factories that are left, Wal-Mart, etc.

The sad truth is these are entry-level jobs that require no skills and subsequently pay in accordance.

Say you do make your amusement park's basic positions $10 an hour rather than $7. Now all the good employees rush to your door. But the convience store across the street lost all of their good people. They see what you did and up you. They offer $11. Then the McDonald's down the street offers $11.50. After that the big office building in town start playing the cleaning crew $12. So to compete the amusement park is now forced to go to $12.25.

You see where I'm going with this.

At some point it has to stop and everyone will be paying the same general wages to the same types of employees. Companies can only pay so much and they keep tabs on each other to make sure they're in the game where they should be.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:36 PM
Yeah, it does have the potential to develop into a vicious cycle, and I suppose this kind of thinking works better when more talented, more in-demand people are put into the equation. Still, it might be something that's worth a try since we're still staring at the same simple fact. Which is, young American workers on average just plain suck.

Without having a definitive answer, I'm sure it's a combination of things that will surely cost some extra money. Better training. Higher wages. Incentive-baed bonuses. More sensitive employers. I'm sure part of the problem is related to money, since no matter how you look at it, it costs more to get better employees representing your company.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:44 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Which is, young American workers on average just plain suck.

Let's just stick with that.

Any young American workers want to call us out? :)


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:48 PM
They'd have to look up from their text messaging long enough to respond.

I've been working with the same age group for the last 20 years and there is a marked and obvious decrease in the "commitment" they have for their jobs these days.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 2:54 PM
Ditto, but for the past 15.

The good news is that if you are in your late teens/early 20s, and you do take your commitments seriously, you've got a huge huge huge advantage over your competition.

HUGE.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 3:00 PM
Good point...and I've tried to impart that on more than one young person. Seriously, show up for an interview in a suit and tie, take yourself seriously, have some common sense and you will be WAY ahead of your peers who seem to think "stupid" is going to get them places.

Their role models in Hollywood are leading them astray right now.

It is like that story out of Cedar Point about the minor who was exposed (sorry for the pun) to porn. Are you kidding me? A 17 year old high school graduate had to involve her parents on that?

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 3:08 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

A 17 year old high school graduate had to involve her parents on that?

LOL! Right? Sadly it's becoming quite common.

The sad state of things.

There's so much wrong with that story that I don't even know where to begin.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 3:18 PM
rollergator's avatar Gonch, did you read the headline?

TODAY’S HANDS-ON MOMS TODAY’S HANDS-ON MOMS AND DADS DON’T STOP MEDDLING WHEN JUNIOR GOES OFF TO WORK

The writer got caught up on Deja Vu? That's almost as sad as bringing your parents in to your office... ;)

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 3:23 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

The writer got caught up on Deja Vu?

I don't know how, it's never running. ;)

Seriously though, come on!

"Daaa-aaaad! Work is hard! Hrmph."

Is it worse that the kids act this way or that the parents allow it? Even worse is that I get the impression she wasn't exactly a kid.


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